Sunday Sum-Up: February 23, 2020

Busy week! And one full of adulting. I had a dentist’s appointment. I got the car’s oil changed. I filed my taxes. Did laundry. Dusted and swept. All that boring stuff. I’m hoping this week brings less not-fun stuff. Like a day where I can sleep in. That would be great.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

02_19_2020 A7III 050

On YouTube, there are multi-hour-long videos featuring birds hopping around and eating seeds. That’s it. That’s the entire video.

They’re made for cats. Mina loves them.

I started one up before I left for dinner with friends on Wednesday night, and from the beginning, she was hooked. She’d sit next to the computer screen, staring at it from a few inches away, tail twitching, and occasionally batting at the bird on the screen. I wonder what she thinks when a bird flies off screen and then doesn’t appear in the room…

Anyway. I’ve been playing these videos on the television when I leave for work in the morning in the hopes that she won’t get bored while I’m away.

If this goes on, by the end of the year my cat will have watched more television than me.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Sea Queen has an incredible– if brutal– battle at the ending, and the hero of it is someone you might not expect given what they’ve been through during the rest of the story. There are political machinations throughout that make the characters in Game of Thrones look like amateurs, and it provides a vivid and realistic sense of the culture that gave rise to the Vikings. I’m looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, which I’m planning to read in March.

The structure of The Phoenix Empress was not as tight as it was in the previous book, The Tiger’s Daughter, but the story was still riveting. We find out what O-Shizuka was doing while Shefali was gone and how she came to the throne. It’s beautifully written but doesn’t have the driving narrative of The Tiger’s Daughter. I’m not disappointed by this, though, and plan to finish the trilogy soon.

Ruin and Rising was a great finale to the Grisha trilogy. I sat down and read the last third at the Barnes and Noble cafe and didn’t even notice the passage of time. I love how the characters were devoted to each other through thick and thin, were believably snarky, behaved like rational people in a terrifying situation, and could communicate without sneering, snarling, or growling (though I still have to say that it was a relief when certain characters finally started using their words when talking to each other). It’s not my favorite YA series or even my favorite by Bardugo, but I’m glad I read it. Onward to the Six of Crows books!

What I’m Currently Reading:

Circe continues to be amazing and beautiful. You’d think that a goddess living alone on an island would be a dull story, but Miller wraps other Greek myths into the story so it’s a lively, constantly moving thing where Circe is constantly discovering awful truths about her divine family and having them show her truths about herself in the cruelest way possible. You begin to understand how Circe, the naive nymph, becomes Circe, the treacherous witch, in The Odyssey.

I’m reading The Ruin of Kings for a buddy read with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku, and wow does it have an odd beginning. Rather than being a straightforward narrative, the main character Khirin’s story is told through a series of interviews while he’s a prisoner, and via reports written by his jailers. It makes you wonder what part of this story is telling what really happened: Khirin’s, the jailers’, both, or neither? I’m not very far into it, so it’s hard to give an opinion about it.

I’m still working my way through ‘Egil’s Saga’ in The Sagas of Icelanders. It’s strange to see the English king Athelstan show up about halfway through since this story is from the perspective of the Norse, who were usually fighting against the English. But there were some Vikings who ended up siding with Athelstan for a time. The history of the Viking Age is strange and brutal, but mostly strange.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez


What I’ve Been Watching:

Star Trek: Picard
CBS All Access
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Jeri Ryan

Episode 105: ‘Stardust City Rag’

Weird title, fantastic episode. Picard and Co. track cybernetics expert Bruce Maddox to Freecloud, a lawless planet where crimelords thrive (and where there are some clever Trek easter eggs). To have a chance of saving Maddox, they plan a heist where they’ll trade Maddox for Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Seven has Borg technology throughout her body, and people will sell these parts on the black market for a fortune. Raffi dresses them up in wacky costumes to make them fit in (Rios gets a flashy green suit, complete with a wide-brimmed hat with a wild feather; Picard gets a suit worthy of a Bond villain, complete with an eye patch and outrageous French accent). Poor Elnor is baffled by the idea of going undercover, and because the order he grew up with tells the truth in every situation, he’s sent down as himself (Evan Evagora perfectly plays Elnor’s innocence of the galaxy outside of Vashti, and manages to be quite funny while doing so).

As the heist goes on, it becomes clear that Seven’s motivations aren’t merely to help Picard with his lost cause. Thirteen years earlier, a person she loved like a child was murdered by the crimelord Bjayzl (the one they’re trying to pull a fast one on), and now Seven wants revenge.

Meanwhile, Raffi heads to Freehold to see her estranged son, Gabe. She wants to be part of his life again, and she tells him she’s clean (though two episodes earlier, we saw her vaping some kind of drug, so maybe she’s not so clean). Gabe has long felt like she abandoned him and his dad thanks to her obsession with wild conspiracy theories about the destruction of the Martian shipyards. He criticizes her for this, which sends Raffi into a furious diatribe. The scene is almost painful to watch because you can see the love between mother and son, but there is a lot of pain, too. Michelle Hurd and Mason Gooding are brilliant.

The last two minutes take a frightening turn and make you question everything you know about one of the characters. I’m curious to see how said character will get away with it, or even if they will.

It was interesting to read Keith R.A. DeCandido’s review of this episode in light of a recent episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour that discussed fan service and the reactions of different members of a given fandom will have to elements of a show or whatever that change in different iterations. In the PCHH discussion of fandom, Linda Holmes noted that when a show or movie is rebooted for a younger generation and certain elements are changed to appeal to that younger generation, older fans (particularly men) get angry at the changes they see as running counter to the canon of the earlier work, or declare that these changes are ruining or degrading the entire universe of the show, as we’ve seen in the controversies surrounding the most recent episodes of the Skywalker Saga in the Star Wars movies.

In my own experience, the people I’ve seen complaining most about new iterations of something (particularly Star Wars and Star Trek) are in fact men, so Holmes’s note makes perfect sense to me, especially after she went on to say that in her experience, when women encounter something they hate in a work they love, they’re more inclined to react by writing fanfiction or creating a headcanon where that awful thing didn’t happen. Something else happened instead. This has been my experience, too. The fanfic I’ve been working on is a loooong response to an element I hated in a show I otherwise enjoyed.

The juxtaposition of podcast and Picard review was fascinating because it touched on something that’s been bugging me about many reviewers, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

(I feel I should also note that the collaborative sides of fandom, such as fanart and fanfic have also provided LGBTQIA people with a place where they can express themselves and their love for things, as PCHH co-host Glen Weldon pointed out)

What About that Writing Thing?

I’m still working away on that, and it’s going more smoothly now that I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing. I might not hit my word goal every single day, but I don’t beat myself up over it. The more I write, the easier it is to sit down, silence the internal critic, and get the story written down. The inner critic can have a field day in the later drafts when its called for.

So far, the story is just under 100 pages long, and will probably have another fifty or sixty or more by the time I finish. Because it’s not going to be ready as soon as I wanted it to be, I’m going to whip together a couple more short stories (around 1500 words) and post one each week starting the beginning of March. It’ll give me time to finish writing and editing Part 2 so I can post Part 1 at the end of March/beginning of April. I will get this thing finished!

It’s been a fascinating process to see how this plot, which has largely been unchanged since I started writing it about six years ago, has been subtly (and not so subtly) changing over the past few months, thanks in part to the overall mass of books I’ve read since I put the series down four years ago, and partly due to the books and podcasts I’ve been listening to about British and Norse history in the past few months. My two trips to Iceland have also provided inspiration.

I’m happy with what I’ve written over the last couple of weeks, even if parts of it are rough. It’ll take work to smooth out those rough edges, but that’s fine. I look forward to sitting down at my desk at the end of the day and filling page after page with this story that’s lived in my head for so long.

14 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: February 23, 2020

  1. 💗💗yay on the writing!! On another note I need photo help….you said something about squishing in photos in insta…next week my theme is rule of thirds…obviously I’m might get a great shot on my camera that won’t display properly on insta…what’s the trick? I don’t want it to be balance week all over again…

  2. Thanks!

    To change the aspect ratio in Instagram: when you first pull a photo into IG, touch two fingertips to either side of the image, and then slide them toward the center (the opposite of how you zoom on a camera phone, if that helps?). You should see more of the photo appear, and then you can adjust how much of it shows up. You can get the entire photo in if it’s horizontal, but not if it’s vertical. No idea why.

  3. Wow! That’s quite a week of adulting. I was supposed to file my taxes last weekend… oops. That will happen ASAP, as I am hopeful my refund will sponsor some portion of my dog’s upcoming knee surgery. And I don’t want to wait on that! Poor doggo. 🙂
    It’s hilarious that you’re keeping Mina entertained while you’re gone. When you came back from dinner, was she still watching? I wonder how many hours of entertainment she gets.
    I’m super excited to leave work today and pick up The Ruin of Kings on my way home!! Due to the weather getting into the upper 40s the almost 2 feet of snow we had rapidly melted and shut down my library for a few days. They are open again today — with no damage to books! Yay! My grubby paws cannot wait to get a hold of this book.

  4. Poor pup! Definitely get that refund ASAP!

    With the YouTube for cats- I had it on one day at home to see how she interacts with it (plus, pretty songbirds in HD is no bad thing), and she watched it for about 15 minutes, then did something else for a while before the birds caught her eye again. Repeat cycle. So she doesn’t sit there and watch for hours on end. Fortunately.

    Eek! We had major snow last winter, and it also melted in two days, but fortunately there was no damage in my hometown. Massive flooding elsewhere in the state, though. It was a scary few weeks. Glad to hear your library is open again and that the books are okay! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Ruin of Kings. I didn’t read it at all yesterday so you could get caught up.

  5. I’m glad that Mina isn’t wasting away in front of the TV. And it’s a nice thing to have in the background for you, too! Does your other cat notice this at all?

    🙂 I love this book. I’m definitely neglecting other things I should be doing to read. Lyons’ pacing is superb.

  6. The older cat mostly just sleeps under the bedroom chair. He’s 15, so he has earned his naps. I don’t usually have the bird videos going while I’m at home. Just when I leave for hours.

    I am definitely liking this book more as I get deeper into it. Flashbacks still annoy me, but Lyons is doing it well, so it’s less jarring going from one timeline to another.

  7. What do you consider “flashbacks”? I just read that sentence and I wasn’t able to immediately picture something. They are two storylines of flashbacks in my brain, but it sounds like you think about this differently.
    (Feel free to respond in the Google Doc if you want to break this down more)

  8. So whenever a story starts with one timeline (whether or not it’s a recounting or previous events) and then shifts to a previous timeline, in my mind that is a flashback. They tend to annoy me because a) a lot of writers just don’t do it well, and b) I feel like I am constantly trying to reconcile what the characters know in each timeline, and who is when in the story. It always takes me a while to get accustomed to narratives that are split up like this one is.

  9. I get that. But, by this definition there should be two flashbacks, as we open the book with Talon and Kihrin chatting in jail… Either way, I definitely have to pay attention to who is telling the story. This would not work as an audiobook for me unless we had three narrators.

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