Friday, April 9, 2021

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

Hello, all! So, spoilers are, of course, a Big Deal, both in fandom and in culture as a whole. It's considered common courtesy to take care what you share about your favorite stories, to mark spoilers when you post about them online, and to ask permission before sharing spoilery info in a face-to-face conversation. In some cases, studios and creators have even published official reminders to their audiences to be careful about what they share. On every level, people take spoilers seriously. In fact, I would argue that they take them a little too seriously — that spoilers don't necessarily spoil your enjoyment of a story and fandom culture (and fandom creators) might need to take a collective chill pill when it comes to dealing with them.

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

  1. It's possible to fully enjoy a story while knowing all the spoilers (or all the major ones). Harry Potter, Fairy Tail, Critical Role — these are all stories I've gotten into after learning a lot of major spoilers. Storms, I knew every character who died in Harry Potter before I ever picked up the first book, and I'd heard summaries of half the story arcs and character backstories and character relationships in Fairy Tail months and years before I considered watching it. Knowing those spoilers didn't make me enjoy the stories any less. I watched Fairy Tail until I ran out of English episodes (it's one of only three TV shows I've actually watched sort of all the way through). And, yes, I did sort of drop off with Harry Potter — but my decision had nothing to do with what I knew or didn't know and everything to do with my feelings on certain tropes.
  2. Knowing spoilers can help you enjoy a story more in some cases. Let's talk about Critical Role. I got into this fandom through fanart, listening to the theme song (which showed up solo on my YouTube feed one day and is AWESOME, just FYI), and especially through fan-made animatics. As a result, I came in knowing . . . well, not the same level of spoilers I knew about Harry Potter, but still a lot of spoilers, including everything from the biggest events, reveals, and twists in the game to the best and funniest small moments in the story. And yet I've stuck with this show much, much longer than I've stuck with shows that I went into "clean." Why? Knowing the spoilers meant I'd already fallen in love with the characters, so I had more patience with them when they frustrated me. It meant I had a sense of anticipation and eagerness when I realized I was getting close to seeing one of those big moments for real or when I noticed something clearly foreshadowing or leading up to one of those big moments. And it meant I had twice the fun of seeing those small, fun moments — both the pleasure of watching the moment and the excitement of recognizing "Oh, that's the context for this!" In a sense, it's like having the best parts of both the first-time read/watch and the reread/re-watch at once.
  3. Too much focus on "no spoilers!" can lead to bad storytelling. Look. I love a good twist as much as anyone. I praise authors like Brandon Sanderson and Megan Whalen Turner for their ability to pull off massive twists that you don't see coming but make perfect sense in hindsight. But a trend I'm picking up on lately is that creators (especially TV/movie studios, especially Marvel) are focusing too much on making sure their audience never saw it coming. I have even heard — second- or third-hand, but the source was Tor.com, so it seems pretty reliable — that some recent shows had last-minute changes made because fans had guessed what was going to happen. But the problem with doing that is that now, all your foreshadowing is just red herrings . . . and your new twist may not have the support it needs to make sense. If you accept that sometimes, people will guess what's coming — if you accept that for many people, finding the clues and guessing what's going to happen five minutes or five pages in advance is part of the fun — your stories will be stronger.
  4. Too much emphasis on going in "clean" could make people think there's only one acceptable way to experience a story. This isn't something I've seen happen yet, but it seems like the logical progression of the current cultural attitudes. If fandom keeps obsessing over "No spoilers!" and going into a story "clean," it makes people think that the only way you can truly enjoy a story is if you know nothing about it except the blurb and maybe your friend's favorite character. Which, if you remember point #2, is nonsense. But if someone has that attitude, they're probably going to miss out on a lot of amazing works of storytelling because they accidentally were exposed to spoilery information and now they think it's ruined. But — look. Even if you don't agree with what I said earlier about spoilers improving your experience, you have to admit that there's more to a story than its big twists. Characters, world, themes — spoilers might affect your view of these a little, but they don't have to take away your ability to enjoy them.
  5. Obsession with no spoilers can hinder fans' ability to bring new people into the fandom. Of course, the other side of thinking people can only enjoy a story if they go in "clean" is that you have a much harder time talking about the story. And if you can't talk about the story, how are other people going to get into it? I watched Fairy Tail because my roommate had told me so much about it — careless of spoilers because at the time, I didn't watch anime, and I didn't plan to start — that I wanted to know more. I played Portal because some online friends kept making references to GLaDOS and neurotoxin and cake and I wanted to know what they were talking about. I read . . . well, a lot of books, quite frankly . . . because I'd seen people share favorite snippets or excerpts or fanfics, sometimes very spoilery ones, and was curious about the story they came from. If I hadn't seen or heard the spoilers, I wouldn't have experienced the stories. And that would've been a tragedy.

Obviously (I hope), I'm not saying that we should stop marking spoilers or that it's wrong to want to go into a story without knowing what happens. There are books that I do try to avoid spoilers for because I know half the excitement of the book is going to be the big twists. And I would never knowingly/willingly reveal spoilers to someone who I knew wasn't OK with hearing them. But I do think we need to consider if maybe, just maybe, spoilers aren't as big a deal as we've made them out to be.

What do you think about spoilers? Will knowing what's coming ruin your enjoyment of the story? Or do you agree that maybe we're putting a little too much energy and emphasis into not knowing them beforehand? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 2, 2021

March 2021 Doings!

 

Good morning, everyone! (Or afternoon, or evening, or night, or moment beyond the petty grasps of time, whenever you happen to be reading this.) Wordpress has permanently gotten rid of the Classic Editor, and I am mightily annoyed. Yes, there's the classic block in the block editor that functions the same way, but . . . it's a pure white workspace, y'all, and I am not digging it, even if it does look "clean" and "modern" and "minimally distracting." Give me back my sidebars, storm you! Anyway. All rants aside, March is gone, spring is upon us, and it's time to check in with a new round of Doings!

Writing!

  • Work on the TMS Sequel continues . . . slower than I'd like it to. I ended up having to rewrite Chapters 4, 5, and 7 more times than I thought I would, and though I'm very happy with the end result, it was a bit rough getting there. I've also been rearranging a lot of scenes, which means creating a timeline so I know what's happening when and who's getting how many POV scenes. (The result is that chapters/scenes from one plotline currently heavily outweigh those from the other plotline . . . which is unfortunate. But I'm also not sure I can do a lot about it because there's a lot more happening in the one than in the other. Hopefully they'll even out over time or I can think of something to add to the one.)
  • Anyway. I'm currently sitting at Chapter 15, and I've been averaging two chapters rewritten per week. I'd like to pick up that pace a little next month, but we'll see what happens. I'm trying to make some adjustments to make a certain element of the base fairytale fit better with the story, and it's . . . difficult.
  • On the D&D front, I've finished writing the one subplot, and now I just have finale stuff to put together! I think I'm getting back into the swing of this kind of writing, which makes me quite happy. My current big challenge is "How do I arrange events so the friendly NPCs who my players joined up with don't take over combat?" That's proving . . . interesting. And it's going to be even more important come the actual finale. But we'll figure it out.
  • (That said, I put the finishing adjustments on the details for part of the final boss encounter yesterday, and if it goes even vaguely like I hope it will, it's going to be so cool. I'm super excited.)

Reading!

  • March was a much lighter reading month than February. Part of that is that I didn't have as many snow days; part was that I had forgotten just why The Well of Ascension is my least favorite Mistborn book. It's still a really good book, but . . . it's hard to get through at times. (I also really dislike Zane.) Thus why I paused reading it a bunch of times to read other books.
  • On the upside, I did discover a new favorite series this month: Miss Sharp's Monsters by Suzannah Rowntree! I raved about the first book in the series, The Werewolf of Whitechapel, last Friday, so I won't repeat myself. But to summarize, it's mysteries and murders in an alternate late-Victorian England with a delicious storytelling style and a magnificent heroine, and I can't recommend it enough. Go read it. Seriously.
  • The other new release I read this month was the Wingfeather Tales anthology, which was a reread but still quite good. Again, I covered my thoughts on the book in a Friday 5s post, so I won't go into depth here. It's a good anthology, though I don't love every story in it.
  • Also in short story territory, I finally read H.L. Burke's fun short story "Ghosted," which was a nice twist on the haunted house trope. I can't say a lot without running up against spoilers, but I will say that I very much enjoyed the story.
  • Currently, I'm working through the Unicorn Anthology assembled by Peter S. Beagle (which is ok, but I may DNF because it's coming due at the library soon and I'm not sure I care enough about the rest of the stories to get it back out) and a Warbreaker reread, which is quite enjoyable. I've been meaning to reread this and Elantris for a bit, so I'm glad to finally get around to it. (Yes, I am going to finish my Mistborn reread, but I needed a break.)

Watching!

  • About midway through the month, my dad says (paraphrased), "Hey, so there's this Star Trek episode, 'Spectre of the Gun' that apparently partially inspired/influenced the people who made The Matrix. It's on Amazon Prime. We should watch it." And because I was tired and figured I wasn't going to be productive that night anyway, I said sure, I'd watch it too.
  • So we start watching it, and my first thought is . . . didn't we see a multicolored flashing object giving off weird warnings in another episode? Is this a thing that happens? Or am I just imagining things?
  • (I was not imagining things. The episode I was thinking of was "The Corbomite Manuever," and it has some interesting similarities to "Spectre," but also pretty much an opposite resolution? Sort of? I digress.)
  • Anyway. We watch the episode. And, yeah, you can see how it influenced The Matrix, but I was too distracted to really focus on that because — look. Spock, at least, should've figured out the situation within the first five minutes. Storms, they all should've figured it out within the first five minutes (except maybe Chekhov, who seems to be a bit easily distracted — Chekhov fans, if I'm misjudging your fave, sorry; I'm pulling from limited data). And, yeah, if they had, it wouldn't have been the same story, but there could've been a story and more done with the particular idea that the episode was exploring.
  • The moral of this story is . . . I don't know. If you're going to have your characters make assumptions, at least make those assumptions reasonable? Or possibly "When dealing with powerful telepathic beings, doubt everything in front of you."
  • (Now that I'm thinking about it, the concept actually would be a pretty cool concept for a D&D party to face. And it's pretty interesting in general. I just feel like the Star Trek writers could've done a better job with it.)
  • Moving on from my uncharitable analysis of classic Star Trek, we also watched High Noon, which . . . was not what I expected, really. It's a Western, but it's really more of a character drama wearing western clothes and a gunbelt. It was very well done, just not what I usually think of when I think western.
  • And, of course, I'm still watching Critical Role. I've made it up to Episode 57, and I've finally met Essek. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea why he's such a fan favorite. I've also learned that probably the most stressful thing that can happen in the entire show is Jester and Nott being the party's face for dealing with authority figures. I had to pause or go down to one earbud and lowered volume so many times because I was dying of "No, no, no, why are you like that you are going to get yourselves killed." Like, it made perfect sense in context for them to be in that position. And it certainly makes for a good story. But it still stresses me out more than any combat has up to this point. (Even so, the last two episodes were SO GOOD.)
  • Also, this isn't exactly watching, but it's sort of tangential — Amazon Music (which is one of the two apps I mostly listen to music on) has apparently come to the conclusion that I'm into musicals? And so it's been sprinkling miscellaneous Broadway and off-Broadway musical soundtracks into my mix? But they aren't big-name everyone-knows-this musicals like Les Mis or Phantom or Wicked. (Well, there've been a few Les Mis songs. But not many.) They're . . . I don't know if they're niche, but it's stuff like Six and Come from Away and the Percy Jackson musical? And something about Shakespeare that I can't actually remember the name of? And I have no idea how this happened, but I've actually discovered some good stuff from it, so I rather hope it keeps happening.
  • (Well, except for the Dear Evan Hansen songs that keep popping up, which I actually dislike — I've tried to listen to the musical twice and couldn't get past the first song either time. I'd like it if those stopped appearing. But the rest of the random musicals are good.)

Life!

  • For those curious, my paladin did not have a breakdown or get pushed over the tipping point by family drama. (She did have a little bit of a breakdown for other reasons. But that's because she still hasn't fully processed the fact that they can just call/talk to some pretty powerful beings. Including a literal deity. You'd think she'd be used to that one by now, or at least more comfortable with it since she's, y'know, a paladin, but nope.) Anyway. The family drama was actually considerably less dramatic than I expected — both in and out of character, I was fully prepared to have to disown someone. And I didn't. So that was nice. And I got some nice roleplay moments with my character's family members (including one I've been hoping my DM would bring in for ages). And all in all, much fun was had, even if we only met twice again.
  • I did end up trying to make the chocolate-raspberry biscotti like I said I was going to, and it went much better than the butterscotch biscotti I did in January did. It held together very nicely and was just generally so much easier than the first batch I made. I actually preferred the flavor of the butterscotch, though, so . . . yeah.
  • Probably the most exciting (or at least out of the ordinary) thing that happened was a weekend trip to see my grandpa on Palm Sunday weekend — our usual weekend commitments got canceled for a variety of reasons, so it seemed like a good time to go visit. We didn't do much while we were up there, but it was nice to get to spend time with him after so long.
  • At the office, most of the month has been relatively chill. I'm quite well settled in (still no decorations, but I have a kettle and a routine), and I'm still enjoying the work. I've been learning a lot about livestreaming as the church is working on getting that going — since I do a lot of the media, it's close enough to my job description (and my interests in general) that a lot of the setup and "figure out how this works" responsibilities landed on my plate. (That also meant I got to revisit my documentation design skills — I haven't done that in a while! It made a nice change of pace, though.)
  • And then Holy Week hit and everything got much busier for everyone. I had my first run of putting together a Sunday bulletin (the church hasn't been handing them out because of COVID, but they wanted to do one for Easter), and there were slides and social media graphics and promotional materials to put together, plus normal stuff . . . Even with all that, though, I might've been the least stressed person in the office. Most days, anyway. And I think everyone's happy with how everything turned out.
  • (I also learned that I want to learn Visual Basic for Applications sometime. Maybe next month, if I have time and can find a free course on YouTube or something with an instructor I like.)

April Plans

  • So, yeah, April is typically Camp NaNoWriMo. And I wasn't sure if I'd do Camp or not this year, what with the whole "having a job" thing. To be honest, I kind of forgot that it was happening (well, more accurately, I forgot that April was happening) until this last Monday. Whoops. But the theme for this year is NaNoFinMo — National Novel Finishing Month. And I do need to finish editing the Midnight Show sequel. So guess who made her Camp goal two days before the event started? Yep. That's right. This girl. It'll be good, though. (Or it'll kill me. We'll see!)
  • Other than Camp NaNoWriMo, things will probably be quiet. We don't have much planned for Easter . . . or for most of the month, really. Things may start ramping up at work, now that warmer weather and looser restrictions mean more church events to promote. But I imagine it'll all be pretty manageable. I will start working on the first newsletter I've done without someone watching over my shoulder/training me, though, so that's exciting.
  • The one other semi-exciting thing: a lot of book releases that I'm involved with in terms of either being on the blog/social media tour or having ARCs or having been a beta or all of the above. I think I may have something going on somewhere every week, actually, or every week except the last week . . . (Also, I GOT AN ARC OF ANARCHIST ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS! Otherwise known as Miss Sharp #2. And also an ARC of A Thieving Curse! I am SO EXCITED.)
  • In terms of D&D, writing will probably go a little on hold unless I decide that I can count both it and TMS towards Camp NaNoWriMo. But I think I have enough material to keep things moving, especially if sessions remain short as they have been, which I expect they will. And in terms of the campaign I play in but don't run, well . . . we have an underdark adventure and then a face-off with a dragon aberration (or at least its followers) ahead, so that's going to be interesting. (I'm actually really excited for the underdark bit. And kinda worried about the aberration bit and the chance that we'll have another player death. Or semi-death. From the same player as the last one. I mean, I finally have Revivify, so we might be OK? But also . . . concern.)

How was your March? Any exciting plans for April? TBA? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Why You NEED to Read The Werewolf of Whitechapel

 Hello, all! So, if you read last week's post, you may remember me absolutely raving about one book in particular: The Werewolf of Whitechapel, the first in Suzannah Rowntree's new historical fantasy mystery series, Miss Sharp's Monsters. If you didn't read last week's post (or if you did read it but you don't remember it because you skimmed through it, added a bunch of books to your TBR list, and then stuffed more important things into its memory-space), here's the quick need-to-know about the book: it's set in a fantastical alternate England, and it follows Liz Sharp, an amnesiac werewolf victim and lady's maid and bodyguard who's trying to solve her best friend's murder. For some of you, that may be all you need to know to know why you should ABSOLUTELY read it as soon as humanely possible. If so, it's on Amazon in Kindle form (just released yesterday!), and a paperback version is on the way. But if you need a little more convincing, well, read on!

Why You NEED to Read The Werewolf of Whitechapel

  1. The storytelling style is deliciousThe Werewolf of Whitechapel is written in a more modern and fast-paced version of the Victorian memoir, which is to say that it's very conversational and full of personality and little asides and hints. It sort of takes the best parts of Victorian and modern writing and blends them together, and the result is just such a delight to read. And Rowntree does this sort of thing a lot — the other books of hers that I've read also had a more old-fashioned tone and style to match the eras they're set in — but it's especially effective here. Though that's in no small part thanks to the fact that . . .
  2. Miss Sharp is magnificent. Devastatingly loyal, recklessly bold, impossibly curious, and unrelentingly dedicated to discovering truth, with a wit as keen as her name, Miss Liz Sharp is everything you could possibly want in a fantasy-mystery heroine. She's no intellectual, unlike some other favorite detectives, but she's clever and not afraid to get her hands dirty when necessary. She's also very capable of taking care of herself, which is fun. In many respects, she reminds me of Isabella Farrah from Masque, but less polished and with significantly less social rank to apply to her problems.
  3. The worldbuilding is excellent. Essentially, the thrones of Europe are held by monsters of mythology — vampires, sirens, and, of course, werewolves — all except for the throne of England. And Rowntree did a magnificent job of taking that premise and combining it with well-researched historical reality to create a version of the world that feels believable and even unquestionable. The attitudes of different people and groups, the portrayal of actual historical figures (many of whom play major roles in the story), the details . . . it's all very well done.
  4. It's kind of nice that the lead isn't anyone particularly "special." This is a weird thing to like, but bear with me, please. Miss Sharp is clever, but she's not the smartest person in the room. She's well-trained, but not more so than any of the other girls in her situation. She's not gifted with special knowledge or anything of the sort. She's not an ordinary person — I mean, remember the "amnesiac werewolf victim" bit I mentioned earlier? — but she's not the only one of her kind. That's a bit unusual for a detective, fantasy or otherwise — classic detectives tend to be the smartest person in the room; fantasy-mystery detectives are often magically gifted (like Jackaby or Harry Dresden) or at least connected with a magical organization of some kind (like Irene of The Invisible Library). That makes Miss Sharp a bit of a rarity, but in a good way.
  5. Overall, the story is, as some might put it, rather a lark to read. There's just the right balance of humor and action and suspense, mixed in with slowly growing friendships and genuinely emotional moments, to make this book perfectly enjoyable. One moment you're laughing at the banter between characters or Miss Sharp's asides to the reader; the next you're clutching the book and frantically turning pages as our hero ventures into a den of monsters in search of answers or discovers a shocking truth. There's never a slow moment, and the story is solid without being weighty.

Are you excited about The Werewolf of Whitechapel yet? If not, you should be — I'd rank it up JackabyMasque, and The Invisible Library in terms of how much I love it. I even preordered the sequel pretty much as soon as I saw it was available, and I almost never do that. Anyway, excited or not, please tell me in the comments! (And if you scored an ARC like I did, tell me that too so we can rave over it together!)
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Spring 2021 Reads

 Hey'a, everyone! So, after winter's rather underwhelming release lineup, this spring's list looks amazing — though, honestly, it would look amazing compared to just about any release lineup. While we don't have long-anticipated releases on the level of Return of the Thief, we have some reads on this list that I already know are amazing and a lot of others that I have high hopes for. And when I say "a lot," I really mean a lot. When I made my original list of all the books releasing this spring that I was interested in, there were over 20 books on it. Even after I cut the ones I was less enthusiastic about or that I was uncomfortable with based on early reviews or other newly-released information, I had a solid seventeen titles that I wanted to feature in my release posts. So, this list is going to take a little time to get through . . . but trust me, it's worth it.

Spring 2021 Reads

1. The Bright and the Pale by Jessica Rubinowski (March 2). I want to start by stating that I really like this cover. The colors, the art style, the little bits of northern lights in the sky, the typeface and the little icicles on the word pale . . . it's just very pretty. The story sounds like it has a great deal of potential too; it's Russian-inspired fantasy, and some of the reviews suggest it has that edge of creepiness that can make for a really enjoyable tale.

2. Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olsen (March 9). So this is a genderbent Phantom of the Opera retelling told from the perspective of the Phantom equivalent, and while I'm not a huge Phantom fan (mostly because I think Christine Daae is largely an idiot), this does sound pretty cool? The idea of memory magic has a lot of potential, and it sounds like the romantic relationships might be handled a bit better. We'll see.

3. Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley (March 16). Obviously I don't usually go in for contemporary. But I love a good mystery, and I'm still trying to read more books outside speculative fiction, so we're going to give this a try. It does sound pretty exciting.

4. The Seventh Raven by David Elliott (March 16). There are not enough Six Ravens/Wild Swans retellings out there — I only know of one other, and that one was . . . disappointing, to say the least. So I have very high hopes for The Seventh Raven! I'm hoping for a good focus on family ties and sibling relationships and all that sort of thing. The book is also written in verse instead of prose, which will be quite different from my usual fare.

5. Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson and friends (March 23). I shared my thoughts on this anthology last week, but to sum up: if you read the Wingfeather Saga when it re-released last year (or in general) and you want more tales from Aerwiar, this book is just the thing to satisfy that appetite. There's something in this anthology for everyone, and the stories range from an Arabian-Nights-esque adventure in "The Prince of Yorsha Doon" to a high-seas look at a favorite Wingfeather character's past in "From the Deeps of the Dragon King" to a heartbreakingly raw and beautiful journey in "The Places Beyond the Maps." (And there's a Florid Sword comic! Which is awesome.)

6. The Werewolf of Whitechapel by Suzannah Rowntree (March 25). THIS BOOK, Y'ALL. There isn't a single book on this list I'm more excited about than The Werewolf of Whitechapel. I signed up for an eARC of it and read it earlier this week, and oh my pumpernickel. It's one of my favorite books I've read this year. It reminds me a lot of W.R. Gingell's Masque — which, you may recall, I utterly adore and read twice in a single year — but set in a fantastical alternate-history England, in which mythological monsters hold the thrones of Europe. And it's SO GOOD. And I need EVERYONE ELSE to buy it and read it AT ONCE so y'all can experience the AWESOMENESS and appreciate Miss Sharp with me.

7. Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo (March 30). On one hand, I was kind of meh about King of Scars — which is tragic, given how much I loved Nikolai in the original Grisha trilogy and Nina in the Six of Crows duology. (In all fairness, Nikolai's character is of the type that often works best when seen from a POV other than his own.) On the other hand . . . maybe the second book will be better since I won't have such high expectations? And I do want to see how things end.

8. Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (April 6). I read Jenny's other two books over the last couple months, and while I didn't love them, they have a certain mad charm to them. So, I'm looking forward to reading Broken (and I hope I enjoy it, because I won a copy off Goodreads and it would therefore be a shame if I end up disliking it). If nothing else, her books are always an interesting shift from my usual speculative fiction fare.

9. The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman (April 6). Here's a little sci-fi to liven up the list! Though apparently this is actually a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, which just makes it even better. And we've got an evil AI, which always makes for an interesting story . . . though it also means I'll end up comparing however they portray AI to what we talked about when I took a class on the philosophy of AI, so there's that.

10. A Thieving Curse by Selina R. Gonzalez (April 7). I am always immensely fond of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and dragons, of course, just make everything better! So, of course, I'm very excited to have discovered this book in time to feature it. There's also a preorder campaign with some pretty nice book swag, for anyone who's inclined to order the book early! (I'm torn between that and saving my money for a Werewolf of Whitechapel paperback, personally.) Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that beautiful cover art?

 11. Love and Memory by Kendra E. Ardnek (April 19). It's been a while since Kendra's brought us back to Rizkaland, but the wait is very nearly over! One of Kendra's greatest strengths as a writer is that she's often willing and eager to ask "What happens next?" where other authors might write "Happily Ever After" (or "Unhappily Ever After," as the case may be) and be done with it. That's one of the things I love about her Bookania Quests, and I'm immensely excited to see her do it again in Love and Memory. Petra, Reuben, Andrew, and Clara may be home from Rizkaland . . . but now they have to figure out how to pick up the pieces of their lives, and, well . . . let's just say it's a struggle.

12. Invading Hell by Bryan Davis (April 16/May 15). This is the second book in the Oculus Gate series, the first of which released last summer. (I posted my thoughts on that book, Heaven Came Down, as a Friday 5s post, if you want to read them.) While I had mixed feelings about the end of book 1, I'm excited to see some of my favorite characters (by which I mostly mean Leo and Iona) again. And, hey, you know when you pick up a Bryan Davis that it's guaranteed to be out of the ordinary.

13. Luck of the Titanic by Stacy Lee (May 4). I feel like this is going to be a tragedy on some level. I get the impression that most Titanic stories are. (I only have two data points to draw from, though, so I could be wrong.) It sounds like it has a lot of potential, though, and it's a sibling story, so I'm looking forward to that.

14. Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (May 11). Nomance! Non-European fantasy! Conspiracies! Secrets! Lore! And also a main character who's described as a "scholar," which I hope means he'll have some delightful moments of "The thing I learned about . . . the thing I studied . . . it's real and now and right in front of me oh this is so cool." I would also accept some moments of "Danger? What danger? This is an unprecedented research opportunity!" (Side note: I think I may've just realized another reason I really like the Stormlight Archives.)

15. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman (May 15). Something about this book's blurb is giving me Knight and Rogue-but-way-darker vibes, and I'm here for it. I really hope we get a delightful friendship between the main characters; any kind of positive relationship between the straight-laced, honorable noble warrior and the clever, sneaky, live-by-my-wits-and-my-speed rogue tends to be so much fun to read. Also, apparently there's a kraken. Or multiple kraken. And I'm so here for that too.

16. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (May 16). For those unaware, The Anthropocene Reviewed was originally a podcast created by John Green, in which he reviews parts of the world and society on a five-star scale. He covers everything from Canada Geese to Diet Dr. Pepper to pineapple on pizza to plague in a gentle, meditative fashion, discussing the history of the thing and how it impacts and reflects aspects of the world as a whole. I've only listened to a small portion of it (I'm not a big podcast person, unlike . . . basically the rest of the world, it seems like), but I enjoyed what I did listen to. I'm looking forward to seeing what I love translated into my favorite form of media.

17. The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (May 18). This is a historical urban fantasy with maybe a hint of mystery? It sounds like it might be a mystery, and we all know I hope it's a mystery. Early reviews are coming in mixed, but the blurb sounds good. And it sounds like we may be getting some science and magic mixing, which I almost always enjoy.

What book releases are you excited for this spring? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Thoughts on the Wingfeather Tales

 Hello, all! Y'all may remember my exultation over the new editions of the Wingfeather Saga last year. I'm happy to say that the exultation continues as there's another re-release! The Wingfeather Tales was originally written as an anthology of stories and poems written by Andrew Peterson and many of his author friends to entice and reward backers for the Wingfeather short film a few years ago. Now it's being made widely available (with the addition of a bonus Florid Sword & Shadowblade comic!), releasing March 23, and I am very excited that new fans will get to enjoy it! Since this is an anthology, reviewing in Friday 5s format is going to be a little interesting . . . but I'm still going to do my best to provide my thoughts on the collection, its high points and low points, and whether or not you should pre-order it on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads TBR. (Spoiler alert: you should totally do both. Unless you haven't read the rest of the series, in which case you should just add it to your TBR for now and go pick up the other books.)


 

Thoughts on the Wingfeather Tales

  1. Before you ask, these stories aren't sequels, and that's a good thing. A couple of the stories, specifically "The Prince of Yorsha Doon," the Florid Sword & Shadowblade comic, and parts of "The Places Beyond the Maps" do take place after the end of The Warden and the Wolf King. However, none of the Wingfeathers show up, so all we're really told is that Maraly and Gammon continue to be awesome and Oscar continues to be Oscar . . . and I'm happy about that. I think most other people are too. Instead, what we mostly get are stories that take place before (or, in one case, concurrently with) the events of The Wingfeather Saga, which gives us a fun look into the past of Aerwiar and certain significant people and locations.
  2. The best story? "The Places Beyond the Maps." This is the last and longest story in the anthology — a full novella, actually, that takes up half the book. And it's heartbreaking, but it's also beautifully written. The style is almost like if someone combined Andrew Peterson, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and Jennifer Freitag (Plenilune, for those who don't know) into one person. It's gorgeous. And, as I said, heartbreaking, as we see a man driven to the very ends of himself, and the author lays this man's soul bare to the reader with stunning effectiveness. But it comes to beauty in the end.
  3. Wingfeather crossovers are not my favorite. To be more specific, two of these stories cross over Peterson's books with the books of another author (also known, though not especially well outside of certain circles, for Christian-themed fantasy), and they more or less ended up being my least favorite stories in the anthology. They're still good. And people who've read and loved the crossover series will probably enjoy these stories. For me, though? Not my favorite.
  4. We do get a Podo Helmer story! Since Podo is one of my favorite characters in the series, the bar was set pretty high for this tale . . . but it more than surpasses my expectations. It's set back in Podo's dragon-hunting days, and it's pretty great. While I'm not familiar with the author of the story (A.S. Peterson), he has an excellent storytelling voice, perfect for a seafaring story such as this. And the story he chose to tell . . . it's hard to say a lot without spoilers, but I'd say it's worth buying the anthology just for this and "The Places Beyond the Maps."
  5. If you saw "Florid Sword and Shadowblade comic" and got really excited, get the book in paper form. I got an eARC of this to review, which I read on my Kindle. Though I enjoyed the comic (I'm always a fan of both Gammon and Maraly), I did have a bit of trouble reading it on the screen. That might be different if you have a Kindle app on a device that lets you zoom in, I'd say it's worth just getting it in paper.

Are you excited for the Wingfeather Tales? Which story or stories are you most excited for (or, if you've read the anthology before, which did you like best)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 5, 2021

February 2021 Doings!

 Guys. It's been a year. A year ago today, I was on my last spring break, planning a cheese night for my dorm and trying to find a formal dress for the Junior-Senior Formal and stressing about my capstone paper and final graphic design project. A year ago today, I was less than a week from the world turning upside down around me, and I had no idea. It's so weird. Anyway. I will say that this past February was a lot less stressful than February 2020 — even with COVID in the picture, there's a lot less uncertainty floating around. (Also, the nice thing about a nine-to-five job is that it is, in fact, nine to five, as opposed to college classes, which are whenever you get up to whenever you can't think anymore today.)

Writing!

  • The first draft of the Midnight Show sequel is finished! It topped out at about 77K words and 35 chapters, which is almost twice as long as The Midnight Show and about 17K longer than I want it to be. Still, it's a satisfactory first draft. It's not quite as clean as TMS's first version was (or Blood in the Snow's), but it's in better shape than some.
  • I gave myself a couple days of rest from writing and then I started all over with the first round of rewrites.
  • I'm currently sitting at 8 chapters, about one fifth of the book, rewritten or added. I'm messing with the timeline a little, so I've had to add some bits and heavily rework some scenes. And there was one chapter that I have to rewrite a second time so I could properly write the chapters that had to build on it. Other than that, though, it's going well.
  • On a side note, I was looking back at my Doings! post for last February, and I found this reference:

I also toyed with another writing project, but ended up dropping it because it conflicted with a different novel (or novella) that I plan to write in the future.

  • I had totally forgotten about this — it was an experimental project intended for the Tattered Slippers Arista Challenge that I only worked on for a few days before scrapping. Had it worked out, y'all would've gotten a Mechanical Heart sequel instead of The Midnight Show. The issue was that it used a very similar "twist" as The Midnight Show does to explain the dancing (which was, in this version, not dancing but rather inventing), and the idea that would become TMS was already developed enough that I didn't want to waste it.
  • The experimental part of the project, for the record, refers to the writing process I was going to try out: essentially, outlining the story and then iterating that outline and making it more and more detailed until I had a proper prose narrative. I hoped it would be a faster way of getting a functional first draft out. It might've worked too, save for the teensy little problem that I do not enjoy outlines. Especially not ultra-detailed ones.
  • The story would've been really fun had I written it, though. It was going to involve Breen and Luis attending a "Creatives Consortium" — basically a convention intended to bring the inventors and alchemists and scientists together with artists and creatives, only for Strange Goings On to occur in the night. And I CLEARLY has fun with the outline, which I just reread while writing this post. A few highlights for those curious:
  • So, armed with COFFEE and CRAFTS and lots of stuff to tinker and mess with, they STAY UP.

----------

  • Around midnight, the roommate is like “Hey, I hear something. Music? It’s weird.”
  • Breen is like “Cool cool. I am deaf, but I will take your word for it.”
  • Roommate: “This music is making me feel super weird. My head hurts. Something Is Up.”
  • Breen: “Hey, you ok? You're randomly standing up and wandering off and you’re moving kind of weirdly.”
  • Roommate: *does not respond*
  • Breen: Ok rude.

---------

  • Breen is like “Ok, was I hallucinating on coffee or did that actually happen? SUPER WEIRD.”

---------

  • Luis, who is friends with Josiah: Let’s go talk to the person who owns this place.
  • Breen, who spent 10-ish years getting screwed over by a noble: Let’s not.
  • Roommate, who is oblivious to both things: Nah, Goggles is right. Let’s talk to the person in charge.
  • Alas, this novel will never be written. But I wrote The Midnight Show instead, and quite frankly, I think that's for the best. The Mechanical Heart sequel would've been fun. But The Midnight Show is possibly one of my favorite things I've written in my life, so . . . worth it. Mechanical Heart will get a different sequel when the time is right.
  • D&D-wise, I am still behind on writing stuff, but we're also running short sessions, so it's ok. And I feel like I'm getting better at improv, so that's reassuring. I will say, though, that a lot of this month has been an unending series of "Gah, that is not this character's accent; I could do it ten minutes ago; what happened?" Voice actor, I am not. But at least the current group of NPCs is easier than some others I've invented.

Reading!

  • February (and the start of the year in general) tends to be a time for rereads, and this February was no exception. This February was also a really good reading month . . . mostly because it was dominated by two amazing authors.
  • So, I did finish Rhythm of War before it was due at the library, but only barely. Had we not had a snow day on the Monday before I was supposed to return it, I would've been out of luck. Instead, I devoured pretty much the last third of the book in a single day. It was intense. And now I have feels. Most of them are about how awesome Adolin and Navani are and how awful Moash is (storm you, Moash), but also . . . so many reveals. So much epicness. I spent a lot of time internally screaming. And occasionally externally not-quite-screaming. It was great.
  • Anyway. After finishing Rhythm, I needed something equally awesome but a little bit lighter as a chaser, plus Return of the Thief was due at the library soon . . . so I proceeded to devour the entire Queen's Thief series in about ten days. The first five books were just as good on the reread as they were the first times round — in fact, I'd argue most of them were better. And Return of the Thief was amazing. Again, I have many feelings. It still hasn't topped The King of Attolia is still my #1 favorite in the series, but Return is a very close second. And there's so much to love about the book, but I think my favorite thing was seeing Gen and Irene . . . I suppose you could say, seeing them at their most united. And there's one scene between them that's so small, but it hit so hard and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
  • After that, I was going to be responsible and continue working through my library stacks . . . but I reread Mistborn instead. No regrets. It was really weird to reread the book and think "Wow, you can really tell that this is some of Sanderson's early work" while simultaneously still being really impressed by the man's storytelling and writing skill, but that certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of it. (And now I'm working on rereading The Well of Ascension, also instead of reading from my library stacks. Again, I regret nothing.)
  • And, as if there wasn't enough awesome in this month already, I finally read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It was dark enough that I'm kinda glad I didn't read it when I first heard of it, but it was also really good. It kind of has this dream-like, or perhaps nightmare-like, balance of strange and un-strange and fairytale and humanity. If I lived in a city, it would have me glancing over my shoulder, just in case. But I don't, so . . . yeah. I'll definitely be coming back to this one sometime.

Watching!

  • So, I'm currently on Episode 51 in Critical Role, which means we're done with Fjord and ocean arcs and all that for the time being — but which, more importantly, means I hit the backstory reveal for a certain character. And I knew this character's backstory and family already going into the show. But seeing how it actually played out hit hard and oh my pumpernickel. I am in awe. You know someone's a good storyteller when a reveal you already know about is that effective.
  • Outside Critical Role, I watched one of the many Zorro movies — not the original, but the 1975 version that's just called Zorro. So that was some good swashbuckling fun. (I also rewatched parts of The Princess Bride, which my parents decided to watch on a night when I had other things I had to do. I managed to squeeze in time for the important bits, at least.)
  • In addition, we watched Roman Holiday, which was . . . I mean, it was fine? I understand why it's a classic and why it's so popular. I think the story and characters were well-crafted, and I appreciate the choices made in the end (even if I feel bad for Irving . . . Joe brought this mess on himself, but Irving was literally dragged into it). It's not my favorite movie I've ever seen, and I wouldn't say I loved it. But it was good.

Life!

  • This was a pretty quiet month, on the whole. Most of it was occupied with work, writing, and D&D, which should come as a surprise to no one.
  • The "extremely mysterious" technical issues were resolved by the next time I went in to work, which was a day later than expected, as it was the first of several snow days and holidays we had this month. I think that also might've been the only really snowy snow day — the rest tended to be more ice than snow. Since then, things have been progressing peacefully, and I've had some spare time to start making my office my own. (At this point, that mostly means cleaning and organizing and bringing in a kettle so I can make tea without using a coffee maker. But eventually, I'll have some decorations and such.)
  • On one of the various snow/ice days, I decided to finally try making biscotti, which turned out well! We usually make cranberry almond biscotti at Christmas, which lasts forever. But I wanted something different, something more exciting. I was going to make chocolate raspberry biscotti . . . but my dad said he'd let me off helping to shovel the driveway if I made the biscotti that day, so I went with my second choice, cinnamon-butterscotch, instead. In hindsight, I probably should've stuck with the chocolate raspberry — the cinnamon-butterscotch had so many mix-ins (even using the amount specified in the recipe) that it was hard to get the dough to actually stick together and harder still to cut it after the first baking without the slices breaking and crumbling. Essentially, I did my first biscotti run on hard mode. But it still tasted good. And I hope to try the chocolate raspberry (or possibly a savory biscotti, probably cornmeal parmesan) later, sometime before the weather warms up too much.
  • On the D&D front — the campaign I play in, not the campaign I run — we haven't been able to meet the last two weeks, and it's driving me a little crazy because of where we ended our last session: with a revelation that the homeland of two of our party members (including my paladin) just declared war on another country (which another party member is technically allied with? in that he's a noble and his country is allies with this other country). So that's going to be interesting. Especially since my character's father contacted her shortly before we learned about this to say he needed my character home immediately . . . We thought it had to do with some, ah, legal trouble we'd gotten in not long before. (Aka, someone framed us for murder — which, I mean, we did technically kill the person they said we killed, but only after he lured us into an ambush, set us on fire, and revealed that he was allied with a literal demon who's partially responsible for the world-covering darkness we've been trying to get rid of, so I don't think we're the ones in the wrong here. The problem was that we had a time-sensitive mission to finish, so we couldn't stick around to clear our names at the time.) But then he said what was happening was good news, and, well, let's just say that what happens next might be the thing that sends my tired, frustrated, didn't-ask-for-any-of-this paladin over the tipping point. And I am both excited and terrified to see how this will play out.

March Plans

  • Non-work priority #1: get the Midnight Show sequel rewritten and sent off to betas. Ideally, I also should name it before sending it to betas. I have two ideas, so that's something; I'm just trying to decide which fits better. My one comfort: the release this year will be later than previous years' releases have been, so I'll have a little more time to work with. Not a lot. But a little.
  • I also am really hoping that we can wrap up the current arc in the D&D campaign I'm running this month, or at least get close to wrapping it up. Does that necessitate my writing the rest of it? Yes. Yes, it does. But it'll happen. I just need to sit down and do the thing.
  • And, as the NaNoWriMo website has been helpfully reminding me, Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner at this point, so I need to start thinking about what I'm doing there. "Nothing" or "TMS sequel edits" are the obvious choices, but if the timing works out, it could also be a good idea to work on other projects. Like whatever I'm doing for next year's Arista Challenge. Or one of the many projects I want to write or rewrite that I don't have a specific publication plan for. We'll see where things stand.
  • Other than writing, I don't have a lot of plans. Hopefully I'll do something for Pi Day — it's been a while since I made a pie. (But my mom might want to make something, so . . . we'll see.) And I'm torn between wanting warm weather to come as soon as possible and wanting it to stay cold long enough for one last batch of biscotti.
  • Do I have a life outside of work, writing, D&D, and food? Sources suggest no.
  • (I'm also at a point where I'm a bit bored of my current knitting/crochet projects, but I also don't want to abandon them because if I do, who knows when or if I'll finish them. So that's a problem.)

How was your February? Any exciting plans for March? If you've read Rhythm of WarReturn of the Thief, or Neverwhere, what were your favorite bits or the parts that stuck with you the most? Have you ever tried to write a story via steadily more detailed outlines or another weird method? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 26, 2021

February is Fantasy Month: Fandom VS. Fandom

 

So, today's post (and last week's post) was supposed to be about spoilers. Specifically, it was going to be about how spoilers affect how much someone enjoys a story. I did not finish writing that post. Instead, I started second-guessing myself, and in the end, I came to the conclusion that one analysis-type post in a month is enough and that the spoiler thoughts can wait until I have my thoughts in better order.

Instead, I'm tackling two of the Fantasy Month prompts at once and taking on some of the biggest battles in fandom — or, rather, between fandoms. We've probably all had to answer the Marvel or DC or Star Wars or Star Trek question or something similar at some point. And for this week's post, I'm taking on five such questions (three of which were helpfully supplied by my wonderful friends via text and Instagram), rapid-style. Which fandoms will prevail? Let's find out!

 

Fandom vs. Fandom

  1. Marvel vs. DC? In most cases, I am an MCU girl through and through. I don't have time for unending angst and grittiness in books, much less movies, and Marvel gets that. Plus, they have Thor, Captain America, and Doctor Strange, who happen to be my three favorite superheroes. The exception? If you compare the two fandom-favorite "families" — which is to say, Irondad/Spiderson and the Batfam, the Batfam wins every single time by virtue of having a reasonable amount of canon backing and being delightfully chaotic and dramatic. (Granted, I've never actually picked up a Batman comic book or watched the animated series, so it's technically a secondhand fandom, but I've read enough of the actual comics reposted to various internet sites that I practically feel like it should count as a proper one of my fandoms at this point.)
  2. Star Wars vs. Star Trek? Firefly. The answer is Firefly. Is this a cop-out? Maybe. But Firefly is my story, and I'm sticking to it. And it basically has the elements I like best from each of the other stories (the unpolished-ness and adventure and action and underdog/rebel narrative of Star Wars; the variety and exploration and some of the philosophicalness of Star Trek) wrapped up together with heists and found family — and, look, Han Solo is awesome, and I like Jean-Luc Picard, but Captain Mal Reynolds is where it's at.
  3. The Lord of the Rings vs. Narnia? First off, I didn't think this was a competing fandom set, but it was suggested to me twice, so I'm going with it. Technically, I should probably say LOTR — when people ask me for my top three favorite series, LOTR is always in my answer, and Narnia is almost never. But I've also lived much more in Narnia than I have in Middle Earth, in that I've known it longer and read and listened to Narnia many more times. I suppose I'd have to say that LOTR is my favorite in terms of story and world — but Narnia is still, in many ways, home.
  4. Disney/Pixar vs. Dreamworks? I wasn't going to do this one because I couldn't think of any Dreamworks movies I'd actually watched. And then I decided to double-check that and realized that wait a moment, Dreamworks did How to Train Your Dragon??? And that put enough weight on Dreamworks' side of the scale that the question was worth answering. Disney/Pixar still wins by virtue of TangledBeauty and the Beast (the original one, not the live-action one), and Big Hero Six. Also by virtue of not being responsible for a certain stupid movie about snails. But, if I actually watched all the animated movies I've been meaning to see for, oh, going on ten years now*, Dreamworks would have a very good chance.
  5. Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson? I'm pretty sure these aren't competing as much as they did similar things for consecutive generations, but I do know that both fandoms are still very active, so! I prefer Percy Jackson (specifically, Olympians and Heroes of Olympus; I didn't read anything after HoO ended) . . . mostly because Harry Potter uses a particular trope that just rubs me all the wrong ways, while Percy Jackson got an initial boost from my enduring love of mythology. Plus, I just like the PJO/HoO characters better than the Harry Potter characters. 

What's your position on any or each of these debates? Are there any big fandom vs. fandom questions that I missed? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

*This is list is also known as "All the movies that my friends/the internet were obsessed with back in 2013 or so.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fantasy Locales I'd Love to Live In

 It's week TWO of February is Fantasy Month! This week's topic comes from Jenelle Schmidt's #fantasymonth challenge; specifically, we're answering the question what fandom do you love enough to want to live in that world? Astonishingly, I've never written on this topic before — I did a post about worlds I'd like to visit ages ago, back when the Underground was still green, I'd just discovered the Books of Bayern, and we still thought Christopher Hopper was going to write a sequel to The Sky Riders. And, yes, if you look at the question from the idealistic point of view, the list of fantasy worlds I'd want to visit and fantasy worlds I'd want to live in is pretty much the same. But if you look at it from a practical standpoint, taking into account not just how cool the world is and how interesting the people are but also what it would be like to actually live there, well, that's another question entirely with very different criteria and substantially different answers. So let's get to answering it — and before you ask, yes, the following answers are in rank order.

(As a note, I'm disqualifying any world that is explicitly "Earth, but magic." Picking one of those worlds feels like cheating.)


Fantasy Locales I'd Love to Live In

  1. Amara (Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles). I'm pretty sure that, out of all the fantasy worlds I've read about and love, Amara (and its neighbor, Chiril) would be one of the best, if not the best, one to actually live in, whether you're an adventurer or just an ordinary person. You've got a pretty good standard of living even if you're not in a city, a slightly higher technology level than that of the average medieval fantasy world, and an actual stable, functioning government and society with laws based on solid theological and moral principles (which is unreasonably rare). Also, there are so many dragons. Specifically, so many friendly dragons, including minor dragons (who are small and adorable and have I mentioned lately that I want one) who live and work alongside not just adventurers but ordinary people. It's not like everyone has a dragon, but you don't have to be an adventurer to have one. Even if you are an adventurer, though, the casualty rate on quests tends to be low, the average wizard you might meet is probably friendly-ish and reasonably helpful, if decidedly quirky, and thanks to the magic of hollows and, well, magic in general, you'll probably have better food and more comfort than you would on adventures in most other worlds. All in all, it seems like an excellent place to live.
  2. Glause or New Civet (W.R. Gingell's Two Monarchies Sequence). These are technically two neighboring countries, but I don't know what their world is called, so . . . we're going with it. In any case, this world feels a lot like Ingary from Howl's Moving Castle, but a little more modern and even more magic-rich. And I reeeeeaaaaaally like magic-rich worlds. I mean, if you're going to move to a fantasy world, you might as well pick one where magic is as common as technology is here. And while I certainly wouldn't want to get mixed up in the high society of either country, I think I could manage quite well as an ordinary person.
  3. Era Two Scadrial (Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series). A lot of Sanderson's worlds meet the main criteria for this list (decent standard of living even if you're not rich, functional government and society (bonus points for a non-corrupt government), reasonably good food, magic-rich, good odds of indoor plumbing). At that point, I go back to how interesting the world is and how much I think I would actually enjoy living there, and that question got me down to a tie between two options: second-era Scadrial or present-era Roshar. Both would be very interesting places to live, and I think I'd have a decent chance in either place of making a living by writing. (Novels on Roshar are common enough to be owned even by lower classes; Scadrial has its newspaper serials and probably also novels. Side note, I really wish newspaper serial stories were still a thing, both because I'd like to read them and because I think they'd be fun to write, and no, posting a week-by-week story on the blog is not the same.) That said, Roshar has the distinct disadvantage of having been at war basically forever, and that is . . . not my jam. Plus, living in a country where half the population is literally illiterate might drive me crazy. So, Scadrial wins out by virtue of no war and smart men.
  4. Innsjøby/Solorele (my own The Midnight Show). (Technical note — Solorele is a country, not a world. But I can't remember if I named this world yet, and I don't feel like digging through my notes, so we're going with it.) Is this cheating? I feel like it might be cheating, but I genuinely think I would have a great time living in the world of The Midnight Show, whether or not I had author powers when I was there. Innsøby, the specific city in which the book takes place, would be a lot of fun — it's a very colorful city, it's a significant center of arts and culture where there's always something new to do or see, and as anyone who read The Midnight Show knows, it offers a lot of good food. It's also the only other place on this list besides Scadrial where I'm confident I could make a living primarily as a writer and designer . . . plus I'd never have to deal with the frustration of waking up just when a dream got interesting, since I wouldn't remember I'd been dreaming.
  5. The Spires (Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass). It meets all the criteria, and it has airships. Airships aren't as awesome as dragons, but they come pretty close. Especially these airships, which take that term far more literally than most interpretations do. Granted, if we're being truly realistic, I'd be very unlikely to ever get to ride in an airship — travel between Spires doesn't seem super common — but a girl can hope.

Were you surprised by the worlds that made my list? What fantasy worlds would you want to live in if you could, either idealistically or practically speaking? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Giving Fanfic Some Credit

Y'all, I think fanfiction (and fanfic authors) deserves a little more credit. True, some of it (even a lot of it) is . . . decidedly not great. But you could say the same thing about published literature, even books published by established, traditional presses. But while the great published books and authors tend to get noticed and celebrated, great fanfiction and fanfic authors — which do exist; I've read quite a few of them — get looked down on because they're not original fiction. And I think that's a shame. So, since this month's February is Fantasy Month theme is fandoms, I think it's a great time to share some reasons why we should give fanfic and fanfic authors quite a bit more credit.

Giving Fanfic Some Credit

  1. Fanfiction brings new people into fandoms and keeps them there. You know why I read Harry Potter (or, the first four books, anyway)? There were a lot of reasons, but one of those was the fanfic I kept running into and enjoying. You know why I stayed a Star Wars fan in the years between when I first discovered the stories and when the new movies came out (and even to this day)? Fanfic, both in traditional narrative form and in the form of text-based roleplaying games into which people put insane amounts of time and effort. (Caleb, Matthew/Dmitri, I'm looking at you. Not that you're probably reading this, but if you are, hi. I've read actual novels with less drama, less emotion, less careful craft than the stories you created.) Sure, a fan who comes into a fandom by way of fanfiction may come in knowing spoilers — but as I said not too long ago, depending on the stories, that may not be as bad a thing as we often act like it is.
  2. Fanfiction helps writers (of all experience levels) grow their skills. There's the obvious way in which is true — writing more is the best way to get better at writing, whether what you're writing is a totally original fantasy epic or a Star Wars fanfic showing the climax of Return of the Jedi from the perspective of Clone Trooper #3054. More than just that, though, fanfiction can allow a writer to really focus on specific aspects of wordcraft, especially characterization and writing voice/style. In that story about Clone Trooper #3054, sure, the plot and world are already built for you; all you have to do is make sure what you write is consistent with what's established. But that allows you, forces you even, to put more thought and energy into characterization. How do you really show who Clone Trooper #3054 is in this scene? How do you really get readers into his head and make them feel what he feels? Or maybe you're writing about an original character and story, but you're using the world and style of an established author. Consciously or unconsciously, in trying to imitate that author's style, you're going to be analyzing it and figuring out its strengths and all the little pieces that make it unique, and your own style will probably improve from the experience.
  3. On a related note, fanfiction helps writers think of the "what if?" Arguably one of the most valuable non-technical writing skills you can have, especially as a speculative fiction writer, is the ability to ask the question "What if?" well. Almost every story starts with a "What if?" What if there were fae and wizards hiding among us in real life? What if you jumped into a swimming pool and came out in another world? What if Rapunzel was deaf and stuck in a clock tower? That's true of fanfiction as well, and asking and exploring the what-ifs of an established story (What if Petunia had chosen to love and care for Harry? What if the Jedi had made Anakin a creche master instead of sending him off to fight?), again, allows you to do it better in original stories too.
  4. Sometimes, the fanfic is better than the original story. A lot of the best fanfics, in my opinion, are the ones where the what if the author pursues is fixing something that detracts from the original, whether that's the stupid choices of characters who are canonically supposed to be wise but whose actions are anything but or adding complexity to characters who didn't get much in the original tale and deserved more. Or sometimes they don't fix any actual issues but they're genuinely better written and more enjoyable than the original. These authors said, this story is good, but it could be even better, and we're going to make that better version exist. And we should appreciate that more than we probably do at the moment.
  5. Fanfic is a labor of love made to celebrate something well-loved. Look, at the end of the day, very few writers of fanfic are getting a lot of tangible reward out of what they're writing. They're improving their skills, they may be getting some compliments and likes, but what they're making — they can't make money off it. They won't get much recognition for it outside of fan communities. But many, many still choose to put just as much time and effort and energy into it as writers of original fiction put into their stories. And they do it to celebrate stories and characters they love — even if they're writing a story that "fixes" the original, you don't write fanfic for a story and fandom you hate. You do it because you care about it very much indeed. And if that kind of labor of love isn't commendable, I don't know what is.

Now, it's entirely possible that I'm preaching to the choir here, since most of the people who read my blog are the kind who probably genuinely appreciate good fanfic and may have even written some themselves. (In fact, I know some of my regular readers have written fanfiction that I've very enthusiastically enjoyed.) But I hope that even if you already love fanfiction, I've given you a new insight or two into why it should be appreciated.

So, what are your thoughts on fanfic? Are there any fanfics you like better than the original story? What's your favorite fanfiction you've read? Have you written any yourself? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 29, 2021

January 2021 Doings!

Hey'a, all! It's the first Doings! of 2021, and we're off to a good start! Like last month, we're a little early, but I want to leave more Fridays open for February is Fantasy Month posts. (It's really nice to have a clear direction or theme for my posts for a month, and I want to take full advantage of it.) Also, there's only a few days left in the month, so . . . yeah. We'll be good.

Writing!

  • So, I am still behind on the TMS sequel. That's less surprising in hindsight than you'd think; I am often not a good judge of how long things will take and how much time a particular unit actually is. So I may have been a bit overambitious in judging how much I could actually get done.
  • (The fact that my weekends consistently ended up busier than I expected them to also didn't help, for the the record. I had other projects that took more time than I anticipated.)
  • Nonetheless, I did write some. A fair bit, even. I'm currently somewhere around 66K words spread over 31 chapters, and I think I should only have a few more chapters to go. We'll be finishing close to the wire, but we will finish on time. Even if I have to call off a couple D&D sessions to get it done.
  • Speaking of D&D, that's going . . . reasonably well. Writing that project is also running behind, but my player tend to move slowly enough that it's not a huge issue. I should have enough material for the next few sessions, and if all else fails . . . well, I recently managed to run a whole session mostly by improv (like, about 10-15% of it was stuff I'd actually prepared), so I feel like I'll be ok even if I don't do as much prep as I'd like.

Reading!

  • This was simultaneously a very light and very heavy reading month, in more senses than one. It was light in that I only read four and two halves books this month. It was heavy in that one of those half books was . . . this.

Image of Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

  • I started Rhythm of War on January 4, the day before I started work. I'd prepped a little by rereading Edgedancer (on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, because that seemed appropriate) and by reading Dawnshard (which was a pretty excellent novel aside from the fact that I don't enjoy Lopen as a POV character in large doses). Those were novellas or short novels, and I finished them in a matter of a day. Rhythm of War, on the other hand, I still haven't finished, mostly because . . . work. Also, I've found out that reading it before bed often makes it harder to sleep rather than easier (because I am terrified for these characters; I know there's another six books, but that's not helping), so sometimes I read other things.
  • Like these:

  • Furiously Happy is another blogger biography, this one by Jenny Lawson (also known as The Bloggess). Much like Allie Brosh's biographies that I read last year, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this one. I liked it better on the whole than Brosh's books, but . . . sometimes, Lawson's sense of humor is more inappropriate than I really appreciate. Let's put it that way. (Also, while there are aspects of her philosophy on life that I can appreciate, there are other aspects that I very much don't agree with.) I still enjoyed reading it, and I think it was helpful to read, in a sense. But I don't expect I'll reread it.
  • We Never Talk About My Brother is an anthology by Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn (which I haven't read but am going to. Y'know. As soon as I finish Rhythm of War.) I picked it up for the first story, "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel," though I can't remember exactly why I was so intent on reading that story. It's been interesting. Not my favorite anthology I've ever read, but also not the worst.

Watching!

  • I haven't really watched much this month, due to the fact that I've been, y'know, kinda busy. I'm pretty sure I only watched two movies this whole month. One, The Lemon Drop Kid, was in the first week of January, at the tail end of the Christmas movie season. I definitely hope to watch that one again next Christmas; it's basically what you'd get if someone crossed The Music Man and The Sting and then made it Christmas. So, naturally, I approve wholeheartedly.
  • The other movie I watched was You've Got Mail. A friend of mine really likes it (hi, Emma!), and since I watched Shop Around the Corner in December, I wanted to see the remake. It was a good movie, and I can tell why people enjoy it, though it wasn't a new favorite by any means. I mean, I would watch it again, but I wouldn't request it.
  • Other than that . . . I'm on Episode 4_ of Critical Role, slowly but surely plugging away. I'm basically done with the Avantika arc, at least, so I'm happy about that. And the last few episodes were really good. Even #45, which was looooong and had a guest player, which I . . . usually don't enjoy that much? And I was very uncertain about this new person at the start of the episode. But it wound up being pretty awesome.
  • (Also, I accidentally saw spoilers for Episode 122, and spent almost 24 hours in a mild panic over what had happened to my favorite character and what kind of bad life choices he had made. And then I caved to said panic and looked up spoilers. I don't actually feel bad about it because I came into the fandom already knowing a lot of spoilers, and I still maintain that knowing these moments and events are coming and then getting to actually discover the real context adds to the experience. But yeah. That happened.)

Life!

  • So, the big news at the moment is, of course, that I started a new job on January 5. That's obviously been keeping me quite busy as I figure out how to balance work, writing, family, fun, and rest. It's . . . more challenging than I expected it to be. I'm sure I'll get the rhythm of it before too long, but for now . . . Well, we're still figuring it out.
  • I am enjoying the job itself fairly well. It's interesting work, but not too difficult. There's been nothing in my work thus far that I didn't have a reference point for, so the real difficulty is in learning the people and the environment and adapting what I know to the current situation. That and getting used to spending almost an hour and a half in the car every day . . . there are much worse commutes out there, and it's a good opportunity to unwind with some good music, but it's still a very different situation from my last internship.
  • (I also ended up getting beset by technological issues pretty much as soon as the person training me left, which was . . . not ideal, since almost all of those issues effectively, in some fashion, prevented me from doing my actual job. And they were almost all linked, all but one, because the fix for the first caused the second, and the fix for the second caused the third, and in the end I spent all of Thursday and more time than I'd have liked on Tuesday and Wednesday either on the phone or in chat with tech support or else just sitting at my desk and watching as the tech support guy tried to remotely figure out what the heck was wrong with my computer/account/whatever. We are all very appreciative of tech support guy (aka Daniel), who is doing his best and is very nice about how frustrating it probably was to try to fix all the mess. Especially the bits that he called "extremely mysterious.")
  • On a happier note, I did finally finish the freelance design project that had been taking up a lot of my time in November and December. I'm happier with how the second half of the project turned out than the first, but in general I'm glad to be done. I had some ideas at one point about doing freelancing on the side in addition to working and writing, but I don't think that's going to happen.
  • Outside of work, life's been quiet. One of my D&D campaigns seems to be going on pause for a while because the DM is busy with other life stuff. But the other is progressing in some very exciting directions, and everyone's been getting some really great roleplay opportunities. So that's great.
  • One exciting thing that did happen this month: in keeping with my "year of finally," I have at last checked off two recipes from my "want-to-try" list! One is naan-type flatbread — it's not actually naan; that has yogurt in it; but it's similar. We used this recipe from King Arthur Baking, and it turned out very well. Then, the next weekend, I decided that I wanted a break from sourdough and instead made bagels! They had a noticeably different crust texture than store-bought bagels do, but I think they turned out well, and they were surprisingly easy to make. In many respects, it was really just a matter of making a thick roll dough, poking a hole in the dough-ball, and then boiling them before I baked them.
  • I think I also landed on a decent minimum-effort sourdough recipe that'll work for weekday nights. While I was very happy with the recipe I came up with back in November or December, it required me to babysit the bread dough for four hours, which isn't really feasible when I'm at work all day and like to get to bed at a reasonable time of night. The new, quicker version is less soft and fluffy than the four-hour version, but it's not as dense as the original recipe, and it has a good flavor. So I'm calling that a win.

February Plans

  • Obviously, the main non-work plan for February is to finish the TMS sequel as soon as possible. I'd like to get it written and then give it a thorough initial edit before I send it to Kendra. We may have to settle for a less-thorough-than-I'd-like edit, but that's fine. Whatever edits I have to do will be much less extensive than what I did for Mechanical Heart, and the TMS sequel is still shorter than Mechanical Heart was (and will be shorter still, since a lot of edits will be cutting words), so, yeah. We'll manage.
  • Aside from that, I need to finish writing, or at least finish outlining, the current D&D arc. I have all the things that need to happen in my head, but not on paper (real or digital). So that might be a good problem to fix sooner rather than later.
  • I would also like to finish Rhythm of War and then read books that are not RoW. It's a great book, don't get me wrong, but I'm realizing why other people are intimidated by these books and long books in general. (Also, I don't want to get behind on my goal to finish my LOTR reread/reread and read the WoT books.)
  • I don't have any big plans on the baking front, but we'll see what happens. I'm sure I'll make something delicious.
  • Finally, in the blogging sphere, we have February is Fantasy Month and Valentine's Day, so we should have some fun posts coming up. I'm excited.

How was your January? Any exciting plans for February? What are your opinions on going into a fandom knowing spoilers? Have you ever made bagels (or would you want to)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!