nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Somewhat belatedly mentioning, I have finished Envious Casca. I enjoyed it. I got whodunnit, on account of having come across something related in another book (strictly speaking, having seen it on a televised version), so I knew that something was iffy. What I didn't get was how the murder in the locked-room mystery had been done. Which was, for circumstances I am about to relate, really stupid of me.

Spoilers for the murder method and clues... )
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
It appears that a TV production of Good Omens is finally happening! On the upside, the BBC is co-producing it. On the downside, so it Amazon. On the really big downside, it's going to be on the BBC after it is on Amazon. Oh well, I suppose on the plus side if I hold out against Amazon, I'll avoid the fandom wanking.

Meanwhile in news of hell freezing over, Djokavik is out in the second round of the Australian Open. Good news for Murray! Even better news for Uzbekistan wild card Denis Istomin.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
My fandom year ended annoyingly as the new year's eve performance of Five Guys Named Moe I was supposed to go to was cancelled due to cast illness (possibly the stinking cold going round that has deprived me of most of my voice). But the year ended, a new one has begun, and as I am supposed to be packing to get the train home tomorrow, I am allowing time for a meme instead.

Courtesy of [personal profile] naraht

1. Your main fandom of the year?

I think that this probably has to be Tanz der Vampire. Not because I've written loads in it (grand total: two fics) or am active in the online fandom, but because as a direct result of it I've started learning German again and went on holiday to see it, so in terms of personal commitment it definitely gets a lot of points.

2. Your favourite film watched this year?

*Attempts to think which films I've seen this year* I'm really not sure. Perhaps When Marnie Was There. Not because it was the best film I've seen this year (I'm assuming they were also supposed to be in the cinema), because Carol, Rams, and The Wind Rises were all better. But it was an excellent film that introduced me to a new genre, was gripping all the way through, and portrayed the travails of childhood done with much sensitivity and skill.

3. Your favourite book read this year?

Oh dear, I'm not sure about this one, either. Not the first Elena Ferrante - it caught me in the wrong mood and I didn't finish it, though I shall certainly come back to it. I don't think I could really call it a favourite, but perhaps the book that has left the most lasting impression on me this year has been Stefan Zweig's autobiography The World of Yesterday, which felt at times appallingly topical. His description of the events leading up to the First World War, not as the thunderous hoofbeats of history, but as something that just sort of happens while being so bizarre a concept that it is impossible to believe it is actually going to happen. Zweig literally gets the last train back from Belgium (where he has been on a seaside holiday) to Germany and sees troops and trains massing at the border and even then he recounts still thinking/telling himself that it's obviously manoeuvres, because there's no way that Germany is going to invade Belgium. It's not the best-written book I've read this year, but it was fascinating. Even the several chapters of deeply-tedious fanboying of early C20 minor French and Belgian poets gain pathos later when one appreciates the degree to which Zweig is writing in exile, looking back to a different world that, for all its egregious faults, was not the world of World Wars and the Holocaust.

4. Your favourite TV show of the year?

Oh dear, this probably has to be Yuri on Ice. Fun as Deutschland 83, Trapped and The Night Manager were, enchanting as Planet Earth II inevitably was, YOI was a delightful accompaniment to a rather trying autumn and something to look forward to amidst the global and domestic politics and perpetual nose-blowing/sniffing/48 hour flu etc.

5. Your favourite online fandom community of the year?

I have certainly spent too much time on FFA.

6. Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Quite how many hits/kudos it is possible to get through production of a timely fic in a larger fandom. I shall not be switching all my fic production to hunt-the-kudos, but it is a nice change on occasion.

7. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

(1) Me. Definitely not enough writing, the giant Wimsey/HP crossover made some progress but still isn't finished (and I've realised that I think I'm going to do a major edit of one aspect of it, kill your darlings argh), and I had lots of ideas for various things and just haven't got to more than rough notes of it. It's basically a question of time and energy (and German), but very annoying.

(2) Therese Johaug (Norwegian cross-country skier) failed a doping test and is currently suspended pending the formal outcome. I veer between thinking that her account is plausible as someone having an ill-timed but understandable in the circumstances moment of carelessness over medication that clearly brought no performance benefit, and that that is exactly the sort of story that you'd come up with if you were in fact doping and that maybe there's a reason for that extra sprint prowess last year.
I'm a lot less disappointed with the ongoing revelations about some of the Russians because I've had suspicions for longer, not least because of their pattern of competition.

(skips a couple of questions, can't be bothered to re-number)

10. Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Without a doubt, going to see Tanz der Vampire live, which is a good thing considering I went to another country in order to do so. Absolutely enormous fun, surrounded by an audience of people also having enormous fun. With vampires.

Honourable mention for Yuri on Ice episode 10 . I laughed like a drain the entire episode and spent far too much time on the internet afterwards. It was hilarious, but also really enjoyable to see a work really pull off a narrative switch on the audience like that. It's something far more creators attempt than succeed at.

11. The most missed of your old fandoms?
Definitely the moment at which I realised that yes, I really, really did want to go and see The Cursed Child once it was on stage and tickets were unobtainable. I had assumed beforehand that I wouldn't be that fussed, that I'd wait and see how it was reviewed etc. etc. It was a mistake.

12. The fandom you haven’t tried yet, but want to?

My first interest isn't fandom, it's canons. If there turns out to be a fandom that I enjoy that's great. There are plenty of things I have enjoyed reading or watching in which I have very little fannish interest at all, such as Tolkien.

The series of the year I haven't watched appears to be the third series of Norwegian Skam, and I plan to catch up with the lot in 2017. However the English-language fandom (tumblr) sounds awful, and I'm both too late for the Norwegian one and don't have good enough (i.e. any) written Norwegian to participate. Also, world enough and time...

13. Your biggest fan anticipations for the New Year?

Can Andrew Musgrave make the top 10 in the Tour de Ski? (Dubious. Top 15, OTOH, possible and would be nice to see.)

DOING MORE WRITING MYSELF and making an attempt to finish the eternal Wimsey crossover WIP. I will conquer, I swear!
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
An impulse purchase, I picked this up in the bookshop on account of the cover, and bought it on account of the blurb and a look at the prose, which convinced me that I was definitely going to enjoy it. This is a more impressive feat than it sounds as I heartily disliked the only other Tremain I've read, Music and Silence.* The book's focus is the eponymous Gustav Perle and his friendship with Anton, a Jewish boy of his own age. It is set in a small and boring town in an undistinguished bit of Switzerland, but it is not in any way a novel about Switzerland. Switzerland is there to be a metaphor, a job it does very well, though I don't imagine that it would say a lot in that respect to a Swiss reader. It is a terrific novel, absolutely beautifully written in the sort of prose that, while not mannered or dramatic, is simply impossible to read without noticing how very, very good it is in its quietness. It is the sort of prose that makes me thing, 'if I could write something like that, I should be well satisfied.'

The blurb is as follows:

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.


Got that? It is a very accurate description of the book.

There are going to be sort-of spoilers below (though not for the end). I do not imagine that they will come as a big shock to anyone in fandom, and they didn't to me on account of how I'd read the blurb, but they seems to have surprised the reviewers a lot.

Read more... )
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Should Chuck Tingle run out of subjects for his unique brand of fiction, may I suggest that he consider the rich field offered by language learning?

Pounded in the Butt by Grammatical Gender and Turned Gay by the Indirect Object would surely be best-sellers.

Thank God for Collins easy learning... German Grammar and Practice, that's all I can say.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett (Lymond 1)

Finally finished this. It took me some time to get into the story and its cast of often unlikable and/or confusing characters, but I ended up enjoying the last third a lot, and on that basis will read the next one. Though Lymond himself remained an epic woobie to the end*, circumstances made him less annoying and I found myself being interested in other people. I even managed to sort out most of the plot by giving up on the overarching politics and focusing on the characters, which it turns out allows one to follow the overarching politics (mostly) and indeed start having an idea what the characters are going to do. Spoilers )

He Who Reigns in Strelsau by [personal profile] el_staplador. AU The Prisoner of Zenda that starts from the premise that Rudolf Rassendyll meets Duke Michael's men in a Ruritanian forest, instead.

Various Sue Barton, Nurse books (Helen Dore Boylston), courtesy of [personal profile] antisoppist. Very engagingly written, with lots of fascinating historical detail about nursing in the north-east USA (and briefly New York) in the late 30s to early 50s (the one with no intervening war). Sue's eventual husband is really annoying, but at least the narrative isn't always on his side, and Sue's desire not to give up her profession in order to marry him is presented as an ongoing struggle. It was interesting just how many married women were shown working in the books, especially outside hospital jobs, though I don't think there were any women doctors.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
On AO3, An Archetypal Schloss. Patrick Leigh Fermor/Tanz der Vampire crossover.

Caught in the wilds in treacherous weather, Patrick Leigh Fermor seeks shelter in a Transylvanian castle. It's not the first schloss that Patrick has visited in the course of his journey on foot through central Europe, but is he prepared for the perilous hospitality of the Graf von Krolock and his son?

This fic is the fault of [personal profile] white_hart, whose comment "But why does no-one appear to have written a crossover between Patrick Leigh Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water and Rocky Horror?" gave me the idea of this fic before I had read any more of Leigh Fermor than the extracts of Mani in my Greek guide book. Then she lent me the books. I have since purchased my own, as they are terrific in their own right and not simply as begetters of crackfic.

There is still no crossover between Between the Woods and the Water and Rocky Horror, but I hope that this is close enough to serve.

A note on the canons:

Patrick Leigh Fermor's books A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water* (together with a third posthumously-published volume I haven't read yet) are the account of one of history's great gap years, as 18 year old Patrick sets out to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. En route he stays in a wide range of barns, inns, a Salvation Army hostel, with a host of friendly people from bargemen to students to woodcutters, and in the schlosses of a string of aristocratic relics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where he is mentored by his older hosts and entertained by their offspring. The books, written over 50 years after the journey, are a fascinating look back at a world that was about to vanish entirely, a fact of which the older author is painfully aware, and the youth oblivious. In 1933, young Patrick's adventures had the charm of novelty, but he was also evidently tremendously personally engaging, and it can't have hurt that he was rather good-looking.

Tanz der Vampire is a German-language musical that follows the adventures of Alfred, the young assistant to a vampire-hunting professor, as they go horribly wrong. Attempting to save an innkeeper's daughter from the clutches of the vampire Count von Krolock, Alfred finds himself a guest at the Count's castle where he experiences some very bad dreams, gets hit on by the Count's son, and fails to save the girl. The girl didn't want to be saved, anyway.

*Not Death Twixt the Woods and the Water, that's the Harriet Vane crossover.
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
One of the things that Julian May's Galactic Milieu novels do manage to do fairly well, among the disappointments of the things that they don't*, is convey a sense of the dystopian qualities of the totalitarian paradise that is the GM. The GM is mostly benevolent, mostly extremely benevolent, right up to the point that you don't fit in. Meanwhile if you are one of the favoured few deemed important to the future of its vision of humanity you can get away with murder - hell, you can get away with genocide - as long as you are more important to the Milieu than justice for the victim. The rebels, especially the majority that don't know about Marc's more bonkers de-skulling baby plans, have some sound ideas about what is wrong with the Milieu, even with the downside that following them means that you end up vulnerable to the ethical whims of a man who thinks it is fine to de-skull babies.

Not, of course, that you can avoid that by staying loyal to the Milieu. Because that's the ultimate irony of the series. The choice humanity faces is:

- loyalty to a system that is ultimately subject to what Marc Remillard thinks is right.

OR

- loyalty to a system that is ultimately subject to what Marc Remillard thinks is right. Also, Marc is now god.

No wonder young Marc's ideas on body modification and the need to help evolution along by breeding superior humans mostly fit pretty well within the Mileu's overall ideology - he came up with the latter himself. It's just that later!Marc has had more time to consider the better PR in playing the long game.

*Like make Jack or Diamond the slightest bit interesting as people. I wanted to care, but I couldn't.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am reading Outlander. It is completely ridiculous and I haven’t even got to the Really Infamous Bits yet. I am relieved that my knowledge of mid-eighteenth century Scottish history is almost nil* because it means that the total fantasy isn’t annoying me. Unlike the opening section, which contains such minor inaccuracies as WW2 ending before April 1945.

I'd heard that this was a novel so packed full of tropes it could give fandom a run for its money, and that certainly seems to be true. The sheer amount of hurt/comfort is hilarious. By little more than a hundred pages in, love interest Jamie has had the following injuries tended by nurse heroine Claire: dislocated shoulder, musket ball in (arm?), stabbed with a bayonet, been repeatedly punched, including in the head, by a professional Disciplinary Puncher, because he nobly took the place of a girl who was to be whipped. Jamie, of course, has also been whipped, but that was in flashback, so Claire only gets to listen in horror and caress the scarred flesh. Claire, on the other hand, seems remarkably unfazed by being stuck two hundred years in the past, and one would have thought that a doorstopper volume could have spared half a paragraph for her to wonder what her husband is thinking about her mysterious disappearance, especially as the first section kept mentioning how in love they were and how much sex they were having.

Having said all that, I can see why this would work as a television series. It has a decent central premise, the time-travelling heroine’s being a nurse is very useful to the narrative, and it has classic Romantic Scotland settings. Oh, and a lot of knitwear and a villain whose portrayal from the pictures I've seen appears to be based on ‘Jason Isaacs in the scene in That Patriot when he kills Heath Ledger’. Apparently the knitting is rather popular.

*Though still sufficient for me to be able to tell that the world portrayed is a total fantasy.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am suddenly a great deal more sympathetic than heretofore with the people whose response to the publication of Strong Poison was to complain that Sayers was contaminating their perfect light detective reading with yucky love stuff.

In the light of the (authorised) spoilers about the forthcoming Vorkosigan book, my already dim hopes have got dimmer. It’s not Bujold, it’s me. Well, it is her, because she’s the one writing it, but I’m the one reading, and I’m just not that interested these days in reading what she wants to write.

Spoilers )
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
I should like to be more enthusiastic about the newly-announced Vorkosigan book - to be published next February - than I am finding myself. I haven't been keen on the last three, and I imagine that I would need a change in what Bujold currently seems interested in doing in order for it to engage me. It's about Cordelia, and while I like early Cordelia, her later incarnation does little for me (though that may partly be fandom osmosis of her All Knowing Wisdom in Personal Relationships interposing itself between me and the text).

The title is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I hope that's a working title. Jole, IIRC, is the off-screen v. minor character that parts of fandom think Aral appointed for his good looks. This all sounds rather grudging; I hope that it is good and my kind of thing, I am just not counting on it.

*

On books, but another subject, I must work out how to organise my kindle library while it is still fairly small. Why has the Gutenberg download of John Halifax, Gentleman* emerged with a little square icon that reads simply "Personal"? Is Mrs Craik NSFK compared to Austen? Also need to delete accidental clippings.

*A must read for Mrs Gaskell fans. You can't have too many Midlands self-made men, and their manly friendships.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I’d been wondering what to take with me in addition to the first Lymond book, thinking of just loading the Christmas Kindle with Austen (there can never be too much Austen). But now I think that this is not the year to cut down on shoving a load of novels in the rucksack* after all. Along with the books on skiing, Animal Tracks and Signs**, and a small dictionary, it feels like the thing to take is several Terry Pratchetts.

The first Pratchett I read, courtesy of the recommendation of an English teacher who had few merits, but did introduce me to both Pratchett and David Eddings, was Mort, which I think is fairly typical of Prtachett fans of my generation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy its three predecessors, but Mort didn’t actually expect the reader to know anything at all about fantasy to get the most out of it. Re-reading it last year I was struck by how different it was from even ‘early-mid period’ Pratchett, but if it’s a series of jokes strung together it is a series of really, really funny jokes. It is inventive, it's fun, it's tremendously engaging, and it is surprisingly serious beneath it all. Less surprising when one has read the later books.

I love Terry Pratchett’s novels. I haven’t actually read every single one – there’s a lot, and I’ve gone through periods of being less interested, or when his writing changed and I wasn’t up for that, and rediscovered them again later and found that I liked them after all. That’s to my benefit now, I suppose***. He is clever, and witty, and fun, and profound, and often extremely angry. I didn’t always get all the references; I wonder if Soul Music might work beter for me now with an extra decade or so’s general knowledge. At least that experience makes me less annoyed when people completely miss the point of Unseen Academicals, which I love.

I’m not sure that I have a favourite of all, but I always love Carpe Jugulum, which for me stands poised between the more rollicking earlier work, and increasingly dark and serious later. So have a favourite bit of it. Incidentally, one of the pleasure of good writing is the new impression each time. On this occasion I find myself focussed on the full significance of the word “domestics”. Whilst retaining, of course, a due snigger for the final pun.

‘Why, Miss Agnes Nitt,’ )

And then we cut to Granny's wrestling in the dark with Death - and something much worse. That's the other thing about Pratchett, he's not just fun of good ideas, vivid imagery, great characters, he's technically fantastic, too.

*Especially as I have a new rucksack. I have spared you the saga of picking a new skiing rucksack: be grateful.

**Magnificent.

***I have all the Tiffany Aching books awaiting me.

Emma

Jan. 5th, 2015 09:06 pm
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I’ve been re-reading Emma to inaugurate my Christmas-present Kindle, on the grounds that getting used to a new delivery system with an old favourite may be better advised than plunging into something new. I love Emma (and Emma), having done it for A-Level*, but I haven’t read it for several years and there is always something to catch my attention. On this occasion, it is how really, really awful Mr Woodhouse is, how damaging Emma is to Harriet, and as compensation for the second, that Emma, normally the world’s least selfless person, really does suffer for her father’s sake. Whatever his faults, when Darcy and Bingley ride into town, Mr Bennett calls on them. The reader may feel sure that Mr Woodhouse would not.

And then after all the no-holds-barred skewering of the follies, foibles, and sheer self-centredness of the rich, you get Austen’s introductory portrait of Miss Bates, a glorious example of telling over showing**. It starts off as the portrait of a woman utterly without distinction, and ends up as something entirely different.
[Mrs. Bates’s] daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favour; and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quicksighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself.

Miss Bates is that rare creature, an Austen character who is genuinely without side and without agenda. She has simultaneously nothing and everything to recommend her. Poor and silly she may be, but her worth as portrayed here is undeniable.

I’ve just reached Emma and Mr Knightley’s row over Harriet Smith and Robert Martin in chapter 8 in which it strikes me that, in addition to the biases existing on either side,*** surely a substantial part of the disagreement is owed to the fact that Mr Knightley, having heard Martin’s intentions, thinks in the midst of it to the effect that “Emma will be pleased by this”, trots up to Hartfield as soon as he has a moment, gets rid of Mr Woodhouse in preparation for a shared gossip – and finds that his highly-prized news is not only outdated, but disdained. No wonder he sees red; this wasn’t how the conversation was supposed to go, and while he may not yet have recognised the reason that he wants to impress Emma, he suffers all the disappointments of not doing so.

*I had a remarkably fine set of A-level texts, A Winter’s Tale and Howard's End notwithstanding. Even though three of them had also been done by my parents

**Miss Bates is terribly hard done by in adaptations.

***One of the great things about Austen is that, while Emma is absolutely in the wrong in terms of the specific situation, a number of her general points to Mr Knightley are in fact right, and his to her concerning Harriet, wrong.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Her father was the terror of a surprisingly benevolent Jacksonian House.

I could go on at length about the many reasons that Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was disappointing. But the story is an old one, and if I try to do that I shall never get round to saying it at all.

So to keep matters short:

(1) It is long, yet nothing happens. The plot to page ratio is miserly. Compare to the early books and weep. At c.570 pages it is about the same length as Shards of Honor and Barrayar combined, and while neither of those would win any prizes for structure, there’s no denying that a hell of a lot happens in them. There is action, adventure, interesting characters and terrible moral dilemmas. CVA contains very little of these.
(2) CVA is extraordinarily smug.
(3) I am unable to give a damn about what happens to any of the protagonists on the grounds that it is inconceivable that anything worrying should end up happening to them. Deus Ex Gregor strikes again. (And why the hell does Gregor give the Arquas any money whatsoever?)
(4) The heroine is from Jackson’s Whole. But don’t worry! She is from a ruling family who love all their children equally, even the ones created as slaves (except our heroine, who is the dunce of the family but is sweet-natured, has large breasts, and likes sex), make their money through being noble hostage negotiators, and are On Our Side.
(5) Georgette Heyer does Georgette Heyer much better, and with greater moral hazard to her protagonists. Arabella, possibly the frothiest novel in existence*, is explicitly about a highly moral young woman of moral parents who has come to London to sell herself as well as she can.
(6) It could be interesting for Bujold to do a satirical novel about how Barrayar’s recent political stability has the downside that the socio-economic elite has lost any imperative for political/economic reform out of self-interest, so that the planet becomes sort of parallel to present-day developing (and indeed developed) nations where you have an upper, and to a lesser degree an upper-middle, class that enjoys galactic luxury standards of living while millions go without clean water or healthcare. Which makes sense of Our Heroes apparently feeling no awkwardness at all in hob-nobbing with a member of the former Occupying Forces (issues of personal culpability glossed over), because actually they have more in common with her than with their own general populace, not withstanding said war being still in living memory (Piotr, who was an adult at its end, having died less than 20 years ago, it is plausible that there are people still alive who were children then). But this is not that novel.
(7) It is now my headcanon that Beta Colony is actually responsible for The Worst of Prince Serg, in that he went to Orb as a young man, did the compulsory psychiatric test, and learnt “You like having sex with women who are pregnant as a result of rape, and YKINMKATOK!”
(8) Apparently Miles and Ekatarin have no social life whatsoever. This is the only explanation for “Hey, you’re the half-Cetagandan grand-daughter of our former occupiers; you must meet the bloke who nearly lost his social position, money, and marriage due to it becoming public knowledge that his great-grandmother was raped/a collaborator” being their best proposal for making local friends.
(9) Have arranged marriages completely died out among the Vor class in the past 35 years? If so why?
(10) I am entirely unable to believe that Simon wouldn’t have had a quiet word with General Allegre to ensure that he has surveillance on the Arquas at all times. Since when is it IC for him to put his own fun above the interests of the powers he serves/d?
(11) Come to that, why doesn’t Allegre have surveillance on the Arquas at all times already? They are deeply dodgy Enemy Aliens.
(12) Is there only one historian at all three of Vorbarr Sultana’s universities? Random Minor Character mention doesn’t add depth in these circumstances.
(13) How has the Cetagandan Empire lasted this long, if every time a haut woman is married out of her caste, she becomes bent on revenge for the insult and rejects all identification with their interests? We have a 100% record of massive destruction so far.

I see matters have got long anyway so I shall stop there. To sum up: we have had too much presentation of Barrayar and its inhabitants, even our protagonists, as (at best) a deeply morally ambivalent place and people, for it to transform convincingly into a suitable setting for a comedy of manners. Especially when it isn't very funny.

*It also contains my favourite line in all Heyer, in which the hero informs his grandmother that he has no difficulty in sitting down in his extremely tight breeches, because they are knitted. Ah! The modest nineteenth century.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
One of the regrets of my youth is that, partly because school language teaching was so staggeringly dull, and partly because I failed to engage my imagination to see that that wasn't all there was to language learning, my foreign language abilities are not what they might be. I could of course improve this. I could go to a French evening class. I could buy a teach-yourself-Latin course. I could read Politiken every day. I could actually look up Norwegian grammar and not just rely on it being the same as Danish.

Or I could order this.*

Now, what's the Danish for "punt scene"? It will do bugger all for contemporary knowledge, but it might do something for my vocabulary.

*DW failing once again to insert an image.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am sorry that Part II has taken ages. I didn’t actually have a huge amount left to write when I posted Part I, but unfortunately the bug struck. I am now back at work, but still disgusting to be around and thoroughly bored of the whole thing. I would like a good night's sleep and to be able to move 5 yards from a box of tissues. Anyway, I have recovered so far as to manage a bit of writing rather than just watching Olympic cross-country skiing in the evening so I can delete it from the DVR, and here is the second part.

NB Spoilers for the murdered and murderer in Miss Pym Disposes

Miss Vane Disposes

Part 2 )
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
In my last post I mentioned that Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes was leading me to commit fic. This is the fic. It is not the fic I am supposed to be writing, nor the fic I am writing instead of the fic I am supposed to be writing, but it is fic and I have written it.

As is obvious from the title, a debt is owed to [personal profile] ankaret's Lois Sanger Disposes.

This is Part (1). It doesn't contain major spoilers (an important non-murderous plot event is referred to, but unfolds differently than in canon), but Part (2) will do so.

Miss Vane Disposes

Part 1 )
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
The newspapers. A lot.

On television, I have been catching up with Doctor Who,though have the most recent episode to go. Apparently many people didn’t like the Robin Hood episode, but I found it rather fun. Especially the comment on the deeply implausible climate of Sherwood Forest in a lot of films.

The Sayers Swindle, Victoria Abbott.

How could I resist that title? Even though as a ‘Book Collector Mystery’ and with recipes at the back there could be no doubt that this fell into that dreaded genre, ‘cosy’ crime. On the plus side, although there are cats in the book*, they do not talk, show undue sentience, or endeavour to solve crime. As for the book, well it isn’t a particularly good book, and it lacks the compulsive page-turning quality that can raise a not particularly good book to something much better. It is an all right book and might go quite well with a bad cold and a rainy day, or generally with people who like this sort of book, but it isn’t my kind of thing. Annoyingly, the one thing that I could have really enjoyed about it – a sense of place, given that it is set in the sort of Upper New York state prosperous small towns that are as much a fantasy to me as 1930s British country houses to a modern reader in New York – wasn’t really there. There is lots of mention of the glowing colours of the fall foliage, but no feeling of locality. As for the plot. Some Sayers first editions were previously pinched. Our plucky heroine must retrieve them. She has a humorous scallywag Irish family, and lives in a cute little flat in the enormous house of her employee, an elderly book-obsessed recluse who has a genius Italian housekeeper/cook and requires our heroine to dress for dinner. There are two potential love interests, both without distinguishing features bar their job titles, and one of whom compares the heroine to Harriet Vane and talks about how he could have fallen for her, while the heroine implausibly (but no more implausibly than anything else) assumes that he fancies their mutual friend who is working overseas.

The heroine does collect the hideous New English Library Sayers paperbacks, though, which leads me to believe that the authors really have read and enjoyed more than the minimal DLS required to write the book.

Miss Pym Disposes
This is not cosy, not in the least. Oh it’s easy to say superficially that it is – amateur detective, set in a women’s training college in the inter-war or just post-war period, lots of golden girls doing gymnastics in golden sunlight or walking and having picnics in fields of golden buttercups and everyone of the right class. Except that it isn’t about those things at all. Anyway, I loved it. Nice, friendly, wanting to be comfortable Lucy Pym who wants others to take hard decisions, but won’t herself. Edward Adrian, the balding Romeo. The staff. The students. The setting**. Desterro. And the ending. The ending – all of it - is exactly my kind of ending. I complained about the end of Brat Farrar, but am now wondering if I were looking on Tey there with a too cynical eye, and actually that she is perfectly aware of what I’m objecting to and pointing out what quite likely really would happen.

Giant spoilers for the ending including the identity of the perpetrator )

I may now be writing fic.

*I have no objection to cats in books, but they do sometimes act as an indicator species.
**This may have been particularly convincing to me after my August visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, which was a PT training college at exactly this time, and which has a lot of old students come on its tours. There was one on mine. She had loved it, as apparently almost everyone did.
***It strikes me that there are a number of references in the novel to Miss Pym's experiences teaching French to the Fourth form, but that actually her actions and moral perspective are themselves rather reminiscent of the morally-undeveloped 'middle' forms of school stories.

ETA: So I've got rid of the incorrect footer, but how do I add the correct one? I have the box to display the cross-link ticked, but it doesn't.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
The progression of fruit marks the turning of the year. Blood oranges mark that one day winter will have an end. True spring begins with asparagus.* Last week I purchased the first English Discovery apples (the best apple), and English plums. Driving to Cambridge on Friday afternoon, the sloes in the hedgerows were distressingly blue. Opening my bedroom curtains this morning I saw that the first leaves on the bird cherry trees have turned red. Only two, but still: the harvest is passed, the summer is ended, and soon I have a fortnight off work.

*I know, not a fruit.

In the meantime, have a meme about books. I can’t imagine that anyone wants to know my Drink of Choice while Reading (A: Depends on the circumstances in which I am reading, so now you know anyway), but there are more interesting questions.

Book meme )
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
In the midst of the headlong whirl, I turn to the one who I know will always give me what I want, where there are no nasty surprises, and I need to engage my brain just enough for enjoyment and no more. I turn to David Eddings, and a re-read of the 3-volume Elenium*

I like David Eddings. He was a lot of fun in my teenage years, and I’ve never found anyone like him – admittedly I haven’t always tried that hard, but when I have I’ve been disappointed**. Eddings at his worst is awful tosh, but Eddings at his best, and The Diamond Throne is definitely his best, is splendid fun. Largely free of armies of gods bestriding worlds, it has a small cast and a fairly contained plot, the quest element retaining a tolerable relationship to normal values of time and distance, and a large political element. The heroes are professionals, the villains are also professionals (I think it was partly the villains that hooked me the first time – ambitious churchman who gets seriously out of his depth, the friend-turned-adversary who knows he took the wrong road, but can’t go back because of pride***), there is sufficient worldbuilding for things to work, and the weather always seems to be terrible. Does it ever stop raining in Cimmura? Oh, and I shipped Sephrenia/Vanion madly. There is not nearly enough fanfic; I may have to write some.

In another fandom entirely, you know that the endgame of a fic isn’t quite for you when you start saying “But all Lapland hotels have excellent central heating!” when after a number of short amusing chapters the inevitable arrives in the form of huddling-together-for-warmth-leads-to-more. Oh Cabin Pressure fandom, why do you fail me so?

Have not been writing the Giant WIP, but have managed to think about it a bit and have come up with the beginnings of filling in a plot-hole, which is good.

*Who was it who started the trend of calling fantasy doorstoppers by these daft pseudo-epic names?

**Any recommendations, do give them.

***I bet there’s Sparkhawk/Martel slash out there. There has to be, goodness knows there was plenty of subtext.

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