I was attracted to Replica because clones and faux!amnesia are bulletproof narrative kinks for me. You have to work to foul those up for me. Here's the back cover copy:
Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake's marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege, even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image--no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.
Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he's more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She's not exactly his type...not that he can tell anyone that.
But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.
When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn't know what--or rather, who--killed him.
Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.
What's good: there's a lot packed into the premise. Nadia is genteelly raised, but far from spineless, and easy to sympathize with. Nate is a closeted gay man in a social class of a future society that strongly discourages homosexuality, and one of his major motivations is to protect his lower-class lover. And Nadia and Nate's friendship with its ups and downs is believable.
Neutral: the Executive class of elites allows women to inherit, but there's a behavioral double standard as to what men and women can get away with, which is why Nadia has to watch her every move so she doesn't cause scandals while Nate can act out all he wants. The narrative states that this is some kind of throwback to the nineteenth century (Western, presumably?). There isn't much explanation given for how this developed, but I've seen sillier setups in sf so I was willing to go along with it.
What's less good, without going into spoilers: As far as I can tell, the entire named cast minus one character (Chloe, a friend of Nadia's) is white. There is lip-service paid to Chloe feeling like an outcast because she's black, and then Chloe is very rapidly shuffled off-stage and we never hear from her again.
That's not actually my biggest complaint about the novel. My biggest complaint about the novel is that it has a lot of tense action and still never manages to punch hard enough. And I don't mean this in the social justice sense of punching down or sideways or diagonally or whateverthehell. I mean this in terms of narrative impact on the reader.
I can't discuss further without spoiling the whole thing, and I am really frustrated by the fact that this fairly good novel could have taken my favorite tropes and done them even better, so let's have a spoiler cut: ( Read more... )
So, the folks across the road from our back woods are building a house. This is nothing new, they cleared the lot, oh, four years ago, and from time to time a truck and a couple guys would show up, perform Mystery Tasks and go away again.
Well, apparently they decided that This Summer is the Summer of the House, and they’ve been going at it, hammer, tongs, bulldozer, dump trucks, and electric drills from early to late. Last night, the last dump truck delivery happened at 9:30, as I was reading a chapter from The Cat Who Saw Red (we alternate chapters), and the cats were in their places in the kitchen, listening avidly (big Koko fans in this house; though Trooper thinks Yum-Yum is just shy) — and we all jumped at least a foot when the gate slammed open.
It’s gotten to the point that I can’t really figure out what they can be building down there. Based on the amount of activity, it may well be an apartment complex. Or possibly a space elevator.
In other news, work goes forth. For the record, writing the last book in a five-book arc, which is simultaneously the last book in a 21-book arc — is hard.
Today included baking another couple loaves of bread, which turned out well, and have been tucked into the freezer next to a half-loaf of last Friday’s Pullman bread. I think we’re good for bread for the next week or so. Which is a mixed blessing. May have to switch to making cookies for displacement activity — which is a much more perilous undertaking.
I have, in between this and that, finished the first draft of “Due Diligence,” and have put it aside to rest while I pursue other work. Such as choosing and reading the next story for our Patreon supporters*.
Speaking of which, I have one more bit of business to finish this evening, and then I’m done for the day.
Everybody stay cool.
*Not a Patreon supporter? Check it out.by
Oblique strategies was originally a set of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt used to break deadlocks in creative situations, and is now a website. Each "card" contains a (sometimes cryptic) remark, the pondering of which may help you resolve a creative dilemma.
The hexarchate is a star-spanning polity of monstrosities small and great, where consensus reality is enforced not just by a rigid police state but by the ritual torture of "heretics" on state holidays. Lately it is not just wracked by internal dissent but by the discovery of rifts in time and space through which people from other worlds appear.
You are one of a hardy group of people--whether from the hexarchate (or heptarchate) itself, a foreign state, or another world in the multiverse entirely--who have gathered with the explicit goal of destroying the hexarchate by going back in time and preventing its creation, or otherwise seeding its destruction.
The question is, can you succeed before the hexarchate's agents catch on and eliminate you?
Interested? See the write-up for the guidelines and the character application! Hope to see some of y'all.
Via File 770, I see that Seanan McGuire posed this question on Twitter: If one book you love by a living author could get a sequel, what would it be?
Good question! Plus, it’s probably wise to limit this to living authors. However, for me it’s too easy:
1. The Goblin Emperor by “Katherine Addison”
So let’s make it more interesting and require a little more thought by reframing the question in a couple of different ways:
2. If one book you love by a living author, published prior to 2010, could have a sequel, what would it be?
I’m lucky because so many of the books I truly love *do* have sequels. I’m not sure, but maybe Martha Wells’ Wheel of the Infinite.
3. If one book you love by a living author, published when you were in high school, could have a sequel, what would it be?
I don’t know that it *needs* a sequel, but I would kind of love to see a sequel to The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
4. If one book you love by an author now deceased could have a sequel, what would it be?
I thought Octavia Butler’s Fledgling read as though it were meant to begin a series. I would love to see where she was going with it.
And the last iteration:
5. If one series you love by any author living or dead, currently unfinished, could be finished this year, what would you like it to be?
For me, though there is some competition and I could probably pick a top five without trouble, this would be The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. I leave in terror that authors I love will get struck by meteors without finishing some of my favorite series, and it would be sooooo tragic if this particular series were never finished!
Prompt: hexarchate, "red pandas."
(NOTE: I promise this has a happy ending for the red panda.)
"Zoo?" High General Garit said. "Really, Jedao?"
Jedao, who was driving the car, glanced sideways to assess Garit's expression, even though the high general's tone of voice told him everything he needed to know. Garit had invited him along on this damned trip to a hunting preserve because Garit was desperate to bag a gray tiger, and alongside his record with firearms, Jedao had made the mistake of letting drop that he had grown up hunting. Jedao had tried to point out that going after pesky deer and jackalopes was not the same as gray tigers. Garit had merely clapped him on the back and told him not to be so modest. Modesty had nothing to do with it. On top of the stupid expense per round, the recoil on the ammo that Jedao was going to have to use was proportionate to something with its stopping power, and he wasn't looking forward to the ache in his shoulder.
"Just for an hour or two," Jedao said coaxingly. "My mom and my siblings wanted me to send home some vacation photos. And I promised my nieces that I would bring them back some souvenirs, and maybe the zoo's shop will have some mounted skeletons or the like."
"You spoil those kids rotten," Garit said with a snort.
"What are uncles for?" Jedao said. One of the great regrets of his life was that his job kept him away from his family for long periods of time. The girls grew so fast. "Besides, the folks down at the shop might have some tips for hunters."
Garit shook his head, amused. "You're transparent, but all right."
The zoo was not particularly busy. The two of them were off-duty, and the young woman who told them about the zoo regulations either didn't recognize them or didn't care, which Jedao found congenial. Jedao persuaded Garit to come into the zoo proper so Jedao could snap some photos.
Jedao fiddled with the manual exposure, trying to get the black panther to show up in its cave. The camera had been a gift from his brother, and was practically an antique. Jedao was not especially gifted at taking pictures that pleased his family ("These look like reconnaissance photos, who cares about all this kill zone stuff when you're snapping pics of an engagement party?" his sister had once complained) so he had resolved to do better.
"That's the oddest damned fox I've ever seen," Garit said, pointing.
Jedao gave up on the exposure and settled for a muddled silhouette in the shadows. "Beg pardon?" he asked.
They strolled closer to the enclosure Garit had indicated to have a look. A reddish, bushy-tailed creature was taking a nap in the branches of a tree. Bamboo shoots sprouted not far away. Some of them looked like they'd been gnawed on.
"That's not a fox," Jedao said, reading the enclosure's label. "Red panda. Apparently they eat bamboo. And sometimes birds and things."
"It's kind of cute," Garit said grudgingly. "Doesn't look like much of a challenge, though."
Jedao thought that coddled zoo creatures were generally unlikely to be much challenge, but he didn't say anything that would give Garit the idea of adding another kind of animal to his wishlist for this trip. "My nieces will like it," he said, and raised his camera.
"We should catch you one to take home to them," Garit said.
Jedao made a face. "Have you ever looked at the customs forms for importing wildlife? I'm pretty sure these critters don't exist on my homeworld."
"Well, I'll look into expediting it as a favor to you if you can help me with my tiger problem," Garit said.
"That's very kind of you," Jedao said, as diplomatically as he could, "but my nieces are notoriously good at killing goldfish. Let's just leave the red pandas alone and go hit up the shop so I can buy bat skeletons or fox-eared hats or something, and we can head to the hunting grounds."
So, today Steve and I went up to Bangor to attend the ACLU’s Active Bystander’s Intervention training session.
It was an interesting workshop, and worth doing, if the ACLU in your area is participating. I learned some de-escalation tricks that are probably more appropriate for a purple-haired woman of a Certain Age, and was reminded to be mindful of what I bring to any situation — such as being a white woman of a Certain Age, and the fact that I often these days have my cellphone, with its camera, close at hand.
I also learned that remarkably little things can make a difference to someone who is being harassed.
One funny thing: We were doing practice sessions in groups — each group given a situation that had occurred in Maine, and we would discuss how best to handle the situation. One of the two scenarios given to my group was this:
A person is in the bathroom washing their hands. Another user yells at them, “Hey, dude! this is the woman’s bathroom,” and follows up with, “You don’t belong in here!”
Now, because I was for most of my life “man-tall” (6 foot), and often wearing gender-free clothing, such as jeans and flannel shirt, and had short hair, I was — and am — very often mistaken for a man. Especially in the ladies room. And I have been yelled at any number of times for being in the wrong bathroom (yes, going back decades), and no one every intervened. It didn’t occur to me that anyone should. I would say something along the lines of, “This is the woman’s bathroom, and I’m a woman,” and try not to laugh when their chin hit the floor.
In fact, it was only recently — I was in the ladies room in Lowe’s in Augusta, and another user told me to use my own bathroom. A woman who was washing her hands near us finished up, but stayed in the room. I gave my stock reply, and my critic quickly left the scene.
The woman who had waited said, “I can’t believe she said that. Are you OK?”
I thanked her, said it happened all the time, and I was more or less used to it. But it gave me a nice glow, just the same; knowing that someone had cared enough to wait what could have been A Scene out, and then to ask if I was OK.
So, that’s how I spent my Saturday, mostly. After the training session, Steve and I went to Tesoro’s on Harlow Street in Bangor for a late lunch. My lasagna was terrific, and Steve was very impressed with his veal.
On the way home, we stopped for ice cream at the Purple Cow, about which the less said, the better, and so eventually were received back into the care of cats, who wanted the windows opened NOW.
Tomorrow is a work day. . .and so it goes.by
"The Game of Rat and Dragon" has stuck better in my memory, but at some point in college I was delighted to discover that there were more Instrumentality stories. The one that I remembered, years later, as being particularly interesting was "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal." Peculiarly, I remembered that it had an unusual narrative structure/format, but not anything useful about its plot. Cue yesterday when I actually reread it, having checked out the posthumous collection When the People Fell from the library, and being bemused to discover that this story was almost certainly, before I ever heard of fanfic on the internet, my introduction to mpreg.
A spoilery discussion of the story follows beneath the cut.
 My high school library's sf/f holdings were very eclectic. They had a couple decades' worth of Analog under Stanley Schmidt. I read every page of every issue available, and remain fond of the zine although I have not read it in over a decade. They also had old classics like John Wyndham's Re-Birth, amusing curiosities like a litcrit book on the best fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock (possibly with a co-author; I no longer remember) in which he immodestly listed his own Stormbringer, a number of old Nebula anthologies, and a copy of Harlan Ellison's (ed.) Dangerous Visions that I read two or three or four times before someone else stole it or, more charitably, checked it out and lost it. (Years later, I still think Philip José Farmer's "Riders of the Purple Wage" was insufferably boring, and Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah" makes zero sense when you are barely aware of what sex is.) They had Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, which is where I encountered them. On the other hand, the librarians were very friendly, and for a number of years, because my sister and I were the only ones who made use of the request box, we pretty much got them to buy whatever we wanted to read for the year.
( Read more... )
Here’s a post at BookRiot: Is it possible to misread Octavia E Butler?
Of course it is. The author of the post demonstrates how:
The titular tale in Butler’s one and only short story collection, “Bloodchild” describes a future where humanity has developed a complicated relationship with a race of insect-like creatures known as the Tlic. The Tlic chooses one child from every family to be impregnated and “host” Tlic eggs inside their body. In exchange for this service, the Tlic “allow” the humans to live inside a special compound and ingest sterile Tlic eggs, which work as a kind of opiate, keeping the humans calm and happy. Oh, and the humans are banned from possessing any weapons, for fear of an uprising….The first time I read this story, I assumed Butler has written “Bloodchild” as an allegory for slavery in North America. It seemed so obvious: the Tlic are the white enslavers and their controlling humans’ bodies for their own benefit, all while insisting the humans are fortunate to be subjugated….But Butler had heard this interpretation many, many times before, and wrote in her afterward to “Bloodchild” that she was “amazed” people kept viewing her story through this lens. And although the story does includes a group of humans that are, in a literal sense, enslaved, this reading is a vast oversimplification of what Butler was doing with the characters and their motivations.
Well, I agree that “Bloodchild” is a powerful story. But this interpretation never once occurred to me. Not to brag, but here is what Butler said about this story:
As Butler noted, “Bloodchild” is a love story, a coming-of-age tale, and what-if scenario about a man becoming pregnant with a weird, alien, bug-creature. In the afterward, Butler states she wanted to explore a scenario where a man could become pregnant not by accident or out of curiosity, but by love. … In this way, Butler explores gender roles within the family unit and societal structures. Gan takes on the traditional role of female not only in birthing offspring, but making a powerful decision in a scenario where he has very little power to begin with.
And even when I was a kid, I thought that was *very very* clear. Reduce the story to a parable about slavery and you remove practically all its power.
This is a good post; click through and read the whole thing.
Interesting post via The Passive Voice blog: Are you forgetful? That’s just your brain erasing useless memories
Most of us think “perfect” memory means never forgetting, but maybe forgetting actually helps us navigate a world that is random and ever-changing.
So say two neuroscientists in a review published today in the journal Neuron. The argument is that memory isn’t supposed to act like a video recorder, but instead like a list of useful rules that help us make better decisions, says study co-author Blake Richards, a University of Toronto professor who studies the theoretical links between artificial intelligence and neuroscience. So it makes sense that our brains would make us forget outdated, irrelevant information that might confuse us, or information that leads us astray.
Actually, I’m pretty sure that “most of us” would have assumed that perfect memory, where you never forget anything, is not actually a great thing. If it were, why wouldn’t we all already have eidetic memories? Or better than eidetic?
Look, for example, at this woman who remembers everything. Thus we know it is possible for a human person to remember everything. Given that it’s in the possible human range, I think we can assume if perfect memory carried a big survival or reproductive advantage, lots of us would have that kind of memory.
What problems does this woman experience? Well, she remembers unpleasant things as vividly as pleasant things. For those who tend to dwell on the negative, that might well be a huge disadvantage. Also, another woman with the condition says, “It’s a huge temptation [to stay alone in her room and recall nice things]. I could, if I didn’t have stuff to do all day, I could probably live in the past 24/7.”
Imagine people in a hunter-gatherer society, filled with a lot of tedious but necessary work to do, but faced with that temptation. Or worse, an agrarian society with A LOT of GRINDINGLY tedious but necessary work to do.
So this article unsurprisingly discusses the advantages that accrue to forgetting.
None of which makes it less annoying when you walk into your bedroom, pause, and say to yourself, “Wait, why did I come in here?” I yield to no one in my ability to forget what the heck I meant to do in less than the minute it takes to walk downstairs, multiple times, before I finally remember whatever it was I needed to get or do.
So far this morning, have eaten excellent scrambled eggs and potatoes provided by Steve.
At breakfast, we figured out the ending of the cheater story, now titled “Due Diligence,” which also had the nice side-effect of straightening out the first scene, and providing a yummy scene in the middle (Lady yo’Lanna, For. The Win!). So that can go forward and possibly be wrapped up today.
Have also started a loaf of Pullman bread.
Tomorrow, we’re due in Bangor for Active Bystander Intervention training, provided by the ACLU, and then the plan is to have lunch at the local family Italian restaurant.
So, what’re y’all doing that’s fun?
Prompt: "Shuos pranks."
with apologies to the black squirrels of Stanford University campus
Jedao and Ruo had set up shop at the edge of one of the campus gardens, the one with the carp pond and the carefully maintained trees. Rumor had it that some of the carp were, in addition to being over a hundred years old, outfitted with surveillance gear. Like most Shuos cadets, Jedao and Ruo would, if questioned, laugh off the rumors while secretly believing in them wholeheartedly--at least the bit about surveillance gear. Jedao had argued that the best place to hide what they were doing was in plain sight. After all, who would be so daft as to run a prank right next to surveillance?
"Lovely day, isn't it?" Ruo said brightly.
Jedao winced. "Not so loud," he said. His head was still pounding after last night's excesses, and the sunlight wasn't helping. Why did he keep letting Ruo talk him into things? It wasn't just that Ruo was really good in bed. He had this way of making incredibly risky things sound fun. Going out drinking? In itself, not that bad. Playing a drinking game with unlabeled bottles of possibly-alcohol-possibly-something-else stolen from Security's hoard of contraband? Risky. Some of those hallucinations had been to die for, though, especially when he started seeing giant robots in the shape of geese.
Fortunately, this latest idea wasn't that risky. Probably. Besides, of the many things that the other cadets had accused Jedao of, low risk tolerance wasn't one of them.
"Not my fault you can't hold your drink," Ruo said, even more brightly.
"I'm going to get you one of these days," Jedao muttered.
Ruo's grin flashed in his dark brown face. "More like you'll lose the latest bet and--" He started describing what he'd do to Jedao in ear-burning detail.
At last one of the other first-years, puzzled by what Jedao and Ruo were doing by the carp pond with a pair of fishing poles, approached. Jedao recognized them: Meurran, who was good at fixing guns despite their terrible aim, and who had a glorious head of wildly curling hair. "Security's not going to approve of you poaching the carp," Meurran said.
"Oh, this isn't for the carp," Ruo said. He flicked his fishing pole, and the line with its enticing nut snaked out toward one of the trees.
Meurran gave Ruo a funny look. "Ruo," they said, "the fish are in the opposite direction."
"Please," Jedao said, "who cares about the fish? No one has anything to fear from the fish. That's just nonsense."
"All right," Meurran said, sounding distinctly unimpressed, "then what?"
Come on, Jedao thought, the nut is right there...
As if on cue, a black squirrel darted down from the tree, then made for the nut.
Ruo tugged the nut just out of reach.
The black squirrel looked around, then headed for the nut again.
"Oh, isn't that adorable?" Meurran said.
"Don't be fooled!" Ruo said as he guided the squirrel in a figure-eight through the grass. "Why would the commandant be so stupid as to rely on carp, which can't even leave their pond?"
Meurran glanced involuntarily at the pond, where two enormous carp were lazily circling near the surface, as if the carp, in fact, had a habit of oozing out onto the land and spying on lazy cadets. "You're saying the squirrels--?"
Ruo continued to cause the squirrel to chase after the nut. "It makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone thinks the black squirrels are the cutest. They're even featured in the recruitment literature. Damnably clever piece of social engineering if you ask me."
Meurran was starting to look persuaded in spite of themselves.
Meanwhile, as Ruo made his case, Jedao leaned back and studied the squirrel with a frown. The local population of black squirrels was mostly tame to begin with and had proven to be easy to train with the aid of treats. (Ruo had made Jedao do most of this, "because you're the farm boy.") But while Ruo and Meurran argued about squirrel population dynamics, Jedao caught a slight flash from behind the squirrel's eyes--almost like that of a camera?
He opened his mouth to interrupt.
The squirrel made an odd convulsing motion, and the light flashed again, this time directly into Jedao's eyes.
Jedao closed his mouth, and kept his thoughts to himself.
From left to right, for the curious: Waterman 52V, Webster Four-Star, Scriptorium Pens Master Scrivener in Red Stardust, Conway Stewart Churchill in Red Stardust, Aurora 75th Anniversary, Nakaya Naka-ai in aka-tamenuri, Wahl-Eversharp Doric in Kashmir with #3 adjustable nib, and Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight.
Meanwhile, I swear I am writing flash fic right now. This caffeine is taking an unholy amount of time to kick in...