I am still behind on every damn thing but I am going to keep up with this "Summer of Steven" thing, because it's only a little bit of time every day and if it builds up then it's all psychological barriers and stress and whatnot.
Readercon starts today and I have a schedule and it is great!
3:00 PM | 6 | Steven Universe. Susan Jane Bigelow, Max Gladstone, Bart Leib, Kate Nepveu, Julia Rios (leader). How has a cartoon show meant for children so thoroughly captivated some of the most interesting adult SFF writers we know? Our panelists will dig deep into what makes Steven Universe work so well for the different ages of its audience and try to glean some tips from how it packs such huge amounts of story into very short episodes. Warning: There may be singing.
4:00 PM | BH | Integrating the Id: What Fanfic can Tell Us About Writing Sex, Sexuality, and Intimacy. Victoria Janssen, Natalie Luhrs, Kate Nepveu (leader), Kenneth Schneyer, Ann Tonsor Zeddies. Sex scenes can be difficult to do well, but when they succeed, they can be highly efficient ways to reveal aspects of character. What are some pitfalls of writing sex scenes, and can fanfic teach us how to do it well? Does a sex scene need to be explicit, and does it even need to have "sex" at all, or is the key the intensity and intimacy that we associate with sex?
11:00 AM | 6 | Sorting Taxonomies. John Benson, Greer Gilman, Kate Nepveu (leader), Peter Straub, Jacob Weisman. Why do we group our fictions by genre first instead of other possible taxonomies? For instance:--By relationship: what kind of relationship appears in this fiction, and how much is it foregrounded?--By level of violence: violent, nonviolent or anti-violent?--By prose: ornate, simple, vivid, inventive?--By paradigm: is this fiction centred on people, ideas, or action? Those are a few possible ways a reader might choose between works, depending on what they want to read--all of which might include any combination of genres. Our panelists will discuss ways they choose what to read, and give some comparisons of like works from disparate genres.
3:00 PM | BH | Story Hospital. Jeanne Cavelos, Michael Cisco, John Crowley, Rose Fox (leader), Lila Garrott, Maria Dahvana Headley, Elaine Isaak, Keffy Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Kate Nepveu, Terence Taylor. Story Hospital pairs up writers with editors and reviewers for 10-minute discussions of what's broken in their WIPs and how to start fixing it. Think of it like a pitch session where the editor's already on your side, or speed dating where you actually want the other person to tell you what you're doing wrong. Writers: come prepared to quickly and succinctly explain what you're working on and the problems you're facing. Our handpicked team of editors, reviewers, writing teachers, and enthusiastic readers will bring thinking caps and kind hearts. Leave your manuscripts and red pens at home--this is a 10-minute spoken conversation only--but bring cards with your contact info in case you both want to continue the conversation later. The discussions will be facilitated (and stopwatch will be wielded) by longtime editor and critic Rose Fox. No sign-up is needed; first come, first served. We have room for 30 writers and their brilliant ideas.
10:00 AM | 6 | Which Book Would You Save?. Lisa Cohen, James Morrow, Kate Nepveu (leader), Tom Purdom, Eric Schaller. In Ray Bradbury's introduction to the authorized adaptation graphic novel of Fahrenheit 451 he says, "Finally, may I suggest that anyone reading this introduction should take the time to name the one book that he or she would most want to memorize and protect from any censors or 'firemen.' And not only name the book, but give the reasons why they would wish to memorize it and why it would be a valuable asset to be recited and remembered in the future. I think this would make for a lively session when my readers meet and tell the books they named and memorized, and why." Our panelists will respond to this prompt and tell us what texts have been so influential/inspiring (inside and outside genre) that they would go to extensive lengths to subvert a world of censorship.
And now I have to watch the last six episodes of Steven Universe (don't worry, they're eleven minutes each) and do some, you know, day job work. Whee!
So I literally spent twelve and a half hours today traveling [*], except for the 2:45 that was seeing Hamilton, and my eyes are crossing and I ache all over, but I need to give time for the Tylenol to work and also I spent the last four hours writing this in my head, so if I get it out now I'll be able to do the things I need to do tomorrow. Right? Right.
So first general reactions and then I dump out everything I can remember about the staging and so forth, behind a cut to spare your reading lists and also in case you would rather discover that in person someday.
I knew that Alexander and Lafayette/Jefferson would not be the main cast, but I didn't know about Mulligan/Madison, which bummed me out a bit because Okieriete Onaodowan is one of my favorites. However, I was excited to see how other people approached the roles.
The theater seems pretty small and intimate, though admittedly it's been ages since I saw a Broadway show so my comparison may not be accurate. I had a perfect-for-me seat, orchestra row F basically center [**] — any closer and I would have had such a headache from craning my neck. (Well, it would have come on sooner, anyway.) The orchestra is underneath the stage, which I couldn't figure out at first, but toward the end, possibly during "Yorktown," I saw a bit of the conductor's hair poking up through the slot in the stage. (Here are two pictures, one of the Act I stage and one of the Act II stage (with the stairs in the center); I'm so sad I missed seeing them add the higher wall. The rectangular opening for the conductor is visible in the Act II photo.)
The start of the show was a little disorienting, or possibly it was only because I was so discombobulated: go in, run to bathroom, sit down, look around and attempt to post pic to Twitter (the cell networks were clearly overloaded by everyone else doing similar things, because it took about twenty minutes to post). Then a recorded King George is coming over the sound system to tell us to turn off our phones, another moment of darkness, and then right into it.
The performances. I'm not sure if Odom Jr.'s speaking/rapping voice was somewhat strained or if he was just doing something different; his singing sounded terrific to me. And his intensity is stunning, y'all; I swear I saw his hands trembling with rage during "The Room Where It Happens." The two understudies didn't quite pop for me during Act I; I'm not sure if that was just me acclimating (though I am pretty sure Stewart's French accent was very variably present), because they were great in Act II. (And very similar to the cast recording, to my ear, though admittedly I deliberately have not been listening to it recently; I wonder if the goal of the understudy is to mimic and if that is a little weird, or if a sung-through musical is going to enforce a lot of similarity by its nature. Obviously I know nothing about acting or musical theater.) Muñoz (as you know Bob) basically co-created the role with Miranda, is obviously very at home in it, and has a slightly more conventional, I guess, voice? And everyone else was amazing; I started listing actors and songs and then deleted it because I was just listing everyone and everything.
(Another I-know-nothing thing: many of the actors, at least, had mics (I don't know if the women had mics in their dresses or hair; I don't remember seeing any mics along their cheeks, as opposed to the men), but everyone still seemed to be projecting for the back and the effort that took was visible, which was a little surprising to me—not the effort but that they would still go for that volume with the mics.)
The staging. I so wish I had a holographic memory and could replay the show in my head and look at everything at leisure, because there was a lot going on most of the time and it was so interesting. Not just the choreography--though that was very impressive, especially with the double turntables in the stage. In a play we did senior year of high school, I gave an entire speech in the dark because I missed my mark, okay? (Emilia's at the end of Act 4, Scene 3.) I would straight-up kill myself trying to navigate those turntables. But there was also the use of both levels of the stage, people interacting and reacting in the background, the lighting and the props, everything. There were also a few transitions that aren't in the recording that I think really add to the show.
Even without added transitions, though, it was interesting the way a lot of the emotional logic of transitions between songs seemed to jump out at me much better on stage. It might be because, even though the cast recording is mostly pretty seamless, it's still tempting for me to think of it chopped up into songs? I'm not sure. But it felt more like a single whole thing.
Possibly related to that: it also felt like a lot, very fast. I think this may be because I'm conditioned by Disney movies to think of songs as intermittent things, big setpieces that take up a lot of emotional room; but Hamilton is like 99% songs, and so even though it has changes of pace and smaller moments, I still react as "song = intense moment." I dunno.
I think that's it for general reactions. Seeing it definitely added to my understanding and appreciation, and it was really impressive, but if that's not in the cards for you, it wasn't massively transformative of the cast recording, so don't be too upset?
Okay. I spent the first two hours of my drive in silence, because I felt sort of overflowing and wanted to let things settle. The next two I listened to the cast recording (only through "I Know Him"), remembering little bits. And now for the song-by-song rundown.
On Tuesday we took the subway out to the Parco degli Acquedotti. (Many subway stations seemed to have exteriors that are not very well-maintained, and there was a lot of graffiti on the outside of the subway cars, but the interior of the cars were clean and the system overall seemed to work fine.)
Out at the park, it was pretty impressive how much less elegant the 16th c. aqueduct is than the 1st c. one. There was also a very short portion of one of the famous Roman roads, which was awesome--I'd never had a visual of those before. And generally it was nice to see the park being used in very everyday ways (excited dogs running around--sadly off-leash and often not picked up after; people exercising; people enjoying the weather), right next to the aqueducts. There was something about the light that made the older aqueduct seem like a painting, or looking back in time, even after I'd been there and literally touched it and knew it was really there. I greatly enjoyed it.
The family of one of the couple getting married lives in that neighborhood and arranged for a "light" lunch at one of their favorite local restaurants, Meo Pinelli. I use scare quotes because the servers just kept bringing out stuff, meaning that it was really easy to lose track of how much I'd eaten, especially since I didn't know what else was coming: several different kinds of little sandwiches, fish eggs spread on bread (turns out I don't like that), bite-sized pastry-ish things with tomato or cheese or veggies, and absolutely delicious suppli (balls of deep-fried risotto). I almost fell asleep about four times on the subway back to the hotel.
So we rested and then went to the wedding rehearsal dinner (apparently not a thing that is usually done in Italy) on the roof of the Hotel Forum, which was delicious and fancy and also seven freaking courses long; fortunately it turns out that I don't like beef Wellington because I really had not paced myself properly. (I know, problems, right?)
Here's the photo album; as before, click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
(I was going to do Tuesday and Wednesday together, because they were short days, but Wednesday we visited the Galleria Borghese so I have a million pictures and even after napping for two and a half hours this afternoon I still need more rest.)
These posts were all written and waiting for me to annotate the image galleries that went with them before posting, and that was good sick-day activity, so I can put up a couple posts now, finally.
Monday was a day of heavy tourism: various sights on a walking tour in the morning, then the Vatican museums in the afternoon. One of Chad's pals had previously engaged a tour guide for us, who met us by the Colosseum and gave little potted histories of that and the Forum--not inside, that was for later in the week.
We walked past the first commercial indoor mall (which has a bunch of White Trees of Gondor in front of it, for some reason), and the giant wedding cake monument built to the first king of a unified Italy (our guide said that 19 people ate dinner in the belly of the horse in the center when it was dedicated, to give a sense of the scale), and the Trevi fountain (I liked hearing about how the sculptor left imperfections and rough stone in much of his work to remind the viewer about the superiority of nature--though I guess this may rather be an idea left over from Bernini's sketches, since he didn't actually design the final version the way he did the facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, which has a similar thing), and the being-cleaned Spanish Steps, and a whole bunch of obelisks that were looted from Egypt, and the fountains in the Piazza Navona. It was a lot.
My favorite was the Pantheon, which I keep wanting to call Parthenon which is something different, because it's just beautifully intricate inside; I could've stayed there for hours. (It rained a little later so we missed the chance to see the rain coming through the hole in the dome and how the drains work.)
Then lunch, which took a little longer than optimal so we were late for our reserved tour of the Vatican museums, but it worked out okay. (I had gnocchi with gorgonzola and pear; the night before I had fettuccine with ricotta and bacon, which just leaped out of the menu at me for some reason, and grouper in tomato sauce, at a tiny place called Le Mani in Pasta that was very good but slow by even Italian standards, it developed over the course of the week.)
The Vatican Museums were kind of . . . stressful. It's so amazingly crowded that you can't hang out and look at anything, everyone's just pushing and crowding and hurrying all around you. Impressive, of course, and I'm definitely glad I saw the Sistine Chapel after the restoration (they left a little bit unrestored so you can tell how amazingly dark it had gotten). But I saw a bunch of cool things just in passing and I'm sure if we'd come on the least busy day of the year (if such a thing even exists) I could've found more.
St. Peter's Basilica was very impressive for being decorated solely with mosaic on the inside, Michelangelo's Pieta (now behind bulletproof glass after being attacked by someone with a hammer in 1972), and this beautiful golden sunburst window with a dove in the center. Again, though, almost all of the mosaic was way up high, so lots of neck-cricks and overwhelmedness and not enough detail.
By the way: it was a little before 4:30 p.m. when we came outside and there were these very ominous bells tolling for at least fifteen minutes. Any idea what that was?
Then by accident we got separated from our group, had consolatory gelato in a cafe (mediocre; mine had ice crystals in it), and took a taxi back to the hotel. (Every car ride in Rome had me think, on a running loop, "We are going to die or kill someone." Taxis do things like never use turn signals, treat lane boundaries as mere suggestions, and go the wrong way down one-way traffic lanes just because no-one's in them at the moment.)
We had drinks at a very fancy hotel with a nice garden, Hotel de Russie, and then dinner nearby at Dal Bolognese, which was both delicious and much quicker than the night before, bringing out dishes with a speed I expect at an American restaurant. I had pasta with bolognese sauce, because I figure you can't go wrong having something that's in the name of the restaurant. And I was right.
Before the walking portion of the morning got particularly long, I was really loving Rome visually: the colors of the buildings, and the way that time periods are sliced up next to each other and layered one atop another, I just found it very aesthetically pleasing and charming. So it was a really long day but on the whole good.
Here are the photo albums. There is stuff in the captions, so click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
Hey FL players: Seeking Mr Eaten's Name is back, it's complete, and it allows you to render your character permanently unplayable. I'm planning to do that, but before I do:
I am going to be playing this month and last month's Exceptional Friendship stories and then going RL-traveling starting July 5, and from what I understand the next steps of Seeking are a good place to be when you're playing in little bits on the road, but also put you out of reach for social actions. Therefore:
I will send you a sip of Hesperidean Cider if you send a social action of your choosing to an_ocelot THROUGH JULY 4, with a note that it's for Cider.
Taking a sip of someone else's Cider will drop your Wounds slightly and give you 1 x A Taste of the Garden. That unlocks opportunity cards that will drop Wounds somewhat more, slightly increase Nightmares, provide an Extraordinary Implication, and consume 1 x A Taste of the Garden.
I will respond to everyone's requests, though if you send me more than one I will send one to start and then leave the rest for later. Make sure you stay in the Fifth City until you get your sip, because once I leave the Fifth City you won't be able to accept my social actions. I'm hoping to leave on July 5, as I said, but I'll keep y'all posted.
(There's a early-stages guide to Seeking here; note that new Seeking has no required social component (you can buy Midnight Matriarchs to betray instead of inviting other players, and you can speed your progress a little by receiving an action from someone else) and can be pursued less expensively but very very slowly through opportunity cards--you'll still need considerable resources, though, as there are mandatory sacrifices. But since the endgame is rendering your character permanently unplayable, well, what difference does it make? For a discursive and far more spoiler-filled history of Seeking itself (though still not completely spoilery, as FBG politely requests not sharing the very end content), see this 14k epic by the same author.)
(Also, I wrote all my Rome trip notes on the plane back and I'm waiting to have time (hah! *cries*) to annotate the pictures I could only upload at home.)
The hotel wifi isn't up to uploading pictures from my phone, and I want to post the albums and the summaries all at once, so I'll upload and annotate the pictures and do the posts when we get home. Don't worry, I'm keeping notes as we go so I'll remember!
Tomorrow: I try to take pictures of our room, and the buildings that have huge imposing doors . . . with everyday-use doors cut out of them that are about five feet tall; and we do museums and stuff. (Someone else arranged the tour, I'm not entirely sure what's on it beside the Vatican in the afternoon.)
End of day update: dinner here was really excellent, but finishing eating at midnight may pose serious problems.
The designer who created the blackwork patterns for, among other things, the bookmark in this icon has all her patterns on sale at Etsy for $2 each (unfortunately this is because she has to shut down her shop because of new regulations in Turkey, where she's from).
I know a few of you stitch and have admired her work before, so there you go.
(I still haven't been reading DW, sorry, and now I have to go prep for oral argument tomorrow)
Doctor Strange: damn it, I had successfully avoided seeing this ball of whitewashing Orientalist crap until tonight.
Rogue One: yay female protagonist, boo leading a team of only other dudes, otherwise can't really tell.
Jason Bourne (the version I saw did not have the first few seconds of this, but started with the overhead shot of Jason on the bed): if this movie fridges Julia Stiles' character I will be REALLY ANGRY. Also I just don't think that there's anything left to say in this franchise?
The Shallows: nice to see a survival action movie about a woman, I guess?
Kubo and the Two Strings: there are a whole lot of white actors' names getting top billing of this fantasy-Japan animated story.
Suicide Squad: awww, lookit the trailer trying so hard, aren't you precious?!
It's now out in at least two non-US countries, so, Internet who knows me and has seen it/reads spoilers, should I see it? I originally thought I wasn't seeing this without thorough spoilers, and I've changed my mind, I just want to know the following:
and I can't tell if it's fatigue or adjusting to being on land. Or both.
Thanks to the extreme generosity of Chad's parents, we went with them on a Disney cruise this last week in the western Caribbean. I have been almost entirely offline as a result, and have opened half-a-dozen posts from the last page of my reading list to read and respond to, but am unlikely to go further back than that, sorry (see above).
Cruise was great; challenging solely because of the children's ridiculously narrow tastes in food, which the staff bent over backwards to accommodate, and a little because SteelyKid has a very low melting point. Also I did get a smidge motion sick but not that often. Rooms very comfortable, lots of stuff to do (even if you're not that into Disney characters), quite good food, generally a well-oiled machine. SteelyKid snorkeled for an hour and a half straight and swam with a dolphin, the Pip touched a sea turtle and went on a waterslide ten times in a row, and I smeared sunscreen on the kids at every opportunity and some that weren't and they didn't burn, go me.
Sadly I was on the same ship as Susan Egan, who voices Rose Quartz in Steven Universe, and did not lay eyes on her or, more to the point, hear her sing. (New episodes next week!)
. . . there was more, but I have no idea what right now. (Oh, wait, it was about the MCU, and therefore needs the next rock.)
I have a paper ARC of the last Temeraire book, League of Dragons, that I don't need (the nice people at Tor.com sent it to me, but then they got me access to an eARC, so I don't need both). This comes out in about six weeks.
Want it? Post a comment WITH YOUR U.S. MAILING ADDRESS and EMAIL ADDRESS (all comments are screened) and I'll mail it out tomorrow to someone selected by random number generator. (U.S. only to be safe, because it says that rights have been sold many places and I don't want to get anyone in trouble.)
Don't resell, don't be a jerk, only comment if you actually want to read. Thanks!