alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
[ profile] warpwind asked me on twitter on behalf of asinglestarwar and it was easier to compile them here. Extra recs very much appreciated!
Read more... )
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
So I am up to date on all 56 episodes of the Adventure Zone and I love it and I want MORE why do I have to WAIT?? I have a few standalone episodes I haven't listened to yet but right now I want the end to this arc not something else.

It continues to be a very funny, meta, rule-bending dungeons and dragons game, but what started out as a fairly generic fantasy plot livened up by jokes has become a really engaging and well written fantasy plot livened up by jokes, and the characters have gained some depth.

It actually reminds me a lot of Homestuck, it's not remotely as convoluted but has similar slapdash fourth-wall-breaking pop-culture-heavy humour that somehow forms a weirdly coherent and surprisingly affecting whole.

Other similarities: none of the characters have canon appearances, the creators are supportive of fanart to the extent that there's official Fanart Spinoffs, and despite being 30 something white American dudes(*) with typical dirty nerdboy humour and blind spots there's obvious attempts at diversity, specifically lots of female characters and some canon m/m(**) and f/f. There's even a canon, sympathetic, background non binary character! Who was a construct but the non binariness was never a big deal and they got canon "they" pronouns, which was nice. (Some of the guys took a while to stop defaulting to "he" but they all got it by the end)

(*)And one 60 year old dude who doesn't try as hard in this respect.
(**) hearing two brothers roleplay a date between one of the main characters and an NPC was kinda weird but I still ship it haha.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
A nice well behaved middle class 11 year old girl in 1920s England wakes up Wrong. Something's off about her memories. She's always hungry. Her sister keeps screaming that she's fake. Her parents start to wonder what's happened to their Nice Little Girl...

I normally don't like kid's books but I LOVED this with a FIERCE PASSION. I think all nice little 11 year old girls start to feel like there is Something Wrong With Them and Soon Everyone Will Know but this takes that experience and dials it up to a thousand and it was all very satisfying. The delightfully awful little sister is great too.

Note that this is children's horror, I found the awful things that happen cathartic but they can be quite awful.

Spoilers about what's going on and how it broadly plays out. I wanted to know, and am glad I knew in advance, but ymmv. I also mention the one thing I didn't like, which some people may find very upsetting.
Spoilers )
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
Which is to say, I was VERY WOOZY for some of these.

Games (mostly from the currently ongoing steam sale):

Scribblenauts Unlimited (windows only): Solve people's problems by creating/editing objects. Fun, but you play as a guy saving his sister, and everytime you finish a level you gain another sibling as a possible avatar and ALL FORTY OF THEM are male. I checked! WHY NOT MAKE HALF OF THEM GIRLS. OR EVEN ONE OF THEM. They're not even compulsory so dude players wouldn't have to play as a girl, but girl players could! This annoys me so much I have stopped playing. IT'S SO UNNECCESARILY SEXIST. (Non binary/ungendered characters would also be good but if they can't manage girls)

Grim Legends: the Forsaken Bride: a Hidden object game from Artifex Mundi, only just started. Graphics are a bit uncanny valley but it's a nicely immersive Olde Worlde village setting. So far you're a woman rescuing your sister.

Higurashi When They Cry: Stalled on this completely. It's not bad, I just find it hard to keep up momentum with kinetic novels (like a visual novel but with no real choices)

Message Quest: a puzzle game about a lazy messenger in a fantasy world trying to avoid doing his quest. Has occasional simple turn based combat and I got stuck on a battle, but was enjoying it until then and will use a walkthrough to get past it at some point. Has some things that made me :/ about gender but is ultimately good hearted. It's a bit weird having to poke a lazy character who "just wants to sleep" when you have cfs, but he really is just lazy.

Audiosurf 2: Crashed on both windows and Mac :/
Books, manga, anime )
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
Finished "Fire" by Kristen Cashore, second in the Graceling series but third for me. I mostly enjoyed it, but there were things I didn't like, and despite everyone saying the books are very different I found it a bit too similar to the other two and need a break from her shtick.

Fire is set in a land "over the mountains" from the countries the other two are set in, and the worldbuilding is so incompatibly different I'd have found it more plausible as a literal different world with a portal or something. Basically, there are "monster" versions of humans and animals: beautiful but oddly coloured with mind reading and control abilities they generally use to lure prey. The main character is such a "monster", and spends the book finding a place for herself in a world which both adores and fears her, especially given the legacy of her father, who evil-psychic-grand-vizier-ed the country into ruin.

Like the other two, it's an engaging and effective story of a young woman brought up to use her power for evil overcoming trauma, loneliness and mistrust to find love, happiness, and purpose. But like the other two there were a few things that bugged me.
no spoilers it just got a little long )

I am doomed

Oct. 7th, 2014 10:34 pm
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
So I read today that the adobe ebook reader does all sorts of dodgy spying, and decided to uninstall it (never liked it anyway) in favour of the Kobo application(*).

Then, looking at my newly imported library, I decided to get around to starting the Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein, which I have been recced forever and bought on special ages ago.

And it was AMAZING. A fantasy story with solid worldbuilding, light and easy to read prose, great female characters, involving story, and a DEEP love of science. Like it legit made me tear up a little the way the main character loves finding and sharing the truth about the world with others. And it feels like a deliberate alternative to all those creepy macho odes to science by the likes of Neal Stephenson *spits in the general direction of Anathem* without being woo anti-science fluff.

The Steerswomen (there are some men but women are the default) are an organisation dedicated to finding out and telling the truth. They welcome anyone who is willing to do the training and pass the tests, and share their knowledge freely and enthusiastically. And people ask, there isn't this elitist Us vs Them dichotomy with the Common People, though the book does draw a stronger line between Logical Science Types and regular people than I have noticed in real life, even if the latter group are treated sympathetically. Anyway: the main character, the titular Steerswoman, starts the book poking at a mystery, then as is usually the way in such stories finds herself caught up in Large And Important Things which I found quite thrilling and interesting (if not STAGGERINGLY original) and forms a charming and femslashy bond with a barbarian woman who is also quite intelligent but much happier to solve her problems by gutting people with her sword.

And then I got to the end and it was satisfying for that SPECIFIC ARC but I still wanted to know MORE...and I could the next book. Because the reader is tied to the store. Thus the title of this post, I am doomed.

Though as it turns out I already owned the second book since it was part of the original sale.

But then someone else's post reminded me that I've been meaning to check out Ancillary Justice, and the Steerswoman series has like four books....(and isn't finished /o\)


(*)The Kobo store isn't the cheapest, but they are a fairly reliable source of Australian-friendly ebooks that are DRM free when they can be and aren't associated with any Evil Overlords like Google or Amazon (as far as I know...)

Also while I'm being paranthetical: though not grimdark, and generally circumspect about the details, the book has a moderate amount of violence and there's an Evil Incestuous Bisexual who briefly threatens the heroine with rape and for the moment is the only sign of queerness in the world, though I vaguely recall hearing that that improves.
alias_sqbr: "Creative genius" with an arrow pointing to a sketch of me (genius!)
Fanart Remix Exchange is open for signups! COME JOIN

Penny Stirling has a story published in Heiresses of Russ 2014: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction. Have bought my copy but haven't read it yet, I like lesbians and stuff by friends but don't tend to like short stories.

Book One of Horizon is finished! Horizon is a really interesting alternate history scifi fantasy story [personal profile] whatistigerbalm is writing about historians piecing together history after the world sort of ended (...I think) and trying not to get into trouble for heresy.

I got quoted in a Buzzfeed article about Chris Lilley's brownface. I don't recall being asked for permission, but I would have said yes so eh. At least people are talking about it now.
alias_sqbr: Zuko with a fish on his head (avatar)
First, a very strong rec to a great many of you:

Fire Logic by Laurie J Marks is like Avatar the Last Airbender for grownups in a world where bisexuality is the default (Except minus the jokes, alas)

Which is to say: a mutiple POV, morally complex story about a rag tag group of people with different elemental magics trying to survive and fix a fantasy world torn apart by war. The main character is dark skinned and into girls and there is genuine equality for women and lgb people (no trans, non-binary or intersex people afaict, but they may show up later) I'm a little fuzzy on the cultural references beyond the Fire nation invaders being Romans, a lot of it feels like generic Euroland to me (except that MORE THAN HALF THE CHARACTERS ARE LADY LOVING LADIES :D :D) but I'm not very observant.

My one serious complaint is that the first 70 pages or so really aren't much fun. It's all dry emotionally unrewarding setup and tense since you just know everything is about to go to crap. After that the writing style still isn't very evocative but I had a lot more fun and by the end was satisfied but still off to the library to reserve the next book. Also the world building felt a bit opaque, she doesn't quite have the writing talent to actually show everything she's decided not to explicitely tell. But the characters and plot were good, even if the writing was uneven. Note: one major character has rape in her backstory but it is never shown on screen and I thought was dealt with pretty well. The characters go through some other intensely harrowing things on screen, and lots of people die. And I'm still chewing over the way the magic healing interacts with sexuality and disability.

But still. Moderately good fantasy novel where the main character is a brown woman who finds a happy romantic ending with a girl. I will put up with a lot for that, and I suspect some of you will too :)

And now some books I failed to read (or wished I had):

Manhatten Dreaming by Anita Heiss: A chic lit book about an Aboriginal gallery curator who decides to use the chance to go to New York as a way to get over her douchey ex. I liked the main character but it was SOOO chic litty, and her ex was such a douche. I skipped to the end to see if she stopped pining about him and she had barely stopped and there was some annoying stuff about lesbianism and I gave up. If you can deal with that you might enjoy it.

Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas: TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE. Wish I'd had one of those. Can go into details if anyone's interested, but just...ugh. Also while not aggressively racist it's still about white people in India in the 19th century.

Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas: Probably fine, but by the time this arrived for me at the library I was REALLY not in the mood for Sherry Thomas and a hero thinking about wanting to dominate the heroine. Maybe another time.
alias_sqbr: Torchwood spoilers for various episode numbers: Jack dies (torchwood spoilers)
I am too sore to draw or concentrate right now, so have some reviews and stuff.

Finally got around to reserving some of my backog of recs through the new library, and then perused the shelves while my chair recharged.

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang: was enjoying this noir-ish urban fantasy about a hard bitten young woman well enough then SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED TO A LITTLE GIRL and I stopped. May try and find out if the little girl ends up ok, since it was otherwise ok.

The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees: Oh godddddd this was bad. I mean, maybe it'd be fun if you thought Twelfth Night needed more Feste but less jokes and didn't like ANY OF THE ACTUAL MAIN CHARACTERS. But personally I am not in the market for a joyless darkier and edgier sequel about Viola's daughter where all the characters I like screw things up and die tragically or screw things up and become moustache twirling villains and Feste becomes a perfect angel of insightful genius and NOONE EVER TELLS ANY JOKES. She even managed to take the fun out of crossdressing and lesbians :( (People need to stop doing that) Gave up 1/5 of the way in.

Knave's Wager by Loretta Chase: fluffy old school regency romance about a rake falling for an uptight widow. Exactly what it says on the tin, but fun for what it was. No egregious racism and surprisingly sympathetic to the scheming courtesan the hero is working against (much more morally complex than The Fool's Girl, that's for sure, and without all the self important pretension)

Manhatten Dreaming by Anita Heiss: Just started this. Chic lit with an aboriginal heroine. So far ok but I'm not really a fan of the genre, so we'll see how I do.

Fire Logic by Laurie J Marks: Fantasy novel set in a pseudo-medieval world with Avatar The Last Airbender-esque elemental magics. Ok so far, I can't remember what in the recs I read made me decide to read it (WOC main-ish character?), but sadly there does not seem to be any mathematical logic involved :(


The Thrilling Adventure Hour: The over the top retro radio serial everyone keeps going on about. Have listened to the first few episodes and it is pretty fun.

Chinese History Podcast: Accessible but idk...gave me a weird uncomfortable feeling. Not sure I'll stick with it. I did learn some things about the first Chinese emperor.


Fresh Pretty Cure: FINALLY got around to trying this out. It is exactly as promised, a competent and endearing magical girl show with femslashy female friendships and no creepy fanservice. There's also the hints of some delicious ho-yay :D

(And woo, while writing this the heater kicked in and I am ever so slightly less sore. Also the cat is happy)
alias_sqbr: Zuko with a fish on his head (avatar)
So! I just came from Swancon. It was great! I may write some more coherent personal thoughts later, but plausibly not cos I don't have much interesting to say. What I do have are COPIOUS NOTES. So let's get started.

Queerbaiting )Favourite Comics )Magic Systems )
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
I have caught up with Welcome to Night Vale and it is amazing. It's a good time to get into it too, since the first 25 podcasts make for a fairly well rounded little story (not that I'm not looking forward to episode 27!) What plot there is is slow and sporadic but it all holds together remarkably well for a setting combining glow clouds, angels, vague yet menacing government agencies etc. Also, there's canon m/m! The main character is unambiguously interested in men, but it is very much just one facet of his character, he is much more focussed on informing his listeners, not being eaten by station management etc.

There a cute little fandom on tumblr I haven't dipped my toes into much yet. Though as with Elementary fandom, I find myself charmed by all the adorable gen and glad people share my shipping tendencies...but kind of wish there was more kissing. *is shallow*

Not a huge focus on female characters in the show or fandom though there is definitely some. The writers feel like well meaning white guys, they do better than most of the influences they're drawing from (like Lovecraft haha) and there's a major POC character but also some weeeird stuff around American Indians. There is in general a theme of it being ok to be to be weird or damaged, it's just something you work around, which is a nice change from the "FEAR THE ABNORMAL" tone of much horror (of course they conflate missing ears with being haunted by the voices of the dead, possessed by aliens etc but hey)

Also some people find it scary but I really don't. The one exception was the morning I woke to a weirdly familiar noise and just for a second thought "OH GOD IT'S STREET CLEANING DAY D: D:"

There are transcripts of most episodes and a twitter account which posts strange little messages in addition to information about tshirts etc.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
Not much, really!

What I've been reading: Eventually skimmed my way to the end of Un Lun Dun, not trying China Mieville again for awhile.

Enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms well enough. I reviewed them both recently if you scroll back a bit.

Not feeling super enthusiastic about reading at the moment but I'm sure something new will catch my eye. Have a fanfic rec instead:

Buy the Stars, a fantastic fic for Fallen London/Echo Bazaar about the relationship between a Sneaktheif and a Rubbery Man.

What I'm currently reading: Found my copy of "Steampowered 2" again (it was lost on my desk under various post Swancon detritus) am reading that on the train slowly and enjoying it well enough.

What I've been playing and watching:

Witch/Knight: a short but effective little free visual novel. The art is lovely and the characters likeable, and there's an f/f relationship at it's heart (though it's definitely not a dating sim) It's pretty anachronistic and the worldbuilding is a weird mix of China and Eurofantasy, overall I was not at all surprised that it was written in a month by a 21 year old(*), but once I got used to that I really enjoyed it. There are four endings that (rather arbitrarily) rely on your choices all game (and afaict some get closed off very early on) I've seen three including the "best" ending (according to author fiat :)) and they are all some variation on bittersweet. You may find this frustrating.

Teen Wolf Season 1 Disk 1: I eventually gave up halfway through the last episode. As I was told, the first few episodes are much shakier than the ones that follow and there's definitely some interesting characters and plots, but it just didn't grab me. I didn't like the rather grim world it's set in, and while the secondary female characters are great they are definitely secondary. Mainly it just made me nostalgic for the first season or so of Vampire Diaries, which I found to be a much more entertaining take on similar tropes.

Still watching and enjoying Elementary and Chihayafuru week by week. *waits for Cam to get home so I can watch the latest episode of Elementary*

(*)There's a specific writing style I've only seen young writers use, I'm not sure if it's bad or just appeals more to people that age but it's definitely distinctive.
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
I recently read two different fantasy novels I've had recced to me as refreshingly progressive but still mainly just light escapism and had two quite different reactions.

The 10 000 Kingdoms by N K Jemisin: This has been widely touted as THE great Epic Fantasy Novel By and Featuring A POC, but I've also seen lots of people really irritated at all the praise, and I can see where both are coming from. It is a cheesy, self indulgent book that is most enjoyable if you breeze through it quickly without thinking too hard and have similar narrative kinks to the author (lots of incest between gods and the Angst Of The Immortal Made Slave. Think Dark Jewels crossed with Chalion). While the prose is very readable the execution leaves a lot to be desired, especially in fleshing out things like the main romance.

If the protagonist was white the book wouldn't seem as remarkable, but she isn't, and her POCness (both by the standards of our world and the standards of hers) is both a significant part of her character and a natural seeming part of the story rather than feeling pasted on. That shouldn't be remarkable, but it is. I'm not in a position to judge how well race is handled but Jemisin certainly shakes up the tropes of generic Eurofantasy while telling an entertaining yarn and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series (though I could stop here and feel satisfied enough. For that alone she deserves praise :D)

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville: I like fantasy, but am often pissed off by how very in love it is with Kings and Destiny. People keep recommending me China Meiville as an antidote and I keep being disappointed and this was no exception.

The main character is the plucky desi friend of the dreamy blonde Destined One Who Will Save Us All. I really like that setup, and I like her and the characters, and the basic worldbuilding and plot structure etc was all fine with lots of inventive ideas and cute drawings. But as with Railsea what I think ultimately annoys me is that he's obviously trying to write a more progressive version of the early 20th century kids books he enjoyed as a boy, but the progressiveness DOES feel pasted on.

As with Railsea the protagonist meets people from charming, quaint, strange subcultures, all of whom end up being totally loyal to her and she leads them all to victory despite being very young and inexperienced. It all feels very typical of the naturally noble young Spirit of Englishness and those plucky adorable working class folk who love to serve them. He throws in some POC and some background queerness and competent female characters who do stuff which is all great, and if I wasn't constantly told how BRILLIANTLY LEFT WING and SUBVERSIVE it all is I probably wouldn't care.

Admittedly I haven't read his adult books since they all sound too depressing, but if they're better that's actually more annoying: it's children who really need their assumptions challenged, not adults. Terry Pratchett does it much better imo (not without missteps, but he doesn't take himself so seriously) as do Miyazaki and le Guin. I do like that he encourages children not to trust the government though, you can never teach them that too young :D
Spoilers for Un Lun Dun )
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
Accidentally took my reflux meds late yesterday, now my whole body is chucking a sad.

What I'm currently reading:
"Tipping the Velvet" by Sarah Waters, author of fine lesbian historical novels. Liking it so far!

What I just finished reading:
"Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine, a good YA fantasy with a nice metaphor/moral about what consent is and why it matters, and the difficulty of being a girl in a conformist society, all hidden under fun fantasy hiijinks. Was indeed very different to the movie, as I had been told! Weirdly fat hating, though.

"Ravishing the Heiress" by Sherry Thomas, a regency romance about a sensible woman who falls in love with the man she's arranged to marry (much to her annoyance, since he is clearly in love with someone else) Remained charming to the end.

What I plan to read next:
Whatever comes in next via library reserve or book order!

What I just finished watching/playing:
The Royal Trap. A very good (apart from one notable problematic aspect) light fantasy visual novel with a great female protagonist and good worldbuilding and characters.

What I'm currently watching/playing:
"Upstairs Downstairs" season 2. Got stuck partway through episode 1 when they put the cute little monkey in peril. I have looked up spoilers to see what happens next and mean to get back to it, I hear this season Alex Kingston plays a lesbian. I love the way the servants have their own inner lives.

What I plan to watch/play next:
Azumanga Daioh disk 3. Light fluffy schoolgirl antics yay. Actually, given my current physical state maybe I'll watch it now.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
First: anything about werewolves (yes even fanfic) that takes into account modern understandings of wolfpacks as families, where "beta" wolves are just younger kids who'll eventually grow up and form their own packs, not inherently submissive losers. (I think it's something like that?)

Second: A story whose protagonist starts out being informed they're part of a special secret magic race/the chosen one/a lost heir etc (see: Harry Potter, most fantasy), then eventually realises they're not: it's a misunderstanding or a trick. Then they have to figure out how to deal with the situation they've gotten tangled up in without any special skills/blood etc (or with less than they expected to have, like if Harry really was a wizard but Neville had turned out to be the one in the prophecy).

The friend in the Twelve Kingdoms anime fits this, but she's a side character and intended as a contrast to the protagonist who is genuinely special. I want any genuinely "special" characters to be secondary.

I've had an idea along these lines knocking about in my head for years (and dream about it too, had a variation last night where all these people from the future got angry at me for not being the wise future religious leader they thought I was, turns out the real messiah was a throwaway clone I'd made of myself earlier) and I'd be curious to see how another author approached it.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
I am currently comfortably set up on [personal profile] lilysea's very nice armchair in her very nice airconditioning avoiding the ridiculous 40C/104F+ weather Perth is in the middle of several days of. (I am also enjoying her company, but we are both in need of a lot of quiet resting time, which works out well. Reading her Facebook updates when she is JUST THERE is as surreal for me as I imagine this post will be for her when she checks her lj :D)

Yesterday I explored the local mall and sat in a library reading graphic novels. I read all of the first Hereville which was unobjectionable and light but didn't wow me, read enough of their Lovely Complex to realise I'd missed a few off the end reading online (now I want to buy it all but it's 17 volumes!), and enough 20th century Boys to decide it was good but way too slow and dark for me. Also saw that Girlfriends by Morinaga Milk comes as a 2 volume omnibus which I will definitely have to buy, woo adorable lesbians.

Today I finished The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho and YOU ALL NEED TO GO READ IT NOW. It's the happy snarky light hearted romantic adventures of a twenty something year old Malaysian girl in London in the 1920s there is literally nothing not to like. I got it for free but it now costs all of $3. And the author turned out to be [profile] quian, who is an online friend of several of you guys, and has a story in Steampowered 2 though I haven't hit it yet in my reading.

Now to go back to "Finder" by Carlo Speed McNeil which is good but hasn't entirely grabbed me.

Oh! And I got all of Doctor Who season 5 for $50 yesterday. That would be good for any tv show but for Dr Who it's practically free. Also some nice cheap shorts, and earrings to attach to my-ear-friendly hooks, and a bunch of other stuff. Yay actually making it to Boxing Day-ish sales and having a wheelchair to move me around them.
alias_sqbr: (happy dragon)
Via oyceter, a "Women in Fantasy" reading list. Apparently my favourite genre is "optional", aka science fiction. I think I'd be more likely to actually use a "Women in SciFi" reading list. Actually, that gives me an idea for a post...
EDIT: I failed to notice that this list is what the staff were expected to read at a con. This explains the things some people found a bit weird, sorry to oyceter for requoting without context! 

The list! )
alias_sqbr: "Creative genius" with an arrow pointing to a sketch of me (genius!)
I decided in would be fun to do this 30 challenge to draw monster girls. I got a whole seven days in before running out of steam, I mean to get back to it when I feel inspired again but for now here's what I've drawn.

I also wrote some meta on the subject and got some interesting and inspiring replies I should respond to.

There's some mild nudity and gore in some of these, nothing extreme. Also a spider and a snake, but they're friendly :)

Centaur on deviantART
Centaur at tumblr

Image descriptions at either link )
alias_sqbr: "Creative genius" with an arrow pointing to a sketch of me (genius!)
I have to keep reminding myself that this is writing practice, otherwise I find myself overwhelmed by how many other better fantasy stories are out there. Still, I'm enjoying writing it, even if I'm really not sure where its going.

Contains: briefly described gore.
Summary: I slept fitfully in the shadows of ancient ruins and dreamed. 1000 words.

Part One
Read more... )

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