Hiding the Name

Sep. 27th, 2016 01:23 am
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 Corporations are leaving their names off the logo.  Part of it is just a shell game in hopes of deluding consumers that the product isn't really corporate.  (Hint: most products that aren't corporate don't have a logo.)  But mostly what it does it make it harder to connect the logo to the owner, if you don't already know whose it is.  You see a logo on a thing you like and you want more -- how do you find it?  You see a logo on something that pisses you off -- how do you know who to blame?  Search "thing with a red circle and yellow circle on it?"  Yeah, right.

Birthday greetings and felicitations

Sep. 26th, 2016 09:30 pm
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[personal profile] onyxlynx
 to [personal profile] helens78 !  Have a truly wonderful day!

Poem: "Fresh Air in Your Brain"

Sep. 26th, 2016 04:27 pm
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the August 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by the "gathering courage" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Survival Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )
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Posted by Mike Glyer

(1) JUST. ONE. SCHOOL. UPDATE. There was the inevitable brush with bureaucracy, but the books everyone donated are now being checked out to kids at Greenville High School in the Sierras of California. “Just. One. School. A Saga Continues” (August … Continue reading
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[personal profile] umadoshi
In case anyone needs a ton of links to distract them from the debate, here, let me clear about my "miscellaneous" file for you. It's all going under a cut, and I'm afraid it's not really sorted at all. If you dive in, may you find entertaining and/or distracting things.

35 links under the cut )
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Posted by Mike Glyer

In January, L. Neil Smith was announced as the next recipient of a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society. The organization will present it to him at MileHiCon in Denver. Smith will be presented … Continue reading

Safe Spaces and Facebook

Sep. 26th, 2016 05:14 pm
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

userpic=socialmediaOver the weekend, I had the occasion to get into a… discussion… on a post from a Facebook friend. During this… discussion… I was chastised for not being aware of all the context from previous posts by this friend on the subject. Another person commenting on the same post was chastised for intruding on a safe space in a problematic way, and a friend of mine was chastised for chiming in. Thinking back on this, I think the following reminders should be made:

  • Facebook is not a safe space, even if your post is “friends only”. Often, although the post might be friends only, Facebook makes the response visible transitively to friends of friends, meaning your post may inadvertently have a much wider audience than you expect.
  • Facebook does not present all past posts, and not always in sequential order. You cannot assume that anyone commenting on your post has any context at all. Whether they have seen your past posts depends not only on whether they have settings to show “most recent posts”, but how popular your posts are, how often they read your and linger on your posts, and many algorithmic factors.

The upshot to this is that you should not assume anything on Facebook is safe or private, and particularly, you cannot assume that your wall and your posts are safe spaces. Similar warnings apply to venues such as Tumblr and Twitter, where again you can’t always control who sees what you write. Warnings also apply to traditional Blogging, such as WordPress sites, where you can only restrict things through password protected posts.

If you want truly safe spaces, you should go “old school”. I’m not referring to pen and paper, although that can be safer. I’m referring to venues from the last decade, such as Livejournal and Dreamwidth, where you can restrict journals to friends or a subset of friends, where transitive accessibility is limited, and where you can have assurance that all posts are shown in sequential order. Further, on services such as Livejournal/Dreamwidth, you can have sticky warnings and FAQs at the top of your journal, and links to your rules. That’s difficult in Facebook — even if you do a group (where you can have a sticky post at the top), people reading on their wall may not see it.

Remember: the Internet, and especially social media, was not designed with privacy in mind. Especially if you are getting a service for free, you are often the product that is being sold, not the customer. It was also not designed to protect you — especially if you are sensitive to slights (intentional or otherwise), not everyone may know your warnings, and not everyone may be protected from posting. No where is that truer than Facebook or on Google, where everything you write is scanned for advertising potential, and it is easy to not see everything.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Fall gardening

Sep. 26th, 2016 07:24 pm
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[personal profile] redbird
The annual block party for my block (and a few people from nearby blocks) was Saturday. It was a nice low-key thing, potluck food, conversation, and children running around. Two different neighbors asked if they could have seedpods from our milkweed plants*. We said sure, and I suggested to one of them that she take it right then, but [livejournal.com profile] cattitude said it would be better to let the seedpods dry first.

However, yesterday morning we noticed a seedpod had split open and the seeds were drifting on the wind. So, after I took the trash downstairs yesterday and moved the bins to the sidewalk, I picked up two seedpods and went to call on those neighbors. The one right across the street wasn't home, and I left a seedpod on the edge of their grill, next to an unopened can of soda. Then I went down the street, rang the bell, and got an "aren't you sweet" thank you for the seeds. I am considering whether I want to deliberately plant milkweed in the back yard, or just let it sprout wherever the seeds land.

I mentioned this to [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, who said they hadn't heard of milkweed being something people actively want. The plants aren't very attractive to humans, but they're what monarch caterpillars eat; monarchs are attractive, interesting, and suffering serious population decline due at least in part to habitat loss. This is part of gardening for wildlife, a bit more actively than leaving the volunteer pokeweed because birds like the berries.

Today I stopped at Pemberton Farms to get some lettuce for dinner, and noticed they had six-packs of lettuce and kale plants in the garden center part of the store. I talked to the woman behind the counter, and told her I don't know the local seasons yet and had no idea when the first freeze was likely. She said that one of the few advantages of New England for gardening is you can grow cool-season crops twice a year.

So I bought some lettuce seedlings, brought them home, and did a bunch of weeding to make room in the front garden for the lettuce. I talked to at least three people while I was doing so, including [personal profile] 42itous and a passing child who asked what I was planting, then said it looked like lettuce, and when I agreed expressed approval. Best case, I will get some really fresh lettuce; worst case, it cost me $3.50 and less than an hour's work, including some extra weeding elsewhere in the yard.



*our meaning they are growing in front of our house; the landlady planted them last fall, I think.

2016 Elgin and Dwarf Star Awards

Sep. 26th, 2016 10:41 pm
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Posted by Mike Glyer

The Science Fiction Poetry Association announced the winners of the Elgin Awards and the Dwarf Stars Award today. ELGIN AWARDS Elgin Award: Book-Length Category Crowned, by Mary Soon Lee In second and third place were: 2nd — The Robot Scientist’s … Continue reading

Hipsters ruin nostalgia, film at 11

Sep. 26th, 2016 10:42 pm
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[personal profile] copperbadge
I went up to R’s place for probably the last time today- he’s selling it to afford the move to California. I moved out of his place in 2009 and out of the neighborhood in 2014, but I still miss it. And I was full of nostalgia and sadness about how if I do leave Chicago I may not be back to Wigleyville for years if ever, and how even as hard as it was sometimes I still miss my old apartment.

And then I went to the burger place where R and I used to get dinner and because of all the fucking hipsters moving in, I paid EIGHTEEN DOLLARS for a meal that used to cost ten two years ago.

What I’m saying is if you are ever sad about something, paying an 80% markup for something sure helps cure it.

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Posted by Tor.com

Tor.com meet-up

It’s been a while, but we’re having a meet-up! This week! Wednesday, September 28th. 6 PM to 9 PM. Second floor of Professor Thom’s bar in NYC, 2nd Ave between 13th and 14th. No cover, obviously. You can get the full details and RSVP over on Facebook! See you there?

One other thing: We tend to leave lots and lots and lots of books laying around our meet-ups, free for the taking. Tote as you will.

(An other, other thing: We’ve had questions regarding bringing tabletop games. We are SUPER INTO THAT but there’s not really gonna be any room for it. Sorry!)

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Posted by Judith Tarr

SaintCamber

Welcome to the weekly reread of Saint Camber! Last time, Guaire revealed that he wants to join a new order, one that is dedicated to a new (and not yet canonized) saint—Camber.

This week features a lot of politics, a lot of synopsis, and a series of profound shocks to both Camber and Joram.

 

Saint Camber: Chapters 20-21

Here’s What Happens: Chapter 20 follows immediately upon the Shocking! Revelation! (which has been telegraphed for chapters and chapters) with Camber blown away by shock! And horror!

Guaire (and this reader) doesn’t see why he’s so shocked. And horrified. It’s been obvious for chapters and chapters. With all the pilgrims and the miracles.

Camber is shocked. Miracles?

Sure enough. The clever little trick Camber played on Guaire by “appearing” to him as an apparition has backfired spectacularly.

Camber’s mental wheels are spinning frantically. He can’t mind-whammy Guaire to make him forget—it’s gone too far and too many people know about it. Not to mention, Guaire has too many Deryni around him. It would blow Camber’s cover.

All he can think of to do is try to reason with Guaire. That works about as well as we might expect. Guaire is all spinny-eyed with religious fervor, and nothing makes a dent. All Camber’s attempt does is convince Guaire to resign from Cullen’s service and go off to help found the Servants of Saint Camber.

Camber tries desperately to talk him out of it, but has no luck. At all.

Guaire takes his leave, and Joram erupts. In synopsis. Historical Narrator is back. Their conversation goes telepathic, with more synopsis: Camber mindtalking as fast as he possibly can, ramping Joram down, and as always, convincing him to give up and do it Camber’s way. It’s just too important to keep Cinhil in line via his dear friend and mentor, Alister Cullen.

None of this is told direct. It’s all summary.

Camber is still spinning wheels over the Saint Camber problem. It just gets more complicated the more he thinks about it. And then Joram points out that there’s Dualta, whom Camber also whammied. Nobody knows where he is.

The synopsis goes on and on and on without breaking out into dialogue, and I confess my eyes glazed over. I skipped ahead to the part where Joram gives in again and does what Daddy tells him, and they go off to Mass with Anscom. Then they fill him in on the situation. And finally, we’re out of synopsis and into an actual scene.

Anscom has some bracing common sense to offer. He won’t let a shrine to Saint Camber be built in his cathedral, and he’ll see what he can do about preventing the petition for sainthood from being presented to the bishops’ council.

Camber is suitably grateful. Anscom is impressed by his appearance of calm. Camber allows as how he’s been plenty panicky, but he’s talked himself around and is all full of himself about how brilliantly he’s mentored Cinhil into brilliant military plans that he and Jeb helped with but it was mostly Cinhil.

That’s our Camber. Cinhil is a brilliant legal mind, too, he says. Why, Camber can hardly keep up!

Good, good, says Anscom. Now how is the family taking all this? he asks Joram. Joram wails a bit, then Anscom points out that there may be no stopping this thing. They’ll have to let not!Camber’s tomb become a shrine, pending the approval of the young earl’s regent, his mother Elinor. She isn’t in on the scam and will make her decision in ignorance of the truth. She won’t have Rhys and Evaine to tell her what to do, either—they’ll be at court thanks to Camber’s machinating and Queen Megan’s new pregnancy.

That’s news to Camber and Joram, but they dismiss it for the moment. There’s still the question of what Elinor will do. She was another Camber groupie. Should they tell her?

Nope nope, says Camber. She’s fixing to marry Jamie Drummond, and Jamie is “a bit of hothead.” Camber is not in favor of Jamie finding out the truth.

So that’s where that sits. And back to the synopsis mines we go. Camber goes to Grecotha, does bishop-ly things. Then back to Valoret, which is in a taking: Earl Sighere is coming, and nobody knows if it’s in war or in peace.

When he actually appears, it’s not clear which he intends. There is a lengthy, step-by-step description of the welcoming ceremony. Sighere is playing it for all he’s worth, but Camber congratulates himself on observing that it’s a show. Sighere is coming to offer alliance.

Sighere gives a speech full of rhetorical flourishes, which boils down to exactly what Camber figured. He swears fealty to Cinhil.

This changes the situation a fair bit. Cinhil consults Jeb, who opines that this is a great way to test the new army, and “Alister,” who puts in a good word for Sighere.

Cinhil then gives a short speech, saying there’s no need for Sighere to swear any oaths. Sighere respectfully begs to differ. He gives another speech, and there’s another ceremony, described in exacting detail. Cinhil formally knights him and confirms him in all his titles. Everybody is thrilled. Cheers and celebrations all around.

Chapter 21 returns us to the Dread Synopsis. Cinhil ends up heading east with Sighere, while Camber as chancellor stays in Valoret and does administrative things. Dread Synopsis gives us an exhaustive summary of political and military arrangements. Everything’s wonderful for Cinhil and company, and Sighere ends up with a promotion. He’s the first duke in Gwynedd, and his duchy is Claiborne.

And so on and on and dryly historically on. Amid the drone, we learn that Megan is blossoming in her pregnancy; she’s not droopy or drippy any longer. She and Evaine are pregnancy buddies, and they’re nesting happily together, with Rhys looking on with his proud male gaze (no female gaze here, nope).

Pregnant Evaine is wonderfully mellow. We know this because all the men notice it. We do not experience it through Evaine. As I said: no female gaze.

And of course it’s all about Camber being magnanimous and letting her gestate and bonding with her. Much father-daughter bonding. (As I pause in reading here, I start to find all these hearts and rainbows ominous. But we’ll see.)

Amid all the synopsis there’s some mention of the Camber cult—nothing resolved there and Camber is in denial again, hands clapped over ears, la la la—and something financially funky is going on with Queron and the Gabrilites. And Anscom is ill, which is not good news.

Camber stays with Anscom and sends Joram and Rhys to check out the Gabrilite oddness. And here it’s frustrating, because they’re disguised as merchants and investigating the purchase of a manor and some very rich, very secret renovations paid for by some shadowy person with gold to spare, and it’s a synopsis.

Then off to Caerrorie to check out Camber’s tomb and it’s another bloody synopsis. Elinor isn’t even there, and they don’t even bother to look at the tomb. They do find some small shrines elsewhere, but it’s all passive voice and summary and off skips the eye in search of a scene.

And all it gets is more synopsis. Anscom dies in Camber’s arms—synopsis. Camber celebrates his funeral mass—synopsis. Anscom’s succession is in question—synopsis. The upshot of that is that the new primate of Gwynedd is a Deryni but he’s not someone Camber can confide in. Camber has to go along with it, since Anscom chose him and there isn’t anyone better who is also ready to take the office.

And on the synopsis goes. Megan has a healthy son named Rhys. Joy. Celebrations. Megan isn’t as droopy as she used to be.

The new archbishop calls a consistory or major meeting of bishops and heads of religious orders. (No women. Not a single woman anywhere in the leadership of Gwynedd’s church. Which by the way is very un-medieval. The Church was constantly playing whack-a-mole with uppity women, causing many to end up in heretical sects, but there were plenty of strong female orders and leaders.)

Camber is very junior here. Joram gets to sit in with him. The summary is long and dry and adds up to very little until finally something happens. A new order is presenting a petition. Queron is part of it. So is Guaire, whom Camber completely! forgot! is very, very rich. He’s the secret backer of the renovations at Dolban. (Camber, as we’ve long since seen, is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.)

And now there’s an actual scene. Everybody lines up and we get notes on dress and hairstyles, and Queron starts to read the petition for Camber’s sainthood. There’s an uproar, and Joram raises an objection, but Queron starts shouting and Joram has to back down. There’s fuss and bother and procedural backing and forthing, and Camber does his best to ramp down the tension and apologize for Joram. There’s no way they can afford to blow their cover in front of Queron.

The posturing and drama continue, until Camber throttles himself down and Queron goes into full spate with the petition. Camber interjects reactions here and there, mostly observing that Queron is talking about things Cinhil experienced. This is disturbing.

When Queron finally rolls to a close, Joram offers a brief rebuttal. Camber was not a saint and he’d be horrified if he knew, etc. (And of course, he’s right there and he is.)

The new arbishop, Jaffray, hems and haws and frets over Joram’s obvious opposition. Queron has a witness—Jaffray orders Joram, ever so politely, to sit down and shut up during the testimony. That’s Guaire, of course. While Camber mind-whammies Joram into a semblance of calm, Guaire is sworn in, identifies himself at length, and tells, lengthily, the story of the “miracle” after Camber’s supposed death.

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s gone over inch by inch and minute by minute. The climax is Queron offering to put on a show of Deryni magic, which Camber suspects Jaffray was in on—he’s a Gabrilite, too, it should be noted. The chapter winds it leisurely way to a sort of casual cliffhanger: Queron setting up for his demonstration, and Jaffray ordering the doors to be barred.

 

And I’m Thinking: I start to remember why I gave up on Kurtz after this trilogy and The Bishop’s Heir. Holy synopsis, Batman. Kurtz’s true gift is for vivid characterization and breathless adventure. Apparently, in this book, she decided to be Serious and write it like historical tome, only occasionally breaking down and offering actual dramatic scenes. Or else the deadline was tight and the synopsis was detailed and that’s what made it into print. Any Kurtz superfans here, who’d like to weigh in on what happened to the storytelling? Why did Kurtz stop with the story and go all-in with the telling?

Because lordy me, this is dull. Big things happen but they’re buried in summary. The ceremonies are as lengthily and lovingly described as ever, but there’s no fun stuff to balance them. Rhys and Joram play daring duo and get a handful of paragraphs and a fast summary and that’s it.

We will not even talk about the barefoot-and-pregnant demographic. Though I had a thought about this, in connection with another much beloved entry in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, Joy Chant’s beautifully and lyrically written Red Moon and Black Mountain. Gorgeous book, but the sexual politics are dire. Among the horse nomads, women are so crushed down and so suppressed that they’re essentially disappeared once they reach puberty. The Elf-analogues have queens and sorceresses, and there’s the truly terrifying earth goddess, but the main message is that women are massively inferior, their lives have minimal meaning, and all that’s important and noble and strong and significant is reserved for the males.

One can see where the feminist revolution came from, but also how thoroughly women writers of the post-World War II world internalized the view of female inferiority and insignificance. Even Evaine with her exceptional intelligence is a handmaiden, and once she’s pregnant, she turns into a puddle of baby drool.

It’s…interesting. More so than all the politics, to my mind. So little of it matters in any strong dramatic sense; it’s gone into in such loving detail, but there’s no blood in it. No breath or life. It feels like padding to stretch out the story into a trilogy: let us see all the worldbuilding and the historical notes and the background material, while we wait (and wait and wait) for the Camber cult to get going and the Deryni persecutions to start.

Per a comment last week: this apparently works for some readers. It doesn’t for me. There are so many potentially dramatic scenes here, so much character development that could have happened, and in their place we get thousands of words of marginally relevant politics and excruciatingly detailed rituals and ceremonies. Where are Rhys and Joram playing roving investigators? Evaine and Megan sharing experiences and building friendship? Camber dealing with the challenges of being Alister? Guaire finding his vocation and hooking up with Queron and building a new order? These are all things Kurtz could have written with verve and flair. But instead we got what we got. Synopsis.

A scene, a scene. My kingdom for a fully dramatized, vividly characterized, active and exciting scene. And No More Synopsis!

Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, a medieval fantasy that owed a great deal to Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, appeared in 1985. Her new short novel, Dragons in the Earth, a contemporary fantasy set in Arizona, has just been published by Book View Cafe. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies and space operas, some of which have been published as ebooks from Book View Café. She has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.

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Posted by JenniferP

Hi Captain,

I realize my problem isn’t as serious as other letters you’ve answered, but I figured I should try writing anyway since I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it.

I was friends with someone I’ll call “Oakley” from elementary school through high school. It was very rare for my parents to allow me to hang out with friends, so I really only got to spend time with Oakley if I was in one of their classes. The lack of contact outside of school didn’t exactly cultivate a deep friendship, and I didn’t keep in contact with them after graduating even though we only live a few miles apart.

This past weekend, my mother ran into Oakley’s mother at a movie theater, and they talked about getting together for lunch in the near future to catch up. I’m worried this catch-up-lunch is going to end with an obligation for me to hang out with Oakley.

I have nothing against Oakley personally, it’s just that: 1) School wasn’t a nightmare for me, but it wasn’t a great time either, and I imagine it being at least a little painful to have to reconnect with any part of it. 2) While I remember Oakley fondly, they’re essentially a stranger now, so what’s the point? And 3) I have no interest in socializing with *anyone.* (I made more “friends” in college and the following internships/jobs, but I avoided spending time with them outside of those contexts. I do wish I had real friends, but the idea of socializing makes me extremely anxious.)

I already asked my mother not to set up any “play dates” between me and Oakley (she was surprised and said it was a good thing I told her). I’m not sure what else to do or what she could say if Oakley’s mother brings it up. Any thoughts or advice?

(Note: I realize Oakley might not be interested in seeing me at all either. I’m just imagining a worst case scenario where Oakley’s mother tries to reconnect us.)

Hi!

You know your mom best, and the fact that she said “It’s a good thing you told me” tells me that the meeting of the moms would have resulted in some pressure to reconnect with Oakley when she hung out with his mom.

However, that’s a LOT of head miles to drive on something that hasn’t happened yet and may not happen. And something where, even if it happens, you still have the final say-so. For example, what if your mom did set something up?

Mom: “I talked to Oakley’s mom, and here’s their number so the two of you can reconnect!”

You: “No thanks, I’m not interested.”

Mom: “But what will I tell Oakley’s mom when I see her?”

You: “I don’t know? That you ran it by me and I’m not interested?”

Mom: “But what will she tell Oakley?”

You: “Same thing, probably? Who knows?”

Mom: “But what will she/Oakley think of me/you/us?” (This is the *real* question, the one with stakes for your mom).

You: “Who knows? I told you not to set anything up.”

You could also accept the number from your mom and never call Oakley, though that risks many follow-up questions that might be a bigger hassle than saying no in the first place.

You are allowed to choose your own friends.

You are allowed to pick your own friends without help or hindrance from your parents. 

You are allowed to be as social, or not social, as you like. 

Believe it.

Act like it’s true and it will be true.

You say in the beginning of your letter that this question isn’t very serious. You also say: “I do wish I had real friends, but the idea of socializing makes me extremely anxious.” That sounds pretty serious to me?

That statement + the fact that you got very worried about the prospect of seeing someone you ‘remember fondly’ again + hearing that you were prevented from spending time with friends as a child (really Not Okay on your parents’ part, in my opinion) + that you deliberately avoided deepening friendships from college or internships …Well, all that together makes me want to recommend that you explore those nervous feelings with a trained clinician like a therapist or social worker. We can’t internet-diagnose you and wouldn’t if we could, but I think it’s worth typing “anxious about socializing” “anxious about making friends,” etc. and seeing if checklists or online resources that come up apply to your situation.

You are the boss of whether you hang out with Oakley again in this life. You’re also the boss of whether you want to make friends with others and how you want to handle those friendships. Your parents aren’t the boss of your friendships anymore, but if anxiety about being around people is getting in the way of the things you want, I hope you’ll look into treatment so that those feelings are not the boss of you, either. You deserve to have the relationships that you want in this world!

Readers, as a reminder, saying “It sounds like you definitely have (condition)” is not cool. “I have felt like you, and I have (condition), this is how I manage it, if any of that information helps you here you go,” is in bounds.

Much love,

Captain Awkward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Posted by Sweepstakes

Pathfinder Tales Shy Knives by Sam Sykes

We want to send you a galley copy of Sam Sykes’s Pathfinder Tales: Shy Knives, available October 18th from Tor Books!

Shaia “Shy” Ratani is a clever rogue who makes her living outside of strictly legal methods. While hiding out in the frontier city of Yanmass, she accepts a job solving a nobleman’s murder, only to find herself sucked into a plot involving an invading centaur army that could see the whole city burned to the ground. Shy could stop that from happening, but doing so would involve revealing herself to the former friends who now want her dead. Add in an aristocratic partner with the literal blood of angels in her veins, and Shy quickly remembers why she swore off doing good deeds in the first place.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on September 26th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 30th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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Posted by Alex Brown

ThreeDarkCrowns

Into every generation a slay— wait, let’s try that again. Into every generation triplet queens are born. Each sister specializes in one of three magics: Mirabelle is a fiery elemental with the ability to command earth, wind, fire, and water; Arsinoe a naturalist who communes with plants and animals; and Katharine a cunning poisoner able to consume toxins as if they were sugar pills. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. Instead, Mirabelle is the one with all the power and her younger sisters more or less giftless.

For decades, the poisoner faction has defeated the naturalists and elementals and retained control of the throne, yet with the backing the Temple of the Goddess and her priestesses, this year the elemental is the favored champion. No one thinks Arsinoe, the plain country mouse of the trio, even stands a chance. Nevertheless, all three will square off at Beltane on their sixteenth birthday. Three queens enter, only one will survive. Years of training in their arts has brought them to this moment, yet none of them are prepared for the chaos that ensues. Hearts are broken, loyalties tested, schemes foiled, and friendships betrayed. The queens must decide if they want to play by the rules and murder the only family they have left or take matters into their own hands and defy the Goddess and their kingdom.

I’ve been a fan of Kendare Blake’s ever since Anna Dressed in Blood, a vicious bite of YA horror that begs to be devoured. When Three Dark Crowns arrived on my doorstep, I practically tore the box open to get to the excitement inside. The cover, of course, is gorgeous and absolutely perfect for the story it contains. The interior holds visual joys of its own. The map of the isle of Fennbirn is a gorgeous mass of intricate detailing. Even the fonts are striking. Whoever did the layout and technical production deserves a massive raise. I just wish the narrative appealed as much as the visual elements did.

Before you get your pitchforks out, lemme explain. I didn’t hate Three Dark Crowns, nor did I especially dislike it. There were an awful lot of bits to quibble over, and I suspect how much anyone falls for this book will depend entirely on how much weight they give them. For me, they overpowered the story, but for others they might be negligible. All I can do is tell you what I felt and why. In other words, this is a Your Mileage My Vary book.

Because I like you, I’ll start with the good stuff first. Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabelle are wildly compelling. The girls are so very different from each other and are likeable and unlikeable in equal measure. Arsinoe the naturalist is unrefined and nonchalant, personality traits that put her at odds with the other nature magicians. Katharine the poisoner begins as a frail, frightened girl and becomes a determined, defiant young woman. Elemental Mirabelle is all confidence until she falls in love and learns to fear others and fear for others.

The worldbuilding is also aces. Fennbirn has a believable history, complicated political machinations, and varied social groups. Think Westeros for the YA set, minus dragons. Blake is also great at setting tone and building tension. Once the action finally gets going she delights in twisting the knife deeper and deeper. The shockers in the final act will have grave ramifications for the queens and their courts, and I for one can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Now comes the grumbling, so if you don’t want to have your good opinion tainted, skip to the end.

The first issue is the pacing, a problem conflated by the fact that there are approximately 3 million characters in the book. Blake’s structure of giving each queen her own POV chapter helps once you settle into the pattern, but because the queens all have a dozen hangers-on, many of whom get POV sections within the queen’s chapter showing a scene from their non-royal perspective, it’s very easy to both lose the thread of all the plots and find it hard to care. Some of the courtiers are complex creatures with rich inner lives—Natalia the poisoner aunt, Elizabeth the secret naturalist priestess—but most either have so little impact on the narrative that it’s easy to forget they even exist—like Bree and Luke who do…stuff…I think?—or are one-note characters—Jules, Joseph, Madrigal, Billy, Luca, Pietyr, etc.

Thing is, if most of the extraneous characters were cut out the main story wouldn’t suffer from the losses and it would give more screentime to the more important yet just as underserved side characters. Given how the book turns out, Jules, Joseph, Billy, and Pietyr should be far more interesting people than they are, and that they aren’t is largely because when we do see them, they’re too busy obsessing over the queens. It’s as if whenever Mirabelle, Arsinoe, or Katherine walk away, the others cease to exist. Other characters disappear entirely despite Blake treating them as if they were super important to the storyline.

If you’re the kind of reader who really digs cishet love triangles and overwrought Romeo and Juliet-esque romances, you’ll probably have a good time with Blake’s newest series. Honestly, the overabundance of shoehorned romantic subplots was what really kicked me off Three Dark Crowns. Nearly every one of those 3 million characters have the hots for someone or are mad about who someone else has the hots for. And every one of those romances is heterosexual. (The lack of diversity is another big sticking point, but it’s also, sadly, a common one in YA.) Blake dabbles with critiquing some common YA and fantasy tropes, but instead of committing to the contradiction she veers back at the last minute and goes full trope.

Speaking of the end, Three Dark Crowns doesn’t. And this is probably my biggest issue with the arc structure, namely that there isn’t one. I actually had to pull up the page count online to make sure I didn’t have a faulty galley. There are cliffhangers and then there’s ending before the ending. The first two thirds of the novel move slow—too slow for my taste, but a lot of people really like glacially slow burns—and the final act rips through a dozen storylines in about a hundred pages, building up to the final moment only to have its knees knocked out from under it. I’d much prefer books in a series to be their own complete story. They don’t have to be episodic, but they should be able to stand on their own. Three Dark Crowns feels like the first section in a GRRM-style epic fantasy novel rather than the first book in series.

I know this review wasn’t what Blake fans were hoping for. Hell, it wasn’t what I was hoping for either. Despite the negativity of my review, I hope I haven’t completely put you off Blake or her books. There really is a lot to like in Three Dark Crowns. No matter how I felt about the experience of reading her latest book, Blake is a great writer with a strong, unique voice. I’ve loved her previous work in the past and I’ll love her future work. Just because this story didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all or won’t work for you. Again, YMMV here, and I’m certain my dissents will be in the minority. At least give it a chance to win you over.

Three Dark Crowns is available from HarperTeen.

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

General Fund Poll

Sep. 26th, 2016 01:59 pm
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I have posted a general fund poll for $18.75 into open epics, left over from the half-price sale in The Moon Door.  If you're not on LiveJournal you can vote in a comment.

E.V.I.L. Heroes #1

Sep. 26th, 2016 08:55 pm
[personal profile] history79 posting in [community profile] scans_daily



"With great power… comes great corruption. Superheroes are real. They walk the earth as gods among men. But the fairy tales of them protecting mankind and being heroes were all lies. Humans have become their slaves, fit only to serve their super powered masters. But in man the nature of the true hero still survives… and one group rises up to challenge their self-appointed masters. Can they hope to succeed or will their opposition only push mankind closer to extinction."

- Zenescope press release


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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa's surface. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness. The plumes provide a tantalizing opportunity to gather samples originating from under the surface without having to land or drill through the ice.

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