theferrett: (Meazel)

Last night,  I finished the first draft of my maintenancepunk novel – which is like cyberpunk, except you spend way more time troubleshooting device conflicts and field-stripping your cyberlimbs.

I’m looking for about seven to ten people to beta-read for me and give me feedback. (Why seven to ten?  Because I’d like four to five people, and generally I find that you hit about 60% on getting beta readers to get back to you in time.)

I’m giving special preference this time to military folks and gun nuts, because this is a novel written by a pansy-ass civilian about a veteran in future combat, and I am positive I’ve gotten the details laughably wrong.

Now.  If you’re saying “Let me do it, I’m really good at proofreading,” alas, I shall pass.  Assuming I sell it to a publisher, we’ll have professional copyeditors and proofreaders sniffing this sucker like a hound dog.  Flagging misspelled words and grammatical errors is a distraction from the overall point of “Did this book deliver an emotional cyberpunch?”

No, what I want are the sorts of people who can explain four separate things, each cogently:

•         The things that confuse you (“Why would $character do that?” or “Wait, cyberlimbs shouldn’t be able to do that?”)
•         The things that throw you out of the story (“Character wouldn’t do THAT!” or “Factually, that’s so wrong!”)
•         The things that give you ass-creep (“I got bored here”)
•         All the things that make you pump the fist (“This moment was truly awesome, and unless I tell you how awesome it is, you might cut this part out in edits”)

So if you think you can do all that in five weeks, do me a favor and email me at theferrett@theferrett.com with the header “FERRETT, I WOULD LIKE TO BETA-READ YOUR MAINTENANCEPUNK.”  This service comes with the great reward of being name-checked in the acknowledgements, if this eventually sells.  I may get filled up on people, but if I do, I’ll put you on the list for the next revision, if there is one – I’ll need to give this one two more drafts in the next four months.

(And if you have beta-read for me before and are asking, “Ferrett, why didn’t you ask me directly?”, kindly remember that I am shy and dislike bothering people.  If you’ve got the time and want to volunteer for another go-round, pitch in!)

(Also note: I’ve not been blogging much on my main blog because, well, I’m still deciding what to do about LiveJournal’s recent TOS change, and moving away from LJ involves some technical preparation I hain’t had time for.  If you’re on LJ, well, consider bookmarking my main site.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
All right. In hindsight of the continuing exodus from LJ, the third of April feels a bit like an international day of social media mourning, but I regret nothing about my decision to cope on the night by self-medicating with Leslie Howard. [personal profile] skygiants had sent me the link years ago for a propaganda short called From the Four Corners (1941) which I had never gotten around to watching despite it being a grand total of fifteen minutes long. It was directed by Anthony Havelock-Allan and produced by the Ministry of Information; there are no writing credits per se, but we are told that "[t]he incident originated with Leslie Howard and A. G. Macdonell," one of the co-writers of Pimpernel Smith (1941). With a title like that, you might as well brace yourself for Empire, especially when it opens by quoting the title music from the Kordas' The Four Feathers (1939). Like Howard's wartime features, though, it's subtler and stranger than simple flag-waving and it set off a thoroughly unexpected chain reaction in my head.

The story sounds like the set-up for a joke: three soldiers from the Dominions all meet at Nelson's Column, where two of them are looking for a pub and the third is sightseeing. Specifically, he is taking a picture of what he dryly terms "Typical scene of London air-raid panic"—four Londoners on a park bench in different attitudes of total unconcern. Embarrassed by the effusive patriotism of a woman who rushes up to praise them for "coming all those thousands of miles to answer the Motherland's call to arms . . . splendid fellows!" the soldiers are rescued by the drawling interruption of one of the park-bench Londoners, the one who was smoking with his hands in his pockets and his hat knocked over his eyes. He is credited as "A Passer-By"; he is Leslie Howard and he knows where to find a pub.1 Over pints all round, he quizzes the soldiers on their reasons for joining up, each of which furnishes a miniature flashback. Corporal W. Atkinson of the Australian Imperial Force co-owned a bicycle shop in Sydney; he made his decision after catching his business partner in a newsreel, marching to the troopship with the rest of the new recruits. Private J. Johnston of the Black Watch of Canada hails from a farm outside of Vancouver; his father was killed at Vimy Ridge and he not entirely jokes that he ought to finish his job. Private R. Gilbert of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force was a law student in Auckland, finishing up his degree when he wondered suddenly if common law would mean anything in the event of an Axis victory; he walked right out of his exams and into the recruiting office next door. They may be standing in for their respective countries, but they are also real-life servicemen playing versions of themselves, and they bridle when Howard professes himself unsatisfied with their answers. "Kick[ing] Hitler in the pants" may be an admirable goal, but what makes it so? What are they really fighting for? If not the Empire ("That's a lot of hooey!"), what have they left their homes and families to defend?

Like the academic he so often played, Howard takes it on himself to answer his own question. He brings the three soldiers up to the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral—itself already a vivid symbol of national resistance—and gives them a bird's-eye crash tour of London, pointing out its landmarks and sites of interest, tying each to a resonant moment of English history. Kingston, where the coronation stone of the Saxon kings still stands in the market square. Runnymede, the signing of the Magna Carta which formed the heart of all the Commonwealth's laws. For the Canadian Johnston, he points out St. Peter's Church in Petersham where Captain George Vancouver is buried. For Oceanians Gilbert and Atkinson, Greenwich Hospital because "Captain Cook had a job there once." When he shows them Bankside, he stresses that the audiences of Shakespeare's plays would have included far-flung soldiers on leave just like themselves. "And that's where your fathers and my fathers stood when we were threatened with the Armada and invasion," though most of Howard's forefathers in 1588 would have been somewhere quite different from Tilbury.2 Finishing up at the House of Commons allows him to (optimistically, in June 1941) include the Americans among the inheritors and defenders of their shared ideals. "Well, it's all yours," he concludes, "all part of London and part of ourselves . . . Yes, it's all there—British city, Roman city, Saxon, Dane, Norman—English." All the while he was talking, I was thinking that I had heard something very like it before, the visionary, scholarly, slightly laughing and slightly otherworldly voice layering time through itself and rooting it in the present day, spellbinding its listeners and waking them up to their history and inheritance, and the moment I made the connection I was seized with a desperate and conflicted longing because Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale (1944) is the reason I love Eric Portman, but I would love too to know what the movie would have been like with Leslie Howard as Thomas Colpeper, JP.

Let me be clear: I don't think the Archers could even have approached him for the part. He was already under the Bay of Biscay when shooting began in August of 1943, and in any case their first choice for the magistrate of Chillingbourne had been Roger Livesey, whom I will always thank for turning them down. He found the role "off-key." He wasn't wrong. Colpeper is a deeply peculiar character, as difficult to pin down to a single interpretation as his signature wrongheaded act. He has the vision of a poet and the blinders of a missionary, the superiority of a judge and the guilt of a penitent; he gives mesmerizing lectures on local history and keeps breaking the slide projector. He loves his country and its deep, distant past that to him is as immediate and tangible as the warmth of the sun and the smell of wild thyme and he does some very silly, very dangerous things to try to fix history right where it is, not yet understanding that the earthquake of modernity will not erase the echoes of his beloved Kentish village any more than the last two thousand years have washed the Roman road away.3 He's a crank and a trickster, a magician and a fool, and like the other characters he's trapped until he gets his miracle, which comes in the last form he expected and the first he should have known to watch out for. He's not unsympathetic. He's never quite safe. I'm not knocking Livesey as an actor—he made three films with Powell and Pressburger and in all of them he was exactly what the part required, a tragicomic English archetype in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), an unforeseen romantic alternative in I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), and an adroit and skeptical advocate for science and love in A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Someday I'll even see him in a film by some other director and I expect he will continue to be very good. But I think he was right to refuse Colpeper: he would not have been weird enough for him. Portman was. And as Howard had proved almost from the start of his stardom, he would have been, too.

That's the trouble. You believe in miracles. )

This is fantasy casting at its finest. If any practical link existed between Leslie Howard and A Canterbury Tale, given my interest in both of these things I can't imagine I wouldn't have run across it before now. I believe what I'm seeing is a case of parallel evolution, drawing on the same shared resonances of myth and literature and national archetype like a collective unconscious of the country, and I have neither the scope in this post nor the professional credentials to diagnose exactly what that is. I just can't believe I didn't see the fit before. Howard had even worked with the Archers once before, playing one of his disarming intellectuals for 49th Parallel. I'd love to know what either of them thought of Pimpernel Smith, since I stand by my assertion that it comes the closest of any other British war picture to the off-kilter numinous of their work in general and A Canterbury Tale in particular; I've found nothing in the two volumes by Powell that I own. I need to get a biography of Pressburger sometime. To get back to the short that started this whole megillah, From the Four Corners is not A Canterbury Tale or even Pimpernel Smith, but it served admirably as a celebration of Howard's hundred and twenty-fourth birthday and an antidote to a really depressing evening and you can watch it yourself thanks to the good offices of the Imperial War Museum. I apologize about the watermark. I got used to it after a few minutes of dialogue, but it interacts unfortunately with the opening titles. Anyway, it'll take you less time to watch than this post did to write. The version where I actually did all the research I thought about would have gone on for even longer and run the footnotes off the bottom of the screen. At least I didn't pour glue in anyone's hair. This monograph brought to you by my transcendent backers at Patreon.

1. Honestly, in a film of this era, I feel it may be safe to assume that any angular, pipe-smoking person looking especially careless in public is Leslie Howard. If he's wearing an overcoat and has a tendency to lecture about abstractions, that clinches it.

2. Although the character is explicitly identified as the actor himself—glossed for non-British viewers who might not recognize the name by Atkinson's description of the local weather as "too Pygmalion cold"—I found myself thinking of him as Howard's Passer-By, like Dante's Pilgrim. He can say the line about his fathers at Tilbury (our fathers of old) and mean it literally. He's autochthonous.

3. Powell and Pressburger use it for wonder rather than horror, but the way they conceive of history leaving its imprint on time is interestingly close to the idea of residual haunting that Nigel Kneale popularized with The Stone Tape (1972) or the endlessly reenacting myth of Alan Garner's The Owl Service (1967): once a thing has happened in a place, it is always on some level happening there, echoing forever in the land. Where it happened transcends when. "And when you see the bluebells in the spring and the wild thyme and the broom and the heather, you're only seeing what their eyes saw. You ford the same rivers, the same birds are singing. When you lie flat on your back and rest and watch the clouds sailing as I often do, you're so close to those other people that you can hear the thrumming of the hooves of their horses and the sound of the wheels on the road and their laughter and talk and the music of the instruments they carried."

4. It is completely not Howard's fault that I flashed on The Magician's Nephew (1955) when I hit the line "Most of you, I'm sure, will know what I mean when I speak of the curious elation which comes from sharing in a high and mysterious destiny," especially since he meant just about the opposite from Andrew Ketterley by it. It does kind of make me wonder if Lewis heard the broadcast. If so, I guess he wasn't impressed.

5. It took me an absurdly long time to realize that none of the blessings received by the four modern pilgrims of A Canterbury Tale has to do with things changing for the better: each has to do instead with seeing things as they truly are, not as the characters have feared or convinced themselves they were. They are revelations, realizations. They are like archaeology. Nothing of the beloved past has been lost, not a girlfriend, a fiancé, or a vocation; things believed not to exist have come as naturally to light as an old coin in a field, reminders that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. They prove the constancy of time.

6. There is a tangential question here which I am not sure I am qualified to engage with: the degree to which it is possible or useful to read Howard's intellectual heroes as neuroatypical as opposed to merely very smart, knowing there's a significant Venn diagram of the two in popular representations of intelligence. Certainly I feel as though a case could be made for several of the characters discussed here, but I've seen Howard in seventeen movies and IMDb gives him thirty-eight acting credits; I don't think I have enough data. I also feel this study should be conducted by someone with a better idea of what "normal" behavior looks like. When Atterbury Dodd says, "I don't like parties. I don't know what to say to people. I just sit in corners and wish I might go home," I mean, that was me and socializing for years. All that changed was I started getting invited to a better grade of party.

7. I have appreciated for years that Howard, national treasure that he was, never had too much vanity to play against audience sympathy for as long as a script required. Smith may have some cold, abrasive moments on his way to rethinking the primacy of Aphrodite, but Higgins carries scientific detachment to the point of being a stupendous jerk; it is one of the reasons I suspect so many people, myself included, find the ending of the 1938 Pygmalion and its immediate descendant My Fair Lady more satisfying than the impervious curtain of the original play: he gets absolutely kicked in the ass by his own human susceptibility and he never sees it coming. Dodd is never deliberately insensitive, but he has to learn how to see people—including himself—as people, three-dimensional, fallible, worthwhile, not just numbers or functions. Even the narrator of The Gentle Sex, while he understands and appreciates intellectually that women will be part of the war effort, so repeatedly underestimates the extent and the impact of their contributions that by the film's end he's had to give up trying to predict what they'll do next and simply trust that it'll be all right. Alan Squier, let's face it, is a really charming trash fire.
siderea: (Default)
I just learned that Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away on Monday, at the age of 88.

I've thought for a while that I should tell you about one of the more valuable things I got from ZAMM, which I refer to now as Pirsig's Pejorative Just, and now it seems like a fitting tribute to share the relevant passage:
[...] the English faculty at Bozeman, informed of their squareness, presented him with a reasonable question: "Does this undefined 'quality' of yours exist in things we observe?" they asked. "Or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?" It was a simple, normal enough question, and there was no hurry for an answer.

Hah. There was no need for hurry. It was a finisher-offer, a knockdown question, a haymaker, a Saturday-night special – the kind you don't recover from.
Because if Quality exists in the object then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it [...] On the other hand, if Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this Quality that you make so much of is just a fancy name for whatever you like. [...] If he accepted the premise that Quality was objective, he was impaled on one horn of the dilemma. If he accepted the other premise that Quality was subjective, he was impaled on the other horn.

[... regarding the first horn, the objective premise] This horn was the mean one. [...line of proposed reasoning...] This answer, if valid, certainly smashed the first horn of the dilemma, and for a while that excited him greatly.

But it turned out to be false. [...]

He turned his attention to the other horn of the dilemma, which showed more promise of refutation. He thought, So Quality is whatever you like? It angered him. The great artists of history – Raphael, Beethoven, Michelangelo – they were all just putting out what people liked. They had no goal other than to titillate the senses in a big way. Was that it? It was angering, and what was most angering about it was that he couldn't see any immediate way to cut it up logically. So he studied the statement carefully, in the same reflective way he always studied things before attacking them.

Then he saw it. He brought out the knife and excised the one word that created the entire angering effect of that sentence. The word was "just." Why should Quality be just what you like? Why should "what you like" be "just"? What did "just" mean in this case? When separated out like this for independent examination it became apparent that "just" in this case didn't mean a damn thing. It was a purely pejorative term, whose logical contribution to the sentence was nil. Now, with that word removed, the sentence became "Quality is what you like," and its meaning was entirely changed. It had become an innocuous truism.
Now, when I point to a "just" – or an "only", or a "mere", or a "simply", or "but" – and say, "That's a Pirsig's Pejorative Just", you'll know what I mean.

And, if this is the first time you've seen this, maybe now you'll be better prepared to notice them slinking by, in the wild, yourself.
ceciliatan: (Default)
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole yesterday when I dug into -- don't laugh -- my archive of grad school poetry. Well, okay, laugh. I was so chipper and naive and the poems are so earnest and trying so hard. They're better than my junior high poetry but only in certain light. Some of them are actually good. Or they would be if they had been able to live and breathe within a matrix of expectations on equal footing with the literary canon.

My whole Twitter epiphany was graciously collected by Charles A. Tan (no relation) on Storify:



The gist of the thread is this: my grad school poetry professor couldn't see that there was a contradiction for those of us who weren't white, straight males when told that we had to write "universal" themes in our poems that could be understood implicitly without having to be "explained". In his view, if someone couldn't understand your implicit message it was because it was a bad poem, and if you had to make it too explicit that was also a bad poem. By extension the messages that could be received most implicitly were "literary" ones. In other words, if it was about a white man's alienation after an act of war (for example), the reader should "get" that even if war was never mentioned explicitly in the poem. The problem is that if the implicit message is something that is "universal" within a marginalized community--for example, internalized homophobia--those who have never experienced it won't "get" it. And rather than admit that there are things outside their experience, the literary establishment instead brands those topics as marginal, and only lauds their appearance when they make themselves accessible to the literary mainstream.

Short version: "literary" is a worldview that centers academia, particularly white male upper middle class academia. At the time I just didn't have the perspective to see that. "Literary" equals "laudable" in MFA programs. It's a self-reinforcing system.

I quit writing poetry because for me to perform the same artistry would require my poems to exist in a context where the implicit things that didn't have to be "explained" were things like internalized homophobia, questioning cultural identity, and code switching. And that context didn't seem to exist. My poems were "meaningless" to the literary establishment, and I had plenty of things to write instead, in other contexts. (Come to think of it, founding the English language's only erotic science fiction publishing house in 1992 was me creating my own context for my fiction.)

This introspection was all brought on by the fact that Sheela Lambert of the Bi Writers Association -- the editor of Best Bisexual Short Stories (Circlet, Amazon) and the driving force behind the Bi Book Awards -- is editing a book of "bisexual poetry." (Call for submissions here.) I'm bisexual and I figured I would look and see if there was anything obviously "bisexual" about my poetry from back in the days when I wrote poetry. If. Ha. "If."

In fact, lo, I went back and saw that a ton of my angsty metaphor-laden poems from the early 1990s are now, in retrospect, quite obviously about internalized homophobia and/or about being caught between communities, even if not a single person in my poetry workshops (including me, sometimes) could articulate that. But I wonder if these poems will read "properly" if they were to be published in a book with a bisexual or queer context? I guess I will submit them and see.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Bear did a gorgeous G1 to G3 update of one of the original Flutter Ponies and you can see her right here on Ebay:

OOAK MORNING GLORY

She is GORGEOUS and I am so proud of my Bear for doing such a wonderful job!

Please bid if you are so inclined, but absolutely, PLEASE share this link around. We are trying to pay off about 2k in debt right now from medical stuff and unavoidable car expenses.

Here is a post on Tumblr if you want to boost us there!

Morning Glory 1

More pics under the cut!

Read more... )

I am so proud of Bear for doing such a beautiful job!  That cutie mark is friggin' gorgeous and I love it so much!

I LOVED the Flutter Ponies as a kid, and to see Morning Glory updated so lovingly is magical to me.

Please help spread the word! <3
conuly: (Default)
1. "What's your Kryptonite?" Does everybody know about this little weakness? I mean, I can see the overt baddies knowing, but how widespread is this information? Isn't that the sort of thing you want to keep hush-hush?

2. The look on everybody's face when they found out the deceased was a huge gossip was hilarious. Read more... )
rydra_wong: A dancer (Anie Hanauer) crouches in a performance by Candoco. She has a prosthetic arm. (body -- annie)
Because I was looking for dance things on YouTube the other day and was reminded of this -- here's the "Believe" dance from DV8 Physical Theatre's The Cost of Living:



The second piece in that clip doesn't (IMHO) work as well out of context, but it reminded me of the awesomeness of David Toole -- I went looking and found a whole short piece he did with the mighty CandoCo Dance Company. It is very '90s modern dance TV, and I say this with love (everyone wears shift dresses and big boots, etc.), but it will meet your queer disability-inclusive sexay tango needs:

CandoCo: Outside In

Backups baaackuuups

2017-04-25 13:03[personal profile] xtina
xtina: (Default)
Note to self: Have you done a backup today? Of anything at all? To anywhere at all?

Signal boost

2017-04-25 04:43[personal profile] conuly
conuly: (Default)
Anybody in the Baltimore area want a cat? She needs to be an only cat, but she sounds like a sweetie. Disabling comments here - if you're interested, leave your comment there.
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
(Click any photo for a larger version!)

Hello, internet! I'm Thea. Here I am in my favorite spot (somebody's lap):

Thea in my lap looking up at the camera sleepily

I'm a female dilute calico, and the vet and the vet dentist think I'm about five years old. I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, but it's cold and lonely out there and I like people too much, so now I need a forever home! I'm an absolute sweetheart who'll be in your lap or draped over your shoulder the minute I meet you, but there's one catch: I need to be an only cat.

Thea asleep up against my legs

More about me! And more pictures! )

Does it sound like you could be my human? If so, leave a comment with your email address, and the humans will get in touch with you. (Or, you can email [personal profile] synecdochic at synecdochic@dreamwidth.org.) Anonymous comments are allowed; you don't need a Dreamwidth account. I'm in Baltimore right now, and the humans would prefer somebody within a few hours' drive or somebody who's willing to come pick me up themselves, but if you're the absolute right person to take me in, they're willing to talk about flying me to you, especially if you can pay for some or all of the costs. (Having all my teeth pulled wasn't cheap!) [EDIT: The humans have a friend who might be able to put a flight on frequent flyer miles for me, so they're willing to escort me outside the immediate area for the right home!]

I'm looking forward to finding someone I can help with everything, drape on top of, and sleep on!

(Please share this with your friends! For the first round of looking we'd prefer not much further than friends-of-friends, because we'd like to know the people she's going to or know someone who knows them, but if the first efforts don't pan out, we'll try again with a wider reach. We also already know the rescue organization we'll turn to if we can't find her a home through word of mouth, so you don't need to research rescue options for us!)

(no subject)

2017-04-24 23:01[personal profile] staranise
staranise: Jane Bennet does her sister Elizabeth's hair. (From the 2005 Pride and Prejudice) ([personal] Bennet sisters)
A few thoughts about Jane Austen's Persuasion:

Spoilers )
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
Still sick. This is so boring. A couple of writing-related things:

1. My poem "The Firebird's Revenge" is now available in the latest issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone. I wrote it last April for Rose Lemberg. It was an angry poem then. It's even more applicable now.

2. My short story "And All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts" has been reviewed along with the rest of Dreams from the Witch House (ed. Lynne Jamneck, 2016) in a recent episode of Steve Rosenstein and Rodney Turner's Microphones of Madness. I am afraid that I did not really work out Punnett squares for my ideas of Innsmouth genetics—my major departure from canon was in treating them as genetics at all when Lovecraft's universe plays by the supernatural one-drop rule—but I am delighted by the podcast's conclusion that there is real cosmic horror in the characters' awareness of the world they cannot live in, because I thought so, but then I've always wanted gills. The comparison to Ruthanna Emrys' "The Litany of Earth" is fair; I held off on reading that particular story until I had finished my own, but I am in no way going to disclaim the tons of other neo-Lovecraftian influence and I am not surprised that the genocide aspects of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" leap out at Jewish readers (I am aware that the opening lines about "the secrecy surrounding the disposal of the prisoners . . . vague statements about disease and concentration camps, and later about dispersal in various naval and military prisons" would not have carried quite the same historical weight when Lovecraft was writing in 1931 as they would acquire in hindsight of the next decade and a half, but I didn't read the story in 1931 or even 1936 and so here we are). Honestly, I wish I could get this story reprinted as an independent pamphlet or something just so I could use "Melancholy" as a blurb.

3. I read a story I really enjoyed—Jenn Grunigen's "Figs, Detached"—and saw afterward that I was name-checked in the Author Spotlight. Which was just a bonus.

I wish I did not feel so terrible. I don't see what the harm would be.

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