pedanther: (Default)
1. A pretty slim fiction log, this month. In particular, I think this may be the first month since I started that I had no completed books to list. It's been kind of a stressful month, and the books I have on the go are mostly ones I'm reading more out of a sense of obligation than because I'm actively enjoying them, so they didn't work as a way to escape from stress. (Apart from the Discworld novel, obviously, but I'm reading that one on a schedule with a reading group, and it happens that we ended the month with one section to go.)

Although the first section of the fiction log doesn't tell the whole story, because I did read one novel-length work this month: Triptych, a Star Wars fanwork set after The Force Awakens. (This not-telling-the-whole-story is precisely why I started including novel-length fanworks in the log, of course.) It was an effective stress escape while it lasted, and comes to an emotionally satisfying conclusion (although not, I think, one that will turn out to bear much resemblance to whatever the films end up doing).


2. One of the sources of stress has been that for the past year I have been president of the brass band, a situation I have completely failed to mention here because it doesn't reflect any actual achievement on my part except being the slowest to dodge. Everybody agrees that the president is an important position that needs to be filled, but nobody in the band wants to be the person who actually fills it. I didn't want to do it even before I was pushed into it, and now that I've actually given it a go and found myself unsuited to it, I really don't want to do it. There were times -- plural -- when I was finding it so stressful that I had to talk myself down from dramatically announcing my resignation not only from the presidency but also from the band and flouncing out of the rehearsal hall, never to return. We had the AGM recently, and I managed to dodge better this time, so hopefully things will be less stressful from now on.


3. This month has also been crunch time for the annual performing arts festival, which started last weekend. We're sticking with last year's arrangement where all the singers are on one weekend and all the instrumental performances are on a second weekend, with separate adjudicators for each. The vocal weekend went really well, with the adjudicator also running a couple of good workshops. There was less going on in the experienced solo sections than usual because a couple of people who usually enter those have left town since last year. Maybe this is a sign that next year I need to act on my perennial threat to enter the solo sections myself.


4. Another thing we're getting into crunch time for is the next Rep Club production I'm involved in. I mentioned that there's an improv group going again, and we have a couple of performances coming up. What's making it interesting is that in addition to the usual sort of improv scene games, where a couple of people go on stage and improvise a single scene, we're going to be featuring a long-form improv, which will run for multiple scenes, include all the actors, and hopefully end up with some kind of comprehensible storyline pulling the whole thing together.


5. Toastmasters annual Table Topics and Humorous Speech Contests. Entered the Table Topics contest, won, advanced to Area finals, didn't win. Probably just as well; not sure if I'm going to be free for the Division finals.

Anyway, I'm thinking about letting go of Toastmasters entirely. I've advanced to a level where a person really needs to invest time and energy to keep getting something out of it -- or rather, I advanced to that level about two years ago and haven't progressed since. And the thing is, I don't think I have the time and enery to spare: I'm using it on other things that matter more to me, like the Rep Club. The last year or so, it's seemed like I've had something else on every night there's been a Toastmasters meeting, and the couple of meetings I've been to I've been very aware that I'm rusty and not making up for lost time, let alone advancing. So I think it might be time for me to acknowledge that Toastmasters has been a valuable part of my life that I've gained a lot from, but isn't something I need to keep holding on to.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
(none completed)

In progress
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
Neil Gaiman. Norse Mythology (e)
Terry Pratchett. Thief of Time (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
P C Hodgell. The Gates of Tagmeth
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. Borders of Infinity (e) (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 1 (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 2
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Leinil Yu. Darth Vader volume 3
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Mike Norton, Max Fiumara. Darth Vader volume 4
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. "Due Diligence" (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Challenges of the Deeps (e)
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey (e)

In progress
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
Neil Gaiman. Norse Mythology (e)
Terry Pratchett. Thief of Time (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
PC Hodgell. The Gates of Tagmeth
pedanther: (Default)
1. It's coming up to time for the Doctor Who season finale, and for the first time in a while I'm -- "really looking forward to it" isn't quite right, for several reasons; perhaps "firmly emotionally invested" is better. The last few season finales, I've been interested to see how things turned out but I wasn't particularly feeling a sense of jeopardy, or any doubt that the Doctor was going to save the day in the end. (And, it has to be said, in some cases the danger was too bizarre to be properly frightening.) But this time we've got the Doctor's companion Bill, who's one of my favourite characters in the series, in direct concrete peril, and I'm not at all sure the Doctor is going to be able to get her out, or that even if he does that it's going to be something they're going to be able to come back from.


2. Our production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado went pretty well. There were bits I would have liked to have done better (there always are), and I didn't really feel I was giving the performance I'd been aiming for until a couple of performances before we closed (I never do), but everybody on stage and in the audience had fun, and that's the important thing.


3. There is another attempt afoot to get a regular-ish improv event going here, with the first workshop being held this week. I'm not going to prognosticate about its chances, because I said the last one looked like it might survive and then it immediately collapsed. I'll just enjoy it while it lasts, however long that turns out to be.


4. At the gaming group last week, I got invited to play a game of X-Wing Miniatures, using pre-made teams based on the more recent Force Awakens ships and characters: I had Rey and Finn in the Millennium Falcon and Poe and R2-D2 in an X-Wing, while the guy who owned the set had Hux's flagship and Kylo Ren's shuttle. The encounter was a victory for the Resistance, which I attribute more to the inherent strength of the team I was given than to my own rather fumbling efforts. (In particular, I kept forgetting the movement order, with the result that nearly every turn the Falcon rear-ended some other ship because I'd incorrectly assumed it would have moved out of the way before the Falcon got there.)


5. I tried watching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight again recently, and found it a lot less entertaining now that I know what's coming. I mean that two different ways: First, it's a movie that depends a lot on surprising twists, and is at a disadvantage when the viewer knows all the twists in advance. Second, the events of the sequel cast a shadow back over this movie, not always to its benefit. Also, for a Batman movie, there really isn't all that much Batman in it.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey (e)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
pedanther: (Default)
1. I went to Swancon again this year, and had a good time. Based on past history, the odds are not good that I'll do a detailed write-up.

One memorable event was a discussion about gender-swapping -- examples of it being done such as the recent Ghostbusters movie, thoughts about the opportunities and pitfalls, and so on -- where there was an artist in the room who took suggestions for a series of sketches of characters people would like to see gender-swapped, with a camera set up so we could all watch the sketch taking shape while the discussion went on. The people whose suggestions were accepted got to keep the resulting sketch at the end if they wanted. I suggested "female Asian Iron Fist", which sprang to mind because the shortcomings of the Iron Fist TV series had been something of a recurring conversation topic at the convention, and without intially intending to keep the sketch. (For one thing, they were on quite large pieces of paper that looked like they'd be trouble to get home in my luggage unwrinkled.) I changed my mind when I saw the finished sketch, though; this is a character I would definitely read or watch a series about. I managed to get the sketch home mostly unscathed, too; now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

Games I played included Original Flavour Fluxx, Pandemic, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullfyrez (which I enjoyed the mechanics of but found the theme/story off-putting), Joking Hazard, Tsuro of the Seas, Hamsterolle, and King of Tokyo. And also, on the same trip but not actually at the convention, Fury of Dracula; I played Dracula, partly because I figured that would reduce the amount of explanations required to the novice players but mostly because it was my copy of the game so I could be Dracula if I wanted.


2. The British Museum's contribution to International Tabletop Day is a video in which Dr Irving Finkel, the museum's curator of cuneiform artifacts, demonstrates one of the oldest board games in recorded history, the rules for which he reconstructed from one of the tablets in his collection. His opponent is Youtube-based science communicator Tom Scott.


3. As part of my preparation for the Star Wars Rolling Remix, of which I have previously written, I rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy all the way through for the first time in years. I was struck by how young the characters are in the first one, compared to my memory of them (which is mostly of how they end up in Return of the Jedi). Han, and Luke -- not so much Leia, though I think that's down to her not being allowed to grow up as much as the men, so she ended up much closer to her beginning -- but the one that really surprised me was Darth Vader. I had a fixed mental image of him as being a sort of looming menace with a lot of ponderous gravitas, but that's really something he grows into over the trilogy; in the first movie, he has a lot more extraneous movement, and talks more rapidly too. (And I think I owe whoever played Vader in Rogue One an apology for thinking his body language was wrong; it was a lot closer to Vader-at-that-age than I'd remembered.)


4. A while back I read A Shilling for Candles, the first mystery novel to be published under the byline of Josephine Tey. I started it mainly out of a sense of historical curiosity -- it inspired a film by Alfred Hitchcock, and Tey went on to write a couple of novels that I rather liked (although less so on re-reading them and becoming more aware of the author's prejudices) -- but it turned out to have an unexpected point of interest. The action takes place mainly in Devon, in and around the (I'm guessing fictional) town of Westover -- which is also the setting of Brat Farrar, my favourite of Tey's later novels.


5. I finally got around to reading The Collected Kagan, Baen's ebook edition of Janet Kagan's short stories. The quality is somewhat variable, as it's a collection aiming for comprehensiveness, rather than a best-of, but there are some great stories in there. (Eventually; for some reason, the compiler decided to lead off with some of the weaker stories, and I worry that, should anyone who isn't already a Kagan fan happen to give the book a try, they'll give up before getting to the good stuff.) For fans of her science fiction novels, I particularly recommend "Christmas Wingding", "Winging It", "Fighting Words", and "The Nutcracker Coup", which are in a similar mode to the novels. (Not to mention "How First Woman Stole Language from tuli-tuli the Beast", which is actual backstory for one of the novels.) I also highly recommend "Naked Wish-Fulfillment", which is a contemporary fantasy story and great in a completely different way.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden (e) (re-read)
Kenneth Grahame, GMW Wemyss, Markham Shaw Pyle. The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for adults and sensible children (or, possibly, children and sensible adults) (e)
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles

In progress
Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton
pedanther: (Default)
Briefly noted:

The Star Wars Rolling Remix 2017 collection has opened. The works will remain anonymous for about a week, for the benefit of those who like to amuse themselves by guessing who wrote what and in what order.

From the existence of this post, you may safely conclude that one the works in the collection is by me.

For the explanation of what is a rolling remix and the details of how this one was organised, I refer you to [community profile] starwarsrollingremix.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
David McGillivray, Walter Zerlin Jnr. The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado
Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
T L Garrison. The Twisted Blackmailer (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles
pedanther: (Default)
1. Our production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened this week. Everyone seems to be enjoying it so far. (Including us; not that we weren't enjoying it anyway, but it helps to be reminded how funny some of the bits are that had faded through over-familiarity.)


2. This weekend was the area final of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest and Evaluation Contest. I represented my club in the Evaluation Contest, and came second -- which came as a nice surprise, because I was pretty sure there were at least two other competitors who'd done better than me. My friend who represented the club in the International Speech Contest, with a speech about dealing with negative self-talk, was even more surprised to come first (but I wasn't, because it was clearly the best speech in the contest -- though I may be biased).


3. Now that rehearsals for Spelling Bee are over, I'll be able to start going to gaming group meetings again; I'm looking forward to it. Usually I just show up and see who's got a game that needs players, but this time I'm planning to suggest a few games of my own: Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, and Ingenious, which I gave myself for Christmas after getting hooked on the app version.


4. I've played a bit more Mass Effect since I last posted, and now know Garrus, Wrex, and Tali as more than just faces on Tumblr posts. I also, being me, managed to put my foot in my mouth with all three of them during their respective tell-me-about-your-backstory conversations. (No, that's not quite true; I did fumble things with Wrex and Garrus, but when I hacked off Tali I knew exactly what I was doing. Attempts to justify genocide make me prickly; who'd've guessed?)


5. Movie-wise, I have been to see Rogue One (I teared up at the end, in the good-heartwarming way not the bad-distressing way) and Moana (lots of fun).
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor (e)
Agatha Christie. The Murder at the Vicarage
J Sheridan Le Fanu. Wylder's Hand (e)
Ellis Peters. City of Gold and Shadows (e)
Ellis Peters. Rainbow's End (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Last Continent (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. The Memory Trap (e)
Anthony Price. A Prospect of Vengeance (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

Abandoned
Gregory Mone. The Truth About Santa Claus

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
T L Garrison. The Twisted Blackmailer
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. The Curse of Chalion (re-read)
Lee Falk, Ray Moore. The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies volume 1
Gail Carson Levine. Fairest
Anne McCaffrey. The Ship Who Sang (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. A New Kind of War (e)
John Scalzi. The End of All Things
John Scalzi. The Human Division
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus (e)

In progress
Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Last Continent (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books In progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Anthony Price. A Prospect of Vengeance
pedanther: (cheerful)

1. I have been to the cinema to see a movie for the first time since, according to my notes, July. The movie was Arrival, and it was worth going to see. I will probably go and see some more movies this month, because we have Rogue One arriving this week and then Moana in the post-Christmas summer season.
 

2. I finally got around to reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards, which has been lurking in my to-read pile for years. The author is the wife of the film director Blake Edwards, aka the actor and singer Julie Andrews, and I'm pleased to be able to say I enjoyed it, although probably not as much as I would have when I was the target age and less capable of spotting the bits that are designed to impart important life lessons. Other things that stuck out to now-me that wouldn't have to child-me were the puns (especially having recently read the bit in Summer in Orcus where the child protagonist is scornful of the kind of puns adult fantasy writers put in children's fantasy), and the wise token adult's attitude to the designated adversary's concerns, which I felt should have had a hashtag on them saying "#notallhumans". I was very pleased that the designated adversary turned out to be not evil, just doing his best in very trying circumstances, and that the token wise adult was shown to be a human being with his own flaws and blind spots (and that he started listening to his former adversary more by the end), but I felt it could have done with an explicit call out that even though the designated adversary turned out to be wrong about this specific group of humans he had perfectly valid reasons to be distrustful of humans in general.

(PS. I probably would have identified with one of the children when I was a child, but as an adult the designated antagonist is definitely my favourite character.)
 

3. Another thing that's been sitting on the shelf that I finally got around to is the Big Finish audio drama Storm Warning, the first of their series featuring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor. It was okay, I guess? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I'm not in a big hurry to find out what happens next. (Although part of that's obviously because I'm starting the series fifteen years late, so I already know from fandom osmosis quite a bit about what happens next.) And, to be fair, I've never been all that good at audio dramas; I don't tend to find them engaging enough to sit still through.
 

4. The Rep Club Christmas Show has been and gone. I was involved only as an audience member, which I think may have been the right call. On top of the reasons for making that decision in the first place, I'm now in a position to tell that I enjoyed watching it once but it would probably have worn a bit thin through a month of rehearsals and performances. (It would also have been a crimp on my social life that I'd have regretted, in terms of things I've been able to go to on what would have been show nights.)

The next Rep Club production is, as I've mentioned, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I've been cast as the socially awkward science nerd, which as you can imagine is going to be a stretch.
 

5. Fanfic rec: Third Wheel, in which Bruce Wayne makes his first official visit to Metropolis, and Lois Lane is assigned a celebrity profile that turns out to be more interesting than she expected, while Clark Kent investigates sightings of a mysterious bat-man.

"I've always wanted to learn how to fly," Clark said, sounding impressed.

"You should," Bruce said. "It's fun."

"It always seemed like it would be."

pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Ben Aaronovitch. The Hanging Tree (e)
Julie Edwards. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Terry Pratchett. Jingo (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. For the Good of the State (e)

In progress
Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor (e)
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus (e)

Non-fiction books
Jimmy Maher. Let's Tell a Story Together (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Terry Pratchett. The Last Continent
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Mad King (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Eleanor Herman. Sex with Kings

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. This year the music section of the annual performing arts festival, which in previous years has been held over a weekend, was further divided into vocal and intrumental sections and held over two weekends. This came about because last year we had about three days worth of entries crammed into two days, which was stressful for everyone. This year we had three days worth of entries spread out over four days, which was a lot less fraught; we could begin and end each day at a reasonable time and still have time for proper refreshment breaks between sessions, and there was one afternoon in each weekend given over to some very well-attended workshops run by the guest adjudicators. It does mean we need to find two guest adjudicators each year instead of one, but on the other hand it gives us more options in finding them, since we don't need to find one person who's strong on both vocal and instrumental music.


2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opens in a week. It's coming together pretty well.


3. I have been to the gaming group only once recently, as there have tended to be Jekyll & Hyde rehearsals scheduled against it. One of the X-Wing players, whose usual opponents hadn't made it, saw me wandering around at a loose end and recognised me as someone who occasionally watches them play, so he invited me to have a go. I had control of a small Rebel fleet, versus his swarm of Imperial TIE Fighters. There was an exciting moment during the battle where one of my ships was on a collision course with an asteroid, but I managed the dice rolls that converted it from "ship collides with asteroid, takes damage" to "ship hides on asteroid for a turn, takes no damage". It came down to one Rebel and one TIE fighter, but the TIE fighter won in the end. I enjoyed it okay once I started getting the hang of it, but I don't think I see myself becoming an X-Wing player who owns his own set; way too many little fiddly bits to obtain and keep track of.


4. I have finished playing through the storyline in Lego Jurassic World, and am now exploring the bits of the game that are unlocked as the storyline is completed. It's definitely more fun once the dinosaurs show up. The triceratops is still one of my favourite dinosaurs to play, probably followed by the brontosaurus. Playing as the brontosaurus is strangely relaxing, as it's so large that the camera pulls waaay out to fit it in, and the parts of the game that usually seem so important are reduced to tiny distant things going on down by the dinosaur's feet. The baby velociraptor is also surprisingly good value as a player character. (Then you get into the possibilities afforded by genetic manipulation, such as a tiny compsognathus with a headbutt as powerful as a triceratops or a t-rex's shattering roar.)

One thing that's still bothering me about it involves the distribution of character traits: there's a very large overlap between the sets "character is female", "character has a glass-shattering shriek", and "character is Agile" (can jump high and squeeze through small gaps), in a way that makes Agile often look like a consolation prize for female characters who can't really do much else. To some extent, I suppose this is a result of the game being constrained by the roles given to female characters in the original movies. One thing that can't be blamed on the movies, though, is the way that the game seems to be rubbing it in by using hot pink as the colour code for obstacles that only Agile characters can get past.


5. Fanfic rec: Shadow-Self, a retelling of the False Guinevere legend. In the usual version, King Arthur's wife is secretly replaced partway through his reign by an impostor of identical aspect, her low-born half-sister, who causes a number of problems before the switch is discovered. In this retelling, that's not quite how it goes.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. Diplomatic Immunity (e) (re-read)
Lois McMaster Bujold. Komarr (e) (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 1
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Alliance of Equals (e)
John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, et al. Suicide Squad volume 1
Terry Pratchett. Feet of Clay (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. Sion Crossing (e)
Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell, et al. Prez volume 1
William Shakespeare. Hamlet (re-read)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Eleanor Herman. Sex with Kings
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Janet Kagan. Hellspark (e) (re-read)
Janet Kagan. Mirabile (e)
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)
Noah Smith. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In progress
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry (e) (re-read)
Terry Pratchett. Maskerade (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books In progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
William Shakespeare. Hamlet

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