vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
There is nothing not beautiful about this.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
"Arthur’s Britain would have been fairly multicultural, as the Roman Empire included Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and brought many people of varying ethnic backgrounds into Britain."
Surprisingly inspiring!
Seriously, just something about imagining an urban Round Table full of black, brown and yellow dudes suddenly brings the legends to life - honest to monkeys, I hadn't even thought of it in this way before reading this article, it was an instant gut feeling.

Also this:


(Hat tip: [personal profile] conuly)
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Just another day's work.

This media cycle we've got two teenage girls who fell violently victim to an ancient evil. One may yet be a martyr but let's hope she's merely an inspiration instead; it may be more interesting, simply due to there being room for actual controversy between not-evil-monster people, at this point to discuss the one who was a suicide:
"Why isn't anyone talking about the sexism and misogyny involved in Amanda Todd's life and death? 'Bullying' is important, yes, but it is a vague term that glosses over the structural reasons for why it happens, like race/gender/class/ability. If we don't start talking about the specifics of power structures in high schools, every ‘bullying’ campaign will be a waste of time."

Jiwa specified that the language of bullying “means little to students, and less to teachers. I can tell you that from both perspectives. The bullies laugh and text during every presentation against bullying, and then those who are bullied get bullied more. THIS case is one of many episodes of sexist coercion by men; what is also interesting is that the women in her life turned against her too even though they deal with the same pressures of capitulating to [...] internalized patriarchy. It makes me so mad how much money the public education system spends on campaigns [...] without actually talking about anything. The most effective presentation I have seen is one by a group called LOVE because it is real, artistic, and cool, and they actually talk about racism, poverty, and sexism. [Bullying] is not childish; not a thing that happens solely to teenagers; those same learned behaviours are the ones that circulate in the workplace, in clubs, on the street, and any other adult-inhabited place.”

In other news, a thing won a contest:
Because of should not be used to modify a sentence in the future tense, since it is a logical fallacy to impute a cause to something that is not (yet) true. Rather, a construction such as due to or owing to should be used, or the sentence should be rewritten to be more clear.
If Mitt Romney has a chance of winning this election, then there is no limit to human evil and stupidity and we need to actually keep this link handy when, not if, we encounter people rudely incorrecting other people's grammar over this.

And now a mental health break.

And another, for varying ways of parsing those words strung together. (By the way, where's that cover picture from? Definitely one of those pieces that sticks in your mind after a surprisingly long while.)

And on the topic of refreshing renditions of religion, here is Dr. "River Of Fire" Kalomiros nearly converting me to Christianity again, with of all things a more literal interpretation of Genesis 1 than I am normally comfortable with, in his typically vivid, Chestertonian uncommon-sense way. Never did think of Let There Be Light as signifying anything other than the Big Bang...
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
"However, others claim the pictures merely show a ghastly accident, or are fabricated completely – quite possibly correct, given that the only original sources appear to be Chinese Internet rumours (most of which have since been censored into oblivion) and the website of America’s foremost conspiracy theorist, mysteriously cited as a reliable source by no less than the Daily Mail." That it's nonetheless believable is still a sign of how bad things are.

Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for African American compared to European American.
Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Straight People compared to Gay People.
[picture of a scale with a cross on the top, a dharma wheel just over a Star of David smack dab in the middle, and a star and crescent on the bottom]

And thus I learn the fundamental difference between "the homosexual act is a sin in the eyes of God" and "fags are the scum of the earth". I'm not sure if anything is immediately helped by such knowledge, but good to know in itself I suppose.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
First, a fable:

And now some links.

Because sometimes, some things are just more right than others.

An even ambitiouser campaign against shitty game interfaces. The "Basic" ones, I think, I will make a condition for any payment of money for a video game to constitute a non-void contract; as for the "Advanced" ones...
> Provide a pingable sonar-style audio map
> Use distinct sound / music design for all objects and events
> Simulate binaural recording

holy crap imagine an FPS you could play without being able to see the screen. O_O

Things about money. (TW: Talking about money is inherently depressing.)

And a thing about how the colonizer will always be the colonizer.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
First, a pioneering ethnological work on the savage tribes of darkest Austria. (which Sara linked on Facebook after I linked this)

A must-watch for many people who may want to do something entertaining, of any sort whatsoever.

The Gospel According to [insert media-boosted evil monster of the day here]. Relatedly, I have never come so close to converting to a form of Catholicism in my life.

This provies the responses from the various devils hovering about my shoulders below.
The Angel of Penitence: This is an affront to the way our society works and surely it is or should be, or could effectively be argued to be, illegal.
I'm-Just-Being-Realistic: This will not last the year.
The Tiny Blasphemous Monster That Dares Defy Despair: Awesome.

A thing about avoiding things like this. (via [personal profile] steorra)
Warning: Comments worth reading (except for the repeated links to the xkcd comic). Possibly TVTropes-level. Even the idiot comments, at least to the extent of making you wonder just where these guys come from and thanking your relevant deity that you weren't raised in a strictly English-monoglot home.
(srsly what is with the haters? this isn't even a woman writing about sexism in gaming... but then it is about computers and trying to challenge the privilege of computer geeks.)
My own ideal: UTF-16-tolerant, 1kB "Full Name" field; UTF-16-tolerant, 1kB "Short Name" field specifically allowing aliases and asking the user to keep it under 3-4 syllables; bigass UTF-16-tolerant "Notes" field to explain any pronunciation issues (using IPA if at all possible) or miscellaneous pointers (e.g., what component should be used as a surname) that would not be obvious to an English-speaking Canadian; randomly generated unique alphanumeric user number that the user may opt to change, subject to availability, if the randomizer comes up with something offensive like 666-1488-f00K or whatnot. All but the user number may be changed at any time, and the user number may be changed by an administrator on reasonable request.

And now, the only link worth clicking on in this post.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
A thing about the rage Obama inspires in "conservatives" and how it fits into American history. I'll leave this quote, which compared to the rest is rather generic and flaccid, but the real stories in this are best left in context.
In a democracy, so the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve. Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick. But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard.

On to lighter matters.

Frites de la liberté, égalité, fraternité et all that. (warning: some comments worth reading)

For some reason this reminds me of various LJ/DW exchanges between me and [personal profile] helarxe. If we were women. Talking about being fucked in the ass. Literally.

Shadows in the Woods. I've got to try this sometime.

And a thing about octopuses and other things.
What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in “attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus).”

Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their “neural substrates”) are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and “are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals,” the scientists noted.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
Hollywood movies generally do a horrendous job of portraying musicians plausibly. (One exception is Katharine Hepburn playing Clara Schumann in Song of Love.) In Gattaca the director has gone to the extreme lengths of picking a piece that requires large hands (Schubert’s Impromptu in G-flat) and then adding several notes to it, such that it could not be played by an ordinary hand. Not only are most audience members unaware of the extent to which the director has strived for authenticity, but even most pianists are unaware of the change, unless they have Schubert’s Impromptu completely memorized.

Slow day at work. Been thinking in circles all day, between periods of form-signing and reading this (which sparked my interest after seeing this protest a while back on my way to work in the office building just across the street from this development), about one "deceptively simple" question:

Do people have to be shaped like humans? Two arms, two legs, head up high, eyes straight ahead, all else is commentary?

Tried last night to come up with something else - came up with something kinda like a roadrunner with a Cthulhu face and a pair of arms that can hoist a thing onto its back to carry it. Real good at fine manipulations and bearing individual loads but I couldn't for a moment imagine two of them moving a bookshelf through a door - and you can't build anything big if you can't have two people taking it (or at least a reasonably large part of it) where it's needed.

Only non-human model I can think of that passes the bookshelf test is an ant, but you scale that up and fill it with books and their heads snap clean off. Anything big that carries things in its mouth, it's either small or dragged along.

The bird-feet thing seems like a popular variant in sci-fi but I've always wondered how much strain those could take.

Maybe there are plenty of speaking-people in the galaxy and we're one of the very few that pass the bookshelf test at all... in which case if anyone's building the hyperspace drive and initiating first contact it'd be us.

Then again... how'd that passage go about Ransom wondering how else he could've expected a boat to look?
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (g)
6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying by the guy who gave you the Monkeysphere article.
So "anyone can get rich" isn't just untrue, it's insultingly untrue. You can't have a society where everyone is an investment banker. And you can't have a society where you pay six figures to every good policeman, nurse, firefighter, schoolteacher, carpenter, electrician and all of the other ten thousand professions that civilization needs to survive (and that rich people need in order to stay rich).

It's like setting a jar of moonshine on the floor of a boxcar full of 10 hobos and saying, "Now fight for it!" Sure, in the bloody aftermath you can say to each of the losers, "Hey, you could have had it if you'd fought harder!" and that's true on an individual level. But not collectively -- you knew goddamned well that nine hobos weren't getting any hooch that night. So why are you acting like it's their fault that only one of them is drunk?


You're intentionally conflating "anyone can have the moonshine" with "everyone can have it." And you are doing it because you're hoping that we will all be too busy fighting each other to ask why there was only one jar.

And on that note about manipulating those you believe to be your lessers for your own aesthetic satisfaction, here's some microbe art.

(h/t as to both: [personal profile] conuly)

On designing artificial limbs. I like this presentation a lot, for various reasons.

Related: dynamic wearable cat ears. Perhaps a bit more nuanced demo is with live passerby. And a demo in JapanExpo in Paris.

Here's a robot recognizing itself in the mirror. And the same robot recognizing a not-itself not in the mirror. More info here.

The following commentary is fragmented, disorganized late-night fuckery and may be safely disconsidered.

The way this is talked about I'm reminded of an earlier thought I had this week about parenting (and atheism). It occurred to me just how huge a responsibility it is, if humanity is the measure of value in the world, when at once the mere fact of bringing that child in the world you are creating value by creating that which values (with the tradeoff that you've just increased the value of yourself), and everything that child learns contributes quite directly to the nature of human value in this world.

We are nowhere near being able to do this by coding an AI. But I do not see theoretically why we will never get there - and by "there" I mean, at least for the first couple hundred years, something far more primitive than the dullest human mind.

Should we trust ourselves and each other with the power to create minds that attribute value to ourselves? What would that - the mere power as well as actual abuse - actually do, both practically and philosophically? How would the industrialization of such abuse compare with, say, anything we're doing right now besides scale?

Right now it takes about umpteen thousand man-hours of variously skilled and unskilled labour of hundreds of people spanning a period between ten and twenty years, depending on some very exact and arbitrary circumstances of the original unskilled labour to get thing started, to build a generally applicable full-featured problem-solving machine. If we can shorten this process, cut out some of the middlemen, streamline the methods at the expense of mere procedure, make it more results-oriented, make it more efficient for a truly modern economy...

(side note: "R2"-ro. There, now you can't unhear it either, you're welcome.)

Meanwhile, I am also reminded of a snippet of some sermon I oveheard while the TV was left on a Christian station. Something about humanity being a social animal as confirmed by some scientists studying apes and other mammals, the implicit rationale being we must follow similar mechanisms as we are also made by God. I find this sentiment impossible to fit in good faith into any of the usual Internet Arguments on the matter.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Okay, first, let's get the really horrible link over with.


The rest of it is not horrible I promise.

"How is it wrong that they are dead? A brand new insight, no. A good reminder, yes.

As is this. If I can get to this point before age forty it will have been a non-failure.
(an OP is fine too (like, go read it and stuff))

I want a version of this for a men's suit blazer. For blindingly obvious reasons.

This however is something I want, let's just say, somewhat less. D8
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
"No ebonics" is an even more controversial statement for what is presumably an ethnically diverse cohort. Ever since Brown v Board of Education declared separate public schools for black and white children unconstitutional in 1954, educators have been divided over the use of African American Vernacular English. Some see it as socially limiting and to be eliminated, whilst others recognise it as a language in its own right, to be incorporated into the teaching of black children. Poe, Melville and Twain have all used AAVE - handled correctly it could be a very interesting and inclusive project to study its use. ...

6/10 - more detail needed.

And the second.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
[137] If a s. 1 analysis were required, a point not argued, no s. 1 justification could succeed. The goals of the CDSA, as I have stated, are the maintenance and promotion of public health and safety. The Minister’s decision to refuse the exemption bears no relation to these objectives; therefore they cannot justify the infringement of the complainants’ s. 7 rights. However one views the matter, the Minister’s decision was arbitrary and unsustainable. See Chaoulli, at para. 155, per McLachlin C.J. and Major J.
A point of light in a darkening world.

Also, a post about people which should be read (and just very incidentally involves ants). And for those who can read Spanish (or skim a few lines of Latin and fake it... or just piece together what you can from Google Translate) here's a more indepth look at the subject linked from the comments.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Borges on the duration of Hell.

Not a fan of his own favourite myself, for reasons only a few of which are nakedly self-serving and lay, but I am struck at how close this is to a bit of setting fluff for one of our RPG settings:
[Rothe] advocates, finally, a declining, dwindling life for sinners. He foresees them roaming the banks of Creation, or the voids of infinite space, barely sustaining themselves with the leftovers of life. He concludes: As the devils are unconditionally distant from God and are unconditionally His enemies, their activity is against the kingdom of God, and they have organized themselves into a diabolical kingdom, which naturally must choose a leader. The head of that demoniacal government - the Devil - must be imagined as changing. The individuals who assume the throne of that kingdom eventually succumb to the ghostliness of their being, but they are succeeded by their diabolical descendants (Dogmatik I, 248).

rpgs: tdtwwa,pyxolytical: clothed ape,personal: matt is dumb: many stories

This is the best fucking blog ever. The baby trilobites will it.

linkdump: death by awesome

Read this entire post. Remember it every single time you ever read or watch anything on the news about global events ever again.

pyxolytical: clothed ape,political: hoplophilia,political: checkered flag

The Ichthyophagous Club. If nothing else, the starfish bisque article is an inspiration.

pyxolytical: not a vegan,linkdump: fruitcake,pyxolytical: ideas

On a less wonderful note, here's some confirmation of what I've suspected for a while now: the willpower mantra too is based on raw cake-eating privilege.
Nobody except the most out-of-touch billionaire needs telling that having less money means making painful sacrifices. But combining this with the depletable willpower theory suggests a bitter twist: that making those sacrifices makes you less capable of doing the things – saving money, say, or giving up a pricey smoking habit – that could lay the foundations of a life with fewer sacrifices. The Princeton economist Dean Spears had his researchers show up in Indian villages, offering a discount deal on soap, then administering tests of self-control. For the poorest people, just considering whether to take the soap deal proved a cognitive imposition. "Choosing first," Spears wrote, "was depleting only for the poorer participants." Poverty, it seems, is indeed bound up with willpower, and the leftwing temptation to see things only in terms of impersonal social forces is mistaken. But it's not that failures of will cause poverty. It's that poverty causes failures of will.
And for independent if anecdotal demonstration of how that works, I now link for reference John Cheese's Cracked article about what being poor is like.

And now, for something less depressing, here are some awesome comics about murder and creepiness! (better than it sounds) Also, Dune.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (g)
Quote of the day:
Eugenics is alive and well amongst angry virgins that hate poor people.

In kindergarten we were given several potentially educational activities. I spent all my time at the Legos. The teacher said I should do something different so I started building stuff with the big wooden blocks. She stopped me again and told me to do something different. The blocks were big and smooth, without any elastic grip mechanism and held together only by gravity, requiring new design skills and aesthetic limits. I contemplated the unknown implications of "different" until she went away, and turned back to the Legos.

I think it was around then that I started not actually registering what words other people are using when they talk to me.

The Globe and Mail called this a "clash between liberal and conservative factions". I am hard pressed to say which is which.

Two kinda super-long things about Tolkien and racism. The more I see of this sort of thing, the more I think we should all move away from thinking there are racist people, only racist ideas that can discredit another idea by association or we can enjoy an associated idea despite.

In other news, I ended up digging through [personal profile] steorra's roommate's LJ archives...

This is the first time I've ever heard of this Florida guy. If he's anything like what I've seen so far, he's done an amazing thing: he's caused me to empathize with social conservatives, because I suspect that's what we look like to them.

And a thing about a thing that was but should have been re-read:
Apparently, it is traditional to tell the story of Abraham and Issac during Yom Kippur. You know, the story of God coming to Abraham and demanding his son Issac as a sacrifice, then an angel coming down and stopping Issac's death, proving Gods kindness.

For a Humanist-leaning church such as the one Mark was attending at the time, there are several glaring problems with this story.
Read the rest. Not a word needs be changed, and yet I never read this story before.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
While browing the RPGnet forums there was yet another discussion about reinventing the "stock" fantasy races - elf, dwarf and orc. This seems usually to take the form of taking something that looks like an elf, then pulling it completely out of the mythical role it had in Middle-Earth and/or D&D.

That gave me another idea: take a bunch of other species tropes and shoehorn them into these roles.


A long time ago the Atlanteans built a terrible race of sentient killer robots to conquer the world. They built very many and they scourged the planet, and Atlantis became the ruler of the known world for centuries. But eventually its expansion had to stop, and as Atlantis teetered between downsizing and stabilizing and collapse from its overreach the deathbots had nothing to do. So they settled down, raised families, and moved off to greener (or in their case blacker) pastures. People say that they fled to the caves and deep underground because humans distrusted them, or that it was part of a great tragic rift between the peoples above and the peoples below that drove them into exile, but really they're just down in the mines and caves and undermountains because that's where the fuel and ores are that they need to live.

Deathbots are stout and stubby, standing about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide with a body covered entirely in metal with one to six yellow or red pupilless eyes glowing out of some impenetrable blackness within the "visor" of their heads. They can detach and replace parts voluntarily though for more important parts it stings a little as a protective security measure. (They tried making it not hurt at all but people kept disassembling themselves trying to do complex field repairs in stupid places in the remote tunnels and needing to be rescued.) They will very often be seen with only one manipulator, the other arm preoccupied with housing some tool or weapon, which are incidentally famous for being some of the best in the world. (They love making and selling weapons though no deathbot-led faction has started a real war in centuries.) A newly built deathbot AI core can usually last about 80-120 years before wear and tear warrant a permanent decommission.


Deep in the forests of every known world these vast insectoid beings flit silently across the canopies, drinking the dew and light in memory of some impossible antediluvian world. At first glance they appear to be beasts, slipping flawlessly among the leaves and branches, naked as Adam in their peculiar sort of primordiality. But in truth they guard some of the most formidable technologies ever seen on this planet, things that would make the finest machinery of Atlantis seem like the work of impatient children, thinly and perfectly disguised to our crude senses as the essence of nature and life itself.

Treebugs are tall and spindly, standing 6 feet tall with long arms like a gibbon and a long forked tail that acts as two independent grasping limbs. They have small heads with huge compound eyes under heavy eyelids, and they can turn their heads to look completely behind their own bodies. They can change colour at will, but are most often some kind of green and brown, reflecting a thousand blues when the sun hits them at the correct angle. But for the four limbs and lack of a separate abdomen they would appear very much like arthropods, but what at first glance appears to be an exoskeleton is really a pattern of scales and spikes and muscle tone - and equipment. Communications devices, telepathic nodes, medical equipment, cutting implements, wings, extra limbs, things just seem to spontaneously emerge from a treebug's incomprehensibly ornate body as needed. They weigh a fraction of a grown man of similar height, bearing the hollow bones of a bird. No one knows the full extent of a treebug's lifespan, and some purport to have personal recollections of Atlantis in its prime.


Vast regions of the world lie barren and uninhabitable by man, overrun with twisted forms of the hives that house these brutish beings. Their ancestors exiled those of the treebugs eons ago, naming them heretics and blasphemers against the the purity of their race and the sacred nature of life itself. Now they spawn by the dozen, cannibalizing each other from birth in a race where only the strong and ruthless survive, to live a short brutish life amidst the decaying land ravaged by their predecessors, or to suffer the stigma of being impregnated and locked up in the centre of a hive, barefoot and perpetually pregnant, every few days birthing another batch of fanged grubs desperate to find a place - desperate to find the top place - in their world.

Hivers are thick and coarse, about 5 feet tall with faces like those of treebugs but thickly muscled, with shaggy feathery manes around the neck and four long razor-sharp tusks sprouting from the mouth - and a pair of slit-pupiled yellow eyes long evolved to bear as much rage and hate and inspire as much fear as possible in the viewer. Their grey bodies bear little ornamentation beyond more shaggy fur in strategic places, and unlike their distant kin are quite visibly clothed and armed with shoddy but effective gear. Aggression and visible wealth are directly linked with status. Sexual dimorphism is minimal between males and virgin females, but once impregnated and enhived the females quickly become obese and hairless and glassy-eyed. Potential maximum lifespan is unknown, though life expectancy is typically around 4-24 years for a male or non-reproducing female (with almost all of these on the high end of the scale bearing a male gender identity) and around 15-32 years for a reproducing female.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
also LOL @ age

though apparently I've turned girlier over the past year?

In fact, this thing fairly consistently thinks I'm a female Baby Boomer or older. o_O Sadly I can't use links to older LJ tags for temporal comparison so I can't say how things have changed.

(Well, at least I'm neither as upset nor as adolescent as [personal profile] furikku :P)

[EDIT: ...and this post somehow makes my blog significantly manlier. I assume it's what follows this edit.]


Reading more of The Last Ring-bearer. Did I mention how awesome it was? Because it is.

  • The painstaking care given to both the natural and the human sense and history place nearly everywhere.
  • The science-y sort of origins to this book had me wondering if it could become a dry geeky sort of enterprise. Far from it - the impressionistic, emotional "edge of the thing" perception of the underlying geographical, social and military history is handled just as well as the infodumps and both are integral to the story.
  • The obvious and contagious glee the author takes in describing Umbar. When you get there, you'll know what I'm talking about. I wonder if Yeskov was enamoured of the corsairs in his youth and was determined to create the world that brought them to be, or if it just happened that in the geographical reconciliations everything fell together just right and it grew in the telling. Somehow I hope it's the latter.
  • The [SPOILER EXPUNGED] - but only if read while in contemplation of the context of canon. And no, expunged bit is not the orcs (who I'll just say up front are in this story normal decent people who I only wish could have gotten more screen time later in the book). Seriously, to take that terrible image and so utterly, beautifully, consistently turn it on its head like that - is a subversion you do not quickly forget.
  • The intrigue and espionage and constant little twists - somehow I never thought I'd find this enjoyable, or keep-up-with-able, but Yeskov drops plenty of hints and reminders (most notably when the scenes shift to the subject matter of a discussion or the underlying cause of an event) in all the right places even attention-deficient readers like me don't ever have to jump back to a previous passage to figure out what's going on or otherwise get an interrupting recap.
  • The principled utter lack of an intentional "everyman" character. Every single viewpoint protagonist has their own distinct quirks, desires, sense of right and wrong that belongs to them and (with one exception - see above wrt: glee, Umbar) never felt like a projection of the author or, worse, some bland middle-class young het white male on a bildungsroman stock protag that the author thought the reader would find more accessible than the real characters. Heck, you even spend a good chunk of your time inside the heads of the actual bad guys. The underlying many-stories premise of this book isn't just for show.

Cons, in descending order of peevishness:
  • The portrayal of the Haradrim. I left that section with a strong impression that Yeskov really didn't think them through nearly as thoroughly as the historical infodump of that size suggests he should have, compared to the other nations. (Though I suppose if you averaged out Harad and Umbar it still evens out - Khand is as yet forgivable since it's very much on the margins of the action and has no infodump at all.)
  • Use of rape as kicking the dog, though it's not at all gratuitous. Mildly subverted by its also showing a bad guy not just as being evil but also - perhaps even primarily - incompetent.
  • Maybe a little too much of canon gets swept under the carpet as exaggerated stories told by the winners. (But this could also be a matter of unreliable narration!)

For your consideration:
  • The tangents aren't for everyone, but frankly if you liked The Lord Of The Rings that should be no problem.
  • This is a book that is, literally and by admission of its author, for adults only. I am quite happy that I never even heard of this thing until the past couple weeks - I likely would not have appreciated it when I'd read the L.R. at the age of 17.

And now, some "music".

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.


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