the storytelling

Jun. 29th, 2017 12:13 am
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[personal profile] boxofdelights
I went to the storytelling. I timed my walk right and got there at the start time, but it was so hot, even at 7 p.m., that I opted to go inside to buy a drink, and miss the start. And so did a lot of other people, so I missed the whole first storyteller.

It was a good turnout:cut for pic )There were more people sitting on a low wall behind me, and people standing at the side.

The second storyteller talked about encounters with coffee-snob baristas, and a visit to a coffee farm in Colombia. You could see that she had had some training, in storytelling or some other theater, when she described the landscape. She showed us how lovely it looked from far away, and then how it felt to walk down a cliff-face to pick the coffee cherries.

The third talked about her relationship with food: how her family encouraged her to be miserly with money and with calories; how boyfriends and their families encouraged her to take pleasure in eating and other indulgences; how food makes memories vivid, and memories of particular meals anchor her important friendships now. When she was describing her disordered eating, I thought, "This needs a trigger warning." Then, when she was describing food really sensually, I thought more generally about what we warn for, and what we should warn for. The point of storytelling is to use our words and our physicalities to put images in your mind.

The fourth talked about how growing up on a farm had made her familiar with birth and death, and affected her understanding of her own inevitable death. She described two corpses very vividly. A beloved horse, who had done "what horses do: lived a long, happy life, and then walked himself to the very back pasture, across a couple of irrigation ditches, and buckled his knees under the buckle of the mountain, and died." Unfortunately, on the other side of that fence was the kitchen window of a brand-new million-dollar home, built by a new neighbor who was not a farmer, who needed the corpse moved. The storyteller's mother explained that she could not get a rendering truck or a backhoe across those irrigation ditches, and she was going to let it rot, though the neighbor was welcome to move it if they could figure out how. The storyteller's mother hadn't liked that neighbor anyway. Those irrigation ditches had flooded, in the storyteller's childhood, severely enough to undermine the century-old tombstones in Bingham Hill Cemetery, which brings us to the second corpse. The storyteller's mother didn't mean to graverob, she just didn't want him to wash away.

This was a very good story.

The fifth talked about being a public radio journalist on the farm beat.

The sixth was a theater guy. He talked about being a city kid and going to his father's cousin's farm on holidays.

I learned something useful from the last storyteller, whose story didn't really have a structure: at the end, he said, "That's my story, thank you!" and everyone applauded. My stories tend to be small and oddly shaped, and leave my audience saying, "Wait, that's the story? You're done?" so I think I will try this tactic.
yhlee: Animated icon of sporkiness. (sporks (rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
Lindy Mechefske claims to be doing an anthology of trans people's stories [Facebook link]. Of course, it includes this charmer:
We’d love to include some before and after photos.

Noooooooope.

In addition, I left two comments:

The first comment asked if they were planning on paying contributors. The answer was an equivocal "If there's any way to do this, yes." My second comment said that Mechefske ought to include information about the fact of payment (or non-payment) in the submissions guidelines so that people would know what they were getting into; that comment has been deleted. There was at least one other comment asking about payment, which has been deleted.

In conclusion: stay the hell away from this project. It smells rotten.

Three sentences about 2017-06-28

Jun. 28th, 2017 08:46 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Happy Tau Day! I did not eat any tau. Felt somewhat better, though, so I went into the office, met with Matt and did some strategizing about the microservices & containers project, which was good. I'm still not really on track in any substantial way, but I managed to get a thing done, and will try to find my ass with the help of some newly-rediscovered hands tomorrow. Still sick, goin' to bed now in hopes of shaking the thing for real.

Three sentences about 2017-06-27

Jun. 28th, 2017 08:44 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Sick. Stayed home, vaguely sort of kept up with work e-mail and chat, mostly slept. Mmm, sleep. Nose, cough, slight fever, some achiness. Felt somewhat better by evening, watched the Hugo-nominated "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror with Amy & Chaos, took some acetaminophen, slept. Summer colds boo blech.

Three sentences about 2017-06-26

Jun. 28th, 2017 08:42 pm
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[personal profile] irilyth
Ugh, sluggish day at work, got very little done, feeling very burned out, blah. Then came home and my nose suddenly exploded and would not stop running. Went to bed, slept fitfully, did not post, did not anything.

Approximately weekly diet report )

Current Characters

Jun. 28th, 2017 06:44 pm
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee posting in [community profile] hexarchate_rpg
Current characters:

1. Vauhan Istradez, played by [personal profile] mercuryhatter (character write-up)

2. Sasha Alieva, played by [personal profile] ursula (character write-up)

3. Aricura Sulen, played by [personal profile] venndaai (character write-up)

(We haven't gotten started yet, as we're waiting on more players--consider applying!)

reading, writing, no 'rithmatic

Jun. 28th, 2017 04:45 pm
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[personal profile] isis
I will start with my usual Wednesday reads, because there is not much to say here as I haven't finished anything since last Wednesday. Well, I started a couple of ebooks I got via Instafreebie, but neither of them held my interest:

What I recently abandoned:

Assassin Princess by Laura Greenwood - really a short story, but I still didn't get to the halfway point. Mispunctuated dialogue and a sloppy structure, not very interesting.

The Priestess and the Dragon by Nicolette Andrews - An interesting setup in an ancient-Japan-ish fantasy world, but the main character, Suzume, felt like the Mary Sue that has everything bad happen to her before she turns out to be the Chosen One and Saves the World, and the writing, while technically fine, just feels too romance-y, if that makes any sense, for my tastes. I was not surprised to see in a Goodreads comment that this book was originally posted on Wattpad.

What I'm currently reading:

Text, fiction: Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb, the third book in the Fitz and the Fool series and the final book in the Realms of the Elderlings series. I am approximately halfway through. Yes, I was currently reading this last week, too, but it's a brick, and also, it's really very meaty, with a lot to think about as I read.

Audio, fiction: Beast by Donna Jo Napoli. I am not sure whether I want to finish - I'm about 1/3 through - but I gotta say, this is the first YA book I've ever encountered with canon bestiality. o.O

Text, nonfiction: Dungeons and Dreamers: A story of how computer games created a global community by Brad King and John Borland. This is what I settled on to read on my phone during my recent backpacking trip, and it's surprisingly interesting! The thing is, I was a D&D player; I played Advent, and Zork, and hung out in a MUD with friends. I remember Spacewar, and Sierra On-Line games. So reading this gives me the same vague nostalgic warm fuzzies that I got from watching Halt and Catch Fire, in that the outlines of the story are familiar to me but the details are all new and fascinating.

What I'm reading next:

I released my hold on Thick as Thieves, and anyway, it's going to be a while before I am done with the things I'm currently reading! But this week's Sync audiobook (until the end of the day!) is Terry Pratchett's early short story collection The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and other stories, so if I abandon Beast I might switch to that.

What I've recently written:

Night on Fic Mountain authors and artists have been revealed, so now I can point to what I wrote:

The Student Librarian (4819 words) by Isis
Fandom: The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Irene (The Invisible Library), Bradamant (The Invisible Library)
Additional Tags: Pre-Canon, Backstory, Caper Fic, slight hint of one-sided Irene/Bradamant feelings
Summary: Irene had been Bradamant's student once, and she knew exactly what it meant. (The Invisible Library, chapter 7)

This is a great world to play in, but it's apparently not a very well-known series, alas. Oh, well.

Now: summer

Jun. 29th, 2017 12:33 am
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[personal profile] schneefink
Instead of one of the many posts that I keep planning to make and then don't find the time for, have a sample of things currently occupying my brain.

- The latest season of Natsume Yuujinchou just ended and it was great and I love this anime so much.
- The only "TV" show I'm currently watching is Critical Role, the new episodes and also the early ones that I've been catching up on. The early ones are fun, the new ones are very exciting. 102: [spoiler spoiler]!!
- I have started calling politicians about stuff. This makes me anxious (but so does politics as a whole, so) and is frustrating but at least I'm trying to do something? A tiny little bit? There was a demo last weekend but I missed it because of terrible time management.
(And that is only local politics, got to start somewhere. International? Holy shit.)
- Our newest flatmate is already moving out again :( She's dropping out of her study program and moving back to Germany. Definitely the right decision for her, but sad for me and DD, we really liked her. Also she baked well.
- Last weekend was my mom's 50th birthday party and LB and I wrote a poem. Writing poems is difficult but kinda fun, and it was well received.
- There are so many recs I want to post. This would probably be easier if I would post them one or two at a time, but from somewhere in SGA fandom I got the idea that rec sets have to be a minimum of three recs, which is annoying. (Maybe I should post a poll asking you guys which recs you would be most interested in. Also, ticky boxes.)
- Other things I watched/read that I haven't yet posted about include the Last Herald of Valdemar series, Zootopia, Disney's Hercules, Lilo&Stitch; and of course the latest few D&D sessions (we'll go to the world disc's underside to blow up the evil gods' vaults next session, also I now have an undead minion.)
- Flower went to Vegas, and then weird trades happened and people got very pissed off about it, and to sum up sports fandom is kind of silly.
- I'm not always happy with how many things I manage to do, but despite the heat I've gone running again twice in the past week (at midnight), at least that's good. I've also gone swimming a few times, every time I visit my parents, which is always great.
- I'm barely writing anything right now and not happy with it, so I signed up for h/c bingo in the hopes of finding some inspiration. I have some ideas, now I just need to find the motivation to actually sit down and write them.
- Overall I feel mostly good :)

Extended versions of some of these probably to come later. Maybe. (Better tell me if you're interested in anything in particular.)
Ten minutes after I post this I will think of five things I forgot to add, but hopefully I will have already gone to bed then so I won't get little sleep again. Right now I feel like rambling about anything and everything, definitely time for sleep.

Sporting history

Jun. 28th, 2017 10:02 pm
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Posted by opusanglicanum

some of you, I’m sure, are aware of the ancient and noble British sport of welly wanging, wherein burly macho types, schoolboys, and amply bosomed farmers wives compete to see who can hurl a Wellington boot the furthest. Most assume this sport to have been invented in the time of the eponymous duke of Wellington.

you would, however, be quite quite wrong.

Those who bemoan the current rise of namby-pamby health and safety culture are probably unaware that this phenomenon first raised its irritating head at the time of the iron duke himself, and that he was in fact it’s perpetrator.

You see, for many centuries, millennia even, the favourite sport of the English nation was dragon wanging, with each shire having its own indidual style, favoured type of dragon to wang, and devoted followers. Many would be the hours spent in village ale houses across the land discussing the finer aspects of form and scoring.

Such was the fervour for this sport that bored soldier on the peninsular campaign whiled away the hours with friendly bouts of dragon wanging – a certain Mr sharpe was said to be very good at it. Unfortunately, the wanging of wyrms is not exactly a quiet sport, and on frequent occasions the enemy were alerted to the British position by enthusiastic cheers and the screams of badly burnt spectators. The duke bore this quite cheerfully, having been known to indulge himself upon occasion, but drew the line when a badly aimed dragon accidentally blew up his entire supply of gunpowder. Thence forth he insisted that his men practice with old boots instead of dragons.

due to widespread enthusiasm for the national sport, dragons had become hard to find by that point, not to mention very expensive to purchase at jjb sports, so the old boot idea quickly gained popularity with poorly paid soldiers, who took the new ideas home with them on thier return from war.

here, however, we see an image from the golden days of the sport. Depicted is Alfred higginbotham, 1393 all Yorkshire champion, during his record breaking dragon wanging bout wherein he lobbed a wyrm all the way from ilkley moor to Lancaster town centre, causing Lancaster marketplace to burn down.

The cheering lasted for days. Much old peculiar was drunk. Several sheep were distressingly violated and had to receive extensive counselling.

Alfred became so famous he spent his remaining days touring the country giving exhibitions to his adoring fans.

~ahem~ it’s all true, honest. Would I make this shite up?

a few more twiddly bits finished this section

And im on to the very exciting final roll


crazy travel ideas

Jun. 28th, 2017 11:49 pm
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[personal profile] kareina
So, my sisters will all be in Seattle the first week of October, and have been suggesting that I join them. We haven't all been in the same place in 8 years (one of us lives in Australia, one in Seattle, one in San Francisco, and I am in Sweden). I have zero interest in going to the states at all, given the current political climate, and have been assuming that I can't afford the trip.

Today one of them mentioned it again, and this time I asked skyscanner what it costs to get to and from Seattle from Luleå. There were flights in the 6000 SEK range (around $700), which is much cheaper than I was expecting.

However, if I am that close, I would want to see more than just my sisters. So I checked the West Crown web page. October Crown is the weekend after Kirsty returns to Australia. Drachenwald Crown is the weekend thereafter, near Helsinki. Would it be crazy to fly to Seattle, see family and friends there, then head south, stopping in Portland and/or Eugene to see friends, on the way to West Crown, then fly home via Finland and Drachenwald Crown? But that sounds much more expensive than the above mentioned 6000...

Wednesday Reading Meme

Jun. 28th, 2017 03:57 pm
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[personal profile] osprey_archer
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

David Blaize, an early-nineteenth-century English boarding school story that is EXACTLY as slashy as everyone always promised me it was, God bless you all, absolutely everyone is in love with David and at least one boy swears that he has been saved from vice (read sodomy) by that love, which is probably the most Edwardian thing ever to Edwardian except perhaps the interminable cricket matches. You would think that at some point, in between all these school stories and Lagaan and Dil Bole Hadippa! I would begin to get a hang of what's happening, but no, I still have no idea.

But at this point I actually find the incomprehensibility part of the charm, along with the hero worship and the boys gazing starry-eyed at the members of the cricket eleven. And David Blaize has the added charm that it is also a voyage of intellectual discovery - David discovers Keats, and learns to find beauty in the text of what he previously considered endlessly tedious Greek translations.

There is also a really splendid chapter where David and his friend-who-is-totally-in-love-with-him-even-though-David-is-tragically-straight, Maddox, go swimming in the sea and read poetry in the beach grass after. Just really lovely atmosphere.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m plugging along in Miriam Bat-Ami’s Two Suns in the Sky, which I am very glad I did not read when I got it, because I would have been Very Displeased by the soppy romance of it all. Now that I am older I can appreciate a bit more what Bat-Ami is trying to do by focusing on the romance - they're bridging cultural divides and stuff! through love! - but it cannot be denied that I would be way more interested if the book either focused entirely on the refugee experience or was about young American Christina Cook's intense friendship (possibly romance? I'm not sure this wouldn't be over-egging the issue pudding in a book set in the 1940s) with a refugee girl.

What I Plan to Read Next

I am trying to resist the siren call of Dorothy Sayers until I've actually begun my road trip (July 5th! Just a week now!), so it's all a bit up in the air until then.

Assassin’s Price

Jun. 28th, 2017 07:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Six years have passed since the failed uprising of the High Holders, and the man behind the conspiracy is where the rex and Maitre Alastar can keep an eye on him.

Charyn has come of age and desperately wants to learn more so he can become an effective rex after his father—but he’s kept at a distance by the rex. So Charyn sets out to educate himself—circumspectly.

When Jarolian privateers disrupt Solidar’s shipping, someone attempts to kill Charyn’s younger brother as an act of protest. Threatening notes following in the wake of acts of violence against the rex and his family, demanding action—build more ships or expect someone to die.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Assassin’s Price is the eleventh book in the Imager Portfolio, and the third book in a story arc which began with Madness in Solidar and Treachery’s Tools. Available July 25th from Tor Books.

 

 

Chapter 1

“Good morning, sir,” offered the duty guard to Charyn as the heir approached the door to the rex’s official study.

“Good morning, Maertyl.” With a smile, Charyn held up a hand. “Not until the glass chimes.”

Maertyl raised his eyebrows.

“He doesn’t like it if I’m early.” Or late. As soon as the first chime of eight sounded, Charyn nodded.

Maertyl turned and rapped on the door. “Lord Charyn, sir.”

Lorien’s response to the guard was inaudible to Charyn, but Charyn had no doubt it was short and perfunctory.

“Thank you,” murmured Charyn as he opened the study door and stepped inside. He closed it quickly and walked toward his father.

“Waiting until the last moment, again, I see,” growled Lorien.

“You did say, ‘as the chimes strike,’ sir.” Charyn smiled pleasantly as he took the middle chair of the three facing the goldenwood desk.

The rex’s study was dark and gloomy, with the only real light coming from the two oil lamps in the bronze sconces on the wall behind the goldenwood desk. The light did not carry except faintly to the large oblong conference table at the west end of the study, where, occasionally, the rex met with either the High Council or the Factors’ Council of Solidar, if not, occasionally, both of the councils. The wind continued its low moan outside the chateau. From where he sat behind the desk, Lorien lifted the sealed envelope that rested on the desk, likely delivered earlier that morning by a guard or a courier. “This just came. It can wait… for a bit.” He set the envelope down. “I received the accounts on your Chaeryll lands. Minister Alucar says that over the past three years, you’ve done well in managing it. He doesn’t know how.”

“I went up there and talked to the tenants, sir. They suggested I let them try potatoes. Alucar had limited them to maize or wheat corn. I did. Because everyone else around there is growing wheat corn, potatoes brought more.”

“How much more?” Lorien’s question was almost a formality, as if he didn’t really care, but felt obligated to ask.

“Around two parts in ten more.” That was conservative. In two out of the three years since Charyn had been gifted the lands, the increased return had been more like four out of ten parts. He’d not only collected the rents personally, but kept track of the harvests. Some of the extra return might have just come from his closer oversight, but he had no way to know. He’d only put half of rents into the strongbox that was his in the family strongroom, since Alucar kept ledgers on each property. Even so, he’d had to use considerable ingenuity to keep a rather significant amount of golds hidden, and that was worrisome. At the same time, he didn’t like the idea of being totally beholden to his sire, not when Lorien might live another twenty years… or at least ten.

“That’s good, but don’t start to think like a factor.” Lorien coughed hoarsely, covering his mouth with a large kerchief. “Half of those that grow things spend more time at their exchange or whatever they call it than in doing what they should. Speculating on what price wheat will have three months from now? Or maize or flour? Ha! Not even the Nameless knows that. And the High Holders are worse in their own way, always moaning about how the weather makes it hard to pay their tariffs.”

Charyn nodded, then watched as his father, with hands that had come to tremble more and more over the last months, opened the envelope. Just from the silver-gray sealing wax even Charyn could tell that it had to have come from High Holder Ryel.

Lorien, without so much as another glance at his son, murmured, “Yet another trial,” and offered a heavy sigh as he began to read. Several more sighs followed.

Knowing that his father would only snap at him if he asked the nature of this particular trial, Charyn kept a pleasant expression on his face as he waited.

Finally, Lorien looked up. “The absolute gall of the man.” He glared toward the window to his right.

Charyn wondered why he bothered, since neither of them could see it, frosted as it was on the inside, even behind the heavy hangings. Although the sun had come out, it wasn’t that warm, even if winter was almost a month away, by the calendar, anyway.

“You read it,” said Lorien, handing the letter across the desk to his son.

Charyn took it and began to read.

8 Erntyn 408 A.L.
Your Grace—

I trust that this missive finds you and all your family in continued good health as we approach Year-Turn, and I offer my best and heartfelt wishes for prosperity in the coming year.

You had asked that I request another year’s extension of my current term as head of the High Council. As you well know, I have already served in that capacity for a full six years. During that time, I have seldom left L’Excelsis and then only for the briefest of periods because of personal travails, notably the early and untimely death of my only son Baryel from the red flux. These past years have been a time of change and of great stress for all, and in consideration of the difficulties we have faced, especially at your suggestion a year ago last Erntyn, I requested from the other councilors a year’s extension of my term as head of the Council, because I did not wish to be considered for another five-year term. They were gracious enough to grant that extension.

What were they going to do? thought Charyn. Deny it when both the rex and the Maitre of the Collegium wanted him to stay?

Much of my family has scarcely seen me for the past six years, and this has placed a great burden on my lady in dealing with Baryel’s children and all the duties of administering the holding. I trust you can understand my desire to return to Rivages.

Charyn had forgotten that Baryel’s wife had died after the birth of her daughter Iryella, and that Baryel’s death left the High Holder and his wife as guardians of the holding’s heirs.

Also to be considered is the fact that another extension of my term would be seen as very much against past practice and tradition, and might well generate unrest among those High Holders who have already expressed great concerns about the changes that you and the Collegium Imago have implemented and continue to pursue…

Charyn knew what Ryel wasn’t saying—that the High Holder had no desire to be associated with the additional changes, and that if he stayed he would be forever marked as a tool of the rex and the Collegium. But then, isn’t Father already a tool of the Collegium? Why should he alone suffer that burden?

…and for these reasons, I would suggest that it would be best for all concerned that you allow the High Council to choose another head of the Council for the next four years, either from the remaining members or from other qualified High Holders.

If not before, Doryana and I look forward to seeing you at the Year-Turn Ball, as do, I am certain, all the other members of the High Council.

Charyn lowered the missive.

“Well?” asked Lorien in a tone that was barely less than a bark.

“He doesn’t want to preside over another increase in tariffs and over any more limits on the powers of the High Holders. He also likely does truly want to leave L’Excelsis.”

“So he can plot from the relative safety of Rivages? That’s what he wants. That’s what he’s always wanted. He doesn’t want to tell all those High Holders who complain every time the weather turns bad that the weather’s always bad part of the time, and that they still need to pay their tariffs.”

“You don’t think that he worries about his grandson?”

“The only worries he has about those children is how he’ll use them to gain power. Karyel is fourteen, and Iryella is eleven or twelve… something like that. If it weren’t for your mother, he’d have been making overtures to marry her to you.”

“Why not Bhayrn? He’s closer in age.”

“Because Bhayrn won’t be rex. Ryel’s always been after power. He was behind pushing my late and unlamented brother to lead the High Holder revolt because he could influence Ryentar.”

Charyn wasn’t about to let his father rage on about his ungrateful brother… or more about Ryel, who was, unfortunately, his mother’s scheming brother. At times, it was hard to reconcile the warm and seemingly kindly Uncle Ryel who had once presented him with new-minted golds on special occasions when he had been barely old enough to remember those events. “You haven’t told me if you and Maitre Alastar talked this over and if the Maitre had anything to say about Uncle Ryel leaving the High Council.”

“No, I haven’t. As you could see, if you even thought, I just received the message early this morning.” Charyn again had to suppress his desire to snap back. “I have a thought… just a thought, sir.”

“Spit it out.”

“His missive emphasizes that he doesn’t want to be Chief Councilor any longer. He also says that it would be a bad idea for him to continue in that post and that he would like to see his family more, doesn’t it?”

“He just wants to go off and plot.”

“But that’s not what he wrote. You can act in terms of what he wrote, rather than what he may have in mind. What if you agree that his time as Chief Councilor should come to an end—”

“Absolutely not!”

“Sir… might I finish before you make a judgment? There’s more that you might find to your liking.”

“I doubt it, but go ahead.”

“You agree that his time as High Councilor should come to an end, but… but in order for there to be continuity and a smooth transition, he should serve the next year as just a councilor, and that he and the other councilors should choose the new Chief Councilor from the current councilors. That way, he would be free to occasionally travel to Rivages and see his family… but his options for plotting would be limited and much more likely to be discovered while you still have him under some measure of scrutiny. That way, you also can portray yourself as somewhat sympathetic to his concerns.”

“I don’t know…”

“Why don’t you talk that over with Maitre Alastar? Tell him it came up in a family discussion.”

“Why not say you thought it up?”

“Because it’s better that it be seen as… less specific. Either Mother, me, Bhayrn, or even Aloryana could have suggested it. If you do it that way, rather than suggesting it was your idea or mine, the Maitre is more likely to consider whether it is a good idea or not on the idea itself, rather than whether you came up with it or I did.” Charyn smiled self-deprecatingly. “He might think it a bad idea, but how he answers might suggest other possibilities.”

“Hmmmm…”

Charyn had the feeling that was about as much of a comment as he was going to get on that, and he eased the missive back onto his father’s desk. “When do you meet with the Solidaran Factors’ Council?”

“Not until the eighteenth of the month. That’s when I meet with both the High Council and the Factors’ Council. That meeting will be little more than a formality. The meeting in Ianus will be where everyone tells me what’s wrong and what I should do that they don’t wish to pay for. That’s soon enough. Too soon.”

“Are the factor councilors still opposed to the High Council’s proposal to forbid excessive interest rates?”

“No one has told me. Since factors will do anything for gold, and hate to pay even an extra copper for anything, I imagine they are.”

Charyn nodded. “What about the expansion of the regial post roads?”

“I almost wish that Maitre Arion hadn’t disciplined the imagers in Westisle by making them build roads.”

“Weren’t the roads to Liantiago in terrible shape? Didn’t they need rebuilding?”

“They did, but now the factors around Estisle want better roads, and the imagers building the new branch of the Collegium there aren’t established enough to do that yet. The High Holders away from L’Excelsis and Liantiago are complaining that they can’t get goods and crops to markets quickly, and that they’re suffering from an unfair situation.”

That made sense to Charyn, because in the years immediately after the failed High Holder revolt, the Collegium Imago in L’Excelsis had improved and widened the post road all the way to Kephria, as well as sections of the river road from the capital to Solis and the roads north from L’Excelsis to Rivages. “I thought the stone roads in old Telaryn were still in good condition.”

“They are. Most don’t lead to the larger cities or ports.”

“Aren’t the regional governors supposed to supervise post roads?”

“They claim I don’t give them enough golds for all the work that needs to be done.” Lorien shook his head. “There probably isn’t after what they pocket.”

“Maybe…” Charyn immediately broke off his words, then added smoothly, “Perhaps, as you replace each regional governor, you should make it clear that certain roads need to be repaired and improved, and that such repairs will determine in part how long they serve.”

“They’d just steal more until I caught them.”

Charyn was afraid that was true as well, but wanted to keep his father talking, in hopes of learning something he didn’t know. “What about an additional tariff on the banques… the exchanges… ?”

“A plague on the banques and exchanges—they’re what led to the revolt. Trading crops and debts and everything instead of producing. Speculation! Bah!”

Charyn nodded, but did not move. He’d learned early that patience was a necessity in dealing with his father… and most people.

Close to a glass later, he left the study, nodding again to Maertyl as he did.

He was headed toward his own chambers before his other appointments when he passed Aloryana’s door, just slightly ajar.

“Oh, no! Noooo!”

Charyn was struck by the distress in Aloryana’s voice, and since her sitting room door was indeed ajar, he knocked and pushed it open. “Are you all right?” Aloryana was straightening up as he stopped in the doorway.

“Oh… it’s you. Thank the Nameless it wasn’t Father. Or Mother!” Aloryana’s eyes did not meet Charyn’s.

“Oh?” Charyn could see that Aloryana held something silver in her hand. He thought he saw bluish gems as well. “Did you drop something?”

“Oh… nothing.”

“It didn’t sound like nothing.” Charyn waited.

“It’s just a hair clasp.”

“Is it broken? Maybe I can fix it.”

“Thank you, Charyn. I’ll take care of it.” Aloryana immediately turned away and hurried into her bedchamber, closing the door behind her, and leaving Charyn standing alone in the sitting room.

Charyn couldn’t help wondering what she had broken that she didn’t want him to know about. Finally, he stepped back into the corridor and gently closed the door to the main corridor. He thought he heard sobbing, but he was far from certain.

Excerpted from Assassin’s Price, copyright © 2017 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Jun. 28th, 2017 08:14 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
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Happy birthday, [personal profile] rmc28!
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JessieMcKitrick magic linked Frobisher by Jessie McKitrick

I’d have to say my Frobisher pullover; it turned out exactly as I’d pictured it, and it’s extremely cozy to boot. It was a lot of work, particularly getting the cables to work out nicely for all seven sizes, but I am very happy with it every time I look at it.

Learning to Read Critically

Jun. 28th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Liz Bourke

A collection of my assorted nonfiction, Sleeping With Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, is about to hit bookshelves and electronic retailers this July. It’s being published by Aqueduct Press, but—as the title implies—much of the material is based on my “Sleeps With Monsters” column here.

Today I’m here to try to convince you to read my book! Or at any rate, to read things that might surprise you.

Writing “Sleeps With Monsters” for Tor.com has shaped basically shaped my career as a critic. Week to week and month to month, I learned more about the science fiction and fantasy genre as I wrote on it—and as I stuck my foot in my mouth, on occasion. I’ve always tried to focus on women’s writing, and as I learned more, I tried to expand my knowledge of the writing of people who experience multiple marginalisations. (I don’t know that I’ve always quite succeeded!)

Learning to read critically is an interesting process. You find you can’t turn it off unless you try really hard: you’re always paying attention to what kind of work the narrative is doing, and what sort of thing it’s setting itself up to be. You learn to recognise what particular works are interested in, and the shape of the story they’re telling. In many cases, you can tell what sort of book any given volume’s going to be—good, bad, indifferent, actively offensive; whodunnit or military-focused or romance or thriller or coming of age—within the first few pages.

You’re always making mental notes and looking at comparisons, and looking at the way that sometimes comparisons fall short: nothing is ever exactly like anything else, but the elements that any given works have in common can be very revealing. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series shares almost nothing in common with Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but they are both concerned to some degree with domesticities and with relationships between people who are alien to each other, relationships across cultures that extend beyond romantic or sexual relationships. (Though Cherryh is far more concerned with cross-cultural politics.)

There are always layers in a book. The complex—at least, when it is complex, and not marginally competent dreck—interplay between plot and theme, worldbuilding and characterisation is really fun to tease out, to admire it if it all (or at least mostly) comes together in support of the same ends, and to shake your head at it if parts of it sit at odds. To take an example: Say you have a story whose plot involves finding justice for a murder, but in order to bring the perpetrator to justice, the main character commits a few murders themselves, and the narrative doesn’t do anything to acknowledge that this is, at the very least, dubious as all get out as a moral choice. Maybe you missed something. Or maybe it’s just not there.

If it’s not there for you, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t see it: but this fundamental subjectivity in the experience of reading does mean that every piece of criticism is as much about the critic as it is about the work.

As much as. We all bring pieces of ourselves to our reading. But the book remains an object created by someone else, received by the reader. Reading is an act, almost, of translation.

(…which makes criticism really a rather recursive past-time, come to think: the reader-critic and the critic-reader, the writer-critic and the critic-writer.)

Which brings me to Sleeping With Monsters. It’s a journey through the science fiction and fantasy where I learned—as much as I could be said to have learned, and not still be learning—to read and write critically. It’s a journey through science fiction and fantasy with a lot of yelling about the politics of representation.

It’s a journey through reading.

So whether you read it or not, I hope you go read things that startle and delight you, that open your eyes and fill up your heart.

Because I did, and I am.

Sleeping With Monsters publishes July 1st with Aqueduct Press.
Read the introduction to the collection, written by Kate Elliott, here on Tor.com.

Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, is published by Aqueduct Press this year. Find her at her blog, where she’s been known to talk about even more books thanks to her Patreon supporters. Or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign.

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Posted by Anne M. Pillsworth, Ruthanna Emrys

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Lovecraft and Hazel Heald’s “Winged Death,” first published in the March 1934 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

“The Orange Hotel stands in High Street near the railway station in Bloemfontein, South Africa. On Sunday, January 24, 1932, four men sat shivering from terror in a room on its third floor.”

Summary

In a stifling hotel room in Bloemfontein, South Africa, four men sit shivering around a corpse. What inspires their fear isn’t the body, but a strange fly floating in a bottle of ammonia, an ink-scrawled message on the ceiling, and the notebook held by the coroner’s physician. The dead man checked into the hotel as Frederick Mason, but his notebook’s titled “Journal of Thomas Slauenwite, M.D.”

The physician reads aloud:

Slauenwite declares up front that he intends this as a posthumous record concerning the punishment of Henry Moore, entomology professor at Columbia. Moore was Slauenwite’s college friend and a fellow researcher in Africa. But as Slauenwite’s work on remittent fever was about to earn him fame and advancement, Moore accused him of deriving his theses from another physician’s unpublished papers. Slauenwite’s career stalled–what a return for all the guidance he gave Moore on his well-received text, Diptera of Central and Southern Africa!

From exile at a “hole” of an equatorial trading post, Slauenwite plots revenge. He’s heard from Africans about a “devil-fly” whose bite causes sure death from sleeping sickness, after which the victim’s soul enters the fly. Slauenwite pooh-poohs the latter as superstition, but is interested in the disease and its vector. A crocodile hunter guides him into a “pestilential” jungle of green-scummed lakes and Cyclopean ruins. Locals say the ruins are older than man, a former outpost of “the Fishers from Outside.” There Slauenwite obtains devil-fly specimens. They appear related to the tsetse fly. He decides to crossbreed them, hoping the hybrid that will intrigue Henry Moore. To give his hybrids a still more exotic look, he dyes their wings blue. His experiments on his black African servants prove the hybrids as deadly as he could wish–just ignore how the servant-biting fly battered itself to death in its cage after the man expired. Slauenwite will send the “unidentified” flies to Moore–Moore’s rash carelessness is sure to get him bitten, and dead. Punished!

Slauenwite mails the flies under a false name and in disguise. From friends in America, he learns Moore has sickened after a fly bite on the back of his neck. His correspondents’ increasing coolness makes Slauenwite wonder if Moore suspects foul play. Moore dies. Authorities seek the man who sent the blue-winged flies. Spooked, Slauenwite flees to Johannesburg under the alias Frederick Mason.

A couple months later, he begins to receive “visits” from a fly that looks just like one of his wing-dyed hybrids. The creature’s behavior baffles him. It hovers near his copy of Moore’s Diptera. It darts at him and evades swatting with great cunning. It dips its feet into his inkwell and crawls across the white ceiling, leaving an inked scrawl that looks like a question mark. Or is Slauenwite just imagining things?

Next visit the fly “writes” the number 5 on the ceiling. It beats its body against a window screen in series of five strokes. Is Slauenwite going mad, or has the fly really “inherited” human intelligence? From Moore? How did it get to South Africa from New York?

All his attempts to kill the fly fail. It communicates new numbers on successive days: four, three, two, one. Is it counting down Slauenwite’s time before delivering a deadly bite?

He runs to Bloemfontein, barricades himself in a sealed hotel room with plenty of food and necessaries. But on day zero the fly appears again, having smuggled itself in with the food! Now it crawls on the clock face, stopping on the figure 12. Noon, the hour at which Moore was bitten!

Slauenwite fumbles out chemicals from his doctor’s bag, hoping to gas the fly. His journal ends with the acknowledgement that he shouldn’t be wasting time writing, but it steadies him as the fly grows restless and the minute hand ticks toward 12…

Back to the coroner’s party in the hotel room. We learn that Slauenwite never did mix his gassing chemicals. Cause of death? Well, there is a fly bite on the back of his neck, but though later tests will show it introduced the causative parasites of trypanosomiasis, he died instantly of a heart attack, probably brought on by sheer fright.

What continues to frighten the coroner’s party is the ink-scrawl on the ceiling, which reads:

“SEE MY JOURNAL—IT GOT ME FIRST—I DIED—THEN I SAW I WAS IN IT—THE BLACKS ARE RIGHT—STRANGE POWERS IN NATURE—NOW I WILL DROWN WHAT IS LEFT—”

In that ammonia bottle, where a strange fly still floats, the blue dye still clinging to its wings….

What’s Cyclopean: Ruins in the pestilential Ugandan jungle.

The Degenerate Dutch: Slauenwite is a white South African in 1932, and talks and acts precisely as one would expect. Unpleasant company, much improved by being turned into a fly.

Mythos Making: The cyclopean ruins used to belong to “The Fishers From Outside”—Outer Ones/Mi-go?—and are sacred to Tsadogwa and Clulu. Do flies get mind-snatching powers by feasting on Mi-Go blood?

Libronomicon: Slauenwite conveniently leaves a journal detailing his revenge against Moore and vice versa.

Madness Takes Its Toll: Am I going mad, or is this fly mocking me? (In fact, the fly is mocking you.)

 

Anne’s Commentary

Well, “Winged Death” was a fine finale for Hazel and Howard, my favorite collaboration team. It features a chillingly sociopathic narcissist of a villain and one of nature’s least loved creatures, the fly. Even when they’re not spreading pestilence and throwing up on our food and biting the hell out of us, flies are annoying. They buzz, they bang into screens and windows (shoulda stayed outside in the FIRST place, sucker), they die all legs up in a blatant attempt to milk sympathy. Annoying!

And potentially terrifying. Because not only are sleeping sickness and river blindness and leishmaniasis no joke, but the humble nonbiting housefly comes loaded with nasty pathogens like those that cause dysentery, typhoid and cholera. Too scary. Let’s talk fictional flies. One of the great TV events of my childhood was the more-or-less yearly showing of The Fly (1958). This is the one starring “Al” Hedison, who was really David Hedison, who was really Captain Crane from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, another childhood favorite, especially when the monster of the week would storm through a port and swat poor Seaman Kowalski to the deck for the hundredth time. Kowalski, the redshirt who would not die. But he’s a story for another day.

This is the movie that most scared the crap out of me until Night of the Living Dead came along, and I loved it. The wonders of science! Reasonably mild-mannered inventor builds a disintegrator-reintegrator machine! First horror of science! He tries transporting the cat, which does the disintegration part just fine, but not the reintegration, oops. Its phantom mewing tells inventor, “Um, not ready for life forms yet, jerk.” Second horror of science! After a bit of twiddling, inventor transports HIMSELF! Unaware that a housefly has gotten into the disintegration chamber with him! They both reintegrate, BUT OMG WITH THEIR ATOMS MIXED TOGETHER! Now there’s an inventor with the head and foreleg of a fly, a fly with the head and arm of an inventor! I found this cross-species merging deliciously shocking. In my innocence, I never wondered why both the man-fly and the fly-man retained (or gained) human intelligence. In fact, the monster with the fly head was way smarter than the monster with the human head, which ended up in a spiderweb.

Maybe they switched heads but not brains?

“Winged Death” scares me consistently, too. As I remember my first read years ago, the fly was the most terrifying element. This reread it’s Dr. Slauenwite. Given the nonchalance with which he “experiments” on any convenient African, his own servant included, I wonder whether these were his first “experiments” in murder. The Dr. Sloane whose remittent fever work Slauenwite purloined? Did Slauenwite just happen to come across his papers, or did he off Sloane to get hold of them? Because, you see, everything needs to be about Slauenwite. Moore should never have outed him – where was his gratitude, after Slauenwite made him, down to practically ghostwriting Moore’s career-making text on flies? Truth is, it’s not only the Africans who are woefully inferior to Slauenwite because superstitious black savages–it’s everybody!

Nerve-twisting thing? Slauenwite strikes me these days as too pertinent and realistic a character study. Yeah, there are people like him. Yeah, and maybe they can fool too many people too much of the time. Including themselves.

What’s a fly with a human soul to that? I’m all like, you go, fly! Only bite him right away, before he can catch on!

Wait, what’s that you buzz? Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad? All right, something in that. Not that a fly’s a god, even with a human soul, but maybe the devil-flies of Lake Mlolo are the latter-day minions of the gods. Tsadogwa (Tsathoggua) and Clulu (Cthulhu), that is. The “Fishers from Outside.” Fishers of men?

Lovecraft and Heald sneak a little Mythos into the story with their miasmal Cyclopean ruins and the deities mentioned above. Do they do it just for fun? To give an evocative though vague explanation for why the devil-flies are so weird (echoes of alien magic)? The story could have gotten along without Mythos references, substituting plain old jungle-variety legends from the dark heart of the Dark Continent. Interesting to consider, though, how the transfer of soul or consciousness is so central a concern in Mythos canon, from the consciousness-canning of the Mi-Go to intimate body-swapping a la Ephraim Waite to body-swapping on a cosmic scale with the Yith.

What would be the point, for any kind of god, to install a human persona in a fly? To punish, to torture, for the cheap giggles? What would be in it for the fly? Does its consciousness get shoved out by the human or augmented by it? What would be in it for the human? Cheap transportation, for one thing. Free, in fact. Fly onto a steamer from New York to Africa and feast on the best scraps from the kitchen. Hop a train to Bloemfontein, and who’s to know? Sneak into sealed rooms in a sandwich!

Talk about super spies, and with the help of some microbes, super assassins!

Then again, as we saw in 1958’s “Fly” movie, seeing the world through compound eyes could be a bit daunting for the human mind. People turned flies sure commit suicide a lot, as we see both in “The Fly” and “Winged Death.” It’s probably the compound eyes thing, yeah. Or the thought of having to throw up on food for the rest of one’s life, a nastiness explored in full in that other “Fly” movie by David Cronenberg, ergh, don’t remind myself.

 

Ruthanna’s Commentary

In so carefully saving the last of the Heald collaborations for a rainy day, I forgot that I had, in fact, already read it—it’s in the “Best of H.P. Lovecraft” collection where I first experienced his work. I’d also therefore forgotten that it’s not among the pair’s most cosmically thrilling stories.

Mind you, it’s an excellent read. Heald, as usual, has a talent for bringing out Lovecraft’s talents. But it certainly wasn’t the comfort read I was yearning for. The n-word/cyclopean ratio (3:1) is not ideal. The vicious racism is saved from unreadability by virtue of the narrator being an unambiguously villainous white South African. Lovecraft almost certainly sympathized with that barbarous culture—but readers from more civilized climes, while they may wince at the language, can rest secure knowing that Slauenwite’s unfortunate servant gets ultimate revenge along with his professional rival.

“Winged Death” was written several years before the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment came into the harsh light of public scrutiny. It’s no coincidence that those experiments were suddenly “discovered” at a point when American culture generally condemned such things; they were not a tightly held secret in earlier decades. Had Lovecraft heard casual mention of such things from family friends, or did deadly and non-consensual medical experiments simply seem like an obvious thing for a supremacist twit to do? Either way, the resonance is probably more effective than intended.

Other unintended horror: releasing a large quantity of chlorine gas in your hotel room is an excellent way to kill your neighbors, or at least make their lives miserable if the ventilation is good. Small quantities accidentally produced are the major cause of toilet-cleaning accidents. If a train carrying the stuff derails, they evacuate everyone within a 30 mile radius. Moore is a big damn hero. (PSA: As far as I can tell, an ammonia-soaked handkerchief won’t protect you from chlorine gas at all, though it will fill your final moments with the aroma of cat pee.)

In addition to the unintended horror, the intended horror is legitimately scary. It doesn’t quite meet the standard of “Out of the Aeons,” which still gets the award for Least Desirable Lovecraftian Fate, but getting your mind stuck in a fly still sounds pretty unpleasant. Magic or no, there can’t be much room for higher thought. On the other hand, judging from Moore, focus and determination are unaffected. If you wanted to write a scientific treatise rather than a death note, you’d be good to go.

In addition to the inherent creepiness of getting yourself insected, Moore has a fine flair for the dramatic. Ominous countdowns, mocking bows, hounding your victim into heart failure—all excellent ingredients in the dish best served cold. I suppose he had a lot of time to think everything through on his transatlantic flight.

Lovecraft often obsesses over forced re-embodiment, an interesting choice for a materialist. In some cases it’s as much blessing as curse: Yith bodies may be hard to learn to navigate, but they’re the epitome of Howard’s oft-quoted claim that he can easily imagine lifeforms superior to humanity in every way. (And then he can easily be terrified of them, because after all what do humans do to those they consider inferior? Apparently, that’s not one of our qualities that he could imagine an improvement on.) Getting turned into a girl is no fun if you’re a misogynistic twit like Ephraim Waite—or if Waite is then locking you-as-a-girl into the attic for future sacrifice. The Mi-Go offer a shot at the stars, and perfect helplessness. And Ghatanothoa just offers perfect helplessness.

Another repeating theme: people who take “primitive legends” seriously from the start… rarely play a starring role in horror stories. Slauenwite’s a pretty deserving unbeliever, but he won’t be the last person to dismiss extraordinary evidence long after he should have accepted the extraordinary claim as a working hypothesis. Lovecraft’s protagonists at least have the excuse that their ignorance preserves the thin veneer of sanity protecting human civilization. Your average non-genre-savvy horror movie character, less so.

 

Next week, we’re taking a break for the holiday. Then, for post number 150 (really!) we’re trying to get a hold of Kishin Houkou Demonbane, recommended by RushThatSpeaks way back at post 100 as a truly epic Lovecraftian anime. Several sites seem to have it, but also seem to drain the sanity from our malware detectors. We’ll share the link if we find a curse-free copy, or come up with an awesome/weird alternative if if we don’t.

Ruthanna Emrys’s neo-Lovecraftian stories “The Litany of Earth” and “Those Who Watch” are available on Tor.com, along with the distinctly non-Lovecraftian “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land” and “The Deepest Rift.” Winter Tide, a novel continuing Aphra Marsh’s story from “Litany,” is now available from Macmillan’s Tor.com imprint. Ruthanna can frequently be found online on Twitter and Dreamwidth, and offline in a mysterious manor house with her large, chaotic household—mostly mammalian—outside Washington DC.

Anne M. Pillsworth’s short story.The Madonna of the Abattoir” appears on Tor.com. Her young adult Mythos novel, Summoned, is available from Tor Teen along with sequel Fathomless. She lives in Edgewood, a Victorian trolley car suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, uncomfortably near Joseph Curwen’s underground laboratory.

sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
My offering for this round of Holmestice:
Nostoi, by [archiveofourown.org profile] sanguinity for [tumblr.com profile] disheveledcurls
Шерлок Холмс (New Russian Holmes) x The Lost World
Holmes & Watson
Post-Reichenbach, Crossover, Action/Adventure, Hurt/Comfort, Happy Ending
Teen; No Archive Warnings Apply
approx 21,000 words

Holmes wants to see the last European pterodactyl safely home. Watson just wants to see Holmes happy again.

Comprehensive spoilers for the final episode of New Russian Holmes; light spoilers for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. No specific knowledge of the novel is required.

Copious thanks to [personal profile] language_escapes and [personal profile] grrlpup for beta, and to [personal profile] smallhobbit for Britpick.


…or as I've been referring to it: Two Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Pterodactyl.

(Two men in many boats! Oh, but I regret that I couldn't squeeze in a joke about Hélène sailing a thousand ships. Watson's FML would have been epic.)

Commentary: The Last European Pterodactyl )

~ ~ ~


Back when I was still poking around for a story idea, I put a bunch of Challenger-related books on reserve. I used essentially none of it, but it was fairly entertaining reading. Spoilers for everything!

Professor Challenger stories, plus a few Challenger-adjacent things )

Oh, one last item from Prothero's book: Doyle wrote the South American tepuis as capable of sheltering their ecosystems from the ravages of climate change. In fact, the situation is exactly the opposite: the unique ecosystems on the top of the tepuis are incredibly vulnerable to climate change. In many other places in the world, threatened species can attempt to flee to adjacent regions, chasing their preferred conditions, but the tepuis are so climatologically discontinuous with their surroundings that there's nowhere to flee to. So yeah, there's a lot of cool shit up on top of these South American plateaus, but it's all getting hit mega-hard by climate change. :-(

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