5 Interesting Links for 09-13-2019

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Culture (Awards)

While the award in this announcement might not be well known outside of the science fiction and fantasy community, I’m sharing this letter for a larger purpose. It offers an exemplary way of addressing the changes in cultural awareness, learning from the past without discarding the positive elements and yet still moving into a more welcoming future. It could well stand as a strong example for any organization facing the task of addressing difficult truths in its past.

History (Culture)

An exploration of the queer club scene in Berlin between the world wars offers a fascinating glimpse of both how micro cultures are drawn together and the dynamic mixing that was the queer community, a place where social standing, public identities, and even politics took a back seat to reveling in queer culture and identities. (Via David Bridger)

Technique (Drawing)

A quick overview of how to draw a dragon. It presumes some knowledge of technique, but can be used as a jumping off point even without that. (Via Nix Whittaker)

Disability (Emergency Planning)

An examination of school emergency planning and why it must include disabled students and staff whether physically or mentally challenged rather than have them shelter in place as so many plans do when following this directive could result in injury or death.

Creatives (Interesting People)

A poem and short interview with Brian Hawkins, otherwise known as Voice Porter, a poet, artist, and community organizer in Birmingham, Alabama.

Box Set 1 The Steamship Chronicles

Posted in Appreciation, Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Culture, Education, Health, History, Interesting Links, Interesting People, Life | Leave a comment

Monsters: I Bring the Fire Part II by C. Gockel

Monsters: I Bring the Fire Part II by C. Gockel Monsters is a middle novel in most respects. It advances the overall series plot, and both introduces and develops more characters. Unlike the first book, I didn’t find a clear plot arc for this section as a separate entity. Still, Loki’s development as he becomes a little more interested in something beyond revenge is compelling as is what we learn of his history.

I hold out hope for Loki’s most recent losses, following on a long line of people he cares about being stripped away, but I don’t know if that’s foolish optimism or not. There’s been no real hint of them (you’ll find out who I mean when you read the book). It’s more how this continuing pattern affects Loki not just with each loss but in an ongoing fashion, informing his choices in the present. This is the main core of Monsters as it offers evidence about both people and entities like Cera that are considered monsters, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions.

Don’t think I’m saying nothing happens as that would be completely false. It’s more that not of the major plot threads resolve, though a couple come to a head. This is a complicated situation with many interpersonal changes in Amy’s relationship with Loki and the Agency as well as a focused look at Steve Rogers (not the one you’re thinking of). Where Steve stands in the Agency as it relates to Loki, to Cera, and his understanding of Amy is constantly maturing.

The depiction of Loki is what drew me to the series in the first place. This book continues the complexity of his character both in his deeds and in his reactions to misdeeds, whether accidental or not. I contrast that to Thor, who seen through Loki’s eyes has more value than I’d previously noticed, but never seems to question his own actions.

Amy took the back seat to Steve in a lot of ways, something I originally had problems with because a hard-nosed, bureaucratic ex-marine is a hard sell for me. Again, as with Loki, he is more than his programming and the company line, and I came to like him a lot. This also makes life a bit more difficult for him, always a good thing where story tension is concerned.

There’s a large secondary cast, several of whom steal the narration for a bit, but Steve and Loki are definitely the frontrunners.

I enjoyed the creative mixes of tech and magic, nice plot seeds here and there, beautiful characterizations of the cheering and haunting type, and room for hope even if it turns out to be false. Real-world problems like racism are demonstrated beautifully in the moment, perhaps even opening some eyes to a reality they’ve never had to see. On top of all that, the mention of one of my favorite science books “How to Teach Physics to Your Dog” is just perfect in the context.

While I do not feel this can be read as a standalone, as a continuation of the greater tale, Monsters lives up to the universe, the characterization, and the depth of narrative. It offers a sometimes fun and sometimes tragic package. I’m glad I kept reading, and plan to slip the third novel into my reading schedule soon.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.180: Nature

The video reminds me of my wanders in Santa Cruz, CA, while I was in college. There are even glimpses of my school mascot :).

Note: For the complete experience, watch this short film in full screen mode.

Posted in Appreciation, Environment, Life, Smiles | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 09-06-2019

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Dragons (Animals)

Following the common theme of scientific discovery even when we think we have it all figured out, everything believed about how komodo dragons bring down prey is now being turned upside down.

Coffee (Art)

Amazing what a talented artist can create out of the dregs of a cup of coffee.

Tips (Caregiving)

This article has a lot to say about Ehlers Danlos that matches my experiences (especially the disconnect between what I can do and what I feel I should be able to). I also found the notes about caregiving from a caregiver’s perspective to be important regardless of what causes the need for caregiving to arise. (Via Ehlers-Danlos Society)

History (Comic books)

A fascinating look at the social environment that drove comic book superheroes into existence and the American heart. (Via Cliff Winning)

Serial (Fiction)

Coat of Scarlet by Siri Paulson is a gay steampunk romance that sucked me in from the beginning. It’s a rich tapestry of a world where a talented tailor catches the attention of an airship pirate first by craft, then by character. It is also an example of why I don’t read serials, because I didn’t realize it wasn’t finished yet when I began. There are five installments available, and the fifth acts as a conclusion (albeit an interim one) so I’ve decided to post it now. Coat of Scarlet is a compelling tale with complex characters drawn from across professions, classes, and identities. If you’re comfortable waiting for serialized works to unfold, or willing to accept an interim conclusion for now, give it a try. (Note: This author also appears in the flash anthology Migration, sharing a Table of Contents with me.)

Trainee Twitter Sharable

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The Last Run by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Last Run by J. Scott CoatsworthOnce again, J. Scott Coatsworth creates a complicated, multi-layer world and brings a last survivor into it who recently lost a life partner. While this frame story has similarities to Homecoming, the novella is more like a unique story springing from the same prompt than one following a template.

Sera flees a dying Earth on the last supply run to a far-flung colony where she and her wife hope to find sanctuary. Her wife’s lifepod fails along with many of the ship’s systems during the 25-year journey. Sera desperately tries for a crash landing rather than missing the colony altogether.

Meanwhile, Jas, a harvester with strange ties to the native hencha plants, struggles to help her dying mother. She supports the two of them with what she can tickle from the plants she swears are sapient, but only to herself. She’s been warned against appearing to be insane already.

Both of the main characters come into the story with history, Jas more than Sera, that affects what happens within these pages. The simple backstory comes out in the beginning, but there’s much more going on than even the main characters know on this colony with its homogeneous culture. The colony was founded to be a monoculture, and those founding beliefs have become more rigid since leaving Earth. It is both socially and genetically similar except for Jas who has throwback features to the broader genetic base of Earth.

Now add into this strict culture both a tendency to punish any who deviate even in the slightest fashion and plant life with the ability to communicate. At some point, the colony leaders had to know about the sapient plants because an agreement led to the symbiotic relationship between humans and the hencha, at least according to lore.

What begins as a desperate hope, Sera for survival and Jas to heal her mother with Earth tech, becomes the expression of every rebellion Jas has ever entertained, and many she hadn’t yet. It’s a clash between belief and reality. I’m being vague so as not to spoil, but this is clearly a story that would appeal to me.

The characters are strong both in description and with distinct personalities from the main characters down to the young man Jas convinces to help. They have regrets, guilt, conviction, and determination all appearing on stage. The world Coatsworth created is a good example of the worst and best in humanity combined with an unusual alien life. The story even offers commentary on the troubles when knowledge is lost except for commandments begging to be broken, a further sign of its layers.

As should be obvious, I enjoyed the read and hope this world will be explored further as there are tales still waiting to be told, including what happens after this one. I will note the actual story, though about 18,000 words long, ends at 76% of the book length (assuming it hasn’t been updated since), but the end point is solid and satisfying.

P.S. I received this ARC from the author in return for an honest review.

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