Tell them stories, twenty years on

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:34 am
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
[personal profile] dolorosa_12
I wrote this two days ago on my Wordpress reviewing blog, but I thought it was worth reposting here on Dreamwidth as well.

Twenty years ago (or nineteen years, nine months, and about twenty days ago, if you want to get really technical), I was a restless thirteen-year-old, stuck inside during a rainy week on holiday down the south coast of New South Wales. It was the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, which meant that I was carting around a massive haul of books, given to me for both my birthday and Christmas. I had read all my new books -- all except one, whose cover put me off. My younger sister, fed up with me moping around the house complaining of 'nothing to read,' made the very sensible point that I hadn't read that book. 'I don't like books about animals,' I objected. She insisted. I am forever grateful that she did. Feeling resentful, I sat down to read Northern Lights (or, as my edition was called, The Golden Compass), the first in Philip Pullman's sweeping, expansive children's trilogy, His Dark Materials. I was hooked from the first page, inhaled the book in one sitting, and, once I'd finished it, opened it up at the beginning and reread it without pause. I reread the book four times over the course of that one-week holiday.

It's hard to describe what it felt like, to read that story as a thirteen-year-old. I was already a voracious reader, and I had already encountered many beloved stories, books I would reread incessantly, or borrow repeatedly from the local library. There were already books I felt fannish about, and whose characters I identified with and drew courage from. But this was different. It was like being seen for the first time. It was as if ideas, beliefs and fears I had long felt but was not yet able to articulate had been given voice and shape on the page. As a teenager, my many rereads of Northern Lights (and, after impatient waits of one year and three years, respectively, for its follow-ups The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) helped guide both my reading tastes, and my burgeoning sense of political awareness. My love of the series got me a paid newspaper reviewing gig at the age of sixteen, and I continued to freelance as a reviewer for various Australian broadsheets for ten years after that.

Ten years ago (or, if you want to get technical, ten years, nine months, and a couple of days ago), I was in a bad place. I had returned to my hometown after graduating university, and although I had a good job and a lot of family support, I was desperately unhappy, and felt isolated and directionless. All my friends seemed to have adjusted to adult life in a way that I was incapable of, and I felt left behind. In a fit of desperation I — who mistrusted the internet and who barely went online except to check email — typed 'His Dark Materials fansite' into Google. I found something that saved me. 2007 was not a good year, but it was made infinitely more bearable by the incredible collection of people — most of whom lived on the other side of the world — who hung out in the forums of that site. Most of them had been there for years, and were all talked out about His Dark Materials, so instead they analysed other books, shared music tips, or just vented about their daily lives. Although by their standards I was a latecomer, they welcomed me with open arms. For a long time, the only thing that got me through the day was the prospect of hanging out in the IRC chat room they'd set up — the international composition of this group of fans (plus the fact that most of them were students or otherwise kept odd hours) meant that someone was always around at all hours. This was my first foray into online fandom, and I made friends for life. Meeting the sraffies — as we called ourselves — was like coming home. Being with them was, like reading the books that had brought us all together, like being seen for the first time. I was able to relax and be myself and feel safe in a way that I hadn't really anywhere since becoming an adult. Ten years have passed since then, and the group of us have gone through so many things together. We've graduated from university, changed jobs and careers, had books and academic articles published, moved cities, emigrated, fallen in and out of love (in some cases, with each other), mourned deaths, and supported each other through whatever life threw at us. We travel specifically to meet up with each other, and if work, study, or holidays bring us by chance to each others' cities, we make a point to hang out. One of the friends I met through His Dark Materials was even a bridesmaid at my wedding.

I recently did a reread of the trilogy, wanting to refresh my memory before reading Pullman's much anticipated foray back into the world of His Dark Materials. I was anxious that it wouldn't affect me as it had when I was younger, that I would pick up on flaws, that its emotional notes would leave me unmoved. I shouldn't have worried. Reading Pullman's words again, returning to that world, was like falling into water. Like the best and most meaningful of stories, it gave me something different, as it had done with each reread, and reading it as a thirty-two-year-old woman was different to reading it as a thirteen-year-old girl, or when I was in my twenties. But, like Lyra relearning to read the alethiometer as an adult after losing the unconscious ease with which she read it as a child, it was a deeper, richer experience — not better, not worse, just different. In the years since I first opened Northern Lights and read those resonant first words, Lyra and her dæmon, I've finished high school. I've graduated three times from two different universities, with an Honours degree, MPhil, and doctorate. I've changed careers three times. I've emigrated, lived in two new countries, acquired a new citizenship, learnt two new languages (as well as many dead languages), presented at conferences, been published academically in two very different fields, fallen in love, had my heart broken, and fallen in love again. In those years, I found my home, and I found myself again. In other words, I've done exactly what His Dark Materials urges: live, as much as I can, feel, as much as I can bear, and learn, as much as I am able. On Thursday, I will collect my preordered copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first of Pullman's prequel trilogy that will return readers to the world of His Dark Materials. I will sit down and read it in a desperate, yearning rush. I wonder what the twenty years that follow will bring. I know that having read this new book — and those that follow — will help me cope with whatever those next years throw at me.

I'm tilting at windmills today!

Oct. 19th, 2017 01:26 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Emailed three different news sites asking when the hell they intend to start moderating their comments. Seriously, a free-for-all where everybody shouts as loud as they can is not conducive to free speech.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
But it's pricey! The total cost was going to be near $2000, with a six-day-a-week commitment.

Then I realized I can just pay for the labs, which is the only part I really want anyway, and that's a third the price and a one-day-a-week commitment.

She said she'll consider it.

It's not necessary for her to take a Regents in August (fully nine months earlier than any of her peers...), I'd just like her to.

Also, finally figured out what cake I'll bake tomorrow for her birthday. How does rosewater and ginger sound? If I ever find my rosewater, I mean. It's because I read this article, but anyway, it's a good idea. I've been rocking the rosewater lassi lately that I get at the supermarket.

**************


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Why a New Zealand Library’s Books Kept Vanishing, Then Reappearing (Happy ending!)

How Domestication Ruined Dogs' Pack Instincts

Star Wars themes, but with the major and minor reversed. (This is like the Mirror version of the music, I guess? I can just picture evil Tom Paris on classic movie night in the Holodeck, rubbing his beard as he watches this version of the trilogy, the one in which the mighty emperor defeats the puny rebellion.)

Hero dog: 'Animal guardian' saves 8 pet goats, orphaned deer from wine country fires

Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional

Baba Yaga on the Ganges

Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids' Schooling (My experience tells me it's close to impossible to explain to people that a school that starts with high-performing kids and ends with high-performing kids is not doing as much as a school that starts with low-performing kids and ends with kids that are in or approaching the middle. They just don't understand, or want to understand. Also, Stuy is overrated.)

Judge orders government to allow detained teen immigrant's abortion (Only read this second link if you want to be stunned and horrified by the world's most ridiculous anti-abortion argument ever.)

Understanding the coevolving web of life as a network

Fish Depression Is Not a Joke (Sad ending. Journalist should've rescued Fish Bruce Lee.)

After victory in Raqqa over IS, Kurds face tricky peace

Despite potential trade sanctions, Kurds continue with exports

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

Lawsuit: Bighorn sheep threatened by domestic sheep grazing

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The Crazy Flood of Tech Revelations in the Russia Investigation

The Russian Troll Farm That Weaponized Facebook Had American Boots on the Ground

No, US Didn’t ‘Stand By’ Indonesian Genocide—It Actively Participated

The Trump Administration Is Letting Americans Die in Puerto Rico, Nurses Say

Trump’s Dangerous Spin on Puerto Rico’s Suffering

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The Danger of President Pence

A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult.

Chilling Photos of the Hundreds of Thousands of Rohingya Fleeing Burma
lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (Default)
[personal profile] lb_lee
Hey guys, I finished LB Goes to Alaska and now you can buy it in paper or digital forms! (It is $5 on paper, $2.50 for the ebook.)
Blurb, work talk, and a lovely picture of us, Zyfron, and Mystics atop a ceramic moose behind the cut. )
umadoshi: (purple hair)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Silks class #4 is the day after tomorrow, so I guess if I'm gonna muster up any semblance of a post about weeks 2 and 3 I'd better do that.

Week 2 )


Week 3 )

Three classes done, five to go. My feeling at this point is that this was probably unrealistically ambitious for someone who hasn't taken any physical classes in a long, long time or really done any focused exercise since I stopped climbing several years ago, but despite almost none of it coming naturally, I'm mostly enjoying it. I'm kinda hoping it'll give me a push to taking some kind of class after this (like barre!) that's more suited to where I currently am physically.

It's also probably just as well, in one sense, that (so far) I'm not in love with silks, much as I think they're incredibly cool. The sad reality is that evening classes are rarely feasible around Casual Job, so finding a level 2 (or beyond) timeslot for something as specific as silks that'd actually work for me logistically seems...unlikely. But we'll see. And meanwhile, "enjoying it well enough" is not a bad place to be.

(no subject)

NSFW Oct. 18th, 2017 08:20 pm
brokenallbroken: (brer-rabbit)
[personal profile] brokenallbroken
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )

(no subject)

Oct. 18th, 2017 09:38 pm
kittydesade: (and so good night)
[personal profile] kittydesade
Aargh so tired. I keep thinking okay, tomorrow will be quiet, but it keeps not happening and since till next Thursday or so is the run-up to SAFF it will keep not happening until next Thursday. And I am so damn tired. I'm surprised I managed to finish a scene in Starlight today and get my words done. There's some more on my Habitica to do for the day but I can't bring myself to go look at it yet.

On the plus side, Memrise being so much more usable on the app even than on the website means I can play with it for five minutes' worth of breathing room.

Mostly I'm just tired. I don't think I'm even dropping anything I have to do except I guess Long Road, which has no immediate deadline at least. I should be doing something else but I'm too brain dead now to think about it. No, what I should be doing is using Habitica to make lists of things as I think of them and then checking them off, that's what it's there for.

But right now I should be going to sleep.

(no subject)

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.

[ SECRET POST #3941 ]

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:39 pm
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[personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets

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