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Because It Heals My Heart

Springsteen looks like such a kid in this, although I think he was actually close to 30 at the time. The in-concert energy is palpable even over the Intarwebs, both among the band members and out in the audience.

Looking at this and listening to it just makes me feel so much better. Because even today, the Boss still loves us and stands up for what's right.

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Wednesday Reading

IT'S A SECRET!

(Re-reading canon for Yuletide. Many volumes of canon.)

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Happy Halloween!

This year's jack-o-lantern:

A carved jack-o-lantern, lit with a candle

I'm filled with nostalgia for Halloweens of the recent past, during which I spent the evening alternately giving out candy to the neighborhood kids and writing flashfics for trick-or-treating online fan-friends. I don't have the energy; don't know how I did it then, either.

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Making progress.

We’re officially ready to start writing the actual Alliance Rising book, and along with it, we’re going to put Finity’s End into Closed-Circle. That’s a hundred or so years on…some of the same bunch.

http://www.cherryh.com/WaveWithoutAShore/?p=6987

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So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.

Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.

The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.

Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .

Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.

The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).

Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.

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Brief Fandom Rant

If a fandom is your very favorite thing, and you have been dying for fanfiction from it, and you have gone through the trouble of nominating it and requesting it for Yuletide, and your canon consists of only two medium-sized paperbacks, is it really that much trouble to figure out that two of the four characters you nominated actually have full names and/or surnames in canon?

Dita is Perdita Verist: "I'm Perdita Verist, the new teacher, remember?"

Peter is Peter Merrill: "Peter Merrill! How many times have you been told not to climb things at school?" (The speaker is Peter's first grade teacher.)

I did that from memory (verified via Google courtesy of some sketchy outfit that has the full text of the books online), and it has been at least a couple of years since a re-read any of Zenna Henderson's "People" stories.

(I realize that whoever is keeping up this fandom at AO3 is at least as much to blame as the requestor: the tags give them as just Dita (The People) and Peter (The People).

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Reading Wednesday

Got very little serious reading done this week Because Reasons (sad RL event).

I read the openings to This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, which I mentioned last week, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which I had forgotten that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago to support our local bookstore after killing some time there between appointments). More power of concentration will be needed to continue with either.

I read volumes 2 and 3 of the manga A Silent Voice, and now I am on the horns of a dilemma. The mangaka has ticked me off in a couple of ways, and even though I love the idea of the story and have become very fond of Shoko's tough, neglected tomboy little sister, I may decide to abandon the series, which rarely happens with me.

First, ex-bully Shoya is trying to arrange for more friends for his former victim, Shoko. The first girl he digs up is at Shoko's request, a girl who was kind to Shoko when they were all in middle school and who ended up getting bullied herself. That works out well enough that Shoya sometimes feels a bit of a third wheel around them. So when he encounters another former middle school classmate about whom he has no definite negative memories, he assumes that she's another potential friend. Actually, she is a manipulative little schemer in a very stereotypically Mean Schoolgirl way, and I cringe away from the book whenever she's on the page. (Can you tell that I was bullied in middle school for befriending a girl who was in Special Education?)

Then, the author introduces a Profound Misunderstanding between Sho and Sho, just so things will become even sadder. It takes a really good author to do this without pissing me off. Yoshitoki Ōima is simply not on that level. See, the two of them are starting to understand each other pretty well in sign language ... so instead, Shoko suddenly decides that she has to start trying to speak aloud! And won't go back to Sign even when it's clear that Shoya does not understand the Startling Confession she has just made!

I swear, I was grinding my teeth when that happened.

Does anyone know if things improve in this series?

On an even more frivolous note, I also started reading fanfiction for Stand Still, Stay Silent.

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Reading Wednesday

I have finished Hidden Figures. It was interesting and I am glad to have read it, but I wasn't enthralled. I realize that one of the factors in that was the lack of images. Most histories of recent times have photos and so on. This had absolutely none. I'm puzzled. NASA could have supplied a number of them, because you can find them online (examples here and here).

Next, I should start the book I just got in preparation for the Days of Awe: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transfiguration, by Alan Lew (1944–2009). The author was a rabbi who was also an adherent of Buddhist thought: he's been called the "Zen rabbi."

However, I am sure that instead, I will start with volumes 2 and 3 of A Silent Voice, the manga I started last week.

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Reading Wednesday

I finished the latest October Daye novel, Once Broken Faith. I think it had less cutesy "Gee, I'm so awkward and blunt" than the previous ones, but not by much. It sort of ended in the middle of things. I think it's that the earlier books were each a self-contained story arc that had some sort of growth or change for Toby. Now McGuire is moving into the end game, as it were. There are three more books, according to McGuire's website, but I think they will all be part of the same uber-arc (hmm, rather like Samurai Deeper Kyo's huge Mibu arc ... although that was proportionally even longer).

I read this on my Kindle. It includes a bonus novella, about some of the recent events from the point of view of Arden Windermere, Queen in the Mists. And then Great Big River suggested another short work, the novelette "Full of Briars," which has Toby's squire Quentin as the POV. I sort of liked it? But I had to agree with a couple of online reviews I read that the event and idea at the very end seemed to come out of nowhere. TVTropes actually has some pointers to where this material was telegraphed earlier, so some other time I'll check that out.

But reading these works one after the other pointed out something: McGuire doesn't seem to have very distinctive voices for these characters. If you had some general statements from Toby, Arden, and Quentin, selected so as not to indicate directly who was talking, it might be hard to tell them apart. Huh.

I'm now reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, a nonfiction book about the African American women who were the "computers" for the U.S. space program. It's interesting but certainly not involving the way fiction is for me. Part of the issue may be the scope of the story. The author is not telling the story of just one of these women, and she is also giving the sociopolitical background against which they first came to work for the government (as part of the aviation research effort in WW II). This includes the situation of African Americans in the military during the war and afterward and will later include the 1960s Civil Rights Movement events. So the pace gets a rather uneven, I think. I'm a little less than halfway through it.

If you think you may have heard of the book and are not sure why, you may have, like me, been seeing ads for the movie based on it, which is due out in 2017. Those ads showed up on F-book even before the book was released (Sept. 6). There is some really impressive talent involved in the film (official movie site).

Not sure what I'll read next. I have some more nonfiction, but I think I will want some fiction at that point. I may do a re-read of something that was new to me in the past few months: I have a lot of choices there.

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Reading Wednesday

After I finished The Cuckoo's Song, I didn't feel like reading anything else substantive for a bit, which sometimes happens after I read something very involving. So I read some fanfiction, excerpts from a favorite comfort read (Rumer Godden's Thursday's Children), and magazine articles (in the Washington Post Magazine, National Geographic, and Washingtonian).

Monday (despite the holiday), I got some manga from Great Big River: Gangsta. vol. 7 (this is a hyper-violent and nihilistic seinen action series that deserves a more complete write-up) and vol. 1 of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice is about a restless, undisciplined young boy, Shoya, and the deaf girl he ends up tormenting and driving from their school. Actually, the most awful thing is how bad the other kids are, including the ones whom the teachers and administrators think are angelic. I'm hoping something humiliating happens to all of them eventually, especially the sweet-faced little meganeko who's the class representative. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, especially when she's saying tearfully (paraphrased) "How could you possibly think that I'd do anything bad to Shoko? You know I'm the perfect class rep!"

But! This is only the first volume of a series that has seven volumes out. At the end of the volume, there's a time skip. Shoya, now old enough to leave school, is totally aimless and (for lack of any other focus) obsessed by what he did. He cuts all his ties to his current life and travels to find Shoko. He encounters her again on the last page. So I clearly have to order some more of the series!

(Fact: it seems to be a shounen series. Huh.)

Then the latest October Daye installment, Once Broken Faith, arrived on my Kindle. I'm now about a quarter of the way through it. It starts with a very silly, enjoyable pajama party for the teen fae contingent at Toby's house, but in no time we're up to our ears in dirty court politics and new types of fae and Toby is defying royalty in her typical headstrong fashion. Some of the people she loves are in danger and others are not speaking to her. You know, the usual!

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