"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009

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This journal is partially locked. Most fandom entries are public. Most daily-life entries and a certain amount of squee is locked. To read those entries, comment and ask to be added.

Subscribe to posting filter groups here.

Please note, all my fic posts here are summaries with links to my archive site. To search for fic most easily, you will want to visit my fic archive itself which has all the series/arc/pairing/character indexes and tags. *tips hat*

Nov. 6th, 2009

How not to cross genres

Genre crossing, when done well, can be a very effective storytelling technique, allowing the author to hit the reader with unexpected plot turns and presentation that is sufficiently unusual that it will make the reader think twice about the scene. Alas, when not done well all we get is a hot mess.

Amano is currently demonstrating Not Well with Katekyou Hitman Reborn.

This is especially a shame considering that her first cross went off very well. When she had written sixty issues of a gag manga, full of underwear shenanigans, and suddenly decided she wanted to write a serious, indeed dark in places, battle manga, she made the transition quite smoothly. The underwear phased out and was replaced in a plausible way, the change presented as a moment of personal development for our main character, such as we might expect in a good battle manga. The initial premise, that our hero is slated to inherit a mafia family, offered plenty of material for a darker turn. So far so good. The next two and a half arcs were a marvelous sweep of fast-paced action with personal development and growth for the whole ensemble of characters.

And then we hit the bump. Possibly even the shark. Somewhere, for some reason, the decision was made to extend the Future arc with a new set of villains, and the storytelling fell apart. The pace jinked and faltered, new characters got no background or development, the fights were truncated and disappointing compared to the intense confrontations of previous arcs, and even the first half of the Future arc.

Worst of all, Amano turned back to the gag genre, and, at this juncture, failed to make it work.

This is most evident in our hero, Tsuna. Tsuna has always flailed a lot, to be sure, but less so as time went on; indeed, when he came to the future, the pressure of events and responsibility seemed to wash the flailing out of him and push him toward a more mature presentation even when he isn't wrapped up in Dying Will. With this latest turn, however, the flailing is suddenly back to early levels, to the extent that his weapon reflects it and allies comment on it. The plot provides us with no explanation for this.

This is characteristic of the gag genre: character development is neither necessary nor, in most cases, desired. The character quirks that are used for gags must remain constant, and the nature of the genre is such that readers are usually willing to suspend any disbelief and accept them, however implausible. It's part of the genre expectations.

The genre expectation of a battle manga, and especially a serious one, is that characters will develop, both technically and emotionally. Sudden backsliding of personal development needs some kind of cause or explanation.

As I said at the beginning, these expectations can be crossed, if it is done well. Many battle manga use brief gag moments to break tension; bathroom humor is a favorite. Even the development of the hero can be let to fail briefly, for the sake of increasing dramatic tension. But if the audience is not to reject that tactic, it must be framed, supported, explained in some way--it must be presented as a dramatic moment, in order to be accepted as such. Tsuna's reversion is not.

Hence my fear that Amano has no clue where she's going with the current sub-arc and has fallen back on her roots because she is at a complete loss. If this is due to editorial pressure, to draw out the Future arc more, I hope someone kicks that editor in the teeth soon. If it is due to Amano losing her grip on the story, paging editor!Reborn, please. In either case, the current issues are a fine example of how not to do it.

Oct. 22nd, 2009

Public Service: Yes, get the vaccine

Okay, this has come up one my reading lists, so I figured I should give the short version, here.

Very short low-down on swine flu, aka h1n1 novel virus: It's not horribly deadly it just spreads really fast and no one has immunity to speak of, so yes, you should get the vaccine.

Less short but still short low-down: The swine flu is, by and large, no more dangerous than any seasonal flu. It hits with about the same intensity, so we're talking three days to two weeks of general urgh to acute misery. As always, there can be complications that lead to death; that's influenza for you.

The reason it is rated a pandemic is because of how fast and widely it spreads, due to the unfortunate fact that it is a new virus and no one has more than partial immunity. Older people have gotten more flus and have more chance of that partial immunity, young people have less.

The fear, therefore, is mostly that it will hit everyone in an entire area/campus/town all at once and cause severe problems in basic functioning because everyone will be sick at the same time. No groceries, because there's maybe one person well enough to work at the store, no bus routes, no mail, that kind of thing. This is, of course, of especial concern when it comes to health care workers being hit right when they're needed most. If the ambulance drivers and nurses all have 104 fevers for five days, this is a huge problem.

The particular danger signs are intense nausea and the inability to keep food or liquids down, sudden dizziness, shortness of breath, or showing signs of a secondary infection like pneumonia; ignoring those signs and not getting to a hospital if they appear is a stupid thing to do, but that won't stop some people, especially young people who are used to throwing off even bad illnesses. Hence, deaths.

In summary, you should get the vaccine because, even though you may not ever get enough seasonal symptoms to notice, you are probably still a transmitter and the critical point is to stop the spread of this one.
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Oct. 11th, 2009

'Training wheels' my ass

Brief rant, apropos of a passing remark that broke the camel's back.

I am sick and fucking tired of fanfic being presented as "training wheels". That's a load of BS. Fic is its own practice, with its own locally variable stylistic and presentational rules and its own systems of distribution and compensation, all of which are thoroughly distinct from commercial writing practices. Authors may enjoy writing both. They may write both sequentially. But fic is not somehow an annex of commercial publishing, nor is commercial publishing some kind of evolution of fic. Face it. Those first hundred thousand words are going to be crap no matter how you slice it; if they're written as fanfic instead of drawer-fic, it may appear that writing fic helped one get better. In fact, writing period helps one get better. Do not fall into the logical fallacy of mistaking the venue for the mechanism.

What pisses me off the most is the fanwriters who naively embrace this myth because it offers fast validation. Do they not see that this is the same political maneuver (albeit on quite a different scale) as saying "give us rights because we can't help being deviant" instead of "give us rights because we're human beings too, fuckers". No, of course they don't see it, never mind. The point is this "validation" is only available to writers who implicitly agree to denigrate their fanfic work, to be a shill, a practitioner of fanfic who presents it as of lesser value than commercial work. This offends me in purely logical terms, the two not being commensurate in the first place. It also gets me wound up in defense of my community, even considering that I want to give the vast majority of my fellow community members a good trouting on a regular basis.

So rather than being bamboozled into apologizing for our activity, try this one: "I write fanfic because I like it."
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Oct. 7th, 2009

Jaundiced at page 250

The thing about David Brin is that, while he can write impressive worlds and plots (provided he limits himself to one volume), he simply can't manage to write the world from the perspective of anyone who is non-white, non-male, non-Western. This leads to most any character of his who is not a white, Western male being caricatured or hollow.

A Maori character contemplates the hierarchy of "ethnicity chic", the top standing in which belongs to the most tribal, the most primitive. The very concept of ethnic chic (as hooks et al have pointed out for years and years) can only exist from a white viewpoint. Only from an outside perspective, the viewpoint of someone who has sufficient privilege and cultural capital to not be affected by it, does this "hierarchy" have meaning or even existence. It's fetishization, plain and simple, placed in the mouth of a victim thereof.

It isn't that Brin doesn't try. He does. He just fails. He can't quite manage to write a depiction of another culture or gender or ethnicity that doesn't come out either cartoonish and overblown (eg "Dr. Pak's Preschool") or as a sort of mask over a character-shape that is, at core, white and male and Western (eg Fibbin, Athaclena, Teresa Tikhana).

Sep. 28th, 2009

Bingo!

*just kind of stares*

Okay, let's get something straight (Ha. Ha.). There is a small (quite small) portion of slash fiction that manages to overlap with queer fiction. But the vast majority of slash? Is not queer fiction.

No. No, it's not. No, shut up and quit making asses of yourselves while you demonstrate at length that yours is very probably not.

Queer fiction deals with queer people, emphasis on people. It does not deal with the paper-doll id-fic that constitutes the vast majority of slash, and against which I have nothing. Id-fic is a lovely thing; I write it myself. But it's not queer fiction. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the experience of queer people, of whom I suppose I should say I am one.

Given all this idiotic howling, I find the initial issue, which is the Lambda awards committee specifying that award candidate fiction must be written by people who identify themselves as queer, makes perfect sense. It becomes abundantly evident that there are plenty of clueless straight women (mostly) who are so willfully blind to the appropriation they perform that they will stampede right over a queer-affirming community space if measures are not taken to defend it.

As has been demonstrated.

Sep. 16th, 2009

Yes, like that

Rape prevention tips guaranteed to work.

Auxiliary tip: print out many copies, roll into substantial mass, and beat college/youth work administrators about the head and ears with it.

Sep. 11th, 2009

Shin tenipuri

Okay, I've finally overcome my aversion and skimmed the new PoT issues. Conclusion: we are heading rapidly into Dragonball land, wherein reality takes a distinct and lasting second place to increasing power-ups and disbelief is not just suspended but hung by the neck until dead. Not really surprising.

spoilers, of course )

Of course, this means we'll probably be rehashing advances that Kirihara has already made in the Regionals arc goddamn it, and I still haven't forgiven Konomi for rolling back that advancement. But as long as we get there, okay, fine, whatever.

Weekly manga roundup

TRC: ...for pity's sake, just write a damn /ending/ already.

Naruto: This is getting pathetically boring. The current fight has no draw to it, no magnetism, both parties have gotten downright annoying.

Bleach: *squeaks* Oo! Oo! Maybe they're back?! Also, Starkk rocks.

KHR: *dotes on Gokudera's glee over his explosives* On the other hand, I find it deeply annoying that Amano has reverted to spaz!Tsuna. Total characterization fail, Amano. The prospect of seeing Dino and Hibari fighting is lovely, but clearly only a tease at the moment. *grumps a bit over that*

Meitantei Conan

All right, here is the actual review of Detective Conan domestically published as Case Closed.

The genre of the series is murder mystery, but the setting is, shall we say, unusual. Our hero starts out as a high school student and detective and, like many murder mystery detectives, has lots of brains, amazing powers of observation, unreasonable amounts of knowledge about the details of fields he has never worked in, quite a lot of luck, and a predilection for formal wear. His name is Kudou Shinichi.

And then things get interesting. )

All in all, I would call this an engaging series, though the murders-of-the-week thread may wear a bit for those who are not actual murder mystery fans.

Sep. 9th, 2009

Kazuki

You know what really frosts my cookies about the Getbackers manga?

(Aside from the appallingly gender-skewed and exploitative T&A which I page past as fast as possible and try not to see for the sake of my blood pressure, fuck you very much Ayamine. That one is a given.)

Aoki can't seem to decide whether Kazuki is the baddest badass in Badassville or the designated damsel in distress. His narrative position flips unpredictably from one to the other without anything in the way of signaling or set-up, and it gives me a case of story-whiplash.

I find it exceedingly predictable in shounen, to be sure; the polite ones are the ones you have to watch out for (eg Akabane), but the actively feminized male characters are either comic relief or, narratively speaking, women--women in a shounen manga, which means damsels in distress regardless of what minor skill they may have on their own account which allows them to mop up the small fry while reemphasizing that, in context, they are still weaker. Kazuki winds up written as both a and b, and rather randomly one or the other.

Second verse, same as the first: I actually have an easier time reading shounen manga when the female characters are absent, because the inclusion of female or even strongly feminine characters is almost invariably the signal for a rousing round of role reinforcement. *spits* Thus, again, my glee in any fic I find that ignores Aoki's inability to actually characterize across gender lines even when he set it up himself and takes on the work of reconciling Kazuki's character.

Sep. 5th, 2009

*blinks*

So... has anyone else noticed that gwaddiction.com has been invaded by malware? You can't even get to the site itself; the script is a random redirect.

Oy, Tyr, get on the ball, here. That archive is the only place a lot of those fics are available.

Aug. 29th, 2009

Life without photoshop

Some time ago, my Photoshop died. More precisely, it failed to migrate and only exists on the old computer in the other room with the keyboard I don't like. So I have, after many years away, gone to try out GIMP again.

Gimp is a good program. It is genuinely full-featured image editing software. You can do just about anything you need to with it, once you find the right menu/tool.

Alas, Gimp is originally a Linux application and the 'port' for Mac operates in the X11 windowing system. I hate Mac+X11 with a great and mighty passion. It treats all the program palettes and toolbars as separate windows which you must first click on to make active and then select your tool, layer, etc. There is really no excuse for it to exist inside the Mac system except to allow lazy programmers to say that something is ported when, really, it's no such thing and a usability disaster to boot.

The Mac not-a-port does, however, have pleasantly native visuals and is not written in Java like some video players or open source office software I could name. It thereby escapes the half second lag that is the utmost limit of infuriating.

Gimp has a fairly short learning curve if you know Photoshop already, but there will be an adjustment period where you have to hunt for the right tool and sometimes look up ridiculously basic things on the web to figure out, for example, how to clear a selection to transparency. In some ways Gimp gives you more control; it makes fewer assumptions about what the user really wants to do than Photoshop. On the one hand, this means you have to do it all yourself, but on the other it means you have finer control of, for example, the cropping of layers to the visible canvas size. I do find the fact that it does not paste selections in as a new layer a bit trying, though, since that means you must always remember to create a blank layer to receive pastes so you can manipulate them fully.

History is a tab within the same module as Layers, which I find irritating given the click-and-click behavior required by X11, but, on the bright side, Control+Z can be used to back up as far as you like. I've never been a fan of the Mac behavior that Command+Z is both undo and redo for the last action.

Mac users will need to be aware that the Gimp 'port' does not allow use of the Mac keystroke commands. Instead of Command+S you will have to use Control+S. This is annoying, but the cmd vs ctl is the only difference--S will still save, Z will still undo--so it isn't more than an annoyance.

My one ongoing issue with Gimp is the file navigation, which sucks dead rat. Without ketchup. It does not provide for column-view or list-view of files, instead you have to double click through folder view after folder view to get where you're going. And it's ugly to boot.

The quality of the images produced is much of a muchness, though, and if you don't want to or can't shell out six hundred dollars for a new edition of Photoshop, you may want to download Gimp and give it a try.

Aug. 24th, 2009

Oh, right

*looks around* Yeah, forgot to mention. Now that the crossposter is pretty well ironed out, I'm starting automatic crossposting to my IJ. So everyone who's on both IJ and DW can pick which they'd like to read me on.
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May. 3rd, 2009

Opening Celebrations and Public Service

So, I have filled my invite request list and still have two DW codes free! Anyone want them? Taken!

In other news, it keeps coming to my attention that OpenID intimidates people. It shouldn't. It's exactly like any other log-in, only easier.

To do my bit for a distributed internet, allow me to offer the following extremely simple, step-by-step (there are only two) directions for using OpenID on DW:

1) Go here and enter your LJ/IJ/JF/etc. username (like this: branchandroot.livejournal.com).

2) When the confirmation page comes up, click on "yes, always".

That's it! You're logged in, congratulations. Go comment or make an flist or load a userpic or whatever.

Now, to be really spiffy, you can add a third step.

3) Go here and enter an email address. When you get the confirmation email, click the link to validate.

Now you can receive email notification of replies to comments you make while you're logged in like this.

To log in again, just go back to that first linked page (which is also linked from the log-in form with the handy text "log in via OpenID") and enter username.livejournal.com again. Because you selected "yes, always", you won't even have to deal with the confirmation page again, because it's now automatic. For greatest ease, check the little box on the "welcome back" page that says "remember me".

OpenID is not arcane. It's just another log-in. Only easier.
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May. 1st, 2009

Here we go

*claps hands* Okay! DW open beta is here, and I have my first fistful of invite codes!

My list currently stands at:

takerzmuse
haruyuki (lj)
kemis
netmouse (lj)
the_rck

If any of you have already gotten a code (if, frex, you had a validated OpenID before open beta kicked off) could you let me know? And if not, let me know if you still need a code? And I'll get one right off!

*bounces off, excited*

Apr. 25th, 2009

Moving notice

Okay, it's time for me to move my IJ content over to DW.

I will also be moving my posting over to DW.

Alas, the new crossposter doesn't support filters yet and may not for a few months to come. So I won't be crossposting at once.

I'll be more than happy to put any IJ people who want a DW account to read with on my invite code list, to be executed in a bit less than a week!

Any IJ people who don't want to get a DW account can still read my locked and filtered posts over there, of course. All you need is a "reading account" (aka OpenID).

Directions follow; they're simple )

Of course, one of the things cooking at DW is the ability to read your whole flist from LJ or IJ or etc, even the locked posts, on your DW reading list. I will be so geeked when that one comes out. And Squeaky is thinking of maybe switching IJ to run the DW codebase, so you could, hopefully, read fpages from other services right here eventually! Progress is so cool.

I hate technology

*wails* My post! My comments!

*sits down and sulks mightily*
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Apr. 23rd, 2009

Id-candy safety

Notice: This is a repost of an entry; the first was cruelly devoured in a crossposting glitch and all the lovely comments with it. If anyone wants to comment again or more I will be perfectly pleased to carry on the conversations.

So, here’s the thing. I’m all in favor of having books that are id-candy, brain-fluff, that demand nothing from your intellect and instead go straight on to punch your emoporn joybuttons.

This is, after all, why I own three quarters of everything Mercedes Lackey has ever published.

But, first off, id-candy is a different thing from good writing. The joybuttons don’t care about bad grammar or triteness or slop, they just resonate to the character shapes that hit one’s kinks. Kinks are often trite and cliche, when you think about it. Id-candy is enjoyable exactly because it doesn’t make your brain engage, it doesn’t deal in subtleties, it doesn’t make you do any work. To get enjoyment out of genuinely artful prose, you generally have to think, to ponder even, to put in some work.

Saying that you enjoy your id-candy immensely and saying that your id-candy is great writing are very different statements. Among other things, the first is true and the second generally isn’t. (Unless you’re using a completely Utilitarian definition of “good”, and when people try to compare Rowling and Tolkien it is unfortunately clear that they are not employing such a definition at all.)

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the hell out of trite, cliched slop, of course.

Let us consider Misty, for example. She’s the Queen of Exposition, has a tendency to extremely moralistic and preachy narrative, and drives home her morals with a ten pound sledge. She is guilty of the most egregious cultural flattening and caricaturization and the only thing that comforts me even minutely is that she does it to everyone, whitebread, ‘noble savage’ and orientalist alike. (I maintain that Ancient Egypt should take out a restraining order on the woman.) Her characters are flat, their angst is repetitive, and half the time the stories read like SCA handbooks instead of novels.

Nevertheless–three quarters, right there on my shelf, and I reread handfuls of them at fairly regular intervals. This is because they are excellent brain-fluff emoporn.

Also because they are not toxic. Her moralism can get wearing awfully fast, but at least they are morals I can agree with. Mostly.

That’s the second thing. You have to be careful of the id-candy that uses a moral framework that’s harmful to you.

The Twilight books are a prime example of this. The writing is no worse than most id-candy, but the value system those books are hung on is poison. It’s misogynist, racist, deterministic, conflates obsession and stalking with love, and runs the mobius strip of nihilism and femininity myths at full speed with special emphasis on death by/for childbirth. (I would not want to be this woman’s therapist, not without hazard pay). This id-candy has a razor blade in it.

Some people probably bemoan the loss of innocent fun now that we chop up Halloween candy before eating it to make sure there aren’t any evil surprises in it. I expect some people feel the same about their id-candy. But, you know, I’d much rather take the time to chop and evaluate than swallow a needle.

Apr. 18th, 2009

Demystifying Dreamwidth some more

Since I've seen a number of odd notions running around lately, I figured I'd post some quick explanations.

DW is not a clone. It is a fork, like a fork in the road you know? It means starting from the same code but then changing it. In the case of DW, this means both cool new features (which may well also pop up on LJ given the extent of cross-site brainstorming already taking place) but also a lot of major re-writing of the code that won't be visible to most users but will allow more cool new things to be done in the future.

DW is not elite. No, seriously. What DW currently is is broken. It is under construction. That's why registration is not open yet and invites have gone out only to those known to have a reasonably strong interest in the project (who hopefully therefore know about the unfinished parts and won't mind helping test them, sometimes catastrophically). If a hypothetical reader wishes to convince me that being unable to flush the virtual toilet yet is elite... I'm sorry, but no. Pull the other one, it's got bells on. In about two weeks the major construction should be finished and anyone who wants to risk the virtual breaker tripping when you turn on the virtual microwave or virtually sitting on wet paint will be able to venture in.

Users will not, once the site is actually open, ever need an invite to create an account.

Users will need an invite to create a free account. This is because DW does not use ads to support the service (which costs money, after all) and therefore must have a way to make sure that there are only as many unpaid users as the paid users can support. Corollary to this...

Read on for further examples )

As for any personal accusations against the owners, based on Denise's time working on the LJ Abuse team, I suggest anyone who has genuine concerns read the diversity statement, the guiding principles, the FAQ and the business FAQ. It's best to get things from the horse's mouth and make up your own mind.

Apr. 15th, 2009

Wave of the Future

So it looks as though free, official streams is the up and coming anime distribution mode.

Not only do we have the experiment at Crunchyroll.net, the new Fullmetal Alchemist series is being streamed, subbed, a bit less than a week after each episode airs, at Funimation.com. Having watched it, I think it may be worth waiting a few days for. The quality of translation is actually higher than the fansubs that came out more quickly. (And thank goodness the commercial concerns have finally figured out that sub fans tend to prefer minimal ‘cultural translation’.)

Presumably this is supposed to pay for itself via advertising, kind of like network television, and also provide a market draw for the permanent media (download and dvd) sales. I hope it works out, because this seems to me to be a very positive direction for anime distribution to take. Certainly the approach of licensing for permanent media distributed months or years after the series airs and is fansubbed has signally, and predictably, failed. A prompt, high quality, free release in a medium not easily recordable, certainly not at anything approaching original quality, followed by reasonably prompt sale of individual episodes alongside dvd collections has certainly worked for domestic television shows. I see no reason it shouldn’t work as well for anime.

For those who want to watch these versions, bookmark the show page.