Life Update

Mar. 8th, 2015 05:42 pm
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)

So, I got a job just last Thursday: I'm going to be a proper chemist (well, "Contract Formulations Chemist" but yeah, not an internship, actually doing chemistry,) as soon as I start on Monday.

This may mean I'm less social in the immediate future while working on other projects. Speaking of -

- I'm a hair's breadth from finishing the first draft of Switchpoint.
- Progress has been made on the new chapter of the EHL. Granted, large portions of that are written rather than filmed, but I have less than twenty new scenes to film (as of now) and a better plan for the next two chapters, which will include an interlude. This one may even be relatively short - no four-post several hundred picture monsters this time around.
- Despite my better judgement, I made a simblr for those of you interested in that. It updates on a "when I can be assed to import pictures to the laptop" basis. I'm also still working on the graphics for the banner/my new EHL banner in general. Yeah, I'm mouse-drawing trees again.
- I am now almost caught up with Secondhand Reviews, meaning that I ought to finish one of the two books I'm currently reading (Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Disposessed.) Especially since I finally ovaried up and reviewed the shitpile that is Lunar Descent, which has been sitting on my "to do" pile for almost three months. It is almost (but not quite) as bad as the Gideon Crew novels, if anybody here besides MM remembers my first attempt at book reviews. ;)
- I made massive amounts of progress cleaning a triceratops braincase/squamosal fragment. (I'm no expert and it's not quite clean enough for diagnostics yet. Whatever undergrad inherits my glorious bone had better be grateful and avoid scraping the edges.)

In other news, I continued to publish fanfiction: I blame Jupiter Ascending for being a terrible trainwreck with bees.

... with no little shame, I present to you Sovreignty: or Space Bees, the Ficlet.

And I'm going to PaleoFest next weekend, which is a formal-dress convention for fossil nerds in Rockford, IL. (It probably means I'm going to hang out with my dino-lab coordinator and the professor that runs the museum while satisfying my curiosity about the Triceratops I've been working on, but the fraternal unit has plans for meeting and greeting the senior paleontologists in 'his field' rather than learning about pollen like me.)

I tried to write something for femmeslash February. It didn't work, it isn't finished, and you guys are just going to have to wait for me to stop trying to get through Switchpoint for pointless Allie and Lindsay fluff. Until then, have something I wrote in December for the 30 day OTP challenge, in which Allie and Lindsay watchThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and thus ensure that they will go to the special hell reserved for people who talk in the theatre.

The Special (Effects) Hell

“It’s such a lovely painted circus tent,” I said to Allie, sotto voce, as we watched the crowd onscreen gather around a stage. She nudged me for silence, though we were the only people in the theater besides the projectionist and a young couple in front who were thoroughly engrossed in each other: the benefit of going to the movies at two on a Tuesday afternoon. “It looks like the walls are made of rubber,” I added a moment later, as two young ladies, their arms around each other’s waists, bought tickets.

The orchestra segued from playing a jaunty tune suited to a carnival, to an odd tense scampering as the magician worked his magic. I couldn’t help but glance over at Allie to see how she took it – she was busy rolling her eyes.

Somnambulism,” she muttered.

“Sleepwalking is a magical experience,” I told her with a grin. She didn’t dignify that with a response until a moment later, when she read the card onscreen. “Look into your future?” she hissed, incredulous, “seriously.”

“Shhh, we’re in the theater,” I told her facetiously. The next title card, which read you die at dawn, seemed to me to be a little overdramatic, but we followed the orchestra along and then saw a young woman in a long shawl walking through a ridiculously crooked “alleyway” with two young men, and I started laughing – trying hard to stifle it to avoid drawing the attention of the young couple in the front row.

“Theater, remember?” Allie murmured.

“The shadows are painted on the walls,” I said, when I could breathe, “I don’t care about the quack magician, this might just be the best movie I’ve ever seen.”

Allie rolled her eyes and slipped her hand into mine. I smiled warmly over at her and settled in, still giggling a little, to watch what I was sure was going to be the funniest horror film in the world. The only thing missing was the popcorn.

~ *** ~

*Popcorn was "invented" well before 1900, but it was popularized in movie theaters until the very late 1920's, which is both a little too late to be equivalent to the world where Allie and Lindsay chose to live most of the time, and waaaaaay too late to be congruent with early silent films. Yes, I did research for a 300 word drabble that isn't canon. Fear Me.

scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
So, it's time to shamelessly promote my sideblog for book reviews: Secondhand Reviews! The rules are that if I can get it for under five dollars, it's fair game, so this includes books that I got at rummage sales, things that I find online in the public domain, and books that get dumped on me because I'm sort of an unofficial orphanage for unneeded novels. I update when I finish books (if I finish books, in one case that I'm still trying to bleach from my brain,) and I'll review almost anything that holds still long enough, from nearly any genre. The books may range in quality, though I'm fairly certain that my reviews don't. :D

So far, I've read:

The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver (5/5)
A Murder of Quality, by John Le Carre (3/5)
A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Teper (0/5, insert panicked octopus noping here)
Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (4.9/5)
Nerilka's Story: A Pern Adventure by Anne McCaffrey (3/5)
Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey (2/5 officially: 4/5 if you don't read the last two chapters)

Next two in the lineup are The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker, a gorgeous book that I'm still writing up, and Murder on the Orient Express, because it's about damn time for me to gird my ovaries and accept that though I will never be Agatha Christie, I sure as hell can learn from her.

... I will be deeply indebted to anyone who wants to spork A Plague of Angels. That may be the only way to wash its stain from my mind.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Why Creative Writing Teachers Should Encourage Reading and Writing of Genre Fic

First off, literary fiction is a myth, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. The western tradition of writing comes not from what we think of as realism in the realm of literature, but from a mythical and allegorical understanding of the world. Some of the earliest literature that most students are exposed to is Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad, (some students get to read Virgil’s Aneid and the Epic of Gilgamesh as well,) which contains magic, action, interpersonal relationships, contradictions, people’s political and philosophical thoughts, improbable adventures, romance, horror, gods, fate, and long sea voyages. It’s also one of the world’s best-known works of fanfiction. (After all, Homer did not invent the stories of Odysseus or Achilles any more than Hesiod invented all the stories of the Olympians. Homer is just who we attribute the composed and written versions to.)

Most “literary” fiction that is presented to students as a classic has similar elements, yet escapes being labeled as “genre” fic because it’s old, or written by famous people. Just going down my own high school required reading list – Frankenstein and Dracula are both in many ways horror and adventure novels, Great Expectations (actually, anything by Dickens) is a long, slice-of-life type soap opera with adventure, mystery, and supernatural elements, Romeo and Juliet is actually just a stage adaptation of a much older tragic romance, (Shakespeare is the world’s most famous author of fanfiction in the English language,) The Scarlet Letter is essentially a work of magical realism with some psychological horror, The Great Gatsby is yet another tragic romance with slice of life and soap opera tendencies, and Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 are all sci fi.

All of the above were not written to fit the specifications of “literary” fiction as imposed by English teachers: they were all written for the mass market of their day. Any teacher who insists that “fantasy,” doesn’t sell should be banned from teaching anything with magical or supernatural elements, such as Dracula, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, and many works of Edgar Allen Poe, to name just a few staples of the middle and high school English curriculum. (They’re also living under a rock, since many of the best-selling franchises of the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s have been fantasy or sci fi, a genre which also includes superheroes somewhere along the spectrum.)

There is no one true literature, and here's how genre fiction makes you write better anyway )

 TLDR; If you teach "literary fiction" as being both completely seperate from and better than "genre fiction," you're doing it wrong. If you say that "It's that way because that's how literature is taught," you're committing a variety of logical fallacies, foremost among them being appeal to authority. If you say that my essay is essentially wrong because I have a degree in science instead of literature, you're technically launching an ad-hominem argument in conjunction with your appeal to presumed authority. And since anyone with access to wikipedia can sit here and play spot the fallacy as well as I can, it's time to start thinking critically about why people revere literary fiction so much (besides that they're taught to in school.)
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
And I really ought to be working on something that is not quite as extracurricular as an analysis of the portrayal of high intelligence and giftedness in books by Madeline L'Engle, which I clearly won't finish or post today, but damn it, that's what my brain is working on regardless of what else I'm doing. Hopefully I've got enough down that I can come back to it. Since 90% of my conception of spirituality came from L'Engle's books, this is going to be terribly complicated.

Anyhow, just a few thoughts I have: keep in mind that I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was eight, and that it's largely responsible for my love of science-fantasy and time and space traveling heroes, and the series as a whole may have had an unacceptably broad influence on my worldview.

1) I really identify with Meg as a teenager. Meg is forced to become her youngest brother Charles Wallace's protector due to outside forces that her admittedly brilliant parents are unable to control. She's also existentially bored at school and disguises her intelligence to try and make herself more popular, which doesn't work, and is dismissed by her teachers due to her intelligence and her "uncooperative behavior." The town where she lives will not allow her to be true to herself in public, and as a result she barely has an existence outside of her family. She despises school, the town, her schoolmates, the lady at the post office who spreads smug rumors that her missing father has abandoned the family in order to have an affair, and society's expectation that as a plain and outspoken young woman, she'll never amount to anything.

2) It's extremely hard for me to identify with Meg as an adult. Once Meg is no longer needed in the story to be Charles Wallace's devoted guardian, keeping him safe until such time as he can save the world, she essentially disappears within the interconnected L'Engle world. This isn't just because she's no longer a main character, or because the books are generally YA and don't swing back to her family until her eldest daughter hits her teen years: Meg's powers of empathy and telepathic communication (Kything, in this continuity,) are second to no one besides Charles Wallace, but after A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Meg's identity is pretty much erased. Her only narrative purpose now is to support her husband (and to provide him with her family connections, which advance his research considerably,) and to raise the next heroine, her oldest daughter Polly. I suppose you could say that she becomes a spiritual anchor for her family, but the truth is that by An Acceptable Time, the last novel clearly set in the Time universe and the only novel after the Time Quartet to return to the Murray family habit of time and space traveling, all of Meg's character development in A Wrinkle in Time, and A Wind in the Door, has been completely undone, and she's developed an inferiority complex about her intelligence, and chosen to be a stay-at-home mother primarily because she "doesn't want to compete," with her mother, a Nobel Laureate. This is despite the fact that she has an unfinished PhD in math and her mother is a cellular biologist. Meanwhile her other brothers Sandy and Dennys, the "Merely" slightly gifted family members, have no problems becoming a lawyer and a surgeon, respectively.

The thing is, during the first two books of the Time Quartet, Meg receives comparable training to Charles Wallace, is offered equal or greater opportunities to travel through time and space, and formed the basis of her romance with her future husband Calvin by dragging him along to learn the secret spiritual mysteries of time and space along with her. Yet Meg's importance to the universe is thrown by the wayside as soon as she has a child, despite the fact that she's canonically of equal or greater intelligence to her father and shown to be capable of both kything (telepathic communication between souls) and tessering (teleportation via... string theory, sort of, which normal humans are not equipped to handle.)

Does Meg have the right to chose to become a housewife and spend most of the ten years after A Swiftly Tilting Planet homeschooling her seven children? Yes. Do I understand her choice? Not at all.

3) Whatever happened to Charles Wallace? All of the L'Engle books featuring the Murray/O'Keefes, the Austins, or their reaccurring family friends like Canon Talis or Zachary Gray are set in the same, continuous crossover universe. Time has been substantially altered only once, at the end of A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and altering time into it's current shape was the world-altering task that Charles Wallace, supergenius child savior, was born to do. He's mentioned once or twice in later books featuring Meg's daughter Polly, as Polly's favorite uncle who is almost never there. While it's implied (especially in Arm of the Starfish, where Polly is just a hair too young to be the only main character,) that he keeps in touch with Meg (and possibly their mother, from whom they inherited the ability to kythe in the first place, though hers is rudimentary and untrained,) over their long-established telepathic connection, and that he might not even spend much time at all on earth or in this time, since he's been trained in tessering and kything by the L'Engle universe's versions of angels, and it was mentioned several times that Earth wasn't the only planet he would save. Presumably, he's out fighting the Echeroi (a cosmic force of hate and destruction, made up of souls that achieved non-being through hating... it's complicated, okay?) one star or soul at a time, but since Meg is no longer the main character, I can only presume that. Maybe she's living a double life, with half her soul and consciousness helping out Charles Wallace, and that's why she's satisfied with her life on earth as a wife and mother.

4) I dislike Vicky Austin as a protagonist. She's too passive: the Austin books are not about Vicky, they happen near Vicky. She later writes poems about them. Her identity as a poet and the "soul" of the family is especially grating compared to Meg's more proactive role as the soul and the spiritual protector of the Murray family, and she doesn't come into her own as a narrator or a character until near the end of A Ring of Endless Light, the fourth book that she can really be considered a character in. Her social and intellectual identity as a teenager after The Young Unicorns revolves around her love interests, and her eventual ability to Kythe (also in A Ring of Endless Light,) with her love interest Adam is somewhat cheapened by the fact that it exists mostly to rescue her from a mental breakdown. The fact that Vicky is used during A Ring of Endless Light and The Moon by Night to build the basis of Zachary Gray's redemption by being his love interest is also annoying, especially since the job is "finished" by Polly O'Keefe, who is two years younger than her and most definitely a minor when she replaces Vicky as Zach's love interest. (Actually, I think Zach is older than Vicky too, but I don't think there was ever an underage problem there - he's in college when he's pursuing a relationship with Polly during the second to last book, A House Like a Lotus.)

5) Why are all the heroines defined by their support or spiritual rescue of their male family members and love interests?
Maybe it's L'Engle's background: she was born in 1918, which could explain why most of her major romances contain men in their early twenties pursuing relationships with sixteen and seventeen year old girls. (except for Meg and Calvin, who attend both high school and college together. Calvin is at most a year or two older than Meg.)  Maybe it's the only way she could get science fantasy with female protagonists published in 1962. Maybe she wanted her protagonists - Meg and Vicky are both based on her childhood - to have the same accomplishments she did, namely a husband and children.

6) I'm ambivalent about the "othering" of high intelligence in the Kairos (Murray/O'Keefe) half of the continuum. While it's clear that Madeline L'Engle believed that high intelligence and high empathy were good things, and that she wrote ultimately sympathetic characters of more typical IQ, the fact remains that by writing Charles Wallace as a metahuman and the rest of the family as approaching the metahuman, she reduced the ability of the reader to identify with them, or to see them as ordinary human beings instead of mystical spiritual saviors.

7) Why am I still writing about this? I desperately don't want to do any more Spanish homework.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Here's a small sample of the completed and currently updating webcomics that I've read in the past year or so, or am still reading. Most of them are fantasy, mystery, or adventure comics - the only rules I gave myself about throwing this list together is that they have to have made it through at least one chapter, updated within the last two months (otherwise you can get some dead comics,) and have to have a central plot, rather than being slice-of-life comics. Then I stirred myself up by deciding to promote the more obscure works, with highly involved art, in preference to popular, monolithic long-runners like Girl Genius, Gunnerkrigg Court, and Order of the Stick.

All links will dump you on the comic's first page on their own website. I've updated some of the descriptions and trigger warnings as of June 2014 so nobody gets taken by surprise.

Pictures, links, and summaries under the cut )

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