jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Doctor to Dragons - CoverI met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.

In April of this year, his humorous fantasy novelette A Doctor to Dragons [Amazon | B&N] came out.

I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).

Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.

I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)

There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:

“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”

“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”

“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”

I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.

One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.

I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
[personal profile] lydamorehouse
 Oops, I forgot that yesterday was "What Are You Reading? Wednesday."  This week has been very weird for me.  But, enough of that.  I will simply move my Wednesday list to today!

I picked up a nonfiction book at the library called Gnosticism and Other Vanished Christianities by Richard Valantasis.  I've been interested in the Gnostics since reading Elaine Pagels, plus this one promised to talk about other wacky early Christian cults.  I'm about halfway through the book and I'm a little disappointed in the surface treatment of everything, but the this is a Belief.net publication, so I probably should have expected as much.

Otherwise, I've been doing my usual yaoi reading. I read After Morning Love by Fujii Mitori, which I actually liked better than most.  I feel like the official translator missed the boat with the title though, I think you'd get a slightly better sense of the plot if it were called, "The Morning After Love," just a very slight change that tells you that this starts with the classic, "Wait, why am I hungover? Who is in my bed?" and leads to romance.

But, I speak almost no Japanese, so, weirdly, no one has hired me to be a translator.

Speaking of Japanese study, I've been terrible about keeping up with it, BUT I started watching "Pandora Hearts" on recommendation and I actually had to pause at one point because I distinctly heard the hero ask, "Kimi wa?"  (Who are you?) Given my native-speaker Japanese teacher's reaction to someone offering 'kimi' as a word for 'you,' (he turned BEET RED and literally could not speak for several seconds. I had to be the one to tell the student, "Um, that's a little rude? You've shocked Tetsuya-sensei."), I thought--okay, either this person is extremely rude or... maybe we're supposed to presume previous intimacy, despite the fact he doesn't recognize this demon-woman?  

"Anata wa?" is even fairly rude for an opening gamut, in my understanding. I feel like a polite person would ask, "Dare desu ka?" (lit: "Who is?') leaving off any rude pronouns.... which are most of them, so there you go.

To be fair, this guy is freaked out, and anime heroes tend to be rude as a rule (at least in shounen). Ichigo, for instance, is not someone you want to learn Japanese from because he starts out using the pronoun "tamee" which is akin to shouting out 'Yo, a$$hole' to people you meet. But 'tamee' ...you hear it a lot in anime speech.  You hardly ever hear 'kimi' spoken (or rather I should say, *I* haven't noticed it as often since I started paying attention) except in love songs, where it seems to be used almost exclusively, because of the intimacy it implies. My gut sense of 'kimi' is that it's not the normal sort of word you'd use WITH A STRANGER.

I had a long talk about this with another friend of mine who is studying and eventually, with the help of Google, we learned that 'kimi' as a you-pronoun can be used by men of a high status when addressing an underling without being considered rude AF.  Apparently, in the right context, 'kimi' implies a strong hierarchy, and, thus, tells us a LOT about this character, in that he can presume that the person he's addressing--a STRANGER--is automatically and significantly below him in the social pecking order.  This fits with the character, in that he is presented as a lordling of some sort, though after this pronoun use, I'm going to have to assume PRINCLING of some sort, or possibly even THE prince of all the land.

Things you can glean listening to a program in a language you barely speak.... kind of fun. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, because I am absolutely NOT one of those anime fans who will lecture a fellow fan that subs (subtitles) are superior in every way to dubs (dubbed)--BUT, I will suggest to anyone who is able to handle /comfortable reading while watching to give subs a try once, if you never have, because I do believe that it is possible to pick up extra content subconsciously.  Obviously, the above is an example that only works for someone like me, who is trying to learn the language.  BUT, previous to this, I FELT things about some characters in "Bleach" based only on my impression of their voices--their inflection, etc.  Without knowing ANYTHING about Japanese, I picked up on the fact that one character had an unusual accent (Gin for those in the know) and that it was likely Significant.  I do not know what they did with Gin's voice actor in English.  Ideally, American/Western voice actor casting would have a native-speaker on staff consulting about regional and class accents. (Please don't pretend we don't have class accents in American English. You KNOW what an upperclass East Coast accent is compared to a dirt-poor Southern drawl...) I know likely don't have a person like that on staff, but in my ideal world they would, because this is the stuff I feel you get by listening to the foreign language often enough, even without ANY study.

That being said, if, right now, you're feeling like I just dissed you because you prefer dubs.....  Honey, no!  I am so happy you're watching anime!!  I would never, ever tell you that you MUST do subs. If dubs is what works for you, yay!  I watched all of Full Metal Alchemist and Black Butler dubbed and J. Michael Tatum (the voice of Sebastian in the English BB) is an amazing dude and I would FIGHT anyone who says he's not an awesome, seductive Sebastian!

Besides, if you've been watching anime long enough, there used to be things you could ONLY get dubbed.  I have no idea what the original Starblazers sounds like, but my anime fan cred is strong because, kids, I was watching that LITERALLY before many of you were born: in 1978.  Deslock was my first anime husbando. 

Wow, this turns into a long screed. My apologies.  Gomen, gomen....

The weight of a thing

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:33 pm
marina: (Default)
[personal profile] marina
Everything is super hectic and I've slept for 7 hours total in the last 48, and everything is kind of reaching a boiling point that will basically be "resolved" by me going to London (LONDON LONDON LONDON!), but something happened and I feel the need to record.

Almost exactly a year ago, I handed in the first draft of my MA thesis. And my adviser responded, in his usual overall polite way, that the document I sent him, that I took a week off work for, that I wrote for 6 days straight from morning till night, was not even worthy of being called a first draft. It was a first attempt that needed to be scrapped entirely.

Partially this feedback was softened by a phone conversation we later had, where he assured me he believes in me, and these flaws are all fixable, but for a good few days all I had in my head were his written comments, which basically boiled down to "I thought you were a normal person?? but you are apparently a trash fire that should never have been accepted into grad school????"

It was an awful, awful sort of feedback to get, definitely the most demoralizing moment I've ever had in academia. (And like, I triple majored in undergrad, and in grad school finished a course load that was intended for 4 semesters minimum, in 3 semesters. While working FULL TIME in an unrelated field. None of this means I'm good at original research, but getting the "who do you even think you are? clearly you're totally unfit" feedback was really fucking painful.)

Anyway, it's been a year. I spent 5 days straight rewriting the draft. My adviser spent over 6 months not replying to me. (I contacted him after a month, he politely told me to sit down and shut up, I contacted the department 5 months after that, and he responses with "oh no! I totally forgot about you! sorry".

When he finally replied, he told me this rewritten version was about 70% done. Going from a first draft that was ZERO percent done, according to him, to a second draft that was 70%... well. Let's just say I think his initial reaction was WILDLY exaggerated, but you know. Ugh.

I worked evenings and weekends and finally took 2 more days off work, and wrote a new draft, based on his comments. I got it done in the MINIMUM amount of time he allowed. Like, I wanted to submit a revised version 2 weeks after he sent me the comments, but he insisted he was busy and wouldn't read it for 2 months at least. I submitted it on the FIRST DAY he said he'd accept it.

It has been 6 more weeks! He's gotten back to me with comments. I was SO NERVOUS because a lot of his feedback didn't make sense to me, and he wouldn't answer questions, and I was like, I'm going to bring that 70% back down, aren't I? I mean I was a failure on draft #1, maybe this second version was a fluke. I have NO IDEA whether what I'm doing will really improve things.

Anyway. The verdict is in. He has comments and things he wants me to fix and change, obviously, but in the email he sent me? He started it with: "You have written a highly engaging, well-built thesis.

He ended it with: "Your current version is very strong," before listing a few more minor things he'd like to improve.

I'm doing grad school in between work, and trying to unfuck my health, and an attempt at a fiction writing career, and so I never anticipate how much it affects me.

Getting this email was such sweet, sweet vindication. That's right, I fucking did it. I wrote a thing that you admit is GOOD, from 2 drafts back when you were basically calling it garbage.

There are things I'm way more proud of in my life, even in the last year. I don't know why this feels like such an achievement. I'm sure it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to anyone else.

But I feel like I have been clawing at grad school until my fingers are bloody for the past 3 years at least. I've fought to cling to it, to keep up, to get it fucking done, through being homeless multiple times, through essentially becoming paralyzed to the point where I spent 95% of the time I wasn't spending at my full time job lying in bed. Through writing original fiction, which already took every second of my mental energy and the 5% of the time I could actually function.

I've clawed and clawed at this, and it's felt so uncertain, and the journey has been so long, and literally everyone I began my degree with has given up by now, half of them quit the program and the other half declined to write a thesis.

But I wanted this thing, for whatever arbitrary reason (its usefulness to my life will be zero, have no doubt) and I clung, like someone trying to scale a smooth wall with their bare hands, and somehow I managed.

I still have a revised draft to submit, of course. I'll take so long, and be so hard, and take up time I'd rather spend writing fiction. And who knows when/if I'll actually be allowed to submit? (I mean, god willing October? But who knows)

But I wanted to stop and appreciate this moment. The point at which this thesis is actually good enough to submit.

For a while, I wasn't sure I'd get here.

Ebook formats

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:35 am
madfilkentist: Scribe, from Wikimedia Commons (writing)
[personal profile] madfilkentist posting in [community profile] ebooks
I've posted an article on the tangle of Amazon ebook formats to my Mad File Format Science blog. Corrections or other comments are welcome either there or here.

Interesting Links for 27-07-2017

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:00 pm

The usefulness of paranoia

Jul. 27th, 2017 02:55 pm
rattfan: Quote from Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series (Incryptid quote Seanan McGuire)
[personal profile] rattfan
Paranoia has its uses.  For a while now I've been worried that I would have problems with my Visa card overseas, as I did last time I travelled.  This time I knew there'd been a problem because I hadn't figured out that there was a cap on what I could withdraw in a day.  I thought I'd solved it, but was still worried, so decided to take the huge step of contacting the hotel's sales centre in Finland and getting them to take their money early.

Turns out my only option so close to the date was to ring them up.  As a lifelong telephobic, few things are more terrifying.  But not as terrifying as the possibility of trouble at the other end after no sleep for 24 hours.  So now I have talked to Finland and heard a tri-lingual phone message [Finnish/English/Swedish], with directions so I knew I'd be talking to an English speaker.  I painstakingly gave the details of the card and she had a go.  Transaction declined.  Right, so I then have to talk to my bank.  Turns out that the transaction limit I see in Internet banking and the limit on the card as a debit card are not the same thing.  Okay, probably this is basic to some folks, but not to this rodent.

The guy at call centre says he can lift the limit but only for half an hour; something to do with being a call centre and not the bank.  No problem!  Back to Finland, where I talk to a second operator and am plunged into wild confusion when she does not immediately recognise the contact number as one of theirs. [No idea.  First person had no trouble].  I again painstakingly explained.  Fortunately operator 2 finds the notes of operator 1 and all is clarified.  The transaction is completed and I sit back, feeling a strong wish for something alcoholic and a bit of a lie down.

I think I'll be okay now, but I would not have been, had I ignored the feeling that I really had to do this.  In many ways I'm sorry we're beyond the era of travellers' cheques.  They were easy to get, more secure than cash and useful.





Just One Thing (27 July 2017)

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:05 am
nanila: YAY (me: abby)
[personal profile] nanila posting in [community profile] awesomeers
It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.

Go!

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2017 11:51 pm
jhameia: ME! (Default)
[personal profile] jhameia
Nothing much new to report aside from my brain's asinine refusal to produce new words and re-reading old ones instead.

I did apply for the Graywolf internship, sent it off this morning.

This morning I went to Coco's to work, had horrible bowel movements, at the tail end of which Jose called to see if I was down to join a Lugia raid, and of course I was. Four raids in, I've got a Lugia and another Articuno.

Latter half of the day, after a two hour nap (WHY) I started outlining the analysis for the final novel, which I'm excited about. I'm gonna sleep with the CPAP tonight and see if I can concentrate better tomorrow. The deadline looms. I'm vaguely terrified.

The walk up and down Blaine Street feels shorter, although I'm sure it is still taking me the same amount of time (I walked out around 8.30 and got back around 10; 1 and a half hours seems pretty normal for me on that stretch). This makes me wonder if I should try to up my game a little and do a little jog instead of brisk walking. It is kind of harder to play Pokemon Go while jogging though.

ETA: OH! My new phone arrived! I still can't get the SIM cards out of my Xiaomi because I don't have a pin strong enough (I don't really have any earring studs I'm willing to sacrifice) but it's here!
sovay: (What the hell ass balls?!)
[personal profile] sovay
I made a new icon. I'm not sure how much I'm going to use it, but something about the ongoing politics seemed to call for it. I believe I have [personal profile] choco_frosh to thank for introducing me to the original context in Questionable Content. Anybody who finds the icon useful should feel free to abstract it.

Books Meme + Update

Jul. 26th, 2017 04:35 pm
wendelah1: Fox Mulder reading (reading is fundamental)
[personal profile] wendelah1
Tomorrow my husband has an appointment to see someone who isn't his doctor because his doctor is on vacation. He's feeling worse rather than better. Maybe he needs a different antibiotic. We'll see.

I'm tired and distracted. I'm thinking about defaulting on my kidlit exchange. I can't focus on writing.

~/~/~

Books I finished:

Jane's Warlord by Angela Knight. This is yet another time-travel romance. The time-travel plot is silly but when isn't it? The serial killer plot is even worse but that's not why you're reading this book. The romance is standard fare. Warrior Boy from the future travels back in time to save newspaper girl, they have the best sex like ever, and girl returns with boy to his own time (and planet--did I mention he's not from Earth?) and they live happily ever after. She gets to take her cat, too. Luckily, the universe doesn't break from the strain. If you like your heroes to be hyper-masculine, super-human sex machines and enjoy sex scenes featuring bondage without safe-words between total strangers, this might be just what you're looking for. How do I even rate something like this? One star because it was a quick read, especially since I skimmed the sex scenes.

Time and Again by Jack Finney. It's an illustrated novel from 1970. Spoilers ) I thought the premise of the book was intriguing enough to keep reading but the execution left something to be desired. I solved the big mystery at the center of the novel by the end of the paragraph in which it was introduced. The romance fell flat. The ending was a complete dud. The style was serviceable Two lukewarm stars.

Books I abandoned:

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I checked this out because of the Amazon series, which I can't watch. A consolation prize? I know it's a classic but dammit, the book is boring. I didn't care about the characters. The plot seemed inconsequential, which given the premise, is pathetic. Maybe the series is better written. Anyway, after 67 pages, I'm done with it.

The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble. You should know that I have read and enjoyed a number of Drabble's books. This was not one of them. It was about genetics and the English class system. I didn't get through an entire chapter of this turkey. Books about unpleasant characters leading unpleasant lives need a hook and she didn't provide one.

Books in the pipeline:

The third and final book in the kid-lit series I'm reviewing for my kid-lit book exchange. Title withheld.

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

Jul. 26th, 2017 03:06 pm
rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I haven't reviewed anything here in far, far too long, and I certainly didn't think this book would be the thing to push me into wanting to write something. However. At Readercon, I picked up the new collection of Ursula K. Le Guin essays, Words Are My Matter, of which this is not a review because I am nowhere near finishing it, and I noticed that there are three separate essays on H. G. Wells. Three! This is not unique, in the structure of the book-- there are also three separate essays on José Saramago-- but that makes more sense to me, because Saramago, you know, Nobel laureate, relatively recent death, work in an interesting position vis-à-vis speculative fiction as a genre, there are some conversations to be had there that seem very much in Le Guin's chosen critical milieu. But H. G. Wells! Hasn't everything been said already?

Then it occurred to me that I, personally, had not read any Wells since the age of eight or nine, when I'd read The Time Machine and found it pretty and confusing, and then hit The War of the Worlds and found it extremely upsetting and went away again. So I went back. The Time Machine is indeed very pretty, though far less confusing to an older person. The Island of Dr. Moreau turned out to be the most vicious piece of theological criticism I have encountered in years, and an actual novel with things like character dimensionality to boot, as well as such an obvious influence on Lovecraft that I was shocked I hadn't heard that mentioned before. And then I got to The War of the Worlds.

It turns out the reason I found it very upsetting at eight or nine was because it is very upsetting, and at that age I had no context for or capacity to handle the ways in which it is upsetting.

We all know the basic plot: Martians invade, humans are technologically overpowered and defeated, Martians eventually drop dead because of Earth's microbiota. The novel came out in 1898, after having been serialized the year before, and has been dramatized and redramatized and ripped off and remade so often and so thoroughly that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The original novel, however, is notable in intellectual history not just for the archetype of the merciless and advanced alien invaders, but because it is an ice-cold prevision of the nightmares of the twentieth century. The phrase 'concentration camp' had already been coined, c. late 1860s by the Spanish in Cuba, though it would not become widely known by the English-speaking public until the Boer War, which Wells' novel just predates; that phrase is the only part of the vocabulary of future war to which Wells could have had access, and the phrase does not appear in the novel. Here are some of the concepts that do, without, as yet, any names: Genocide. Total war. Gas attack. Blitzkrieg. Extermination camp. Shellshock/PTSD. (Also, on a slightly different note, airplane.)

Wells' vision of war was ruthless, efficiently technological, distanced from the reader of the time only by the fact that the perpetrators were incomprehensible aliens. But he does not let you rely on the comforting myth that it would take an alien to perpetrate these atrocities, as perhaps the book's worst scene, in terms of sheer grueling terror and pain, is the sequence in which six million people attempt to evacuate London on no notice, with no overall organization, no plans, and the train as the most modern form of transportation. The Martians are miles away from that, literally. The only thing Wells spares you is the actual numbers of the death toll... but you can get an informed idea.

And, just in case you happen to believe that people (as opposed to aliens) are too good at heart for this sort of warfare, this novel is also a savage theological takedown*, in which the idea of humanity as the center of a cosmos created by a benevolent God is repeatedly stomped on by the sheer plausibility of the nightmare, the cold hard logistics of enemy approach + insanely destructive new bombing technology = frantic evacuation and a military rout. The priests and churchmen in War of the Worlds generally go insane**; their philosophical framework has left them ill-equipped to handle the new reality. Wells is displaying humanity as a species of animal, no more nor less privileged existentially than other sorts of animal, who may be treated by a sufficiently technological other animal in the way that humans often treat ants. He explicitly uses ants as the comparison.

This is where I noticed something fascinating. War of the Worlds has the most peculiar version of protagonist-centered morality that I have ever encountered: only the protagonist and his nearest and dearest are allowed to perform moral actions that are not shown in aggregate.

Everyone else either does good as a faceless mass, or neutral-to-evil at close proximity. The military, as a force, is allowed to act against the Martians, which is seen by definition as moral, but they are at a distance from the novel's viewpoint such that they don't emerge as people while they are fighting-- we meet an occasional refugee from a destroyed division, but we don't see people giving orders, taking orders, firing weapons. When the ramship Thunder Child attacks two Martians at close range in order to save shipping in the Channel evacuation-- a sequence distressingly like Dunkirk, only in the opposite direction and sixty years early-- it's one of the few acts of heroism and selflessness in the novel that actually works, and it's the ship personified who takes the action. Here's the middle of the fight:

"She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard."***

Notice how there are no humans, individual or otherwise, even mentioned here. And this is the high point of the book as far as moral action taken, a direct self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Individual people range from the curate who hears the narrator calling for water "for hours" and doesn't bring him any to the men whom the narrator's brother finds in the process of robbing two ladies and has to fight off at gunpoint. Even most mob action is inimical, including things like the looting of shops and the literal trampling underfoot of the weak.

The narrator and his brother, however, mostly behave as one would hope to behave in a catastrophe. They are constantly picking up strays, helping total strangers pack to evacuate, fighting off muggers, attempting to assist the trampled, sharing their provisions with others, etc.. They are the only people in the book who do this sort of thing-- every other individual (except a couple of the strays, who are there to be rescued and get in the way) is out for themselves and can, at very best, be bought with cash on the barrel at a high price.

Now, it's not that the narrator and his brother are saints. They're fully developed, three-dimensional, relatively decent people. The brother participates in the looting of a bike shop, refuses water to a dying man for fear of putting his own people in danger, and fails to rescue anyone from the relentless trample. The narrator may well kill a man to save his own life, and certainly aids and abets the murder if he does not strike the final blow (it's impossible to find out exactly when the man dies or what specifically killed him).

The odd thing is that nobody else has any of their virtues. No one else is picking up strays; no one who isn't under military orders to do it is knocking on doors to begin the evacuation; no one is giving away food and water; no one except the military is attempting to place themselves between those they love and danger. In short, there is none of the kind of everyday, tiny, sometimes futile heroism that the twentieth century has shown us is almost impossible to beat out of humans entirely.

Now, I think this is intentional, as part of Wells's argument: the Martians have broken the human social order as if it were an anthill, and none of the ants has any idea what to do anymore. It's part of the demystification of humanity's place in the cosmos and the insistence on our nature as intelligent animals.

However, I think it skews the thought experiment in two ways: firstly, the narrator (and the only other POV character, the brother) have to be decent enough that we as readers are willing to read a book from their perspectives, and in 1898 that was harder than it is now. "Probably murdered somebody who wasn't a villain or an enemy combatant, and is never punished for it in any way except by vague remorse" is a pretty radical stance for a first-person narrator in an English novel of that period, and Wells has to talk us round into considering this a sympathetic or at least justifiable stance by having the narrator be in most other ways a flat-out hero. I don't think this does too much damage to his argument, as the resemblance of the narrator to other hero-types of the period makes Wells's more radical premises easier to communicate than they would otherwise be. It's not the presence of altruism in the narrator that is the major way the experiment is skewed.

It's the absence of altruism in others, as shown by the work of Rebecca Solnit, the memoirs of Primo Levi, the oral histories of the camp survivors of several cultures: one reason The War of the Worlds is so very upsetting is that its events are more unmitigatedly depressing than the same circumstances would be in real life. One of the wisest men of the twentieth century, Fred Rogers, said that in tough situations you should look for the helpers (and somewhere elsenet I saw the corollary, which I think Mr. Rogers considered implicit but which could use unpacking anyway, that if you cannot find them, the helpers had better be you). In The War of the Worlds there are no helpers at all, except what little the narrator and his brother can manage. We have actual science now about the way people form communities in catastrophe; we have innumerable anecdotes from the worst places and times in the world about those who in small ways, quietly, do what they can for others with what they have. It's not that Wells was wrong about us being animals, about trying to knock us off the pedestal that insists that everything was made for humanity and we are the only important beings. It's that while we are a social animal, we are a social animal on the micro-level as well as on the macro, and we have now seen that the micro-level does not have to be limited to immediate biological family, because the bonds of catastrophe can cause, and in fact seem to produce, some amount, tiny though it may be, of genuinely altruistic behavior.

When I happened to say to [personal profile] nineweaving that I was in the middle of a Wells re/read, she promptly replied with a couplet from a comic verse she had memorized as a child: "H. G. Wells / Creates new hells."

Which is true. His Martian invasion, the twentieth century through a glass darkly, is right up there on the list of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, not because of the Martians, but because none of the humans are outright villains. Some of them are insane, and some are annoying, and many are behaving in ways unconducive to long-term survival, and all of them are terrified; but you believe in them not only as individuals but as a plausible set of people for the narrator to run into in the middle of a war. It's only after thinking about it for quite a while afterwards that I noticed how neatly Wells had removed the capacity for altruism from his secondary characters. The Martians are frightening and cool and interesting (and clearly described as being drawn by H. R. Giger, which has not made it into any of the adaptations I've seen), but I think one reason this particular nightmare has lasted so long and clung so thoroughly in the back of our heads is that it would take recreating these terrible catastrophes in almost every particular to prove him wrong about the essentials of human nature and the ways people would behave in these circumstances. That's part of the book's appalling genius.

The thing is, though-- we did.

And he is.



* albeit not as much of one as Moreau, which is saying something

** that classical nineteenth-century insanity in which they rant and rave and chew the furniture, i.e. nothing you can find in the DSM, and therefore I just use 'insane' as I am not sure there is a less aggravating descriptor for this particular literary trope

*** Via Project Gutenberg's HTML copy
archangelbeth: Bleary-eyed young woman peers up, pillow obscuring the lower half of her face. Text reads: SO not a morning person. (So Not A Morning Person)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
Car still not fixed. Dunno if the part came in yet. They're very busy. (If no car by tomorrow, I will ask when they expect to have some loaners, perhaps. Or swipe spouse's mom's car, maybe. Mmph.)

Spouse and kid went to Long Drive which let me introvert a bit, which was nice.

Spouse is trying to sort something out with the online course kid is taking, where one has to have an account to watch the videos -- or even see if there are transcripts -- and the handoff is not clean, and it wants a password. (There better be transcripts, or I swear, I'm gonna find who does ADA suits and I'm going to ask a lawyer to write a note about how the lack of transcripts is non-ADA-compliant. Deaf kids might need this stuff too, and sensory-issue-kids could surely use the transcript option that the d/Deaf would need.

Grrrrrr.)

I continue to putter on the Thing, for now. It's barely creative and that's all I've got just now.

Need to get Arkady Martine's spouse's book from the bookstore sometime, but I have gone and BLANKED on it. Incandescens, what's the name again? Help?

Kid at least seems to be recovering from stomach bug.

Havva Quote
Amelie follows. "Would this be a bad time to mention that I haven't used a phaser since basic combat training?"
--ah, Star Trek games...



INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )

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