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Occasional Media Consumption: Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

There is -- I won't say no trick, but perhaps -- very little trick to introducing the reader to a character and then making us like that character. An author can make it a bit harder for themselves by making the character somewhat disagreeable, at least at the start, but eventually we get to the bits where the character does something good and then we like them. An author can do this in reverse, too: show the reader a character, and them make us not like that character. Arguably, it's slightly easier, because we just see the character being an asshole, and then we don't like them. But there is a positive magic in the trick of taking a character, and making us not like them, and then changing our minds. It's a hell of a trick, too. We're introduced to a character, and then the do something disagreeable or assholish, and then we don't like the character. And then, little by little, the author peels back the layers, and suddenly we understand. The character was li…
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"My pain was selfish. Because it was never only mine."

Y'all, I am so, so tired.

I mean that in a couple of ways, of course. It's been hot in the Pacific Northwest over the last week or so, and it's continuing to be hot for the next couple of weeks. Not that this is particularly surprising, because the world is literally on fire (THE ARCTIC IS BURNING, Y'ALL, AND THAT'S NOT A METAPHOR), but one of the nicer things about the PNW before the current decade was that mostly, it was temperate; summers were a highs-in-the-mid-80s kind of summer. This new highs-in-the-mid-90s is making it hard for me to get to, and stay, asleep overnight. And because harsh summers are a new thing here, almost none of the houses (including ours) have a central A/C unit, so we're trying to make do with window units. Which generate white noise, which is nice, but are also loud, which is not so nice. So I'm tired.

But this last week especially has been more than the physical tired. I'm emotionally tired. Drained, existentially tired. T…

Occasional Media Consumption: Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey

My niblings and I were talking, during our week-long vacation/family reunion together, about the experience of unreliable narrators. This was during our discussion of another book, and of course we talked about Catcher in the Rye, and how when I first read it as a tween I was so taken in by the experience, and how much I loved it, and how as I've grown older I've come to love it less and less. And a big part of that was realizing that every book that has a narrator, by definition, has an unreliable narrator, because books told from a point of view by necessity take on the position of the person telling us the story (which is different from the author telling us the story, obviously, but that's what parenthetical disclaimers are for, right?). So the experience of various narrators suddenly turning out to be unreliable is a trope that maybe I've outgrown in my old age. If you're going to be honest with anyone, you can be honest with me, dear narrator.

So how refreshi…

Occasional Media Consumption: Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire

The most amazing thing to me, in a book filled with amazing things, is that McGuire never addresses the title choice of the book, and yet it was perfectly, brilliantly obvious from about a third of the way in. No, I won't spoil it; I'm not an asshole. But it is amazing, and exactly appropriate for the story being told. There are a LOT of things being juggled in this book. Pairs of characters. Solo characters. Histories. Magic. The modern world. Alchemy. The hidden corners everywhere in the world, and some of the people who live there. And the places that exist in the social unconscious, that are there but not there any longer.

It's hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, because many of the choices the author makes are so outside the norm of the genre that to give them away is to take away from the ingeniousness of the move itself. But in the same way, I've also read several books that leverage exactly the same tropes and choices in similar ways, to great and…

Occasional Media Consumption: The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley

There's been a lot of discussion recently (well, in my spheres anyway) of whether someone who considers themselves a "fan" of SF/F should or needs to read the "classics" before really understanding the current mise-en-scène of the genre. Setting aside for the nonce what absolute garbage gatekeeping bullshit this is, the definitive answer to that question is answered by Kameron Hurley's Light Brigade, and that answer is "Fuck, no."

If you want to, then there's no reason why you shouldn't read Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and then Haldeman's The Forever War, and then Scalzi's Old Man's War before taking on Light Brigade; but that's optional. Light Brigade is sufficient unto itself as a story and also as an answer to these previous works. As I said before, because we stand on the shoulders of giants does not mean we must worship at their feet, and there's no worship in this book; just a clear grasp of the ideas and co…

Occasional Media Consumption: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

It entirely escaped my memory that, while on my cruise, I finished Elizabeth Bear's new novel, Ancestral Night, and hadn't managed to review it yet, because I spent so much time gushing about it while on the boat. Like, honestly, for a couple of days it was my opening conversational gambit: "Hi! Have you read Ancestral Night? Yes? Let's talk about it! No? You should read it right now!"

So yes, this is going to be a positive review, in case you hadn't guessed.

As a fan of Star Trek and Ian Banks' Culture novels, I can absolutely see the underpinnings of the Synarche (and the dark mirror of the Freeporters) present in this novel, which I desperately hope is about to become a series. The main characters in the story are two humans, two cats, a giant preying mantis, and an AI and all of them have hidden fracture-points and surprising secrets that are hidden, sometimes even from the person who's hiding them. And like the best parts of ST and Culture storie…

JoCoCruise: Remembering the Feeling

We drove up to Seattle, because there are no direct flights from Portland to Fort Lauderdale, but there are from Seattle to FLL. Here's the tricky bit: the nonstop Alaska flight from SEA to FLL is a redeye. It arrives at 6AM local time in Florida. Programming note: this was not a great idea.


I'm just too old to do redeyes; I can't sleep and I can't go without sleep and this makes me very, very cranky. Our next trip out to Fort Lauderdale will have to be done differently, for sure. The flight had several mechanical difficulties which resulted in us not taking off for more than two hours, including 90 minutes sitting on the tarmac at the gate while they double-checked everything to make sure things weren't going to break. That was actually fine with me; the longer we waited to take off, the later we landed. (I have a whole bit in my talk about Support about five nines and moving parts and the 737 so I'll spare you the repeat and let you watch it yourself here.) M…