It's about that time of year when people start wondering things like "hey, why isn't DECEMber the tenth month of the year?"
So it's time for my little lecture on Romans, calendars, and our friend Gaius Julius Caesar.
I'll be posting it as a tootchain replying to this one, but if you're impatient, here's the whole thing: https://gist.github.com/joyeusenoelle/3754e00a37fe81aa43aad3eb9543f3ce
So: “Why isn’t the new year on winter solstice?”
The answer, honestly, is that the Romans had no fucking idea how to run a calendar.
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies” by Matthew Kressel is a creation myth. It describes infinite(?) fields where gardeners, which are all-too-human, apart from their physics-mumbojumbo bodies (why would our physics even exist outside universes? Would this story pain me even more if I knew HEP?), weed out imperfect universes, until Rebellious Teenager Protagonist takes a liking to a crooked universe containing a species capable of introspection and nonviolence. Not fully mine, but interesting.
“Weep for Day” by Indrapramit Das is … hm, a bit predictable? A fundamental struggle, Light vs. Dark, overall Victorian world views of religion, industry, colonialism and military bravery, narrated by a contrasting (but still role-bound) female character who is one of the few willing to imagine that Dark is not Evil, just different as memories addresses to lost family. In a world that appears tidal locked to its sun, with little further exploration of the ecological and other implications.
I think it would have helped knowing more about The Company for following “Noble Mold“ by Kage Baker. Kate Baker mentions it in her introduction, and they are somewhat described towards the end, but it is very clear that this story is part of a larger universe. What I still take from the story is some twisted flavor of colonialism, in that the main character structurally upholds it while superficially mitigating the effects both for Spain on America and for the Company on all of history.
Spoilers on characters
Many characters have queer or divergent traits that are naturally portrayed without otherwise defining the character, and are often made explicit only much later: The main character is bi&poly. Wulf is assigned male at birth. The soldier is neurodivergent, in the autism spectrum. There are people in wheelchairs, non-fanatic religious people, people opposing structural racism, nonbinary characters, and many others suffering from bad or no presence in general media.
The main characters are a Fischer [think Lovecraft Deep Ones] acolyte and her Fischer boyfriend and her girlfriend with wolf ancestry, there is also a PhD in post-apocalyptic societies and a dutiful soldier-without-cause in the Flying Circus, and a great many interesting side characters. The story (like the game) is violent, but also very queer, sensible, open, and with excellent worldbuilding, which is why I read it eagerly.
I read, actually read, a book up to now. I'm finally done. This book was hard, but very enticing, so I devoured it to the detriment of many other things. Let me tell you about “Whispers from the Deep” by Erika Chappell. I picked it up to get an idea of the world of the role playing game “Flying Circus”, a crunchy game Powered by the Apocalypse about WW1 style pilot adventurers in a fantasy world. The book is based on an online playtest of the game, so it has the same themes and a content warning
“The Petals Abide” by Benjamin Sriduangkaew is worth listening to for the writing, which seems half a step sideways from English into something fictional and poetic, with unfamiliar pronouns, names, descriptions and societies, telling a story of love, freedom and intrigue that is similarly strange. I never knew where the story would go next, but it was not as hard to follow and cryptic to me as some of the other more poetic stories in #clarkesworld.
“Postcards from Monster Island” by Emily Devenport is sweet and optimistic: When a couple of gargantuan monsters appear around Manhattan, a rabble of goodhearted and artistic people do not flee the destruction caused by the government trying to fight the monsters, but instead they observe and make friends with the behemoth and the others. The “postcards” in the title is namedropped once, but also refers to the picturesque, touristic atmosphere conning afterwards.
I had fallen behind with the Hidden Almanac and wanted to slowly catch up now – I had not seen how much I had left and got to the point today where this most outstanding podcast ended. 😢 Goodbye, Mord, goodbye, Drom, good luck with your seaside unlife and gardening. I hope I will hear from you again.
Thanks to @ksonney and @ursulav for taking us along!
In “Let Baser Things Devise” by Berrien C. Henderson we follow the story of Pierre, astronaut and first uplift chimp, on his mission to the moon, and searching for belonging, companionship and home. There is some nice poetry in the story, as well as – beautifully brought to life by Kate Baker – vastly distinct speech mannerisms of the main character and his spidery bot companion
I didn't have my phone with me, so I read a short story I had on my laptop instead. Ted Chiang's “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” is a story about software pets growing up. I'm not particularly fond of the writing, it's a bit flat and predictable and the online forum discussions, which could be an awesome way of narrating this story, but it feels a bit disconnected, same with the formulaic “It's a year later” regularly. And why would the digients not use English grammar?
In Alasdair Stuart's reading of “The Clear Blue Seas of Luna” by Gregory Benford I was throughout somewhat confused what was said by whom. This does not make it any easier to follow this intricate story about galaxy politics and god complexes, alluding to Creation, religion (including an adaptation of Christian prayer) and surprisingly only a little to Adam and Eve. (This toot was stuck in my drafts folder a few days.)
Robert Reed's “The Empress in Her Glory” is awesome! The beauty of this piece is that the Empress is put into position against her own intentions, but because she actually has the qualities to make the best of her position. Among those qualities are to accept responsibility and to make the most out of it, and to have an excellent grasp for the big picture. This means that she runs the office with grace, success, and little glory, and also that she relinquishes the duties with no hesitation.
Lavi Tidhar's “The Book Seller” struck a chord with me again. If I say it has cyborgs, romance, vampires, ghosts, noir detectives, cowboys, space ships and grizzled veterans, you would think entirely the wrong thing – but your preconceptions would still be helpful in following this story set in a cyberpunk middle east, because the main character is a reader like you, so these tropes colour the narration. #clarkesworld #TheVeil
After moving countries, finally some more reading and finishing this story! “Coming of the Light” by Chen Qiufan is an allegory of religion and IT by way of Buddhist magic and the simulation hypothesis, or more like a gaming hypothesis. It has a few weird turns in there, some of them nice, some of them confusing, but in general the crossover between Buddhist monks and startup culture is very cool. As usual, this is from #clarkesworld read by Kate Baker.
“All Original Brightness” by Mike Buckley (read by Marguerite Kenner) is a story about broken Cyberpunk Marines in … love? Well, they have issues, mostly because they haven been seriously injured and put into dark mobile suspension tanks with neural interfaces. Those neural interfaces are about to be switched off. It's dark and uncomfortable and slang-y and stuff.
“Left to Take the Lead” by Marissa Lingen (a more recent #clarkesworld one) is a story about distance and family. It is narrated by Holly, who grew up beyond the Oort cloud and looks at earth life, cultures, trees, clothes, climate change and weather and so on, from an outside perspective. Family is at the core of things for Oorters, and things are breaking down in that respect all around for Holly. And she starts rebuilding, coming of age, creating home.
Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild (Part 2)” continues about as mad and incomprehensible as the first part. It is beautiful and poetic to listen to, like all narration of hers, but I have absolutely no idea what it was about. Much of it seems to be metaphorical, but it still does not make much sense.
Geek of computer models; Consumer of speculative fiction; Armchair anthropologist through role playing games.
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