zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (New Zealand zebra)
Yesterday I got home to the cat miaowing pitifully because I'd accidentally shut her in the bathroom all day. Fortunately she didn't leave much of a mess.

Today I got home to the cat miaowing pitifully because she was starving.

--

Also, today Megan Whalen Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings arrived at the library for me, so I read that and enjoyed it a great deal. (I'm not sure yet whether it's quite as good as the others. Part I felt to be a bit slow; other parts I wanted people to do things which they didn't do. I can't exactly argue with what they did do, but. I just. --But anyway, is she writing another one and when does it come out?)

And then I got on my computer to check email before I went to bed and discovered that this is one of those weeks that Criminal Minds manages to have a new episode. The first time I accidentally glimpsed a spoiler I grimaced and decided I'd just have to watch it tomorrow. I cleverly avoided reading any of matociquala's post, saving it for tomorrow. But then I saw a third reference to the episode, so I guess I'm going to bed again late tonight.

If this download ever finishes.

Wait, I mean: Download, what download? <whistles innocently>
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
On Monday and Tuesday I worked an hour and a half extra for a bunch of tutorials, so I got this afternoon in lieu. As if sensing this upcoming pleasure, the IRD took the opportunity to send me a letter late last week inviting me to consider filing my 2009 return real soon now.

Therefore I spent this afternoon:
  1. washing the dishes,
  2. cooking lunch,
  3. picking up rotten peaches from the garden,
  4. observing Boots and a white adolescent cat observe each other (though I missed the moment when Boots ousted the youngster from its spot on the fence by, I presume, a casual comment that it'd be a shame to get blood on that pretty white fur, because next thing I saw it was on the neighbour's garage roof instead, trying to figure out what was going on),
  5. finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora which I'd vowed I wouldn't finish reading until my taxes were done,
  6. added an illuminated psalm to an A7-sized Latin psalter I'm writing by hand because you just try buying such a thing (I'll share more, with pictures, some other time, but suffice for the moment to explain that it generally takes me two hours per psalm),
  7. checked email and feeds and flists thinking, "Well, their website probably still has that stupid occupation code problem and it's really too late now to do anything, I'll do it tomorrow evening instead," which sums up the reasons I didn't do it last September or indeed April,
  8. and finally (because I'd told a friend at work I was going to do it, so I couldn't very well go to work tomorrow without having tried) forced myself to sit down and at least start with it.
This time I managed to defeat the evil website by pasting in a 2010 occupation code instead of the 2009 occupation code that it refused to accept. If the IRD complains about that I'm liable to go pacifistly postal: they've had the problem for *years* without fixing it. I also defeated several other stumbling points, and wrestled with my balance sheets, and submitted them, and only phoned my father twice, and even got a pdf out of my stupid browser. So that's done, until oh, next month, when once again I'll forget how (apart from the website) it's actually stupendously easy.

As per usual I managed to miss the line that says "This is where you input your tax-deductible donations" and am growing a suspicion that the box is labelled something slightly more obscure. Oh well, I came out in the black anyway. Maybe I'll be able to find it next month.
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
(Cross-posted to 50books_poc.)

Lucian of Samosata
- The True History
- Icaromenippus, An Aerial Expedition
Ibn al-Nafīs - Theologus Autodidacticus
Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain - Sultana's Dream
Naif Al-Mutawa - The 99: Origins

Sometimes when reading old things that have been called "early science-fiction" I think "Well, that's not really very science-y," but while I was reading these I thought more about what was known of science in the times they were written, and about how even some modern stuff doesn't fit my sometimes exacting preferences for storytelling, and decided that these all definitely count each in their ways. Lucian does the fantastic voyage; Ibn al-Nafīs the message story; Hussain the utopia. And of course the 99 doesn't need any explanations, it's just a modern superhero series.

Long post behind cut )

Also of interest: Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad's website Islam and Science Fiction.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
I got some bookvouchers for Christmas (which, to jump to the end of the story, the bookshop hesitated over accepting because the issuing bookshop had neglected to write the date of issue on them. I think they eventually decided to write the date of Christmas on them themselves) so I went to the local bookstore to browse their sf.

Having in mind the controversy over the latest whitewashed Bloomsbury cover (I guess it's progress that they seem to have responded more quickly this time than last? Also it's nice that that's an actual apology. Maybe next time they'll have the sense to think before they publish.) I thought I'd pay attention to the covers.

So, the fantasy and science-fiction section of Scorpio books is about 6 bays of 6 shelves each, plus special displays. Call it about 500 titles give or take? (I didn't include franchise, horror, or manga.) Around about half the covers (give or take) showed people or parts of people. As far as I could tell, these people were:

white;
a silhouette;
white;
slightly tanned;
white;
a skeleton;
honest-to-goodness alabaster;
a shadow in a hood;
white;
a white guy surrounded by black-skinned aliens with guns;
white;
a white mask;
seriously #ffffff white;
a dark-skinned elf attacking two white humans;
white;
a few books with crowd scenes of white people, about half of which scenes thought to include one or two black guys;
white;
white;
and oh yes: white.

No surprises there, then.

But! In those 36 shelves of books - call it about 500 books - I did find 6 whose covers featured a PoC! These were:By this time I was fairly tired so I didn't really look at the YA.

(I ended up buying Ragamuffin as well as The Sharing Knife: Passage (which I like to pretend isn't set in the USA, because when I read the first two books I never had a clue it was meant to be anything other than generic pseudo-Euro-fantasyland) and a volume including Lady Susan and the beginnings of The Watsons and Sanditon.)
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
I don't think it's really a spoiler in any concrete way for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special to say that if you're going to resurrect someone then, by golly, *that's* the way to go about it. With double-plus cracktastic panache.

Also this morning I got an email from the city library to tell me my request for "Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (a novel)" was available. So then I spent the day reading that. Which is also full of resurrections, starting with Biff and some lizards, and then various attempted, partial, fake, and attempted fake, through to... Well, this is Christ, so y'know. The author treats Jesus completely as the Son of God and completely as human, and the Gospels as pretty much true just with certain omissions. Like the thirty years between Jesus's birth and his ministry; Biff fills in the gaps by describing his childhood and then his quest to learn from the three wise men how to be the Messiah. Fundamentalists would hate it. I loved it.

Favourite quotes!

From the afterword, the author talking: "to remain historically accurate, I would have had to leave out an important question that I felt needed to be addressed, which is, 'What if Jesus had known kung fu?'" Other than that he says he tried to be faithful to his research, though I have certain doubts about relying so heavily on the "eyewitness accounts of [the festival of Kali] from nineteenth-century British soldiers" cited in Joseph Campbell's Oriental Mythology. I haven't read Campbell or the soldiers in question, but it seems to me that there's a certain potential there for bias to creep in, y'know?

But anyway, from the actual story:
Joshua [aka Jesus] reached across the table and took the old man's hand. "You drill us every day in the same movements, we practice the same brush strokes over and over, we chant the same mantras, why? So that these actions will become natural, spontaneous, without being diluted by thought, right?"

"Yes," said Gaspar [aka one of the three wise men aka the anachronistic pseudo-Bodhidharma].

"Compassion is the same way," said Joshua. "That's what the yeti knew. He loved constantly, instantly, spontaneously, without thought or words. That's what he taught me. Love is not something you think about, it is a state in which you dwell. That was his gift."


and

Maggie (aka Mary the Magdalene) talking to Joshua about the disciples: "Every time you give them a new metaphor for the kingdom they see the metaphor, a mustard seed, a field, a garden, a vineyard, it's like pointing something out to a cat -- the cat looks at your finger, not at what you're pointing at." (In context she's saying that this doesn't matter because faith's more important than intelligence, but I just love that simile, because I keep trying to point things out to Boots and she keeps wondering what's so interesting about my finger.)

In summary: Awesome book. (ETA: Er, other than that whole cultural appropriation thing - there was besides what I already mentioned the whole exotic oriental magician thing, plus a certain amount of "Yay, Chinese concubines!" on the parts of Biff and the author. But besides that, if that's the kind of thing you can put aside.) I must recommend to the library that they not put it back into storage, especially seeing as how someone else was reading it when I requested it so it's clearly not as unpopular as they thought.
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
So we're doing a lot of deaccessioning at the library at the moment. "Deaccessioning" is the polite euphemism for "weeding" that we use in the hope that it won't cause the general public to go "Oh noes, the librarians are throwing out books, civilisation is falling!"

(If anyone is tempted to express such sentiments here, all I can say is: you haven't *seen* the books we're weeding. Or the colour of my hands after I've spent half an hour with them. (Some people from another branch came to weed one section and complained about all the dust. In private we mocked them mercilessly, because that's the section we *vacuumed* a year ago.) We use other criteria than the dust index, but actually the dust index is a pretty good gauge. --The mould-on-the-front-cover index is even better.)

Anyway, when I came back from holiday there was a gigantic pile of books on the bench waiting to be sorted into an "Attempt to sell for $2" pile and a "Throw it straight into the recycling bin and stand back before the mushroom cloud of dust gets you" pile.

(Seriously, don't even start with the outrage. You haven't *seen* this junk. Reprints of journal articles no-one cares about and if they did they wouldn't search for a reprint, in courier, single-sided on yellowed paper, quarter-flushed in cardboard which has warped with age so that the dust has had plenty of space to settle on.... And the ringbound workshop notes from 1973. And the damned plastic spiral binding that snaps at your fingers when you try to pull it off so the paper can be recycled; there's a knack to getting it off without injury, but it doesn't work if the plastic's old enough to be decomposing into shards. And the damned metal spiral binding which won't come off at all unless you tear the pages off a few at a time -- although then you can make things with the wire. I made a cute bookworm yesterday when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed.)

So anyway, yesterday and today, among other tasks, I sorted through the pile. And today among that pile I found a Swedish/English and a Norwegian/English dictionary. And now the dictionaries are in my living room, along with the Danish/English dictionary which technically still belongs to the library but in practice has been in my possession for three years.

(They're still in a plastic bag: I haven't vacuumed them yet.)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
The 16th century has the best dirty jokes ever.

A man that was ryght iolous on his wyfe, dreamed on a nyght as he laye a bed with her & slepte, that the dyuell aperd vnto him and sayde: woldest thou nat be gladde, that I shulde put the in suretie of thy wyfe? yes sayde he. Holde sayde the dyuell, as longe as thou hast this rynge vpon thy fynger, no man shall make the kockolde. The man was gladde therof, And whan he awaked, be founde his fynger in his wiues ars.

(A small selection in modernised spelling. Find the full text in a library near you.)

ETA: Also, this guy is so not talking about a bird.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I seem to be talking a lot lately. I'm sure I'll go back to silent mode soon enough.

Generally every four weeks I go to the library, return four books (mostly unread) and borrow four books (mostly not to be read). This time I grabbed a pile of mostly YA stuff in the hope that I'd read some of them.

So this weekend I've read:
  • Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (a childhood favourite)
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (set in 13th century Korea, written well and researched well. The only thing that made me blink was the description of spicy kimchi; though various spices were used, hot pepper wasn't introduced for centuries. But the description of celadon-making was wonderful. Celadon is simply beautiful; when I was in Korea I hunted for months to find a piece to bring back home. Linda Sue Park has written more books set in Korea; I'd like to read them.)
  • The Five Ancestors: Tiger by Jeff Stone (formulaic crap about a group of five orphans schooled by secret monks in leet animal-style kung fu, apparently with super talking-to-animal powers thrown in)
I've also read pretty much everything from this list of posts about the cultural appropriation debate than inspired my earlier rant.

I've read a few stories from Expanded Horizons which aims to not be Whitey McWhite in Whiteland (and which rejected one of my stories belatedly but politely and now I see why it's not really their thing). I want to read more. Also read 'Poison', an award-winning sf story by a Henrietta Rose-Innes of South Africa.

I'm going to want to read everything linking to this idea of reclaiming one's own myths.

I've also finished reading 50-pages of a thread on a forum covering an epic 7-month long bait involving about 20 baiters making a 419-scammer's life a misery. I've taken up baiting because it combines fiction-writing, my (not-in-this-context-sexual) mindgames kink, and doing good in the world. Many 419 scammers are in Nigeria and nearby countries eg Burkina Faso. (Many others are in Thailand, Spain, Ireland, Norway, the UK, the USA, Australia... but Nigeria and Burkina Faso are really big ones.) It makes sense to me that if I'm doing this anyway, and if I want to research some part of Africa for the purposes of basing some story there, then that area would be a good one. Particularly since being ignorant about a place is just ignorance, but deliberately letting my mind be filled with only the negative things about a place is stupid.

--

In other news, it looked like rain this morning so I didn't do laundry. Then the sun came out with a vengeance so I did laundry. As soon as the laundry was ready it started raining. A while later I noticed it hadn't rained much and was now well past, so I put the laundry out anyway. As I was doing this it started raining again, and since I stubbornly left the clothes on the line it's now thundering.

In other news again, I have a bazillion of plums. And that's just the windfall. Aside from giving them away, I'm pondering whether I can do a quick-and-dirty preserving job by just cramming them whole into jars and pouring hot sugar syrup over.

(Wow, that's quite some impressive thunder.)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
When I was a teenager I read an sf or fantasy novel set in Africa somewhere. Can't remember the title except I think it involved three body parts. A hand and an eye. Something like that. I didn't understand or enjoy it very well. And I've never read anything else since.

Oh, except for Naomi Novik's Temeraire novel set there. That's not what I'm looking for.

I managed to find this list on matociquala's LJ of non-Caucasian sf authors. But it's a bit unwieldy for my purposes since I'd need to research each one individually.

So I went to Wikipedia, because I knew it'd have a category for SF authors by nationality and Fantasy authors by nationality.

It does. But they're supremely poorly developed.

So, fine. I'll research each one individually and add categories on Wikipedia as I go for the edification of future generations. Only this is going to be a big task, so does anyone please want to:

a) help out yourself, and/or
b) pass the word along to anyone else who might be interested in helping out?

Here's what you need to do:
  1. Open the list of sf authors or the list of fantasy authors.
  2. Click on an author.
  3. In the lede of the article it should tell you the author's nationality X.
  4. At the bottom of the article it should have a list of categories. If there is no "X science fiction writers" or "X fantasy writers" then:
  5. click on the "Edit" button to the right of External links
  6. paste in eg [[Category:American science fiction writers]] or [[Category:American fantasy writers]]. (This should be among the other category lines if any; otherwise just put it in anywhere, someone else will move it if they're nitpicky.)
  7. in the edit summary type in something like 'category added' so if you're not logged in, people watching recent edits will know they don't need to make sure you're not a vandal.
  8. click "Save page"
  9. While not bored, goto 2).
Also the lists are incomplete, so if you want to add authors to the list and categorise them at the same time, I can provide instructions for that too.

If you're likely to do a lot, it might be worth commenting here to say which list/letters you're going to be working on so people don't waste time clicking on authors who've already been categorised. I'm currently working on the Fantasy As, and when I've finished that I'll start at the end of the Zs and work my way back.

(Of course, if you know any sf/fantasy set in Africa, preferably by African authors, and can just give me a title and/or author, that'd be cool too.)

[ETA: Oh, never mind. I seem to have misunderstood how the category page displayed. At least 75% of the authors have been categorised, which makes wading through to find those who haven't been a job only for the bored or obsessive. However, no authors on Wikipedia are categorised as [anywhere-in-African] fantasy|science fiction writers. So if you know of any, please let me know; I'll need to do a bit of fiddling to get it to appear in the category hierarchy.]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Today Boots tried something else to get my attention and convince me to feed her.
Read more... )

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