Supervillain book reviewer, spreadsheet wrangler, knitter, spinner, geek. Acquisitions Editor for Masque Books.
50 stories
·
4 followers

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Epilogue

1 Comment

The epilogue has us rejoining Cordelia and Jole approximately two years later. Jole is getting ready to retire from the military and pursue his PhD in biology. Little Everard Xav has gone into the incubator. Cordelia is still the Vicereine, but clearly transitioning out of her role as well. Aurelia, aged 18 months, is expecting a younger sister. The story ends where it started—Sergyar—but also someplace new—Gridgrad and the site of Cordelia’s future home nearby. It’s still Sergyar, but it’s the world Cordelia has created, not the one Serg made that everyone else has spent the last 45 years clawing their way out of.

The question here is whether this is the end.

It could be. As I wrote when I reviewed the book three years ago, it would be fine if it is. All the people we care most about are happy. Most of them are alive. If we go further, there would almost certainly be more casualties. If we stop here, it would be easier to follow Cordelia’s orders from the end of the last chapter and take delight in each other while we can. I’m not entirely certain, but I think Cordelia was thinking of the Song of Solomon. I’m thinking of Candide, because it has one of my favorite endings. We can, as Voltaire suggested, reflect on everything that has come before and sit here eating preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.

This is a delightful moment. I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s intergalactic-yet-domestic bliss. Literally. For the first time since we moved in to this house, I have weeded my yard. It turns out we’re growing a lot of raspberries. I’ve been compulsively baking the entire time I’ve been rereading this book. Domestic bliss is wonderful. But it might also be a good thing to go on. It would be hard for me to read a book where Miles dies. There’s really no one I would be willing to lose. Bel’s death would be devastating. So would Nicol’s, or Elli’s. Gregor’s death would be terrifying. Alex or Helen’s might destroy me. But loss is a part of life. I would bear those sorrows in order to read more, because I think there are more stories in the Nexus that I would like to know.

This reread owes enormous debts to many people. Foremost among them is Lois McMaster Bujold. Sometime over twenty years ago, I read a story about a short guy with brittle bones who started a mercenary company because he failed his military school entrance exams and wanted to impress a girl. That story turned out to be much bigger than one teenager with an oversized travel allowance. It is a master class in plotting and characterization and it’s been incredibly rewarding to reread. In addition to writing this magnum opus, Bujold has taken the time to read a fair amount of this reread, and then to comment on it. That’s been thrilling, and daunting, and an incredible privilege. Thank you for everything—for the books, for the stories you shared about writing them, for that time you said I could have an imaginary future bed force-shielded against allergens, and most significantly, for never saying that my theory about Aral speaking in code back in Shards of Honor was wrong. It might be! But I’m clinging to it anyway.

I have already thanked the editors at Tor.com for dealing with my writing. I could not end this reread without specifically thanking Bridget McGovern, who suggested this project to me back in early 2016. I assume that this suggestion was made first to some other people who turned it down, but there isn’t a formal line of blogging succession—no one had to offer me anything at all, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity, and for the experience that this has been.

This reread would not have made it out of 2017 without the support of the moderation staff, especially Stefan Raets. Thank you for being up in the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time. And thanks for all the things you nuked from orbit, both on your own accord and at my specific request. I absolutely could not have done this without you.

There are also a few people who I think probably have no idea they were involved in this reread in any way. It would be easy to leave it that way, but their work kept mine alive, and they deserve to know. So much has happened during this reread, a lot of it good, and some of it extremely difficult on a personal level. Somewhere in the middle, I realized that it had been several months since I had read anything that didn’t have a Vorkosigan in it, and I really had no idea what to do with myself. Gin Jenny and Whiskey Jenny at Reading the End set me back on the path to sanity. Thank you for the short fiction round-ups, and also for being a stalwart and reliable resource for holiday gift ideas for the past two years. No one in my house would have gotten any presents without you. Natalie Luhrs has also been an amazing resource, both for her blog, pretty-terrible, and for that panel at Readercon where she pointed me to the Clan of the Cave Bear fanfic where Alya invented sliced bread. That thing is HILARIOUS. Thank you for curating things for people like me in times that were hard for you too.

My husband says he doesn’t need to be in the acknowledgments, and that I acknowledge him in more important ways every day. He’s getting me more coffee right now, for approximately the 332nd time in this reread.

And for those of you who have read this far, thanks for being here.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
eilatan
109 days ago
reply
Eeeeeeee, Ellen gave me a shout out at the end. I am all verklempt. <3
New Castle, Delaware

Why Superman Sucks

1 Comment

Superman is an unrealistic character and it’s impossible to tell a decent story about him for one reason: If Superman were real, he would have a full-on erection at all times.

Here’s the thing about Superman: He does what a normal man can’t. How am I supposed to believe that a man who can put out fires with his breath doesn’t also maintain a rigid, intimidating erection while watching over Metropolis? Yes, even when he’s flying. And, sure, having an erection while flying would increase his wind resistance, so he would have to fly a little bit faster, but he’s Superman — I think he could handle that.

It just doesn’t make sense that the “Man of Steel” is more like the “Man of Cesium,” which I googled, and is the softest metal.

If you’re on this forum, you’re probably exactly like me:

  • You’re a fan first.
  • You’re a fan second. And, yep,
  • You’re afraid to go the hospital for even a general check-up because you’re all alone and what if the doctors find something seriously wrong with you and you have to go through a long and terrifying treatment without anyone by your side who cares about you? You’d rather just die suddenly, no warning.

So you know that we fans demand stories with a level of realism that respects our intelligence. And, I’m sorry, but Superman literally has the most super penis on Earth, and IMHO, the “most super penis” is one that’s erect all the time! Yes, even when he’s Clark Kent — he just tucks his throbbing, uncomfortably hard erection into his waistband. That’s all part of his genial, bumbling, non-erect disguise. It’s basic logic!

And that logic must extend to the people around Superman. How would the Last Son of Krypton’s foes react to Superman’s poking-straight-out-at-a-90-degree-angle erection? They’d no doubt start having massive erections themselves. Some would turn to mad science, some to alien technology, some to evil magic, but pretty soon, every bad guy from Gotham City to Star City would have ridiculously engorged — but realistic — genitals. To maintain artistic consistency, the female characters would also need preposterously large and visible cleavage, so no change would be necessary there.

Hollywood, if you’re listening, we “Fans of Steel” agree on three things:

  • 1. We think Superman is the greatest superhero of all time.
  • 2. We haven’t enjoyed a Superman story in decades.
  • 3. I don’t understand what they mean on the radio when they say that the economy is doing better and better. Who is all that money going to? It’s not going to me, you know? It’s not going to my friends. Or my parents. So what exactly is getting better? I don’t know anyone who has more money than they used to. I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m scared.

Granted, you might be thinking that my proposals are too radical or too paradigm-exploding or that this is a scrapbooking forum and so my entire comment is off-topic and inappropriate. But you owe it to me to honestly engage with my ideas.

So give Superman a boner. Because it’s actually quite simple to tell a good Superman story. All us fans want are:

  • Galaxy-spanning storylines that don’t change the characters we love in any way
  • City-destroying violence that causes zero injuries, and
  • Extreme realism

GodsLogic
Newbie ‘Scrapper

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
eilatan
132 days ago
reply
lolololol
New Castle, Delaware

The Difference Between Being Broke and Being Poor

1 Share

Words by Erynn Brook | Illustrations by Emily FlakeLongreads | June 2018

Erynn Brook is a feminist and freelance writer who studies media, people, communication and culture.

Emily Flake is an illustrator for The New Yorker, The Nib, MAD Magazine, and New Statesman, among other places. 

***

Editor: Michelle Legro
Art director: Katie Kosma

Support for this work was provided by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.





Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete

Nancy by Olivia Jaimes for Jun 3, 2018

1 Comment
Nancy by Olivia Jaimes for Jun 3, 2018
Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
eilatan
493 days ago
reply
the struggle is real
New Castle, Delaware

The Last Leia

1 Share
Leia was dead: to begin with. I feel like that’s where Episode IX begins, because how can it not? I came out of The Last Jedi wondering how on earth they meant to go on, without Carrie Fisher, without giving us the Leia film that so clearly should be Episode…
Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete

Sleeps With Monsters: The Power of Community in Hidden Figures

1 Share

hiddenfigures01

Long after the rest of the world, I’ve finally managed to see Hidden Figures.

As a film, it deserves its accolades. Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Taraji P. Henson deliver extraordinarily powerful performances, ably framed by Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. It follows some of the conventions of a biopic, but manages to marry biopic with the pacing of an action film for a smooth, elegant and taut narrative that combines to tell a triumphant story about science, courage, and perseverance. And it is beautifully shot.

As critics, we know—or we ought to know—that how we react to a piece of art, what we say about it, and how we frame our response, says as much about ourselves as the work in question. So when my first reaction to Hidden Figures is to see it as a really interesting film about power, and about the power of community and friendship and persistence in the face of intense discouragement, that probably has a lot to do with the lenses through which I see the world.

But one of the reasons why Hidden Figures is so interesting is because of power. It’s a film about racism (and sexism) in science, and how hierarchies of power are constructed (and maintained) that act in ways both explicit and subtle to deny people access to information, credit for their achievements, and equal dignity as humans. In Hidden Figures, we see these hierarchies act upon genius mathematician Katherine Goble (later Johnson), Mary Jackson, who eventually became NASA’s first black female engineer, and Dorothy Vaughan, who teaches herself and the other women of the coloured mathematical computing pool the Fortran programming language when NASA starts installing IBM computers to replace human computers, and becomes not only NASA’s first black female supervisor, but someone we’d probably call a computer scientist these days.

But we also see how Goble, Jackson, and Vaughan—and their communities—resist these hierarchies. From the film’s opening scenes, when Monáe’s Mary Jackson recasts their police escort to NASA’s Langley offices as “three black women chasing a white policeman down the highway,” Hidden Figures shows both the strain of negotiating oppressive hierarchies of power—and the kinds of power that can be used to both navigate (and subtly oppose) those hierarchies, and sustain the people doing the navigating. The emotional core of Hidden Figures, it feels to me, is the friendship between these three women, and the ways in which they support each other emotionally. (There is a very sweet scene in which Janelle Monáe’s Jackson and Octavia Spencer’s Vaughan are basically the best wingwomen in setting up Taraji P. Henson’s Goble with Mahershala Ali’s handsome well-set-up Colonel Johnson.)

Hidden Figures is a film based on a true story. But in its foregrounding of the importance of American black women’s intellects and accomplishments, black women’s communities, black women’s solidarity, black women’s persistence, and black women’s courage, there is, I think, a lesson and a challenge for people working in science fiction and fantasy. These are things that deserve to have a place in the limelight.

Also, damn, but that is a fabulous film.

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Find her at her blog. Or her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign.

Read the whole story
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories