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August 2014
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17. “Chance” by Connie Willis

Urgent, disjointed tale in which maybe two periods of the narrator’s life overlap.

This is another story which felt like it could have been placed in a non-genre collection. Actually, this story is so wide open to interpretation I feel almost as if I may as well not have read it - too much freedom to decide ‘what happened’, what it means. Although contrariwise, I would not have imagined that segment of possibilities without having read “Chance”.

Connie Willis has a huge reputation and I’m still looking forward to reading more, but so far of the three I’ve read by her the only one I really liked was “Blued Moon” in the second of these anthologies. “Chance” reminded me a little of “Blued Moon” for its university / college setting and focus on the role chance plays in romance and life paths, but the latter was one of my favourites in the collection where it appeared, being a very welcome light-hearted diversion in a volume of largely dreary apocalyptic tales. “Chance” by contrast feels much of a muchness with the rest of the collection so far.

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16. “The Prisoner of Chillon” by James Patrick Kelly

This felt incomplete, like there was something I was supposed to bring to the story that I don’t have. Was also amused that by certain strict definitions (which I do not personally adhere to), this story is not science fiction because the actual narrative - a heist gone wrong, having to lay low with the mysterious figure who arranged the job, the interpersonal tensions which play out subsequently - do not actually depend on the speculative elements to function.

I want to say this story was okay, but really I am still tired of stories in which women fall for damaged men despite themselves, as much as I am of stories in which the mysterious love of a woman has transformative effect on the random male POV of the week. Apart from that, it was almost interesting.

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Busy sort of day. Facelasering appointment appointment in the morning, over-slept so missed breakfast. Did get to listen to many episodes of Planetary Radio and Philosopher's Zone however. And delicious hamburger for lunch.

Then back home to pick up the scrip for my blood draw which I'd forgotten at home, except it really was in my bag I just couldn't find it. And, since I had to be out so much today, took the opportunity to tour some local libraries for the sake of upcoming assignment. I'm supposed to report on outreach to marginalised communities anyway, so why not go and see what posters and pamphlets they actually have up?

And my sister wanted to go a-borrowing so I brought her with me to raid multi-library craft collections. The first one was the most eventful, some woman browsing the stacks went on a tirade accusing my sister and myself of staring at her, of being lesbians dancing around her.

It was quite confronting. Unsettling. One of the first times I get definitely read as female in public and it takes the form of someone accusing me of being a lesbian and harassing her, just for being nearby.

I didn't feel threatened as such, but I failed at gesturing to my sister that we might want to wander elsewhere until she was gone so as not to cause her further distress. So instead asking her a few times to leave us alone and then resolutely ignoring her as we browsed until she left.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. I hope I don't experience anything like that again. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/655559.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Been rather sick last week. Had a big assignment due on the Monday we just had and another due on the coming Monday. Fortunately these story reflections are just something I've been slack at cross-posting from already-written at Tumblr, so they don't take much time that I should be working.

Also today my supervisor emailed me an ad for a job at my local library, permanent part time. It would be a pay cut from what I have been usually been getting of recent fortnights (but lots more than I got just lately, thanks to being sick), but it would be steady hours and maybe I would even get sick leave which is something I have been lamenting the lack of frequently. Bit of trade-off, bit nervous about that. But maybe I should try for it.

Last date for applications is the day after my next assignment is due. Will probably be a bit of a rush to get that in, especially as I have a ~long shift that day.

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15. “Night Moves” by Tim Powers

So that’s a Tim Powers story. I look more forward to reading his novels on the strength of this, although I also get the feeling there may be a lot of social nastiness lurking under the surface which extended works may clarify.

Not science fiction. The destitute and regretful who have washed up in a Californian town are swept into a choice between dreams - whatever thing in the past they hold on to - and the world. I frown at the shadow of abortion tragedy which hangs over this tale.

The character Cyclops was intriguing, though one wonders why, knowing the things he knew, he did what he did. Just to warn the hapless, perhaps? Feel like this is one of those stories which does not hold together well if its plot is questioned, but is carried by the strength of its writing and character narrative.

Also example of a thing which tends to bug me in fiction. When a character recalls some memory which at first seems to be a bit of character colour, an incident from the past which is important only as an illustrative example of who ey is and has been, but which soon turns out to have been a (or the) pivotal moment in eir history.

Feels like an example of complaining a lot about something I liked. That happens.

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14. “Tattoos” by Jack Dann

Strange, dark fantasy about Jewish folk and tattoos and transformation and transference and spousal love through bad times.

This also pleasantly surprised me, having expected it to be at first like a Paul Jennings story, the sort of thing I’ve always been squeamish about. Plus rather amused by a character early on recounting a prophetic dream which no one seems to have noticed as such. (also, the only holocaust survivor in the story is not Jewish, though the story itself is centred on Jewishness)

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When I talk about media I am enjoying, such as in the previous post, I get worried people will think I am presenting myself as some sort of expert. Especially since my default voice tends to a sort of dry pseudo-academic.
Really, I am expert at very little, perhaps nothing. But I like liking things, I like talking about them, and trying to understand them and my reactions to them.
And, well. *lets out a large breath* Enjoying things is fun. At least as fun as getting grouchy about stuff and I love doing that.
Sooo. I’m scared of getting called out for claiming authority I don’t have. But really I am just trying to be a social person who likes some things and not likes others, and seeks understanding and is talky.
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Whenever I listen to it I almost always conclude I like metal better without the singing (my recurring joke is “The intro was great, they should make a whole song of that.”). Which, in fact, was a lot of what put me off even trying it for so long - the stereotype of a bunch of men shouting into a microphone so hoarsely as to be incomprehensible.

Maybe what I really want that often my experience of metal almost gives is ‘chamber music for rock band’. This might sound like I dislike metal as musical genre / set of genres but so far I have liked a fair chunk of what I have tried [1]. What I am realising at the moment is that a lot of the more melodic(?) strains of metal come across to me as more… musically dense(?) than a lot of the rock music I listen to. So I am possibly responding to it more as if I were listening to art music than to pop music, and then from that perspective lyrics, especially performed harshly, will interfere with what I am trying to get out of it [2].

So I feel like I understand a bit better what I think of metal now.

But sometimes vocals make a pleasing line too. As I write this am trying out the album Paradise Lost by Symphony X and enjoying it a great deal. Assuming nothing happens to change my mind, I should add their name to a list and eventually go buy their albums.

[1] So far what suits me best is the region where it crosses over into drone music. Sun O))) does exceedingly pleasant things to me.

[2] Possibly for similar reasons I am not in the habit of enjoying opera, possibly not.

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Programming: Paradise Lost - Symphony X

13. “The Beautiful and the Sublime” by Bruce Sterling

This was interesting. So far as the idea of science fiction as futurism goes, this story feels like it has hit the mark more closely than many others. A world in which socially networked computing has been a locus of generation gap, as privacy norms diverge and romantic extravagance and artistry gain pre-eminent social cachet over any sort of mercantile materialism or nationalism.

The death of ‘the tradition of Western analytical thought’, as the narrator put it, with some satisfaction, thanks to the outsourcing of such drudging tasks as flight, medicine and science to uninspired artificial intelligence, maybe economy and governance also and leave the world with a vast leisure class free to pursue its emotional callings.

I think being published as science fiction for a science fiction audience this story may well have been intended as a tale of disquiet. Transformative AI bringing a comfortable sort of utopia to Earth, but at what cost? I suppose I am disquieted, because this seems like just such a world in which I may be able to… at least make an attempt at performing science, even if I were still foredoomed to failure. But in this world such a pursuit is so deprecated as to seemingly require wealthy patronage in what feels like contradiction against the freedom of others to pursue art. So, disquiet that in an imagined world where existing barriers to my pursuit of a passion are eliminated there are instead new barriers which keep almost anyone out.

Ah, but who am I kidding? There is no world in which myself coincides with the pursuit of science. This however is a good story I reckon[*].

*Caveatly of course, like de-industrialisation of North America but no hint of any sort of decolonisation in this world.

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12. “Tangents” by Greg Bear

Peter “I’m not Alan Turing, honest” Thornton takes under his wing a musically and mathematically talented Korean boy who learns to perceive in four dimensions.

You know, I did not start out writing these summaries of the stories, just my responses to them. But sometimes the sarcasm of summarising what happens is part of what I need to communicate with. Or at least I am too lazy in the moment to deviate from standard short story response form.

In this case I was apprehensive early in the story because it reminded me of the H. P. Lovecraft story “From Beyond”, which had been read to me once by blood-and-vitriol, especially since past experience has shown me Greg Bear does not shy away from the gruesome or disturbing (I nearly quit a couple of projects after reading “Blood Music” in the first of these collections). This story ended up being rather the reverse however, and the characters are saved from bullying, homophobia, and U.S. immigration by inspiration and an appreciation for music.

Contrast what I was just saying about “The Pure Product” with this which feels like what I might call more traditional science fiction. I liked this story perhaps largely for that familiarity, but would not recommend specifically unless it already sounds appealing.

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11. “Grave Angels” by Richard Kearns

In small town USA, the white son of a major family finds himself the eventually unwilling apprentice to a grave-digging magical negro.

This could have been an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

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List of planets with weirdly transparent atmospheres:

  1. Earth
  2. Mars
  3. Triton [ish]

 

List of planets with normal, cloudy atmospheres:

  1. Jupiter
  2. Saturn
  3. Neptune
  4. Uranus
  5. Venus
  6. Titan
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10. “The Pure Product” by John Kessel

Kaleidoscopic wanderings of what is probably a visitor from some nihilistic future across North America. First person protagonist takes care to maintain distance from the audience “people like you” vs “people like me” - socially manipulative, disdainful of human well-being except as a medium for ‘art’.

Felt like this story invited a lot of questioning of its narrative. How real various experiences were, how honest the protagonist was being with the audience and with himself, the degree of truth in accusations levelled at him.

Also especially at this point in the collection being struck by how contemporary a turn science fiction seems to have taken. Feels like most of the stories in this collection were set in the then-present, give or take a decade or so, and in other cases if not the present then in something recognisably like the present with whatever tweaks are needful for the story to function.

I would not have anticipated this based on the stories I read in my childhood and teen years, most of which were far removed from the present in at least one of time or space or world-state and attempted to convey a feeling of such. Many of these stories feel like they could almost have a place in a non-genre anthology if the speculative elements were taken as narrative devices, this one especially.

I don’t think this is why I haven’t especially warmed to the stories in this year’s collection, since many had potential in my eyes and just took turns I did not care for.

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9. “Covenant of Souls” by Michael Swanwick

Not science fiction (fantasy).

A story of the USA in the probably near future in one of its archetypal conflicts. The world is wracked by war, social systems are crumbling, and the sinister United States government seeks to assure its pre-eminence by hijacking the strange powers of a mysterious woman to remake the world in its image. Fortunately(?) this is thwarted(?) by the Rube Goldberg mechanism that is the huddled, downtrodden masses.

Power-grasping government machinations vs not the conscious will of the people, nor their simple goodness, but the sheer weight of their existence not being drowned out.

Still looking for the Michael Swanwick story to wow me, but I did not hate this. Throughout it is nicely personal. The presentation is such that, well - with the setting being a church and all, for a while I thought the government man might have been Satan himself seeking entrance. I suppose he still could have been.

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8. “Sea Change” by Scott Baker

Given the story revolving around a child’s response to parental strife, I was surprised not to be cut deep by this one. I reckon this is actually a very dark story for all the impact it did not make on me.

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7. “Into Gold” by Tanith Lee

For most of this story I was dreading what it appeared it might be - the daughter of a Jewish peddler bewitches and brings to ruin the people of an Imperial Roman tide-pool.

Fortunately this was not the case. Rather, a nifty retelling of a certain fairy tale, and no villain but the curving of fate to tragic conclusion. Ultimately I quite liked this one. [edit] Actually the undoing comes from the protagonist’s anti-Semitism so never mind.[/edit]

Not science fiction, though. (and I should keep an eye out for more by Tanith Lee. I quite liked “Nunc Dimittis” in the first collection, although there is a particular scene in it which still haunts me at times. also her “Foreign Skins” in the second was a bit… colonial IIRC.)

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Filter: depresseddepressed

Thought it was a one-off problem recently, but now I can't reply to comments on my own journal either. Frustrating.

Don't know why, maybe it is related to Firefox or how I have things set up in this browser? Will try a different browser sometime and see if that is it, although that may take a while before I can remember how to log in.

I think the opening paragraph of this story, so far titled "By The Window" needs a lot of work.

    Sometimes prospects in person grow thin and it seems necessary to turn to online realms for that freedom of self-disclosure without people taking immediate flight. So it seemed to Lucy, yet still most who found her from her profile were discarded for getting on her nerves. Or turning creepy. Or not actually reading her profile and then running.

As part of an introduction to Lucy, her relationships, and what she gets out of them, this repetition of people running or taking flight evokes images of self-satisfied "I am kinky and therefore too weird to handle" attitudes that I strongly dislike.
 

Discussion of process on a work of erotic fiction, not explicitCollapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/651857.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

6. “Fiddling for Waterbuffaloes” by Somtow Sucharitkul AKA S. P. Somtow

The first story I really liked this time around. A story of possession and the fate of the world in 1980s / late 1970s Thailand, at first I thought it was set in the future, until I realised of course the dates were being given in the Thai solar calendar. Which would explain Star Wars playing at the cinema.

If I tried to list the aspects I enjoyed I’d be giving a rundown of the whole story, but especially I want to highlight the visiting anthropologist with her notepad and degrees (seldom do I see this sort of outsider character done from, well, the outside), and the very ending which had me at first appalled and then laughing.

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Been about a month or so since I decided to quit Twitter. Took me about a week to get out of the habit of trying to check it whenever I had a moment's boredom. This did emphasise the loneliness I was already feeling with no one to talk to most of the time - I had been getting a whole lot of what social needs were met filled by friendly interactions on Twitter or even just watching people I liked doing their thing.

But it also freed up more time to waste doing other hollow things. Particularly not having to spend the 2+ hours each morning to catch up on overnight tweets every day (or, on certain workdays, only being finished catching up by bedtime). Despite the loneliness and despite not using it well I have liked having that space available again.

I don't know if I am able to participate on Twitter without committing myself to reading every tweet made by everyone I follow. For most of the past month the only tweets I have made were automated from Tumblr, or sharing from some other site without visiting Twitter itself; the only ones I have read were the mentions I received notifications for.

The past few days I have made some attempts at participating a bit more again, urged on by ami-angelwings​ who said she missed me. Today I tried doing my morning catch-up again and it was a pretty miserable experience, souring my mood further and aside from that leaving me feeling I've wasted a lot of time I could have put to better use. I don't know if I will 'come back' or not, and I don't expect anyone to care, I'm just writing this because I'm able to at this time and I miss being able to write journal posts. I don't want to squander my voice when I have it lest I be filled with further regrets.

There we are. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/651454.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Night 2

Text quote "Among thousands of comrades and ten thousand enemies, only you... only you made me forget my dream." -- Griffith. Below this is a kill count (73) and option to continue or save and exit

It seems there is an option to save between nights? Passing over the available stat upgrade in hopes of surviving another night and being able to increase dexterity. This may prove foolish.

 

Read on for a violent deathCollapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/651125.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Filter: lethargiclethargic

5. “Against Babylon” by Robert Silverberg

At first this reminded me lots of his story “Hot Times in Magma City” which I’d read in the first volume of Year’s Best SF from nearly a decade later.  Both follow fire-fighters in LA, albeit in the other responding to volcanic activity and in this case clumsy aliens.

Another story of culture clash within the US, the whimsy quirkicality of the Bay Area against the stolid, down-to-earth interior and the gulf of values and understanding between them.

America, America, America again, and I’m sick of it. The USA and the UK, I’d love to go a good long while without their stories, their centredness. I want an escape from having to hear about them, care about them, know about them. But I won’t have it, of course. I’d have to cut myself off from the world almost entire, nearly everyone I know. No where else to go.

But it ain’t right. That teensy little description up above about the cultural divisions represented and played out in this story? Of where else in the world would I be able to write that out, off the top of my head? Just about nowhere, that’s where, and that even includes my homeland, because I’ve never had enough stories of where I am to get that same embedded understanding of its dynamics.

How do I feel about this story? It makes me want to weep because I’m tired of hearing about the good old US of A, that’s how. (the aliens are mainly a narrative device to puncture the protagonist’s cultural complacency)

Disappointing, as Silverberg’s stories in previous anthologies have tended to be among my highlights.

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4. “Pretty Boy Crossover” by Pat Cadigan

Nothing wrong with this story except it fell pretty flat for me, which has been a tendency for Pat Cadigan’s stories so far. Very punk, very ’80s, very not for me.

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Filter: anxiousanxious

3. “Strangers On Paradise” by Damon Knight

I think I would have been more impressed by this story if I had read it a decade or so ago.

Humanity’s first interstellar colony is so perfect they don’t even have disease. Buuut- it turns out they’re lying about the indigenous folk having gone spontaneously extinct a few centuries ago, and almost certainly founded the colony on an act of conscious genocide. Too bad, so sad.

It troubles me that no one who learns of this attempts to publicise it, as if the fact of a colony founded on genocide is shocking enough to make a story, as if this isn’t normally done wilfully, consciously. Although the protagonist does release a set of possibly immortal rabbits into the wild; I overlooked that initially as at least some sort of action against this colony and their starry-eyed dreams of limitless expansion.

I did like the device of travelling off-world to research a biography of a famous poet. I like that sort of ordinary tale in science fiction setting. Makes me nostalgic too.

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Title screen of Berserk! with the title rendered in large, ascii art. Credit to Kentaro Miura for the setting, thanks given to Turgor, Glowie, Jorge, Thomas, Malek, Fingerzam

Berserk! is the creation of Kornel Kisielewicz, probably most famous for DoomRL. It began as a 7DRL (7 day roguelike) and saw a couple of further releases before being effectively - or at least visibly - abandoned.

The game is based on the manga Berserk by Kentaro Miura, something I've been a fan of. The player character's capabilities are based on those of the protagonist Guts, who has been branded for sacrifice and consequently attracts demons each night. Of the two existing game modes, neither victory conditions nor saving are implemented, and thus the goal is endurance or score.

 

Read on for hopeless carnageCollapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/650161.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

2. “Hatrack River” by Orson Scott Card

Not science fiction. Folkloric fantasy of colonial American magic. Not only for the author, but also its romantic and thoroughly uncritical depiction of colonisation and frontier settlement in action am I suspicious. Card’s story “The Fringe” in the previous year’s collection also featured a sort of guilt-free, post-apocalyptic frontiership, so it seems this may be a recurring theme of his.

The story itself is a young girl using her magical talents, alongside a whole lot of fate, to assure the birth of a seventh son of a seventh son against the malevolent forces that seek to murder him or at least assure he will not be born a seventh son. In doing so she binds herself to a duty of continuing to be his magical protector.

Am fairly sure this story forms the initial segment of Card’s novel Seventh Son.

Opinion in summary: nope. At more length: if I wished to read a tale of the magic of a seventh son of a seventh son, I would read Pratchett’s Equal Rites from the same year.

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Programming: Silent Witness 4.1 "Gone Tomorrow"

Trying to be all social media participatory but quiz things with unanswerable questions.

Stumped at number 1: "Have you ever passionately kissed a friend of the same sex?"

Well, no. The only people I've kissed like that have been lovers. But the available answers are a) "Yes", b) "No that would be wrong" or c) "It was a long time ago".

Unanswerable without lying or conceding a false premise (that the only reason not to have done so would be from finding it morally objectionable).

Bleh.

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Finished listening to the first year of Planetary Radio, into the second year. Will miss the old theme music which sounded to me a lot like music from the SNES version of SimCity



Although the new theme puts me a lot in mind of Unicron's theme from the 1986 Transformer's theme, so that also amuses.



Still finding it remarkable how much things have changed or been anticipated since that first year of the show.


The Galileo mission was at the end of its mission at Jupiter and, during the, plunged into the planet's atmosphere to avoid contaminating Europa. They had project manager Claudia Alexander on the show to talk about this, and mentioned her next mission waiting to launch, Rosetta - which is just now nearing its target 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


They had Alan Stern on, anticipating the future launch of New Horizons (arriving at Pluto next year), and the rumours that some astronomers think maybe Pluto should no longer be counted a planet. Of the radio show: "Let's hope we're still doing this when you arrive" - looks likely from 2014.


They had Marc Rayman on, talking about recently concluded mission Deep Space 1 and the prospect of using technology tested then on a future mission, Dawn, which has now visited Vesta and will be arriving at Ceres next year.


The two Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity (still functioning more than a decade later) and Spirit were launched and en route to Mars for their 90 sol mission.


Low key anticipation for the arrival of Cassini the next year, and all its findings and beautiful imagery as yet unrealised.


So much change, so much, and also so much continuity. Missions anticipated at the birth of the program coming to fruition now. I wonder what else has been anticipated during its run so far, and worry the answer is not much - not much to come but what's been coming the whole time.

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Ascii Sector 1.2

Making my way to the ship I take off (and forget to take a screenshot) and fumble extensively with the controls until slowly some understanding of nav-points, autopilot and jump gates is gained.

First, to the wrong nav-point, and then since the destination for this mission was no longer showing on the map like it had been last session - cut off at the bottom - tabbing through other nav-points until one offered 'jump to Nexus Prime'. That system at least showed what looked like a path to potentially get nearer the target system.

 

Read more for system-hopping confusionCollapse )

 

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Finished reading “R & R” by Lucius Shepard. It was weird, having it intro’d by Dozois (the editor) as “probably his best story to date … and quite likely the single best story to appear in the genre this year”. And then before finishing it coming across an article from the past year by a different editor (Strahan) who also assembles year’s best collections, with him using example of this same story from the late 1980s as an example of that sort of “Wow, this is amazing” feel that he looks for in stories to anthologise.

That happens rarely, though, and it’s why I keep reading. To find the next “R&R”, and to experience that sort of moment again. It’s also what I hope the best of the year series delivers to readers.

So I finished reading it, and it did not knock my socks off. But it was interesting. All I’ve read of Lucius Shepard’s writing is the four stories collected in the second and third anthologies in this series. They tend to have a lot of themes and settings in common - not set in the US, despite protagonist often being from there, being set in Central America (and in one case, Spain), a mysterious, sexually alluring woman surrounded by ideas of magical escape, and the idea of escape from war or colonisation.

With this sense of repetition I had been feeling unexcited by the prospect of reading another. They had all been quite good, mind. But feeling I could anticipate the details of what was to come dampened my enthusiasm. Plus with all this high praise I reacted as if dared to dislike it.

This particular story held all of those themes also. But as it played out, it came across more as a repudiation of his previous work - all those elements, but ultimately a magical translation out of war or colonisation is not a viable escape.

I had heard many good things about Lucius Shepard prior to reading any of his stories, so I had been looking forward to reading his work. The first one I read, actually, felt so familiar I thought I had read it before, but this may have been a distant memory of Greg Egan doing what felt like a riff on his work (probably “Chaff” in the collection Luminous, not to be published for another 8 years after this).

This story reassures me I have been premature in writing off Lucius Shepard. Good news since he has been so well-regarded by people vastly better versed in the field than me.

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On the other hand, a string of stories at Podcastle left me feeling alienated, being centred as they were so strongly on US self-mythologising. A very distinct sense, which I have the privilege of experiencing relatively rarely, that I was not and never could be the audience for these stories.

The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale by Benjamin Rosenbaum is as the title suggests a fairy tale of California. More particularly of capitalism, California, and self-identified geekdom. Self-conscious quirkiness blended with corporate surrealism; there is a trans woman and a genderqueer kid in the story for what appears to be ‘people do gender non-normatively in California’ reasons. Support groups and mercenary hackers and monetising all the things.

Hotel Astarte by M. K. Hobson is a broader anthropomorphised mythology of the Three Americas - the Rural Midwest, the Business of the East, and the upstart Hollywood of the far west - and their deep magical conflicts with each other for pre-eminence or survival in the early 20th century.

These are not necessarily bad stories. Hotel Astarte especially I thought well done. But they are very much of the USA, stories told by that people of its history and its nature. ‘America’, talking about itself to itself, no space in the telling for an audience that is not on the inside, not so soaked in this mythology of the great and human nation.
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Sometimes, listening to podcast fiction is a good way to find new authors. Hearing in fairly close succession For Fear of Dragons at Podcastle and then especially Amaryllis at Lightspeed Magazine, both by Carrie Vaughn, draws her to attention so that I will be keeping an eye out for her name in future as a signifier of good story. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/648363.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Successfully assembled and tested my first map for Doom over a couple of nights. It isn't pretty, nor would I claim it to be especially good in other ways, but it exists and that is its own kind of triumph.

It's got a lift (so many texturing mistakes before I got it okay), a door (had to set aside the map after about an hour of failing to get that right and re-check a tutorial), monsters, a key, and a remote-activated key door. Ended up being surprisingly difficult but consistently beatable for me with keyboard + touchpad, which is also a small lesson in how to balance encounters.

Am quite satisfied. Will probably make a go at building a more serious practice map in a day or so and see how that goes. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/648089.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Listening to an episode of Planetary Radio, the guest was asked where, if not Mars, in the solar system might life be found. I was surprised his answer was Europa - I've become accustomed to scientists saying Enceladus.

Then I realised that of course, this episode was recorded early 2003. The geysers of Enceladus had not yet been discovered. In fact, Cassini had not yet reached Saturn and Galileo still orbited Jupiter.

This also reminded me that Mike Brown had not yet discovered Eris, nor most of the other dwarf planets he is famous for, the Kuiper Belt is far less populated in our knowledge and Pluto as yet relatively firmly regarded as a planet is.

So much has changed in our understanding of the solar system over the past decade. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/647692.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

I don't write here more because I'm tired. But I miss it.

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I derailed
the point
that you made
while arguing

and which
you were probably
hoping
to convey

Forgive me
it was persuasive
so pointed
and well-formed

- derived from the original by William Carlos Williams

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Put in my last assignment of the semester the night before last. Not best pleased with the job I did, but at least I got it done.

Now I have time to devote to other postponed life activities like enrolling in important school stuff before it is too late (hopefully it is not too late), seeking professional development opportunities and being prompt and organised for next semester's classes. Which are not showing up on the student portal yet, so I haven't yet failed on that one.

Also, making myself follow up on the offer of support services from the beginning of the semester, even though I have no idea what a disability accommodation that would actually help me might be.

Also also, entertainment stuff. Been aspiring to see more movies at the cinema and most of the recent ones I might see haven't stopped showing yet. Plus a series of concerts featuring Beethoven's piano concertos at the Opera House. I suspect these will exhaust my reserves for spending money on myself for a long while, but I've been looking forward to them for a year, so I suppose I had better try and go.

Feeling tired again just thinking about trying to do stuff.

I wrote a lot (for me) in April, but had to stop again through May because school and deadlines. Would like to do more of that again. Would be satisfying. Think there may have been more I wanted to ramble, but don't remember it now.

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Feeling lately I would love to devote more of my time to writing. Wanting to put big chunks of days to making stories and delving into them, instead of just sneaking an hour or two before bed.

I want to approach writing as a dedicated craft, I suppose. But even if I did not have a job and school to worry about this would likely remain wishful thinking, as I am rather lousy at time management and would not balance it well with sociality and other things I would like to do - to the detriment of all, most likely.

Still going to want. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/646775.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Tags:

Still angry with a local library for their handling of my membership sign-up last year.

After I filled out the process on the provided kiosk the staff-member who was processing my application asked to see some ID. I handed over my driver licence which has no gender marker, but despite finding no corroborating documentation there, this staff-member proceeding to edit the (mandatory) gender field in my library account details. I'm sure this happened despite not seeing it directly because ey also wrote a misgendering title on the back of my library card before issuing it to me.

If you're going to have a mandatory gender field in the application and change it in ways not indicated by major government-issued documentation presented to staff, why even let prospective patrons fill it out? Why not just have a "hey, staff, write whatever you want here" field?

I do wonder if this might have been some sort of vindictiveness for pointing out that the sign-up kiosk link to the library's terms and conditions of use did not resolve. But pointing out a problem in your system surely doesn't merit forcing a person's fourth or fifth preference for gender recognition on em. Had already compromised with the constraints of the system provided as far as was willing. Don't need to take that from me too. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/646573.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Still reading the Ea Cycle, onto the second-last volume now, Black Jade. Continuing to be amused at the cosmic stakes declared here.

"If we fail and Angra Mainyu is released he’ll go on a rampage destroying entire suns and countless populated planets until the order of beings above him are forced to unmake this one universe of the many. Meanwhile everything depends what were do running around this one continent of mostly white folk."

[paraphrased of course. but the contrast between the stakes and their lives, it is great]

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Conversation today had me realising how much longer it has been since I wrote much. If asked I would have said the last time I got much writing done was 2010, which is plenty long ago as-is.

But I went back and looked at my old writing logs.

2007: 49,251 words, about half of which went into writing the only (short) novel I've ever actually done.

2008: 19,523 words, mostly going into finishing aforementioned parody novel and an abandoned serial project from the previous year - should try reviving that someday.

2009: 43,367 words. Split between a novella written for NaNoWriMo and an erotic fiction novelette earlier in the year.

2010: 1,279 words recorded as written.

2011-2012: no longs kept.

2013: 4,155 words total. Resolution made to get back into writing and to have written some substantial amount for 2014.

2014: 4,314 written so far, mostly on sword and sorcery serial started last year with intention of being 'easy to write'.

That helps me feel a bit better. Did not realise had already surpassed last year. Shall strive with determination. This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/646033.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

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Been reading lately the Ea Cycle by David Zindell, and from the first the protagonist has reminded me strongly of this song.

Seventh son of a king, from the ancient lineage whose duty it has been to guard the setting’s lost holy grail. His flattering description of his princely brother, who looks just like him. Gifted in the mental and martial arts, who suffers from his power of empathy. Who has a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead that marks him out to mystic forest folk when those are encountered.

Am reading the second/third volume in the series now, Lord of Lies, and never have I seen a protagonist more eager to proclaim himself the setting’s Chosen One, even though he’s clearly not.


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Been trying to write something that I call sword and sorcery despite not having read in the genre so far as I can recall, which makes me a bit uncomfortable[1]. Think I've rambled about that before and concluded since I am not aspiring to rigid genre adherence as an end in itself,  but rather am wanting to write something self-satisfactory inspired by popular conceptions of the genre, that isn't strictly necessary.

I do want to learn the genre for itself at some point however, and thanks to aiming to collect and read Gollancz's SF and Fantasy Masterworks series there are already a few volumes of major works on my desk to read (Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, a collection of Elric stories. not sure if others count, but looking forward to getting a copy of The First Book of Lankhmar next time there's money to spare). May even get round to reading these in several years if good fortune holds. Also been wanting a copy of Swords and Dark Magic when I can manage it.

Something else has been percolating recently. Namely that there have been major works of sword and sorcery (and planetary romance) by women that will be missed if I stick with that approach. The Fantasy Masterworks series does include Sea Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories by Leigh Brackett [2] but there is no trace in either series of Joanna Russ' Alyx stories of C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry. What I'm wondering is whether additional to these there are any other works by women that I should be looking at.

[1] Although, thinking about it now, Berserk probably counts. And according to Wikipedia, Thieves' World, which have read a couple of volumes of.

[2] Incidentally Brackett's "So Pale, So Cold, So Fair" is an excellent work of hard-boiled detective fiction, and I should really look at her other novels and film work sometime.

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Background: black starfield. Headline text: Ascii Sector. Menu text reading vertically down as: new game, load game, movie player, quest maker, options, quit

Ascii Sector is not precisely, I think, a roguelike. Rather it falls into the nebulous category of roguelikelikes, in this case a game presented via ascii graphics and with some randomised elements (I believe), but lacking in permadeath and with less procedural generation than is typical of roguelikes. I think.

Not hugely expert on this game (I played it exactly once, in a previous attempt at roguelike roulette, and haven't looked in on it again until now). Ascii Sector is based on Wing Commander: Privateer, and you play as an inhabitant of the agricultural planet of Basin, who has just saved up to buy a crummy little starship and now hope to travel the stars as a person for hire. Gameplay involves buying things, transporting things, selling things, and fighting things in the name of profit and survival.

(the included manual feels like a fairly lengthy read at ~19 pages, but it felt needful to do so, as I was a bit lost as to how to approach ASCII Sector)

 

Enter for image-heavy noodling aroundCollapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/645273.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Filter: soresore


[1331 words. cleaned up and expanded existing writing a little, should be able to move forward with story soonish.]Collapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/645050.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

(obviously I start with this one because it is the oldest. we'll talk about that problem some other time.)

As the first item in my list of anime to watch, I figured I may as well get on with sourcing it. How does that go?

Quickflix: no results, so I'm not subscribing to them yet.

Madman: no results, but then I'd rather not buy something on DVD without knowing if I like it - the space it would occupy is a bigger reason to hesitate than cost in the long run.

CrunchyRoll: yes, but region-locked so that I can't watch it (same with Hulu).

Fishpond: incomplete copy of the series on region 1 DVD.

Amazon: incomplete copy of the series on DVD, region-locked, and reviews suggest the series will not be getting a complete DVD release.

Pirate Bay: complete copy of the series available with subtitles.

That's five failed attempts to watch this via corporate-approved means. Tried to pay money to watch this, but the only way to see the whole show is a free torrent or circumventing region blocks on CrunchyRoll or Hulu.

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A while back I asked for some recommendations on anime to watch, mainly because I feel I have a much better handle on English language productions to watch, whereas a lot of contemporary interest in anime bypassed me for various social and financial reasons. Well that is true about a lot of other media, but those have more easily drifted to my awareness.

Here's where I'm at now, although further recommendations continue to be welcome.

Currently watching:
Simoun

Watched:
Akira; Ghost in the Shell; Serial Experiments Lain; Perfect Blue; Haibane Renmei; Berserk; Excel Saga; Spirited Away; Kiki's Delivery Service; Howl's Moving Castle; Laputa: Castle in the Sky; Porco Rosso; The Secret World of Arrietty; Afro Samurai; Samurai Champloo; Spice and Wolf; Darker Than Black; Azumanga Daioh; Last Exile; Fruits Basket; Blood: The Last Vampire; Ergo Proxy; Eden of the East; ...

Partially watched:
Sailor Moon; Dragon Ball Z; Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Cowboy Bebop; ...

To Watch (based on opportunity, remembered favourable reviews, or recommendations):
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Cowboy Bebop; Moribito; Dennō Coil; Madoka Magicka; Evangelion; Patlabor; Martian Successor Nadesico; Those Who Hunt Elves; Full Metal Panic; Fullmetal Alchemist; Noir; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; Fairy Tail; FLCL; Irresponsible Captain Taylor; Galaxy Express 999 (things by Leiji Matsumoto); Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise; Record of Lodoss War (OVA); Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water; Birdy the Mighty ('90s OVA); Outlaw Star; Kare Kano; Trigun; Hellsing

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[458 terrible words. content - I suppose you could pretend there's a sense of menacing suspense, if you squinted? trying very hard to keep going forward and not go back and edit, despite there's some setting details to edit in that could maybe be an excuse. written in November for NaNoWriMo and that's as far as we got.]Collapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/644224.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

 

[580 words. this is terrible draft; I'm only posting it to keep a promise I made to myself several years ago. no content to advise on that I can think of. edit: this was written September 2013; I'm just clearing backlog.]Collapse ) This entry passed through http://aesmael.dreamwidth.org/644046.html. Comments can probably be made anywhere this entry was posted. Comments on this post already at Dreamwidth: comment count unavailable.

Feeling very stressed since I got back. I had been aspiring to get back to doing a lot of writing this year, but with school I've been feeling squeezed out. I don't have the spare mental capacity to work on the harder parts of writing, like planning or editing. I have tried to keep back the hour between 23:00 and 00:00 to myself but all I can manage is a sub-par stream of whatever comes to mind, and I write slowly at the best of times so it isn't much. I'm just hoping that later on I might be able to go back and clean up, salvage something, or at least that I might still be learning something from the process.

Around the middle of last year I started what I called a 'fast writing' story, aiming to do something of a sword and sorcery sort which did not require much work of me beyond the putting of fingers to keyboard, but I've still done nearly nothing of it past the initial burst of attention. But it is still almost the only project I can even think of continuing at the moment because it requires so little background work, and at least if I try it I can pretend to progress.

School itself may be too much for me. Even though I'm undertaking a part-time load - 2.5 classes this semester - I've only been able to focus my attention on one of those and I'm still behind on it. I am afraid that I will not be able to make a serious attempt on the first assignment for that class, let alone whatever is going on for the class I've not yet had looked at.

I am not doing well. I think I need to further curtail my activities (I've already cut out some very time-consuming things I used to make a habit of), but I need to make sure there is still room for some sort of fun self-reward or I know I will just check out.

Will see. Don't want to make dropping out of school any more of a trend for me than it already is.

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