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I feel like I'm living in some sort of perpetual electoral purgatory [Apr. 18th, 2017|10:34 pm]
I am someone who's a total politics junkie. I watch BBC Parliament, and not just when I'm too delusional with fever to remember how to change the channel; I follow the elections of countries I don't live in; I vote in every election in which I am eligible with a song in my heart, because isn't democracy great!

And even I greeted the announcement that there's to be a snap general election with an "...oh, for fucks's sake", shortly followed by a grumpy, Scottish "so it's not the time for indyref2, is it? I see what you did there, May."

I think the reason I was okay, although not thrilled, about the prospect of a second independence referendum was that at least there I could see the possibility of an outcome I wanted: Sottish independence. What's the best possible outcome of this new election? A slightly smaller than expected Tory landslide?

I was pleased to see people calling bullshit on May's stated reason for calling the election. The opposition are threatening to derail the brexit process? Except Labour last opposed anything about eighteen months ago, and have voted through all of your brexit legislation with nary a whimper. The Lib Dems are threatening "to grind the government to a halt". Really, are they? All eight of them? Gosh, that's impressive. And I see we're back to the tactic of using Nicola Sturgeon as some sort of tartan menace with which to frighten English voters. De-fucking-lightful.

And who to vote for? On the one hand, I couldn't agree more that Labour is fucked until they figure out how to win seats in Scotland again, on the other hand I don't want to do anything that makes them think I endorse Corbyn's continued leadership. You know, I was fucking delighted when Corbyn won the party leadership the first time, but it hasn't worked; the horse is dead, stop whipping it. I wasn't wild about Owen Smith either (oh, Angela Eagle, we hardly knew ye) but at least he wasn't Corbyn.

I kind of understand the thinking of the Corbyn wing of the party, that the message is more important than the messanger. But not when the messenger is Jeremy Corbyn. He's one of those politicians where I agree with absolutely everything he says, right up until he says it. Look at that thing where he sat on the floor of that train; even if you're not in favour of renationalising the railways, the people receptive to the argument that the trains are overcrowded, overpriced, and badly run should be you, me, and everyone who's been on a peak time train since 1994. But his stunt was so poorly stage managed that it almost made you want to side with Virgin Trains.

Maybe a sufficiently bad drubbing will finally convince Corbyn to give up the ghost, but the questions then become, 1) will there be any public services left to defend come 2022, and 2) who would replace him? Especially now that we seem to have decided that anyone who voted for the Iraq War (who are 95% of those qualified), regardless of their current position on it, is a non-starter. But if we've taken nothing else from the US elections, surely we should take the lesson that there's little point being progressive if you can't get elected and actually make progress; your moral purity might keep you warm at night, but it does fuck all for anyone else.

I used to like the Lib-Dems. And, honestly, I thought they got unfairly pilloried for the coalition with Tories. A wee bit of pillorying was certainly called for, but wiping them out and returning the Tories with a majority seemed like cutting off your nose to spite your face; and everything the Tories have done in that last two years kind of lends credence to the Lib Dem story that they were hanging on to the good side of history with their fingertips. I do like that they are an unapologetically pro EU party, but I am iffy on Farron and his prevaricating on issues like abortion and gay rights. I think to vote for them I'd have to be willing to put brexit above all else, and I'm not there.

There's also the fact that I'm apparently a Scottish Nationalist now. I wasn't always. Even during the last referendum my attitude was one of, eh, I'll be fine if it happens, but either way is cool. It wasn't even brexit that made me a full on convert to the cause of independence, although that was the start of it. It was a few weeks ago during all that posturing in the direction of Spain over Gibraltar, when I finally went: I can't take any more of this government by Daily Mail, it's embarrassing, I just want to go.

The SNP have kind of a tough hand to play because they did so well in 2015 that they could win, and handily, but if they fall short of running the table it'll be seen as a loss and a reason that Scotland should just put up and shut up. So, toddle off and vote I shall.

Oh, well, I'll take cold comfort from the hope that the bottom has fallen out of the UKIP vote; most of its base having returned to their natural home in the cold, unfeeling arms of Theresa May's Tories.

Also, um, I have some new people here (also, old people from LJ!) Hi, hello! Here is more about my political leanings than you probably ever wanted to know.

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Books, etc. [Apr. 16th, 2017|11:12 pm]

The Wolf Road - Beth Lewis
Only Ever Yours - Louise O'Neill
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
A House Without Windows - Nadia Hashimi
The Mandibles - Lionel Shriver

You know that bit when you were reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and you thought, you know, I would be enjoying this book a lot more if it featured women and apostrophes?

Um, that may just have been me...

Anyway, The Wolf Road is really good. It's set post-apocalypse (the cold war turned hot) in which a young woman discovers the mysterious man who raised her is a serial killer, and goes on the run pursued by her past, a frontier lawman (law-woman?), and a semi-tame wolf. Along the way she rescues another young woman from dystopian sex-traffickers and discovers the meaning of friendship. So, yeah, this book is pretty much catered exactly for my id, and I really loved it a lot. Also, it's properly punctuated, so that's good too.

I got only Ever Yours as a job lot with Asking For It, like, a year ago, and then didn't read it because Asking For It fucked me up so much. While that one was a contemporary YA about the aftermath of a gang rape, this one was a dystopia where women (called Eves) are designed from scratch and raised to be either wives or concubines. It's like the world's most horrifying boarding school story. And as a straight dystopia it doesn't quite work, there are too many holes in it; the idea that female infanticide would reach such levels that women would simply stop conceiving female children is not how biology works, especially not over the course of a generation or three. But as a parable about how society treats teenage girls, and encourages them to treat themselves, it really does work.

So, yeah, whatever it loses for ill-thought out worldbuilding, it more than makes up in will-fuck-you-up-ness.

His Bloody Project is about a murder in a 19th century Highland crofting community, and if you like faux discovered historical documents and unreliable narrators this might just be for you.

A House Without Windows is set in Afghanistan, about a woman accused of the murder of her husband and the Afghan-American lawyer fighting to free her. And that plot was fine, but much more compelling to me were the scenes set inside the women's prison, where more than half the women were locked up for 'morality' crimes, and some of them had been turned in by their own families to keep them safe from so called honour killings. I really must find a book about that to read.

I read The Mandibles and holy mixed feelings, Batman! The first three quarters of it I really liked; it was set in 2029 and all about the catastrophic implosion of the US economy. Economic dystopias are fast becoming my favourites; I think because the best ones speak to what we're afraid of, and while I'm not afraid of nuclear winter, I am afraid of having to work till I'm almost ninety caring for people only a little older than myself.

But then the last hundred pages skipped another ten years into the future after there had been a partial recovery, and holy mackerel, did I change my tune. The problems I had with it were threefold:

-Firstly, I think it's safe to say that Lionel Shriver disagree on basically everything to do with taxation and redistribution of wealth. The part I found most objectionable was the idea that caring for the elderly and vulnerable is only worthwhile if it's on an individual charitable basis, and society wide safety nets are what's going to doom us all. Oh, fuck off.

-Secondly, Shriver's obvious self-insert character, who had been fun up to that point, saved the day and lived to one hundred and three. Ugh.

-And thirdly, in the flash forward people have to have a chip implanted under their skin to use like a credit card; and there's a really gross and overwrought comparison between that procedure and sexual assault. And, like, that's one of my hard no's in fiction. You know what's like being raped? Being raped, and literally nothing else. I'm not saying that other experiences can't be as bad or even worse, I'm just saying that those experiences should find their own word.

So, yeah, Lionel Shriver? Start and stop at We Need to Talk About Kevin.

As for what I'm going to read next... my TBR is looking a little listless. Anyone read any good books lately?

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telly [Apr. 8th, 2017|10:31 pm]
It was the first really lovely day of the year where I've been off, so I decided to take the dog and go properly hiking for the first time since last autumn. And, eesh, I'm wrecked. That diet of sad cakes and scotch I've been on since early November (...for some reason) has not been good for me. At least I'm not alone; the dog is pooped too, and probably one opposable thumb away from calling the RSPCA to report me for cruelty to excessively lazy dogs.

Anyway, now that I've proved my point that I do sometimes go outside and get some fresh air, honest, lets talk about telly.

Doctor Who starts next Saturday and, eh. I've mostly enjoyed Capaldi's run, and I really liked Twelve and Clara together, but I kind of wish I'd properly bowed out when Clara got to run off in a TARDIS of her own. I was unimpressed with the last couple of specials, even by the standards of Christmas specials. Also those seasons where the current Doctor has a run of episodes with his successor's companion, so that we're not replacing two beloved characters at once, are rarely among the show's best work. Exhibit A: Eleven and Clara, which accomplished little more than making me hate Eleven, and giving Clara a lot of work to do to redeem herself as a character. But I do wish, for when they start talking about the show's ratings, because they always do, that there was a wee form letter that you could send to the BBC:

Dear BBC, I have stopped watching your Saturday evening show, Doctor Who, this is not because you have included a lesbian companion, which I think is awesome, but almost entirely because you have included Matt Lucas as a backdoor companion, which I think is cheating and shite.

Oh, well. Speaking of time travel shows: Legends of Tomorrow finished its second season this week, and I am genuinely shocked by how delightful I've been finding it. It's my favourite show of 2017, easy. If you're like me and you noped out of the pilot because of how silly it was and how seriously it seemed to take itself, I recommend checking back in with season two; it's gotten sillier, and better yet, it knows it. I recommend the episode with the confederate zombies, or the one where the team travels back to an anachronistic Camelot seemingly solely so that the show can make a Lancelot pun out of the fact that their bisexual female protagonist's name is Sara Lance.

I am such a hypocrite about Sara, because I like that she's bisexual, and I love that the show calls her bisexual. But, really, all I want from her is her fuckboy adventures through time kissing historical ladies and single-handedly causing the witch trials by fucking all the girls in Salem. It's part of the reason I'm glad that Captain Cold's not on the team any more, because I thought maybe they were going to do that thing with bi female characters where she can kiss ladies, sure, but only ever have meaningful relationships with dudes; the other reason is that something about Wentworth Miller's delivery as Leonard Snart grated on me for some reason, and it's not that he was chewing the scenery; everyone is, and it's brilliant.

I actually really liked the cast shakeup in S2, and that Rip wasn't in a lot of it; there was something about the casting of Arthur Darvill and the costuming with the long brown coat that was a bit how close to Doctor Who can we go before we're edging onto copyright infringement? Plus, Captain Hunter's enforcement of minimum standards of competency was kind of ruining all the fun. The Legends are at their best when they're both the cause of and the solution to all of time's fuck ups.

I have lots of oh captain, my captain feelings about Sara, and lots of feelings in general about Mick; but mostly I just love everyone in this bar.

I am quite a few episodes behind with Supergirl, and will probably wait till the end of the season to catch up, if I do. Part of the reason I'm thinking of noping out of the show is that I read that they want to make season three even more easily crossed over with the rest of the Arrowverse, and I don't watch Arrow or the The Flash, I don't want to watch them, and I kind of resent the feeling that she showrunners are trying to foist all of them onto me as a job lot. The other reason is, yes, there have been things I've liked about season two...

Alex's coming out story, and everything about her relationship with Maggie, has been perfect; I really appreciated that they did a coming out story with a (relatively, I suppose) older character, when they could quite easily have said that Alex was always gay and it just wasn't mentioned n S1. Winn, also, is delightful.

But the pacing has been iffy to say the least; and I'm, er, not sold on the Kara/Mon-El romance. It's irksome because Mon-El is a perfectly charming tertiary character, and whenever he's not being written as a love interest he's funny and lovely, and if their relationship had been written with that humour and lightness of touch I would have been fine with it. But their romance is stilted and awkward and written with a weirdly heavy hand. I don't know if they're going for some sort of star crossed Romeo and Juliet thing, but what's coming across is the network is making us do this; it doesn't help that Chris Wood is one of the most CW looking actors I have ever seen; it's the jaw line.

And while I'm not enjoying the relationship, I'm also not enjoying the fandom hate of it. There's been a lot of trying to match their scenes up against those 'how to know if you're in an abusive relationship' checklists thing that people do. And sometimes those people are making valid points, and a lot of the time it's like they're trying to score points in some never ending fandom slugfest that no one's ever going to win.

It's my least favourite part of tumblr fandom; you can't just not like a show, ship, or character; you have to armchair psychiatrist why no one else should like it either.

On a happier note, I am watching Grace & Frankie, and wish to know why no one told me how delightful it is? I am going to ration the third season because I'm hoping it will see me through until Brooklyn Nine-Nine comes back from the war. Does anyone know when that's going to be?

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Books [Mar. 29th, 2017|12:53 pm]

I know it's been yonks since my last reading post, but in my defence The Wall of Storms is, like, nine hundred pages long.

The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean
The Wall of Storms - Ken Liu
We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire - Jules Grant
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens - Jack Weatherford
Certain Dark Things - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Sarah MacLean's historical romances are hit and miss for me, and The Rogue Not Taken was definitely a miss. The first time I read that her new series was going to be a sort of Kardashians Regency AU (the heroines are all scandalous sisters whose first initial is S) I went '...eh, I'm not sure that's going to work', and at least in this one, it didn't. It features one of those irksome couples who insist on not communicating for two hundred pages, because if they actually talked to each other the book would only be twelve pages long. The heroine is upset about being rich and titled, and just wants to run a small bookshop in the Cumbrian countryside, which I think is meant to be relatable but was just insufferable. The Hero is named King (King, for God's sake) you have to have a certain sort of charm and gravitas to pull off a name like King, and this dude did not have it in spades. Give it a pass, I'd say.

The Wall of Storms is the follow up to The Way of Kings which I'd read when it first came out and had only been 'eh' on. I'd really loved the prose and silkpunk worldbuilding, but I'd had pretty big issues with its handling of female characters, which had been, um, tokenistic. I feel like whatever criticism of The Way of Kings' female characters there was, Liu really took it to heart, because The Wall of Stoms is orders of magnitude better on that front. There is a running subplot about the emperor trying to arrange the pieces on the board to enable him to name his daughter his heir; one of the pov characters is a young female scholar and it shows the institutional hurdles she faces even though the emperor has said, 'sure, women can sit the palace examinations.' Plus, a little more than half the way through vikings attack on vegetarian dragons, so that's cool. I mean, it's long and pretty dense, but I'd rate it as one of the better epic fantasies on the go at the moment.

We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire is about lesbian gangsters in Manchester, and is a hell of a fun read, about friendship and revenge and being irresistible to most of the women in the north of England. Okay, there are some stylistic choices that I didn't necessarily grok; it's a very tight first person, and why do you hate speech marks so much, Jules Grant? But it's about lesbian gangsters, so I'm willing to overlook that stuff.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is my favourite sort of history; the secret history of women. It's about the female descendants of Genghis Kahn, at least the ones who survived being excised from the historical record. I particularly enjoyed reading about Queen Manduhai, who took her boy husband to war in a box, and despite this ignominious beginning they seemed to have a long and happy marriage. More broadly, it was another illustration of the journey of women through history being one of one step forward, half a dozen steps back.

I finished Certain Dark Things last night after staying up past my bedtime because I was enjoying it that much. It's the first vampire book I've read in forever where my reaction wasn't 'ugh, bored.' I think maybe the only genre harder to make feel fresh is zombies? It's set in an AU version of Mexico City in a world where various species of vampires were discovered by humanity in the late sixties. A seventeen year old trash picker falls in with an Aztec vampire on the run (the native species of Mexican vampires trace their lineage back to the Aztecs, but they're being pushed out by an invasive species of European vampires.) The friendship, turned romance is actually very sweet. It helps that the boy is the human and the girl the vampire rather than the usual other way round, and that the age difference is seventeen to twenty-three, which, yeah, is significant, but it's not seventeen to three hundred. Also, there's a genetically engineered doberman, and it's just really good. Highly recommended.

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Well, that was thirteen episodes of television that I... watched [Mar. 25th, 2017|07:35 pm]
I was seven episodes into Iron Fist before io9 published their helpful summary of what happens in case you were only watching for Defenders related reasons, and in the self-defeating spirit of 'I've started so I'll finish' I carried on to the bitter end.

I mean, I like bad telly. I loved Lost Girl, I like Wynonna Earp, and I even liked the couple of episodes of syfy's girl Van Helsing that I saw. But I feel like those are shows that know they're bad telly, they lean in to the fact that they're bad telly. Iron Fist is bad telly that labours under the misapprehension that it's good telly.

You are the worst Iron Fist everCollapse )

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General Scottishness [Mar. 14th, 2017|10:54 pm]
Scotland was having a pretty decent Six Nations and we got all excited for the England fixture, which then... happened.

At half time my dog slid off the couch and puked her dinner all over the carpet; and, like, aw, pal, I know exactly how you feel. You know a game's going badly when you go: yup, I'm going to go clean up this dog vomit, because that sounds like more fun than continuing to subject myself to this match.

(The dog's fine, by the way. I just need to get her a slow feeder so she stops bolting her food. Not least because that's twice now I've had to sit up with her all night in case her dicky tummy turned out to be bloat and both she and my wallet had to be rushed to the vet hospital.)

Scotland's last match is against Italy in Edinburgh, and Italy's been having a shocker of a tournament so I feel a bit bad that the only way to salvage a bit of national sporting pride is to kick them when they're already down. On the other hand, I've already paid for my ticket, so get kicking, lads!


It looks like we're having a second independence referendum, about which I have, er, mixed feelings.

I was pro-independence last time, but in a sort of half-hearted, either result will be fine with me, type way. I was much more invested in, and upset by, the general election, Brexit, and Trump. I'm much more pro-independence now, admittedly not in a happy, optimistic way so much as my thinking is: Christ, let's just go already.

And that's the root of my ambivalence, because I don't think a second independence referendum can be won right now. I don't think Sturgeon wanted to call one, really. I think she wanted May to give her a teeny, tiny concession so that she could depart the field and call it a draw, but she backed herself into a corner, and so.

Don't get me wrong, I think the nationalists have a compelling narrative this time: Hard Brexit - Tories as far as the eye can see - The Maybot isn't likely to be handing out further devolved powers.

But I think the oil prices will always scupper them, because the counter-narrative 'Aye, and with what money?' seems pretty much unassailable.

One of my old school lefty mates, his stated reason for voting to remain in the UK last time was that with the loss of Not-England as a defining part of our national identity, Scottish politics would probably lurch to the right. And I think there's something in that; I've long suspected that the real reason UKIP never got a toehold north of the border wasn't so much the racism and xenophobia, alas, but that English nationalism doesn't play well up here.

On the other hand, freed of Corbyn drag and with the SNP no longer able to distract from their failings by going: ...but, England, Scottish Labour might wake up.

God, I don't know. But at least our own home grown brouhaha will distract me from what ever the fuck is going on across the Pond; there's only so much about Nixon a girl can read.

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Things Real and Fic-y [Mar. 3rd, 2017|10:51 pm]
1. You know how I was talking about my best friends going through the adoption process, well, their wee boy (my atheist godson!) came home at the start of February and I got to meet him this week, hurrah!

Honestly, I haven't had that much fun since I was three; none of my grown-up friends want to stage elaborate fake swordfights with me using stuffed dinosaurs as weapons. Plus, I was reminded of all sorts of important things that you forget when you're a grown-up, such as when out and about it is important to keep one's eyes peeled for dragons and gruffalos.

I'd got his dad a Deadpool graphic novel for his Christmas, and the wee man had found it and become completely enamoured with it. Luckily, he's only three so can't really read yet, and there was nothing too inappropriate in the panels. Still, the kid was asking and asking for the story to be read to him. And my friend, in a remarkable display of procrastination, had said 'Your Auntie Gillian will read it to you when she comes to visit,' and hadn't told me about it until I'm having this Deadpool book shoved into my hand to a chorus of 'Read it! Read it! Read it!' So there I was trying to make up a story that sort of fit with the pictures but was suitable for little ears. And that's how I spent my afternoon making up fanfiction on the fly about Deadpool and Abraham Lincoln rescuing a bunch of chimpanzees from a hungry dinosaur, in space.

He's a cracker, this kid. I'm going to pick up some slightly more kid friendly comics for him. Miles Morales was my first thought, but his approach to life is currently very smashy, so maybe She-Hulk, too. I'm getting the indoctrination started young.

I'm taking him for a day this weekend, too. A little bit to help out my friends who are understandably shellshocked, sudden acquisition of a three year old and all, but mostly because I just found out that if you are in charge of a small human you're allowed in the fun bits of soft play areas.

2. I've been staying with my dad this week, because my mum's away and she'd asked me to stay in the house to look after the dogs. I think it'll explain a lot about my parents marriage if I tell you that my dad pretends to not to like the dogs and ignores them when my mum's around, and yet I kept walking into rooms to find him feeding them pork crackling. So me and my dog packed up and returned to the nest for a week.

Mum's dogs are beautifully trained, and Freya is... not. To be fair, she sits, and shakes paws, and comes when called, and all that jazz; I just have slightly different (read: no) standards when it comes to things like her being allowed on the furniture, sleeping on the bed, and begging for food. My mum is totally appalled that I let the dog sleep on my bed, she says it's not hygienic, to which I have that Eddie Izzard response (I'm an adult now; it's my toaster...)

Unfortunately rather than rising to the standards of mum's dogs, Freya dragged Errol and Flynn down to hers (yes, my mother really did name her dogs Errol and Flynn; yes, on purpose.) So by Wednesday night I was sleeping in a single bed with no fewer than three dogs. I think at least some of you will agree that my getting up for work on Thursday was an act of heroism.

But, god, there's some sort of when-the-cat's-away thing that happens when I stay with dad without mum; we've been living off pizza and beer all week, it's like being on vacation in the world weirdest fraternity.

3. I lost the use of one of my arms for a couple of days this week, too. So, that was fun. I face planted on a sheet of black ice and landed really awkwardly on one shoulder. And that would have been fine, except all three of the dogs ran over to investigate. And Freya, in an uncharacteristic attempt to defend my honour, decided the other two dogs were too close to me and went bananas.

So there I am, sitting on a sheet of ice, a small labrador staging some sort of 300 level siege warfare from my lap, raising the arm I can still lift to wave at passersby. "Hi! Everything's fine!"

4. I have been writing fics - slowly, sometimes with one hand - and I ended up writing two fics for the person that 'won' me in the fandomtrumpshate auction.

They Want To Make Me Their Queen (The 100, Clarke/Lexa, 9k, Role Reversal AU)

Clarke smoothed the fall of the long coat over Lexa's shoulders and straightened her collar.

"Leksa kom Skaikru," she said with a soft, almost fond smile.


The one where all the Grounders are Sky People, and all the Sky People are Grounders.

I ended up feeling a little weird about this, because I don't watch the show anymore, and ship Clarke/Lexa so little that I had to rewrite huge chunks of this because I got to the bit where they were supposed to kiss, couldn't make it work, and realised I'd accidentally been writing it as a Lexa/Anya fic, so I had go back and be sure to add bits where Lexa actually noticed Clarke. Oops.

The Werewolves of Liechtenstein (The Checquy Files, Myfanwy/Shantay, 3k)

"Is this or is this not a seduction?"

"Not a good one."

"Are you kidding? I got to punch Thatcher's ghost in the face."

This one I loved writing, and I think it shows. It was a great excuse to reread The Rook. It reminded me that one of the things I find most charming about those books, and the reason they get past my no-urban-fantasies-set-in-London filter, is that they read like they were written by the sort of person who back in the day never got their Harry Potter fic britpicked.

I mean, it's adorable, but with the best will in the world there's no such place as downtown Stoke-on-Trent.

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Books [Jan. 29th, 2017|11:12 pm]

Tempting though it's been to spend the last few weeks opening 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale at random pages and going: Oh, God, I have done a wee bit of other (mostly escapist) reading.

The Regional Office is Under Attack! - Manuel Gonzales
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
Invasive - Chuck Wendig
Mort(e) - Robert Repino
The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: the true story of a convent in scandal - Hubert Wolf

At first glance The Regional Office is Under Attack! should have been so very much in my wheelehouse. There's a top secret agency of super-powered women saving us all from the forces of darkness! There's a splinter group of super-powered women! One of the main women has a metal arm! It's basically Die Hard with super-powered ladies! There's an exclamation mark in the title!

But, alas. It does that annoying thing where it pretends to be about women, but all the female characters are motivated/manipulated by a dude. The characterisations are thin, and I mean thin even by the standards of a Die Hard pastiche. The writing is, in places, just... not very good. I mean, the Regional Office itself seemed really cool, and there was an afterthought of a subplot where a character got taken over by her metal arm, and - it was like this book chose to tell the least interesting of all possible stories in the world it had created.

Luckily The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was much better. Okay, there wasn't much of a plot to speak of, it's basically a found family/group of misfits in space, but I didn't care because it was one of those books where I would have been more than happy to read about these characters doing not very much and bouncing off each other forever. There are great characters, fun worldbuilding, interesting aliens, and a lesbian romance featuring a human and a lizard alien; it was basically Jenny and Vastra IN SPACE. I can't overemphasise how much fun this was.

Invasive is about weaponised ants, because however bad things seem right now at least the ants aren't attacking. It's really fast-paced and fun, but maybe don't read it if you're afraid of insects, because I'm not at all and some of the bits about the sensation of insects crawling on your skin made even me squirm.

Mort(e) is also about an ant attack. In this the Ant Queen has been plotting war against humanity for thousands of years, and as part of her plan she gives housepets sentience in the hope that they'll rise up and kill their human masters. It's worth noting that while reading this I actually turned to my dog and earnestly said: "I love you very, very much, please don't kill me in the event of the insect uprising. Also, please remember that I gave you this rich tea biscuit even though you're not meant to have person food."

Also, in addition to sentience, the animals also get to be bipedal with opposable thumbs, and understand the use of semiautomatic weapons. I mean, it's mad as fuck, but it does that thing that some truly ridiculous books can, where they overshoot their silliness and come out the other side at really quite good, actually.

Sometimes I can be heard to complain about how hard it can be to talk to people on Tumblr, and it is, but one evening I managed to get involved a conversation that went from whether or not or I should write a La Maupin AU, to my own lapsed Catholicism, to Celtic FC, to people sending me recs for books about nuns, which was how The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio came to my attention.

It's non-fiction about a nineteenth century Roman convent, featuring the attempted murder of a German princess by a nun, several other murders, lesbian initiation rites, and the ensuing cover up by the Catholic church. It was certainly a book where I had to readjust my expectations partway into the book, because I went into it expecting, I guess, 19th century nuns gone wild, and what I got was much dryer and sadder. I mean, it's interesting, especially if you have even a passing interest in religious history, but it's not salacious in the way the summary makes it sound.

Although, because the more things change the more they stay the same, I really enjoyed this quote from around the time of the First Vatican Council and the Dogma of Papal Infallibility: "Stupidity and fanaticism join hands and dance the tarantella, making such a caterwaul that one cannot bear to look or listen." Because, yeah.

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What. Is. Happening. [Jan. 22nd, 2017|10:57 pm]
So, they inaugurated Trump. And, like, because my brain has spent two and half months doing the Signal Not Found thing at the very notion of President Donald Trump I didn't realise how much denial I'd been in. That on some level I'd been assuming that it wouldn't actually happen, that something so catastrophically damaging that he'd be forced to stand down would come to light, or that he'd be caught on camera taking off his person suit like in that episode of The Simpsons (what, they were right about the presidency.)

It turns out that blind refusal to accept reality doesn't work, who knew.

Speaking of abject refusal of objective fact, I wonder how long it'll take to discover what the Trump people were trying to distract from by screaming about the inauguration numbers. I suspect that the next four years are going to be a good time to bury the lede; even today in the UK the headline was PATHOLOGICAL LIAR LIES, and way, way down in second place was THAT TIME WE NEARLY NUKED FLORIDA AND FORGOT TO TELL ANYONE, LOL.

Speaking of our vainglorious leaders, Theresa May seems to have decided to drive us all off the Brexit cliff edge, apparently emboldened by the way Donald Trump decidedly didn't promise Michael Gove a trade deal. I can almost enjoy the irony that the selfsame people who were screaming British sovereignty! at the top of their lungs are now so eager to hurry us into our inevitable future as Airstrip One, then I remember that this is really happening.

And Nicola Sturgeon, despite her almost heroic efforts to avoid saying the words: 'second independence referendum' out loud or in the vicinity of any recording devices, has backed herself into a corner where she either has to call a second referendum that she probably can't win or be seen as totally ineffective when it comes to dealing with the Tories over Brexit.

I voted for independence last time, and maybe I'm just that much more cynical now, but I feel like the choice right now would be between being Cold Greece inside the EU or a wholly owned subsidiary of Little England and by extension the Trump Corporation outside it. I mean, I know what I'd chose, but still.

In conclusion, Dear Talisker distillery, take all my money, send scotch.

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Dog Name Meme [Jan. 14th, 2017|07:21 pm]
I mildly suspect that in its original form this meme was about baby names...

1) What would/did you name your first [dog]?

Cyril. After which I was banned from naming the family pets.

2) What do you think makes a good name for a [dog]?

Human names that have fallen into disuse. This is why I have had dogs called Cyril, Eustace, and Vera, and why I seriously considered calling Freya Brunhilda (Hilda for short).

3) What do you think makes a bad name for a [dog]?

Anything you'd be too embarrassed to scream at the top of your lungs as a dog disappears into the middle distance.

4) What's a name that you love, but would never give a [dog]? Why?

Patrick. As in: Pat-the-Dog. I'll show myself out.

5) Did you do a good job naming your [dog]?

I failed with my out of fashion human names for dogs with Freya, as it turns out that there actually are a lot of little girls called Freya running around Scotland. On the other hand I did get the world's cutest three year old toddling up to ask what the doggy's name was, and when I told her the doggy was called Freya, her eyes went as wide as golf balls as she went: ...that's my name.

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