ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)
Here are some big-picture notes on interactions between modern choices and SCA personas, as requested by [personal profile] sciatrix.

If you'd like to suggest a topic for me to post about in January, you can do so here. There is still a lot of January left, so I'd be happy to take more suggestions!

What is an SCA persona?

If you ask someone in the SCA about their persona, they'll usually tell you something about time, place, and maybe social class. My persona is a woman from a senatorial family in sixth-century Merovingian Gaul, [personal profile] glasseye's is a Breton moneyer from 1344, [twitter.com profile] vandyhall's is a nomadic Magyar, and Hark's persona is some sort of Viking, to give some example personas for people who often appear in this journal.

In practice, a persona is less of a character and more of an organizing principle. If you're choosing a new name, making a nice outfit, upgrading your armor, writing a story or poem, or planning a ceremony to take on a new student, you'll likely think about what your persona might have done. Most people in the SCA don't go around speaking "in persona", though, except in a few very formal contexts. The focus tends to be on making things, rather than on acting.

People vary a lot in their dedication to persona development. At one end of the scale are people interested in full-on historical reenactment, who try to spend as much of an SCA event as possible doing things their persona might have done. At the other end you find people who haven't really thought about persona at all, or who have given up on finding commonalities among their disparate interests.

Factors that people typically consider when choosing a persona include their own family history, pre-existing historical or geographic interests, activities they enjoy within the SCA (rapier fighters often want later-period personas, for example), what they want to wear, and their friends' or families' personas. My very first SCA persona was "early Breton", for example, because I was studying French, had learned to draw Celtic knotwork, and had a group of friends whose personas were from somewhere in the British Isles. (There was an associated silly story about how the fictional father of myself and [twitter.com profile] anniebellet had been murdered by guppies, that is, drowned in a pool containing them; I ought to look up the history of guppy domestication sometime.)

What drives regional variation in persona choices?

Two overarching drivers of regional variation are people's family backgrounds and the weather. In the US and Canada (and presumably in Lochac, which is the SCA kingdom encompassing Australia and New Zealand), variation due to family background generally involves patterns of immigration in more recent history: I meet more people with German or Eastern European personas in the Midwestern United States than I did when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, for example. Weather matters directly because many SCA events take place outside, and if you're choosing a persona based on what you want to wear, you're going to think about what will be comfortable in your local climate.

"Many SCA events take place outside" is a huge generalization, though, and at this point we're getting into what SCA people call "Inter-Kingdom Anthropology", that is, the discussion of the way local SCA culture varies depending on what kingdom you're in. Kingdoms are the biggest SCA administrative regions. I've lived in An Tir (the US Pacific Northwest and part of Canada), Caid (southern California and Nevada), Northshield (Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and parts of Canada again), and the Midrealm (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, most of Kentucky, and tiny bits of Iowa and Ontario).

What a normal SCA event looks like varies hugely depending on the kingdom. In An Tir, there are a few big hotel events that feel rather like science fiction conventions, but most events are weekend camping events, running from spring into September or October. It can be frustrating to be an SCA member in An Tir if you dislike camping. In Caid, there are a few camping events, but a typical event is a day in a Los Angeles-area city park: people set up in the morning, hold a tournament, socialize, and then maybe go out to dinner afterwards. Northshield is really spread out, and really cold for a lot of the year; active SCA participation in Northshield involves a ton of driving, and also a fair amount of socializing in hotels after events. The Midrealm is close to Pennsic, the SCA "war" in western Pennsylvania that draws about ten thousand people for a week or two every summer, and planning for/participating in/recovering from Pennsic drives a lot of Midrealm SCA activity.

Vikings: a case study

In 2003, I started grad school in An Tir, and [personal profile] glasseye moved from the Midrealm to An Tir to live with me. At that point, fourteenth-century French and German personas were a really big deal in the Midrealm. They meshed well with the Midrealm's culture, because romantic ideas about knighthood and fealty fit in well with a kingdom culture that was very focused on building fighting units and preparing for Pennsic War. Also, there was a density of merchants at Pennsic selling fourteenth-century stuff, so it was easy for someone to get started on a nice fourteenth-century persona. An Tir had lots of pirates (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were just coming out, and weekend camping events where lots of people are drinking are highly compatible with pretending to be a pirate). But it was beginning to have lots of Vikings, as well. There were multiple factors driving adoption of Norse personas in An Tir: there are lots of people with Scandinavian heritage in that part of the world, Norse clothing is very practical for camping events where it might be rainy and cold or very warm, and the local fighting culture was focused on individual prowess in a way that played well with references to the sagas. Also, it was just starting to be possible to find detailed information about Norse material culture from stuff that Scandinavian researchers and reenactors were putting on the internet.

The huge and sustained popularity of Vikings in An Tir meant that it became easier and easier to have a Norse persona in the SCA, generally: there are lots of costuming blogs, experts in particular times and places, people who have translated resources from Swedish or Norwegian, etc. The trend started expanding to different kingdoms. Vikings were big in Northshield when I lived there, and they're a huge deal in the Midrealm now. The Midrealm Vikings are, again, focused around Pennsic: there are multiple households founded by charismatic fighters, some of whom used to have fourteenth-century personas, but now maintain warbands, emphasize ring-giving, and so on and so forth.
ursula: Sheep knitting, from the Alice books (sheep)
spinach tagine and carrot salad

For dinner tonight, I made lamb tagine with spinach, and spicy carrot salad.

I recently acquired one of the trendy modern pressure cookers known as an Instant Pot; I often cook from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, which has a lot of pressure-cooker recipes, so I knew I had a likely use case. I've been experimenting with it, figuring out what sorts of recipes can be adapted efficiently. This tagine, from Paula Wolfert's book The Food of Morocco, is perfect for adaptation: the meat cooks slowly and the vegetables are added right at the very end, so you don't have to mess around with releasing the pressure partway through.

I used storebought organic lemons that I'd salt-preserved myself. They're good, but they're not as good as salt-preserved, home-grown lemons. If you live in a lemon-growing state of the US and would like to trade a package of lemons for a package of things like dried cherries and maple syrup, say the word!

My adaptation of the recipe )
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)
[personal profile] tinuvielchild asked me to post about onomastic research methods, specifically in the context of raw data for fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Bohemian names.

(If you want to suggest a topic for me to post about in January, you can do so here.)

The first step is to find out what is already known. The Medieval Names Archive section on Czech and Slovak is pretty minimal, and there's nothing relevant in the sca.org name articles collection. You can also check old Academy of Saint Gabriel reports. I would use the advanced search tool to look for Bohemia, setting the "restriction" field to "anything" in order to turn up reports with the word "Bohemian" in them as well. There are actually quite a few hits for Bohemia. I would start with the highest-numbered reports and work backwards, checking the bibliographies to see if anything useful shows up. Indeed, there are references to two books by Ernst Schwarz whose titles start Sudetendeutsche Familiennamen and which appear to include data on Bohemian names. One of these books is available on abebooks.com for about $70 plus $10 shipping from Germany; I haven't checked Amazon or other bookfinding sites. (Both books are also in my university library, which means you could likely get someone close to you to work magic via ILL, or ask me to borrow one and let you pet it, if we're likely to be in the same place at some point.)

The other key part of finding out what's already known is to talk to experts. In this case, your likely experts are going to be Aelfwynn (who knows lots of stuff about German names, and lives in Drachenwald), and ffride (whose expertise includes working stuff out about Slavic names, and who lives in Lochac). Maybe one of them has been sitting on data that they would love to share with you! They may also know some language-specific search tricks.

What if you just want to browse around for raw data? Stream of consciousness as I explain some Google tricks! )

I want to emphasize that you don't actually have to know an entire language to browse like this. Being able to pick out names and dates is enough to get started! However, you should be aware that names in some languages, including Latin, change form depending on their grammatical function in a sentence.
ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)
[personal profile] sporky_rat asked for, "More information on the basics of onomastics on the not-English and not-French. Like Spanish names. How does one find the general usual rules for a woman's name in Christian Spain, 1500's?"

(If you'd like to suggest a topic for me to post about in January, the collection of questions is here.)

If you want basic information about medieval name construction in a reasonably popular European language, the place to start is SENA Appendix A. ("SENA" stands for "Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory".) There's some general information about abbreviations at the beginning of the appendix, and then tables for different languages. The tables are grouped by big geographical regions; you may have to use the search function in your browser, or scroll a bit, to find the exact culture you're interested in. Castilian Spanish is in the Iberian table.

The table has columns for different types of name structures that often show up in medieval documents: Double Given Names, Locative, Patronymic, Other relationship (such as relationships to mothers, siblings, or spouses), Descriptive/Occupational, Dictus (for "also known as" names), and Double Bynames. The final column, Order, tells you how different types of name were typically combined.

Underneath the table, there are notes. The notes may explain more complicated constructions. For example, the notes for Spanish suggest some ways to form a name based on the father's name. Usually, the notes also link to one or two articles that provide a more detailed discussion.

You can also find information on medieval names from specific cultures by going to The Medieval Names Archive or the heraldry.sca.org name articles page and following links for the culture you're interested in. However, for popular cultures there may be quite a few links to wade through. Appendix A is supposed to highlight the articles that an expert would check first.

Maintaining Appendix A is one of my jobs as the SCA's Palimpsest Herald, so if you have questions about how to use it, or are particularly pining for more detail on a specific culture, let me know!
ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)
[personal profile] yhlee asked me to post about adapting medieval recipes to modern recipes.

The SCA slang for this process is "redacting" recipes. There are a couple of things you can do to prepare. The first is to cook medieval food from recipes other people have redacted. I like the recipes page at Medieval Cookery, which is consistent about including the medieval recipe along with the redaction. I've also cooked a lot from The Madrone Culinary Guild's pamphlets and The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy. (A friend of mine actually learned to cook from this book, because it was the only cookbook she owned as an undergrad.)

More advice, and a walkthrough redaction! )
ursula: black rabbit (plotbunny)
For Yuletide, I retold A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet in the persona of Chaucer from Chaucer Hath a Blog:

The Pelerins Progress, or a Long Wei to a Smalle Angri Islet (1220 words) by UrsulaKohl
Fandom: Wayfarers Series - Becky Chambers, Chaucer Hath a Blog | Chaucer Doth Tweet
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Rosemary Harper/Sissix Seshkethet, Lovey/Jenks (Wayfarers Series)
Characters: Rosemary Harper, Sissix Seshkethet, Lovey (Wayfarers Series), Jenks (Wayfarers Series), Geoffrey Chaucer, Corbin (Wayfarers Series), Ohan (Wayfarers Series)
Additional Tags: Middle English, Pilgrimage, Miracles of Saint Isidore, Crossover, Geometry is magic

Chaucer hath a blog wherein he revieweth manye grete workes of literature. A Long Wei to a Smalle Angri Islet is a tale of faythe and love most fitting to thys seasoun.

[archiveofourown.org profile] ofunaq had asked separately for Chaucer's retelling of some famous story (maybe Star Wars) and for more of the relationship between Rosemary and Sissix, so of course the best thing to do was to combine them. Small Angry Planet has an episodic structure which works very naturally with medieval storytelling rhythms. I also got to compare Rosemary/Sissix to "the love of the engels and cherubynnes"!

I beta-read two stories that do neat things with structure and point of view. A Quickstart Guide to Voynich RPG by [personal profile] yhlee is light-hearted horror in the shape of an RPG manual. Correspondence by [personal profile] isis is the monster's half of the story from Shaenon Garrity's "To Whatever", with accompanying translator's notes.
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
Most books read by one author this year?

Likely Martha Wells, followed by David Kilcullen.

Favorite new author you discovered this year?

Vina Jie-Min Prasad, if we're not counting David Kilcullen again.

Did you read any books in translation?

Yes: I read a volume of The Florentine Codex, translated from Spanish and Nahuatl, as well as lots of smaller pieces of things here and there, and half of A Small Corner of Hell, translated from Russian.

Nine books you will associate with this year?

Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works
Aliette de Bodard, In the Vanishers' Palace
Stathis Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War
David Kilcullen, Out of the Mountains
Yoon Ha Lee, Revenant Gun
Nancy Marchant, Knitting Fresh Brioche
Anna Politkovskaya, A Small Corner of Hell (the Chechnya half)
Hannu Rajaniemi, Summerland
Sofia Samatar, Tender

Three books you are excited to read next year?

David Bowles, Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry
Amelia Hoover Green, The Commanders' Dilemma
Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
100 SF/F books James Davis Nicoll thinks you should consider reading, by way of various people.

The books on this list that I know I've read but can't remember anything about are all 1990s lesbian-inflected cyberpunk. I'm surprised that Lisa Mason's Arachne, a book about an angry lawyer and a falling-apart robot that reads a little bit like a forerunner of Max Gladstone, isn't also on the list.

100 books )
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
comments on endings

Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. This ends with a sudden reconfiguration of the stakes; it feels like a short story structure, or the end of the first act of a novel. It's not ineffective, but I would have liked to keep going.

K.J. Charles, A Fashionable Indulgence. Apparently suddenly killing people at the climax is just a thing Charles does? This was the sort of fluffy fun I expected, but I was frustrated by the resolution of the inheritance problems. Sudden deaths of rich relatives are rather a feature of the genre, though an actual nineteenth-century novel would probably have gone for disease or accident, rather than the method employed here. But I'm not convinced... ) The next book in this sequence seems promising, however.

fiction in progress

Ben Aaronovitch, Lies Sleeping. I'm enjoying seeing more of Guleed.
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
Suggest a topic, and I'll post about it in January?
ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)
Transylvanian peach strudel

Introduction and medieval recipe

This is my first attempt at redacting a peach strudel based on the Prince of Transylvania's Court Cookbook, a sixteenth-century Hungarian cookbook.

Here is the recipe for strudel dough:

The next are about the strudels. Make the strudel dough like this. Make fine flour from the wheat. Warm clean water for this, but it shouldn't be too hot, you should be able to put your hand in it. Add some salt and some butter, put the flour onto the table, knead it, cut out its center, pour warm water there instead. Whip three or four eggs, mix it with your hands, then wash yourself. Keep kneading it with your hands, put butter on your palms so the dough won't get stuck. Once it's done, make egg-sized slices. Put flour on the table, then put the dough onto it, make sure to put them far enough so they won't get stuck. Put butter on top, too. Paste it with feathers made from eight or ten feathers. You can make strudels and strudel cakes from this dough. You have to stuff these, but you can find that among the cakes. Have baking sheets for the strudels. If you have none, baking them won't yield the best results.

I really like the "use a baking sheet!" instruction here; it makes you think about the differences between medieval and modern technology.

As instructed, I looked among the cakes for the strudel fillings. Here is the recipe for the filling of peach cake:

Peel the peach, slice it, take out the seeds, add cinnamon and sugar, pour rose or marjoram water onto it, and if you have neither, wine will do.

I had sliced, frozen peach slices from a local farmer in the freezer, left over from Thanksgiving, so this seemed like a good recipe to try.

My recipe

First, make the filling. Measure approximately 5 cups of sliced peaches (a bit less than a 2-pound freezer pack). Mix with half a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of rosewater.

Melt 8 tablespoons of butter, and set aside.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. Mix together 1 large egg, 1/2 cup water, and 1 tbsp melted butter, and pour into the well. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with your fingers. When all the liquid is incorporated, knead it for about ten minutes, dipping your hands in the butter to keep the dough from sticking. Cover and let rest for 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the strudel dough as thinly as possible (it will be nearly translucent). Brush it with more melted butter, spread the filling over it, then roll it up. Spread more melted butter over the top. Bake on parchment paper for 35-50 minutes, until dark, golden brown.

Notes, in practice

I ended up putting the kneaded strudel dough in the fridge overnight, because we had to take Martin the cat to the emergency vet. (He's fine, but he has been prone to infections lately; I suspect he was stressed by the combination of the kitten and Thanksgiving houseguests, and he's getting older.) We have a new convection oven which I don't entirely understand yet; I actually baked the strudel at 375 on the convection setting, pulled it out, let it cool a bit, sliced it, and then decided the inner parts of the strudel were too wet and restored it to the oven for a while. Baking the sliced bits meant that delicious caramelized peach juices ran all over my parchment paper; I like this effect, but I doubt it's original.

The strudel was very good hot, but when cold the dough didn't have the crunchy/tender combination I was hoping for. I'm not sure whether that's a flaw in my technique, or a problem with the excessive resting time, or whether I just needed to brush on even more butter; I definitely had butter left over. My redaction was also fairly light on sugar, as modern tastes go; if I made this using the same maybe-underripe frozen peaches again, I might err on the sweeter side. (On the other hand, if you have truly ripe fresh peaches, you might be able to use just a couple of spoonfuls of sugar.)
ursula: second-century Roman glass die (icosahedron)

  • "We must not disturb the forest spirits."
    "Uh, it's not a forest?"
    "Oh, what is it? A swamp?"
  • "The raucous call of the snowy egret--"
    [Computer plays egret sounds, followed by a snippet of video: "You're not a pizza boy?"]
    "Oh, it sounds like someone barfing."
    "Sounds like they're not into it."
  • [More egret sounds.]
    "I didn't know they had Jawas!"
    "We're going to pluck the feathers from Jawas and cows."
  • "I made a sexy bird!"
    "You don't look like a pizza guy!"
  • "Pizzas, pizzas, all the way down--sorry, [personal profile] ursula, this is what your game is."
  • "Well, a gator doesn't get to be 12 feet long without chewing on a couple of ponies."
    "Or pizza guys."
  • "Then there's ritual words you have to say over its body."
    Solemnly, "Thank you for choosing Domino's."
    "I'm glad I was able to deliver this egret death in 30 minutes or less."
    "Next time, try the app!"
  • "What about the potential hacker girl?"
    "I bet your body parts are also valuable."
  • "Wait, you know what she's like? A character from Rent!"
    "Which one?"
    "All of them! Get a job, Mocel!"
  • "I've gone from master hacker to bird grabber."
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
Netgalley is pushing an excerpt of Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire. I grabbed it before I realized it was only an excerpt. I simultaneously rejoiced and was dismayed: this is a gorgeous book, a book with an eye for the seductions of literature and art, and a mystery that makes things harder and twistier than they first appear. I want the rest of it yesterday, and can't have it.
ursula: second-century Roman glass die (icosahedron)

  • "Let's hope the snake was not Mocel."
    "She would have escaped, then."
  • "Is it domesticated?"
    "It's hard to put a collar on a snake."
  • "Did you just get a pop culture reference? Alert the internet!" [For the record, though [personal profile] glasseye caught the reference, I did not.]
  • "Do you know anyone who can train snakes to deliver messages?"
    "A snake-o-mancer?"
    [Player uses his Magic the Gathering knowledge to determine that the correct term is "ophiomancer".]
  • "By house arrest, does she just mean she's grounded?"
    "Shouldn't she be? For stealing things? How does theft work in your culture?"
  • "Or we could just send her a message."
    "If only we had a snake!"
  • "Thunder Eagle Go!"
  • "Can I just Lindbergh-baby it?"
  • "Is that how it works? You just name your kid whatever you want, and they become that?"
  • "It has an en-suite bathroom."
    "That's a Home and Garden Channel word! It means an extra $50,000!"
  • "That's what you get for using magical water-manipulation on someone's stomach acid."
  • "A bird-o-mancer? Now, that's just ridiculous!"
  • "Oh, I'm thinking of an ovinomancer. He makes sheep."
  • "Now I'm imagining a medical alert seal."
  • "That'll be on my D&D [Fate?] resume! Create a sexy robot bird!"
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
comments on endings

Martha Wells, Exit Strategy. Very complicated action sequence! Humans are nice and all, but I still miss ART.

fiction in progress

R.F. Kuang, The Poppy War. I read the first battle, essentially. I thought the stuff about the students' lack of training in formation was interesting, and I enjoyed learning about the Gatekeeper. Some day I will read a book where somebody doesn't do the thing they are warned not to do, but this is not that book. (I had to return my physical copy of the book to the library; sooner or later, Overdrive will give me an ebook again.)

serialized fiction

Critical Role, Campaign 1, Episode 1. I'd been curious about this due to general internet chatter. I usually prefer text to audio for fiction, because I read quickly and get impatient, but I suspect that here the audio is necessary for the complete experience. The transcript is formatted for closed-captioning, which has the weird effect of making it look like poetry. I did like the house rule where the person who makes the killing blow gets to describe its effect; maybe I'll borrow that for our Fate campaign, if we ever end up fighting anything.
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
Aliette de Bodard sent me a review copy of her new novella, In the Vanishers' Palace. This book bills itself as an f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It is, by a fortunate coincidence, the third queer Beauty and the Beast novella I have read this year: the others were Aster Glenn Gray's m/m fantasy Briarley, set in England during World War II, and an as-yet-unpublished aromantic take on the fairy tale, set in ancien régime France, which I will tell you all about as soon as you can buy it.

There are a set of questions that one asks when embarking on a retelling of Beauty and the Beast: how was the Beast transformed? Who are the Beast's invisible servants? What is the palace? Who is the fairy that transformed them all? Wasn't it immoral to curse an entire palace and all of its inhabitants, along with the Beast? How can the Beast justify trapping another person in an enchanted palace, no matter what promises have been made about love? Who are Beauty's family, and why did they agree to give Beauty up?

Briarley answers these questions head-on; its invisible servants, in particular, are delightful. In the Vanishers' Palace offers layers of hypotheses. It's not so much a retelling of Beauty and the Beast as an argument with it. In true fairy-tale fashion, the argument focuses on what is beautiful and what is good. (I'm sorting out my own argument about structure, here, so my language is necessarily stark. That's a disservice to the book's sense of beauty, which is complex and made of shifting light.)

In the first layer of answers, Beauty is Yên, a poor teacher who lives with her mother the doctor because she has failed the imperial exams. The Beast is Vu Côn, a dragon. She's a river spirit, with antlers, whose robe trails water and words. Like Yên's mother, Vu Côn is also a doctor: she takes Yên as the price for a magical healing, and Yên goes because the elders of her village are willing to trade her away. The palace belonged to the Vanishers, beings who manipulated genes and magic, broke the world, and left. That makes the Vanishers our fairy, in some sense, and their vanishing the curse.

The next layer becomes evident when we ask who was transformed, and why. Vu Côn is a dragon; but she has always been a dragon. She shifts between more-human and more-draconic forms for her own reasons, not the Vanishers'. Perhaps it would make more sense to think of Vu Côn as one of the palace's servants: she served the Vanishers, and she's still trying to carry out the duties of a dragon, even though the context of her work is gone and the world has changed around her. Meanwhile, Yên's shape is less certain. She's not a constant, steady Beauty; she doesn't know how she fits into either the village or her palace, and that uncertainty of mind is mirrored by an uncertainty of body, flickers in her pulse, a sudden intuition for magic.

Maybe the entire planet is the palace: after all, the Vanishers changed it, and then left. There's no easy spell to make it right again, though; kisses won't restore things, true love or not. The only answers here are partial and contingent. Much of the tension of this book involves the pull between power, duty, and responsibility: when do you have to try to fix things? If you broke them the first time, when do you have to try again? When is it your duty to sort things out on your own, and when do you need to ask for help?

One of the things I admire about this book is the way it takes both healing and teaching seriously as forms of power. The men who matter in this book (Vu Côn's husband, a farmer, a legendary scholar) all happen to have died before the story starts. We see women and nonbinary people trying to sort out what to do with the world. In particular, we see some of them grabbing for power and fucking things up. Healing and teaching are often coded as feminine, subservient, and selfless, but this story centers on the ways they are aggressive. These are forms of leadership, decisiveness, imposing your will on the world and pulling other people with you.

Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you fall in love with a river.
ursula: Gules, a bear passant sable (bear)

I practiced calligraphy a little bit tonight, trying to sort out a hand similar to the one used in Florius de Arte Luctandi. That's dip pen, on graph paper ruled at five squares to the inch; I ought to be working even smaller, but that's the finest calligraphy nib I've got right now.

The Florius manuscript has a really interesting abbreviation for word-final ms that looks like a cursive letter z. I need to incorporate it when I do the final draft.
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
I read Kameron Hurley's Apocalypse Nyx courtesy of Netgalley.

"It's selfish to make somebody's life or death about you. It was her life. Let her live it as she chose."

Apocalypse Nyx is a series of short stories about the protagonist of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha series. Each of the first few stories describes the way Nyx met a member of her team. (There are some discrepancies in the timeline, but Nyx isn't the most reliable source.) I think the ideal reading order would be to pick this collection up after the first book: Nyx and her team are still very young, in these stories. Though none of them exactly grow wise, their relationships shift over the course of the trilogy in a way that these introductions don't reflect. On the other hand, if you miss Nyx's first team, before compromise and explosions and politics tore things up, this collection is a chance to spend time with them again.

The most unexpected story is the last one, in which we meet parrot shifters who have chosen not to be human circling around a tower, and learn that although Nyx is a terrible shot, she's genuinely good at disarming mines. Nyx is also good at staying alive, and slightly better at keeping a team alive along with her than she would like to admit. I hesitate to call her honest, but she has a weird compelling straight-line stubbornness that I keep coming back to.
ursula: bear eating salmon (Default)
comments on endings

Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale. The structure seemed a bit odd here: I really expected the interlude in the cabin to fall closer to the middle, and the Nightingale to be more important and more obviously at risk.

fiction in progress

Melissa Scott, Point of Sighs. Only a chapter or so in. It's always nice when people in historical fantasy settings have a limited wardrobe.

excessive background reading for game(s)

Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. Chenoweth and Stephan directly compare primarily nonviolent and primarily violent campaigns to overthrow governments since 1900. Though neither strategy is guaranteed success, their analysis shows that on average nonviolent campaigns are significantly more successful, in large part because they are able to attract more participants. Moreover, nonviolent campaigns are successful in the context of repressive regimes, not just democratic ones. This holds in large part because when a regime reacts violently to nonviolent protesters, the protesters often attract new support. (If you're analyzing this tactic in terms of competitive control, the point is that nonviolent campaigns can make ordinary people feel that the regime won't protect them, even when they follow basic rules like "don't take up arms against the government".)

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