One of the things I did get done yesterday between work, the ball game, and the Epic Sunburn, was finish a slim book of short stories called A City Equal to My Desire by James Sallis. This wasn’t a book that was recommended to me, which means I don’t have to feel bad about truly disliking it. I found it in a keyword search on the library website for books about ukuleles, and it has a short story called Ukulele And The World’s Pain, which admittedly was one of the better stories in the book despite still not being very good.
From what I can tell, he did pick the best story out of the book to develop into a novel, “Drive”, but it is very obviously unfinished in short-story form. Sallis has a couple of ongoing problems in the short story collection, one of which is that he tends to skip the vital information you need in order to know what the fuck is going on. And not in a “the blanks slowly get filled in” way, or in a “your imagination is more terrible” way (though there is a little of that) but just in a way where like…he says something that you understand to be vital to the story but which is missing context, then spends like a page describing the fucking diner someone’s sitting in, and by then any context forthcoming doesn’t get linked back. It’s like being in the middle of a paragraph when you hit the photo plates in an older book – yes the photos are very interesting thank you but I need to finish the thought you were sharing with me before I go back and look at them. I think maybe he thinks this is challenging the reader but it’s not, it’s just annoying and makes what are otherwise interesting premises totally opaque. I shouldn’t need to work this hard for a story about a hit man who decides not to kill a politician.
If the book had a more cohesive theme in terms of the stories, it might be more readable – he clearly enjoys building worlds and then doesn’t quite know what to do with them once he’s built them, so if this was an entire book of “weird and different worlds” ala Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I would buy in more fully and I think he would have put a little more elbow in. But it’s not. It’s mostly “here’s a really interesting world and a person living in squalor in it does something while being in it”. Also he appears to be fascinated by describing things that are shaped like pi. And a lot of times it feels like he read a wikipedia article on something and wanted to share some knowledge, so he just kind of built a half-assed story around his wikiwander.
And all of this I would probably let go if say, it was something I was noticing in a fanfic writer, or someone who was just starting out, or someone I felt was genuinely trying to get a point across. But there’s this inexplicable sense of arrogance to the collection, a sort of smugness to it that in professional writers drives me up the goddamn wall. Stephen King sometimes falls into the same trap, where it feels like the author believes they don’t have to respect their readers because they are The Writer.
The thing about volumes of short stories is that you keep reading it because sometimes there is a real gem. And there are one or two good stories in the volume, but I don’t know if they’re worth the rest of it.
So my review I guess is mostly me being annoyed, but it boils down to “If you like short stories in the SFF Noir genre, give it a whirl, but if you’re bored with a story none of them get better, so feel free to skip to the next one.”
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It depends a bit on the weather, but I’m mostly packed, I’ve cooked food that’s currently waiting in the freezer, and I have acquired the third Diane Mott Davidson book to read.
The plan is to leave work early, catch the train to the campground, camp overnight, and in the morning hike out to a different train station further down the line, about a seven-mile trek, to do a longer endurance test than last weekend’s. Then I’ll catch the train home around noon on Saturday.
If something goes wrong, I can catch an evening train home on Friday until eight o’clock, or starting in the morning at 5:30, with little to no exertion. It’s pretty low-risk and I’m well stocked. I don’t have a sleeping pad, but my backpack has a partial one built-in, and I have one arriving tomorrow (though it might be too bulky, we’ll see). And honestly in this heat, I might just sleep on top of my sleeping bag in any case.
Worst case scenario, the campground has heated, lockable shower cubicles with nice big floors. I’ve slept on worse.
Caaaaaaamping! *jazz hands*
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I mean, the Greek gods were "born" and came to life in all kinds of weird and wacky ways. Athena, for example! Athena was Zeus' daughter with Metis (and very similar to Diana of Themyscira, in a lot of ways). How was Athena born? She sprang fully formed from Zeus's head! He was still her father and Metis her mother. A bunch of Zeus's other children were at least sometimes considered to have been born through means other than sexual reproduction. (Ares' mom may have gotten pregnant with him by eating the wrong lettuce leaf at the wrong time. Ares was still considered a child of Zeus.) The Greek gods just kind of went with the flow. The people involved in your creation (whether through sex or not) were your parents.
What I'm trying to say is, everything we are told in the movie could easily be true all at the same time: Hippolyta wants a daughter so she sculpted one out of clay and prayed to Zeus. Zeus wants a god-killer to take out Ares, and so he obliged her by flinging a lightning bolt her way or whatever, and bringing the baby to life. The Amazons know this, but what is most important to them? This is their Queen's daughter, their princess, the only child on the island, their Diana who was sculpted out of clay by her mother. What is most important to Ares? That Diana was brought to life by Zeus and is thus his daughter, and therefore Ares' sister, whether or not her birth fits into the standard "mommy and daddy have sex and nine months later a child is born" model that is the only way humans reproduce. Ares and Diana are not humans. They are Greek god and demigod. Ares, in particular, scorns humans, so why would he care about human definitions of parenthood and sibilinghood? Especially when he's trying to get Diana onside. "Come join the family" is a lot more compelling than "come join the dude you've been taught to hate all your life for all the horrible things he's done."
As for Diana? How does she consider herself? What is most important to her? That she is Hippolyta's daughter, sculpted from clay. Yes, she was brought to life by Zeus. Yes, that means that in the way the Greek gods thought, Zeus was her father. She acknowledges this tie. That means Ares is her brother. But I bet you that when you ask her how she was born, five minutes heart-to-heart with Ares on a battlefield doesn't overturn the fact that she is an Amazon and thinks like one. And therefore, unless you are specifically considering her role as god-killer, the fact that Hippolyta sculpted her from clay is far more important than Zeus's contribution.
Look at the battle between her and Ares. She doesn't really ... react much when Ares starts calling her his sister. She doesn't look, talk, or act like a person having a major identity crisis. She's just like, "okay, you want to call me sister, sure, fine, whatever, guess that fits too, let's get on with this." She doesn't react like "OMG, my mom LIED to me, everything I know about myself is a lie!" It's more in line with "oh, right, yeah, from your POV Zeus's contribution is the most important, whatever."
Ways to Give:
readera's partner, J, has been in the ER multiple times in the past three months, and their finances are very strained because of it. They're raising $300-$500 for transportation costs and medicine; you can read more and reblog here or give directly here.
sleepyheathen needs to make next month's rent and is selling items, offering commissions, accepting donations, and has an Amazon wishlist up. You can read more, purchase, or reblog here, or donate via paypal here.
tony-in-distress is trying to escape an abusive situation and hoping to take her siblings with her. She needs to raise enough money for a deposit on a safe house for her and her siblings to live in. You can read more and help out here.
Anon is raising funds to help a friend cover debt and pay for legal bills after her abusive husband took custody of their youngest son. You can read more and give here; unfortunately due to Australian law apparently they can't provide much information.
Sarah Sadat had to leave her job recently due to stress and is facing mounting medical bills for a failing kidney and previous hospitalization; she has surgery scheduled for next month, and is fundraising to help cover medical and other bills. You can read more and give to the fundraiser here.
ohstephyy was let go from a job three months ago and hasn't been able to get another one; there are also other costs coming up to cover. You can read more and reblog here; a paypal address is available at the post.
laurashapiro linked to a fundraiser for kuwdora, a talented vidder who is trying to become a professional editor. She has an opportunity for professional coaching from the editor of Burn Notice and Empire, but can't afford the expenses on her own. You can read more and help out here.
Anon linked to tiarasnteakettles who is looking for work as a harpist, including attempting to purchase a harp that would be a massive upgrade from her current instrument and allow her more freedom in performance. You can read more about her situation and reblog here, including links to her Patreon and online store and Paypal donation address.
rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.
News To Know:
Anon linked to wanderlust-anthology, an upcoming anthology of reimagined myths, legends, and folklore based on the theme Quests and Journeys. They are looking for creators for this anthology, which will be a full-color printed book with stories, comics, and artwork. You can read more at their tumblr or at the FAQ here; sign-ups close July 30th.
Riel is looking for a roommate in Austin, TX to share a townhouse; she and the other roommate (male) are both grad students, and they do have a cat. Riel is very fandom-friendly. Lease starts in August. You can check out the townhouse here and get in touch at ariellayendler at gmail.com.
And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
I sort of wish that I felt compelled to write Wonder Woman (2017) fic, or something in Mad Max: Fury Road, or even to continue on from the one story I started in The Martian fandom... but I think I'm mostly just content to reblog fanart and picspam and write a bit of meta in Wonder Woman tumblr about what a great story it is. I have no fic ideas, or no prolonged ones-- I think in large part because I feel like there are no "gaps" in the stories as told on screen. There are no significant plot holes, underdeveloped characters, or dissatisfying endings that I feel compelled to fix, and it's interesting to decide that that's why I write.
MMFR generated a lot of wonderful stories, and so did The Martian. I haven't stepped foot in any of the WW fic tags, and haven't been curious to. I guess I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of the movies qua movies because I was so thrilled walking away from them on first viewing that I don't want to go back and purposefully run a critical eye over things to try to find problems I'd then want to write about to fix. All three movies have wonderful, wonderful world-building, though, and I am very happy for the people for whom those stories have created a playground to write next chapters or what-ifs. For my part, though, I don't want to poke at the canon too hard.
I even haven't gone back and watched Star Trek Beyond-- it was so very good, compared to Into Darkness and even the first movie that I don't want to find out I was wearing rosy-colored goggles and missed some real problems; which made me realize that not long ago I was recommending two books ("A Country Year," Sue Hubbell, and "A Month in the Country," J.L. Carr) to someone going through her own divorce/midlife crisis-- but I also haven't reread those books since the first time I read them and they saved my life.
I probably should talk about this with my therapist, hmm? Being afraid to make things up on my own, or re-embrace something important and meaningful because I am afraid I will just mess it up again? Urgh, fandom, this is why you're a problem. You make me think too much.
Anyway, there are a lot of fics about, say, Bucky recovering from torture, or where his psychological recovery is a large part of the story. And one thing I've noticed is that the treatments for PTSD that people normally use are behind the times. Like, they'll have talk therapy, and maybe a therapy animal or journaling--and these are good and helpful--but there's been a LOT of research into trauma disorders and recovery in the last two decades, and a lot of developments of new treatments. Talk therapy is not the gold standard of what a cutting-edge therapist recommended by Tony Stark would use. It might well be part of the therapy, but not the whole of it. And Sam Wilson, working at the VA, would certainly know this as well. I am not a professional, but I have read enough of the top books on trauma to have some feel for the subject.
If you would like to incorporate some more current research, understandings, and techniques, the best place to start is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. He's got decades of experience and research dealing with combat vets, survivors of childhood abuse of every kind, and every sort of trauma you can imagine. The book is well-written and interesting and suitable for a non-specialist to read, and it covers the history of trauma in psychology and how we learned what we know today, along with some very interesting case studies. Best of all, the last few chapters are overviews of what he's found to be the most effective forms of treatment, including a brief overview of what the treatment is and their best guesses as to why it works, and then some examples of what's happened when he has used it or seen it used. (Also, it's fun how he burns the DSM-V and some of his colleagues. Like, there is SO MUCH SHADE, OH MY GOD.)
If you want some medical jargon to use in your fic, the place to start would be The Body Bears the Burden by Robert Scaer. Scaer is a neurobiologist, not a psychologist, and boy howdy can you tell in his writing. This one is a little more challenging, but it has a lot of medical stuff if you want to use that in your fic and wikipedia isn't doing it for you.