alwaysalready: (Default)
2018-12-16 08:09 am
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Due South: Dead Men Don't Throw Rice

more, more episode analysis. this time dead men don't throw rice, which i think about a LOT.

Spoilers. )
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2018-12-16 07:33 am
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Due South: Easy Money

ok, this is more of like general episode analysis than the other posts i have brought over here so far. but you know what? i don't want to lose any of this stuff/i don't want it to disappear into the ether. SO. here it goes. with minimal editing this time. this is relatively rough - i'm pretty sure i wrote it on my phone in the middle of a sleepless night. so: be warned.

spoilers. )


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2018-12-03 12:01 am

Due South & Ghosts

Another post migrates from Tumblr. Because... well. Because. Well.

A few edits have been made. Originally I was going to just post it as was - originally, I did - and then this happened anyway.

One day I might write an addendum to this about the ghost of Ray Vecchio's father. Because: wow. There's a lot going on there.


Spoilers. )

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2018-10-10 08:09 pm

Dear Yuletide Author

dear author,

thank you so much for writing for me! you can find me over at tumblr here.

some general DNWs:
  • i don't like long explicit sex scenes (except for where i indicate otherwise below), i don't like onscreen noncon (don't mind brief references to it, but not as an act between main characters), and i'm not particularly into BDSM or other kink stuff.
  • i am not much of a fan of darkfic, although you can use your judgment with the prompts below.
  • i don't really like high school AUs - i generally like reading about characters as adults.
  • i also am not a big fan of first person perspective in fic.
  • please no kidfic or fic about pregnancy.

stuff that i generally like:
  • i am happy with any length or tense etc.
  • i am also happy with any kind of experimentation or weird formatting you want to try - from reverse chronology to epistolary fiction through to interactive fiction, etc. am also perfectly happy without any of that stuff either, though.
  • i like casefic, get-together fic, fic about characters getting back together (as friends or lovers), mysteries, 5+1 times stories, fake dating, mutually unrequited pining, hurt/comfort (with the emphasis more on the hurt than the comfort), bittersweet stories, happy stories, sad stories (usually with at least a slightly hopeful ending). 


College of Magics - Caroline Stevermer
Characters: Faris Nallaneen, Tyrian

I read A College of Magics (and scholar of magics and when the king comes home) in the past year and i'm obsessed with it. such a wonderful, fun, and oddly bittersweet book! i particularly love the mysterious, numinous quality of the magic in this world. i love the worldbuilding of the ruritanian states that the world is built around, i love the fraught journey on the orient express... and i love all of the characters.

I am only requesting Faris and Tyrian, but am happy for you to include other characters (or not) as you see fit. I am a big fan of Faris and Tyrian's relationship, and would love to get a fic focusing on that relationship, although i'd also be happy with a more gen story about their adventures if you're not up for romantic fic.

Specific prompts:
  • Faris/Tyrian negotiating Tyrian's new body and their relationship in the wake of the ending of A College of Magics. Tyrian is in the body of a 50-something king. He doesn't seem very happy about it, but Faris doesn't seem to mind so much... I would actually love a story about them in bed together, Faris convincing him that she loves him even if he does look like the old king.
  • Would also be very happy with a fix-it fic about this. Maybe there's a magical solution after all! Maybe they have to go on an adventure together to find it! Maybe it's a gross blood magic ritual and Faris is keen but Tyrian isn't! Who knows.
  • If you don't want to focus on this, I would be happy with a story about events in the book from Tyrian's perspective. Would especially like his perspective on the relationship with Faris.
  • I love the worldbuilding of this universe a lot and would also like something about Faris and Tyrian visiting Glasscastle, or anything that ties into When The King Comes Home.

Lynes and Mathey Series - Amy Griswold & Melissa Scott
Characters: Ned Lynes, Julian Mathey

THESE BOOKS. Gay magical kind of-Sherlock Holmes. I love them both, so much. I love that they have a complicated relationship history with all of these traumas and yet they love each other very fiercely and want it to work out.

This is another series where I love the worldbuilding and magic a lot. I love what we know of the magic system and would love to see more exploration of that if you're into it too (but don't worry if not). I'm interested in their personal histories, although I don't really want too much more exploration of their time at boarding school. 

i am happy with basically any heat level for this. canon-typical fade to black for sex is pretty ideal for me but am also happy with sex scenes as long as there's other stuff in the fic too. similarly, although i don't love reading kink, i think a certain amount is built into their relationship... so i am happy for you to include exploration of that if you want to! 

Specific prompts:
  • Casefic. I don't tend to love established relationship fic but I'd love fic set-post Dionysus Club about them solving crime together and continuing to work their relationship out.
  • AU in a different historical time period. 1920s London? 1960s? 1980s? I don't really want modern day AU, but I consider any time through the 1990s to count as a "historical time period" (god i am old), and I am flexible. I would love to see what they, and the magical world they live in, would look like at another moment in history. I don't really want a non-magical AU, though.
  • How did they start sleeping together again before Death by Silver? Would love story about the clueless idiots falling into bed together and misunderstanding everything.
  • Would love pre-canon fic about them at Oxford and making each other miserable.
  • This is a fandom where I would particularly love a 5+1 times fic, showing their relationship at different points. So maybe 5 times Ned didn't tell Julian what he was thinking, and 1 time he did. Or 5 times Julian didn't go home with Ned, and one time he did. 
  • Undercover As A Couple/fake dating. Pre canon or AU.
  • Ghost stories. I would... just love to see them dealing with ghosts.

Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Don Lockwood, Kathy Selden, Cosmo Brown

I love this OT3 so much. SO much. So I would love OT3 fic, but am also happy enough with queer gen centering on Cosmo, or Cosmo/Don (as long as you're kind to Kathy)! If you just want to focus on the friendships, that's fine too.

I'm very interested in silent era Hollywood through the pre-code era and the rest of the 1930s, and would love to read fic that is very historically situated if you're into that too. Fic about Hollywood and its macinations would be very gratefully relieved. But if you want to focus on the characters and have that stuff more in the background, that's fine too.

Specific prompts:
  • Kathy is a PI in 1930s Hollywood, and gets caught with Don and Cosmo in the process of trying to solve a case. Noir hijinks ensure.
  • Post-canon OT3 get-together fic. Will never tire of Don and Kathy working out that they love Cosmo and that he loves them, too.
  • Pre-canon about Don and Cosmo getting together as young artists on the vaudeville circuit.
  • Queer gen about navigating the gay scene in 1920s/30s Hollywood.
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2018-09-10 03:32 am

Summerland - Hannu Rajaniemi (Review)

I'm extremely confused by what's going on with this book. There's some interesting (if incomplete) worldbuilding, but the plot manages to be mostly unsurprising and kind of dull. The political reality also makes no sense - either in the sense of domestic or global politics. It reads like there were some great ideas here that just didn't cohere into a book.

For a book with such a big scope, Summerland just feels too small. It's like there are only fifteen real people in the world. This is the kind of book where a character can walk into a famous members' club and immediately stumble across the one person they desperately needed to see. Everything seems to take place in an extremely narrow slice of England - mostly London, with a few places in the home counties thrown in. Even the portions of Summerland that we see are functionally the same as Whitehall. We see about five seconds of action on the front in the Iberian Peninsula, and that's it. 

Oh, and Rachel, the main character, grew up in India. She's called Rachel White and she's very pale (she refers to her pale complexion as her "best feature" at one point and this thought is not like, examined in any way....) and her mother has an extremely English-Upper Class name so I'm assuming she is a posh British child who was brought up in India as the daughter of a colonial officer of some kind. India is mentioned a handful of times, mostly as somewhere with better weather than England, or through Rachel's childhood nanny, who talked to her of spiritual things. That's about it, for India, though. In this book, it's a faraway warm place and it smells of spices.

I'm not saying this book is uncritical about the British Empire. But its criticisms look inwards. They focus on the crumbling nature of the white male patriarchy that runs the intelligence agencies, and not that much else. It's a book trying to be about big, expansive, almost global matters. But all it cares about is England.

Even Russia is just a faraway place where Lenin once lived, and which occasionally snares British agents and turns them with the promise of all-knowing typewriters and the promise of your spirit one day becoming part of God.

All of this means that I never felt that the war in Spain was real (and not just some theoretical bargaining chip that would bend to the exact will of whichever faction won control of it). In this world, 1938 Germany conveniently has nothing going on. Somehow nor do any of southern Europe or Asia or like, the USA or anywhere else in the world. For the story to make sense, the UK and the Soviet Union are the only world powers that matter. It doesn’t work. I am unconvinced. When the final act of the book suddenly tries to make the stakes into the survival of the afterlife it’s just not convincing. I can believe in a fictional world where Victorian spiritualism is real. But I can’t believe in a fictional 1938 with such a simple, basic geopolitical reality.

I found H.P. West very interesting but don't know enough about H.G. Wells to get as much out of his inclusion as some readers will. I think it's plain that Rajaniemi enjoyed writing him because he's written with a lot of kindness and empathy that shine through small details that are used to build a picture of him and his life - and we don't necessarily always see those for all of the other characters, although for the most part I thought that Rachel and Peter were both handled well.

But... in a book that is supposed to be so occupied with the threat of global war (because the threat of another world war is constantly mentioned, even though so much of the world is absent)... many of the most engaging scenes involved West crouched over his Small Wars (a type of war-game played with small figurines). Or they involved Rachel and her pet birds. Or... actually my favourite scene might involve a clandestine meeting in a strange wax museum.

Rajaniemi's prose is mostly pretty good, and at times I really enjoyed reading this. It's just a shame I also spent a lot of the time frustrated. Rajaniemi can write! He can write thrilling action scenes and affecting small moments and he can create characters I care about. But tying those together with an engaging world and a coherent plot that works on multiple different scales/scopes has eluded him here.
alwaysalready: (david)
2018-07-17 01:27 am

Due South: The Ladies' Man

This was originally posted to my tumblr, but in a kind of bitty way, and as tumblr is a bit of a nightmare for reading/commenting I want to post some of my stuff up here for ease of linking to elsewhere. So if you feel like you've seen this before... maybe you have. Anyway, this is still kind of bitty and not a coherent essay, but I am kind of proud of it & hope it's worth reading anyway.

First up: This is about the s4 episode The Ladies' Man, which is maybe my favourite episode of Due South. But it's not easy watching.

Spoilers. )
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2018-07-01 08:59 pm

Book Review: A Scholar of Magics

 Hardback cover of A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer.

Not as perfect for me as A College of Magics... but A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer still hit me hard. I am bereft that this series is now over for me. Only three books! I need more.

I have never read a book which has captured so perfectly the conflicted feelings that come from being a student at an elite institution who does not come from the expected/traditional background. This book engages somehow critically with the ways in which these instructions work while also, of course, buying into the romance, the longing you feel to be a student... and because of reasons it can’t properly engage with the fraught problems that arise once you become a student. But I don’t mind; there was plenty of that in the first book in the series, although the institution in that book is of a different kind. The model for the university in this one is Oxford or Cambridge, while in A College of Magics the model for the university (Greenlaw) is more like a girls’ boarding or finishing school.

As ever, I love Stevermer’s prose and her characters. Lambert, in particular, is wonderful. And her dons, and the students, and Jane is pretty magnificent once more although she seems to slightly fade towards the end of the book... Stevermer's writing is gentle but clever, you can feel the influence of writers such as Dorothy L. Sayers without feeling that she is weighted down by them. I enjoyed here how she wrote an American protagonist in this very English world - and how she confounded a lot of my expectations of what that was going to look like.

But really what captures me most in her writing is the way she writes about magic. There is truly something of the numinous here, it’s mysterious without being vague or woolly. The way Lambert walks the labyrinth, the way magic here is to do with proportion and order... it’s compared to cricket, to the way time works, to the structure of the universe. And magic can be glimpsed in song, in architecture, in maths... yes, yes, give me more of this always. I’m also obsessed with a too-brief scene which takes place in a magical forest, and the way she builds on a very effective mythology. I would have eaten up much more of that.

I want more. This book works well as a standalone but it ends just as a new portion of Samuel's life begins (much as A College of Magics ends on the same sort of change for Faris), and here we don't even have the promise of a sequel with glimpses of him in.
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2018-06-22 01:33 am
Entry tags:

more not-reading

I went back home to Ipswich for a long weekend and am now back in London, only to be almost about to vanish off to north Wales for a week. We leave on Saturday morning so I need to do various chores tomorrow, such as like.. getting my laundry dried so I have clothes to wear in Wales. I am an adult.

In Ipswich, I was visiting a family member in hospital a lot (now out and doing well) and in the evenings I started watching the 1980s Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane BBC series.

I mean... really. Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane is peak, "I want to be her and I am also in love with her" for me. I can't stop thinking about her hair, her high voice, her mannerisms... and I've only seen like three episodes. Need to do better, need to watch more.

Harriet Vane seated in a jail visiting room, smoking

I keep starting books and then abandoning them. Except maybe it's not been long enough for abandonment yet, or not for all of t.. Recently I have started:
  • Witchmark, by C.L. Polk. This is KL Charles-ish second world fantasy romance with a mystery. Not necessarily my favourite kind of thing (the writing is fine but usually I like prose that's a bit more stylised than this) but it's quite a soothing read. It only came out on Tuesday so this one is not even close to being abandoned yet.
  • Little, Big, by John Crowley. This has been one I have trying to start for such a long time - for ages it seemed impenetrable to me. I've finally found my entry point, I think, but I am taking it very slowly. I am obsessed with the magical architecture of it... the house which becomes so many different houses, also the strange route that has to be walked, also the book which becomes bigger and bigger with more and more philosophical material, its original purpose and structure still there, but engulfed...
  • A Scholar of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer. I am taking this one slowly, too. Mostly out of fear that it will soon be over and then I will have no more of these glorious books by her to read! She has a handful of other novels but they're not in the same setting. It's funny - when I saw that the main character was a cowboy in an analogue for Oxford in early 20th century England I was expecting the character to be much more broadly-drawn, more of a stereotype. But he's not - I don't know why I'm surprised, Stevermer is such a clever writer always. I love him and how he both loves the university he's visiting and he understands many of the problems with it and its exclusivity...
  • Am also trying to find my way into The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard. Horrible suspicion that I'm not really clever enough for it.
  • Read the first few pages of The Dragon Waiting on the tube today after getting it from the library. I think this might be a good thing to read after the recent Daughter of Time debacle.
  • I read a good chunk of I'll Stand By You, the book of letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland, but I haven't picked it up in a few weeks. It's very wonderful and full of love and cleverness and strange stories.
  • I started Orlando by Virginia Woolf and it's full of a lot of beautiful stuff (the ice-skating!!! I perish) but also lots of astonishing racism. Why. I mean, I know the answer. Just, it has me dragging my heels on continuing with it.
  • I ordered a copy of Greer Gilman's Moonwise from the USA. I ordered the old paperback because I am shallow and I love the cover of it, whereas I am not such a fan of the more recent hardback. But it hasn't turned up yet and it feels like it's been a million years. Where is my book!!!
paperback edition of Moonwise by Greer Gilman

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2018-06-10 02:47 am
Entry tags:

reading, not reading

I finished reading Josephine Tey's book The Daughter of Time. I liked it less and less as it went on - I guess as the charm and wit of the narration and characters wore off, and the historical mystery part really set in.

I'm not actually opposed to the structure. But none of the twists felt like twists, and instead of reading like a mystery it reads like an argument. And an unconvincing argument made with weak evidence, at that. I know it's 60-odd years old, but honestly. It makes me think of Keats, can you believe it:

But, for the sake of a few fine imaginative or domestic passages, are we to be bullied into a certain Philosophy engendered in the whims of an Egotist? Every man has his speculations, but every man does not brood and peacock over them till he makes a false coinage and deceives himself. Many a man can travel to the very bourne of Heaven, and yet want confidence to put down his half-seeing. Sancho will invent a Journey heavenward as well as anybody. We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us, and, if we do not agree, seems to put its hand into its breeches pocket.

It feels very much like it was written to convince me of Richard III's innocence, and for nothing else... all of the rest of it is just there to try and convince me, to make me read the argument at the heart of it. Well, I am unconvinced.

Also I didn't like the general political tone, or the odd outburst about how effective and wonderful capital punishment is.
penguin paperback cover of josephine tey's daughter of time

I have been struggling to read much else - sadly, the fact that this was short and charming without much else going on probably worked in its favour. I didn't hate it - I enjoyed a lot of it. I just kind of wish I hadn't enjoyed it so much. And I'm liking it less and less as time goes on. It's a weird thing - sometimes I come to love a film a few days after seeing it, sometimes I like a book while I'm in its grip and hate it afterwards. A Little Life, I'm looking at you.

I also read Sofia Samatar & Del Samatar's Monster Portraits recently, and before that I read Anne Boyer's A Handbook of Disappointed Fate. In order to write about those I would need to be about 4000% times cleverer, with both books spread out in front of me. Total works of sparky, magical genius. I think they do well being read alongside each other, too. Monster Portraits is fantastical memoir, the short lyric essay/prose poem borderline as fiction which tells the truth.

A Handbook of Disappointed Fate is fabulist in many places, for some of the same broader reasons... realism is an overrated mode, and there are many things that can be achieved more elegantly with other modes. In Monster Portraits, it's about reshaping the past, making something new of the past. In A Handbook... it's sometimes about this, but sometimes, often, whether fabulist or realist, it's about imagining, planning, looking for a way out of the present. Into a new place, future, present, century.

Anyway, as I say, this isn't a review. It's not. It's just some thoughts about some books that I somehow, surprising even myself, managed to finish reading.
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2018-05-11 04:54 am

(no subject)

It’s been a rough month - in April there was a bad health scare for a member of my close family, and while we’re not out of the woods yet we did get some hopeful news about that last week. But it’s really knocked my sleeping pattern out of whack again, and made my anxiety/attention span worse.

I keep making it half the way through books and then I abandon them. Currently struggling a lot with Octavia Butler’s book, Parable of the Sower. It’s a good book. But it’s more brutal than I was expecting. I’d seen it referred to as a hopeful dystopia - I guess when I picked it up I hadn’t really taken into account what that means. A hopeful dystopia is still a dystopia - even if it is able to envisage some routes out of it.

I am into the spiritual elements of it, i think. I want more of that. And more weirdness. But I guess in some ways that would make it an easier read. For me, anyway. At the moment, it is a relentlessly difficult read.

A Scholar of Magics is waiting for me. But I worry that once I read it, I will have read all three of the books in this fictional universe, and I don’t know if we are likely to get any more of them. Given how long ago the last one was published, I suspect more books are unlikely.

Sleeping badly, reading badly. I have been writing a lot of poetry, but I think that well is running dry too now. In order to write I need to do more, read more, see more things. I am so tired and ill and hardly making it out at all that I just feel a bit like I’m withdrawing from life and I resent it but also am not sure how to make it better.

anyway, one thing I am doing is constructing various fictional cities in my head and through collecting images, pieces of scientific information... it’s fun. And I hope to write stories set in these cities. But also I just like to think about them. It’s comforting. One of them is a moving city, a radical city based on a situationist proposal or thought experiment - what if there was a city which moved over the earth? Each building was made to degrade easily and each generation moved a certain number of miles west, leaving the old city to be swallowed by or subsumed into the earth... another one is not really a city, but a small settlement based around a hotel and archeological dig on a small ring of reclaimed land in the middle of the North Sea, where Doggerland used to be.

The other city I am thinking of is part of a novel project I don’t have the energy or expertise to write. Called Sanctuary City, which is on the nose but is sadly all that it is called in my head. Well, that’s a lie. I came up with a whole fictional etymology behind the name. Saints’ City, Sanctuary, Sanctuary City. A university town, a walled city, shielding some people and not others. In an area hat has a history of brutal repression and a long radical history also. I’ve been thinking about the Paris Commune of 1971, Canudos, and all of these other experiments in alternative ways of living, of organising cities and settlements. I want to write about it, but I don’t think I can yet.

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2018-04-04 04:15 am

Book Review: A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer

book cover for A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer

I love almost everything about this book. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads take issue with the fact that it's not what it was sold as: I don't care much about that.

It's a three-volume novel in one volume. The first of those three volumes is a story about a magical women's college-cum-finishing school named Greenlaw, which owes more to girls' boarding school adventure stories (an excellent genre of book) than to anything else. It's very good at what it is, but the real fun begins when Faris leaves the college behind.

The college section is absorbing when you're in it; as soon as you leave Greenlaw, it becomes a kind of idyll that you're shut out from forever, always gazing back. It feels very real - to a certain kind of college experience.

Volume two is a travel adventure with intrigue and magic in Paris, a bomb turned into a very nice hat, and... a journey on the orient express.

Volume three is... I don't even know how to sum it up. A masquerade ball, political machinations, more magic. My heart broken into pieces.

The magic in this book is mysterious, and it has something of the numinous, something of... I don’t know, the mystery of the sublime about it. There is no magic system that can be easily grasped, which is all the better for me. It’s about feeling, and patterns, and loops of thought, and inner strength, and responsibility and sacrifice. And really, this is a book which seems to be about devotion in a lot of different forms. One of the ways in which it is about devotion is in the magic.

But why do i love this book so much? Why is it so fiercely dear to me?

I love all of the characters. This is the truth of it. I wanted more time with all of them. How does she do this? She writes everyone with such care. Almost everyone we meet is not who they seem; by which I mean, they are much more than they seem, at first. These are characters with an endless capacity for surprise, because the writing is so generous and subtle. I re-read one scene maybe ten times because I wanted to understand precisely what a character was saying about love in it, because there was allusion and sarcasm and something genuine beneath all of that. All there on the page - it just needs teasing out.

Tyrian, i love you. And i love Jane, and Reed, and Faris, and i even love Faris’s horrible uncle. And yet what really gets at me somehow even more than the characters themselves is the dynamics between the characters. Their relationships are so true and real and deeply felt. The tiny details, the unexpected moments. Oh, I love all of it.

Which is to say: the friendship in this book is wonderful, and is the root of so much else. But the romance destroyed me. In both the good way and also in a way that isn’t necessarily bad, but. The final twist hurts. I've seen it described as bittersweet: this can’t even begin to sum up the mix of emotions for me! Hi! It has hurt my feelings a lot!

This book broke my heart, in a way I expected (i looked up spoilers for one of the threads of this book before I went in) and in another way that I totally didn't see coming. Don't be fooled by the early 20th century boarding school adventure story feel, or by the sly joke Stevermer is playing when she makes this into one of the three-volume novels that Faris and Jane (and Tyrian?) love: this is not a pastiche, it's too clever and it hurts too much for that.

(find this review on goodreads here)
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2017-06-19 11:21 pm

(no subject)

hi, i'm charlotte. for now you can find me at tumblr, twitter, and AO3. i'm here for the rs_games & to be a fan of  [community profile] ladybusiness .