ezekielsdaughter: (Default)
It was interesting to compare my various trips to the New Orleans home and Garden show to this year. There have been years when I left there fuming. This year, I had a few of the same patriarchal/couple centered problems but fewer. However I was confronted with the “ typical attitude” as soon as I walked through the door —before I entered the main hall.

In earlier years, I found that almost every vendor ignored me not because I was Black but because I did not have a husband in tow. Apparently husbands make all major decisions about home maintenance (insert sarcasm here); I don’t know. Certainly, I remember stopping at a water heater display years ago. I asked the vendor about his product and he pointed to a stack of papers and returned to the couple behind me. And there was the time I was lusting after a Murphy-bed-like ironing board– Definitely a feminine product, no? –but the vendor refused to talk to me until the guy I was dating happened to stroll up. Whereupon, The vendor went into full spiel mode.

One and a half year’s ago, I had some major renovation done. I talked to vendors at the home show, vetted them through Angie’s List and the BBB and had the work done. I am still paying on that home improvement loan so this year's visit was pure exploration. As soon as I walked in the door I was met with the old attitudes at the Home Depot display. I usually prefer Lowe’s because of Home Depot's ALEC connection, however, I stopped. Some of the items from my recent renovation came from Home Depot. Home Depot was spinning a wheel for gift cards and vacations. I handed them my card and the barker said thanks but offered no spin. Why, I asked, you don't allow single people to spin? No was the unapologetic reply— which explained why he was demanding to see each woman's husband. Now I am going to guess that the vacations were actually like a blind phone sales call that I once received. I received a call saying you won a cemetery plot. As soon as the caller learned that I was single he hung up. I am going to guess that the spousal plot was double the normal price. I would not want to win a similar deceptive vacation from Home Depot; I would have taken $100 gift certificate but apparently single – women – need not apply. I don't know if the barker asked single men about their wives.

Much of the rest of the show was okay. Most vendors seem to realize that women own homes and/or make major decisions. There are still a few that ask about your husband. There are still a few who don't see you at all .

The one other minor disappointment occurred when I slowed at a solar booth. The vendor offered to sell me panels. I explained that I have panels but I was stopping because the display mentioned a backup system. That’s the Tesla back up he said and not available yet (So why advertise it?). He started to explain the Tesla system and I stopped him and explained that I knew about the system and indeed wished that I had a Tesla roof. He told me that a Tesla roof would not be available in this area because it did not pass local hurricane standards. The roof would sail away, he said. It’'s only available in California. And I am thinking—what gives Elon Musk? You can make plans for tourists to orbit the Moon, but you can’t make a roof that withstands hurricane force winds?


Jan. 8th, 2017 01:03 pm
ezekielsdaughter: (babyWriter)
So, I have followed the crowd and copied everything from Livejournal to here. Read current events to find out why. Hint: Livejournal was bought by a Russian company a few years back.
ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

Diary Entry for a Time Traveler

I will tell you

because I want you to understand

who we were.

I was in class when the towers came down.

I came out at our fifteen minute break

saw the news

glanced puzzled outside of the office window

because New Orleans also had a WTC

and then I went back to class.

So did the teacher.

They locked the building to outsiders

but the class went on.

On the days when New Orleans was drowning

I went to the library in Shreveport

to read the news

I competed for laptops carrying electronics news with

the unemployed looking for jobs.

Some of them murmured their

consternation. Some of them tapped their foot

as I sought pictures of my neighborhood.

Listen, I heard that there were people shopping

for groceries in Paris steps away

from where shots rang out.

Perhaps some monsieur ran out for bread for dinner

only to find that he needed it later when

friends stopped by to console him on the death of his wife.

It’s common to talk about Nero fiddling

while Rome burned.  Actually, he was out of town

that day.  He returned to rebuilt the Palatine.

I sit on the ruins that cover his buildings and wonder.

Am I the weeping peasant sifting

the ashes for my parents bones? Am the merchant making

a fortune on concrete that year?

Or am I the woman who sold the tinder to the man with the torch?

ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)

I finished listening to this audiobook today.  It’s odd comparing it to the HBO show.  Now I feel that the HBO drama added a load of mystical junk to a basic story in order to ensure a second season.  None of the mysterious voices, rabid dogs, or even a lot of the violence is in the book.  The book is more of an examination of what happens in a little town when a disaster takes away 20% of the population.  In this case, the disaster is the rapture.

This rapture is not a Christian rapture.  During the course of the book, we learn that much of the consternation (in america at least) is caused by the fact that the percentage of missing people was chosen completely randomly.  Some were good people; others were known adulterers.  Some were troubled celebrities and some where infants.

Without all of the mystical mumbo-jumbo that the tv series picked up, the book is a more nuanced metaphor of what happens to a town after a widespread disaster.  Some families splinter.  Multiple cults are born.  As time passes, they are forced to redefine themselves. (As Christianity had to do itself.)  Teenagers flounder and life moves on.  In many ways, it reminded me of watching life change in New Orleans after Katrina.

At times, I felt as if I was slogging through this book.  It is an snapshot of normal life.  The characters are living in extraordinary circumstances, but dinner still has to be made.  Women go on dates that are sometimes boring.   Teenage girls make plays for their friend’s father.  I am not a fan of books about ordinary life.  In the end, I felt that the author did capture the feeling of brokenness that loss creates and the effort that it takes to move on.  Even the two cults that form to anticipate the final pages of Revelations are forced to evolve when years pass without more change.

As an aside, there are some things that the HBO drama did well.  Their cast is more multi-racial even though the major viewpoint characters are white.  The race of the characters in the book are seldom addressed.   America’s standard racial default for novels is white unless you are told otherwise, so I am going to assume that all of Perrotta’s characters are white.  Cheers for HBO to make the leap of understanding that nothing in the book requires that the town is mono-racial. There is one instance in the book when race is mentioned—one male character preys on teenage asian women—and that was retained by the tv series.

ezekielsdaughter: (babyWriter)

This book was a surprise in many ways.  It is not concerned with exploring what race Jesus was.  It is an exploration of how Jesus has been portrayed in America.  I have often wondered why we don’t see biblical epics from the Middle East.  After reading this book, I think that the American biblical epic is a side effect of America’s unique implementation of colonialism and racism.

The authors begin near the end of their virtual timeline.  They begin with the bombing at the 16th street Baptist church.  The bombing took the lives of the four girls and it also strikingly removed the face of the white Jesus in one of the stained glass windows of the church.  The authors began their investigation to ask how a white Jesus ended up in a Black church.  “How he sanctified white supremacy for some and opposition to racial injustice for others.”

One of the surprises for me was that the white Jesus was not a direct import of Europe.  The Puritans forbade any portrayal of Jesus.  Their visionaries felt free to describe Satan and his cohorts.  But Jesus remained only a white light in their descriptions.  There was a document called the Publilus Lentulus letter that purported to describe Jesus as white with brown hair parted in the middle; the letter was derided as an obvious forgery even in their time.  Artists who wanted to paint images of Jesus left the states for Europe for fear of being tainted with the crime of painting icons.

I was also surprised at how Jesus was ‘sold’ to native Americans.  Often the native Americans fell into two camps: dismissive of the missionaries who came from a people who killed their own god, or seeing a Jesus who was more like themselves.

Jesus doesn’t become imaged until the 1800’s.  The two authors focus on three main reasons why.

One was slavery.  As enslaved American and abolitionists see Jesus as a symbol of liberation, their opposition  seizes on the Publilus Lentulus letter as proof that Jesus was white.

Another factor was the beginnings of the church of Latter Day Saints.  The early Mormons believed that black skin was a symbol of sin.  They supported the Confederacy and believed that it heralded the second coming.

A third factor was the battle to subdue the Native American population.

Thrown into the mix was America’s quick adoption of mass distribution.  Mark Twain jokes about all of the biblical tracts that river boatmen were inundated with, all of them propagating a white Jesus.  The image of a white Jesus with brown hair and blue eyes was exported everywhere where missionaries roamed.

The book ends in the modern era.  The authors point out that while many churches have removed images from inside the church, the American image of Jesus is still propagated in “t-shirts, movies, books, and air balloons.”  In 1978, the church of Latter Day Saints opened the hierarchy to Black men.  They had also earlier resurrected an old Danish marble statue (11 foot) that affirm, the authors say, their commitment to Jesus, whiteness, and power.

One of the final scenes in the book is at the 16th street Baptist Church where a Black Jesus replaced the one that was bombed.  The changing immigration patterns have made the image of Jesus inside the church more varied.  Outside the church, American propaganda (unconsciously?) still often uses a white Jesus as a symbol of its righteousness and power.



Sep. 27th, 2015 08:53 am
ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
September, and my
fig tree nudely points at Eve's
retreating green skirts


Oct. 5th, 2014 02:01 pm
ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)
Trying to decide whether to continue here.  I had abandoned this for facebook, but it occurs to me that it is a place where I can ramble to myself.
ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

  • Can Traditional SF Communities Survive Multimedia Conventions

I left this topic to handle a bunch of issues.

Events were held at the Marriott RiverView, the Marriott RiverCenter, and of course, the convention center.  The two Marriotts were right next door to each other and it was two days before I realized that they were two different buildings and not two nicknames for the same building.  Apparently, one used to be a Fairmont hotel.  The Hugos and the Masquerade was in the RiverCenter.  The Kaffekatsch were in the RiverView (these were a chance to sit with a author and just have coffee and talk.)  My hotel was across the street from the Convention Center.  I thought that was close until I had to walk and walk to get to the proper entrance was on the opposite side of my hotel.

I got to registration only to find that “someone had already picked up your badge”.  I was sent to the Solutions desk (a good idea).  They had the badge saying that I lost it on the bus last night.  Well, no, I said.  I just got in town a few hours ago.   A mystery.  The convention center seemed to be under renovation or improvement.  Most panel were in the B building.  The B building actually was two separate building separated by the San Antonio river.  By the 4th day, I finally realized that I could not get to the second B building (rooms 6 - 8) by going downstairs at the rear of the building--which was closest to the bridge over the river.  The escalator going down was under maintenance.  The elevator only went up and not down (despite having a down button).  Thus a long walk back to the front of the building, go outside and either down an elevator in another part of building or down the steps.  Then walk the length of the building until you get to the bridge.  There were buttons on the glass doors so that people in wheelchairs could open the doors.  The buttons did not all work and the door opening would crash into the person operating the button.  We were spread out quite a lot and I am certain that the Latino conference was bemused by all of these strangers walking through their allotted rooms in order to get to another set of rooms which unreachable on the other side.

All of this to mention the panel listed about.  I wrote notes because much of what was said apply to many gathering.  The “issue” is that Dragoncon is held the same weekend as Worldcon and now pulls many more people.  According to Google, the attendance of ComicCon was 130,000 in 2010.  The attendance of Dragoncon was 52,000.  The attendance of Worldcon was around 4,000.  Where does Worldcon go from here?

Kevin Roche said that his two major suggestions are (a) Worldcon should stop moving from city to city.  (b) Worldcon should be Worldcon in name -- not Lonestar (the 71st Worldcon in subtitles).

Oh -- personally, I don’t have a problem with the second.  However, I would hate to see Worldcon nailed to one city, since Worldcon gives me a chance to treat the convention as a vacation also.  Also, since most of the writers are in New York and L.A., one of those cities would be chosen.  Both expensive cities for a convention.

Another suggestion, is that Worldcon should advertise.  I don’t know if they advertised in the city, but I listened to a conversation in Macy’s where someone related the experience of telling a book buyer that her favorite author was just across the street at a convention.  I agree--they just advertise outside the fan community.

One happy innovation at conventions was the creation of event/display lounges.  At an earlier Worldcon, the hotel did not want people lounging in the hotel lobby so the convention created an lounge area at the convention.  Circular tables so that people would talk to each other.  Micro-progamming events: like the mechanical bull ride that I did on Thursday and the live Angry Birds game that others did on Saturday.  There was a stage where events occurred without announcement.  Displays like convention bids, videos, costumes, prior Hugo award designs.  This area was open even after the dealers room closed.   Kevin Roche believes that the speciality of Worldcon is conversation.  People go to Comiccon to get stuff, he thinks.  People at Worldcon like to sit around and talk.

I would say that there were not enough places to sit around and talk at this convention.  There were not enough chairs and sofas in the halls of the convention center.  People did sit in the hotel lobbies and talk.

He thought that having gaming being in the convention center was a good idea.  He disliked seeing it in a dark room that was a mystery to other convention attendees.

Suggestions: a twenty-three year old in the back objected to that.  He thought that the gaming area felt thrown together.  No one was running the area; making suggestions, helping people.  He made some suggestions that people in his age group would want to see.  Several people came up to him later and asked to talk to him further.  I don’t know a thing about gaming, but I can say that there were no intro panels for people like me.   There were intro panels for costuming and I did attend one of those.

Someone suggested that there needs to be a maker space that adults felt comfortable in.  The kids area created games, costumes, etc and some adults mentioned that they would have liked to be able to do that.

What do I think?

As I said, I have no problem with Worldcon merely becoming “Worldcon”.  It is different every year and some years are better than others because it is fan-run.  Each year, a different corporation runs the con, a corporation that exists only due the time needed to make the bid and disperse final funds at the end.   Comic-con is not at all attractive to me because it is (a) media oriented, and (b) not fan-run.  I don’t know anything about Dragoncon other than the legal issues going on as they try to oust a board member.  If you look at various web sites, you would get the impression that they are more interested in movies, TV, and comics than literary works.  People in the audience said no --Dragoncon now includes a literary track also.  So, I don’t know.  It seems too large to be much fun.  After all, there were panels during this week that I wanted to attend but could not.  Worldcon is nice in that I get a concentration on books but I can dip into other areas and find out why people find them so fascinating.  (Another reason that gaming needed an intro panel.)  2014 is a year where the North American worldcon (NASFIC) will be a  different time than Dragoncon.  It would be possible to check both out.
How international is Dragoncon?  That is one great thing about Worldcon.  At few other cons can I sit down with someone from Canada, Finland, Dubai, Mexico.

ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

  • How to Sell to Ellen Datlow

  • Gender in SF

  • Fiction about Real Politics and How Writers Get it Wrong

  • Jim Gunn’s Teaching

  • How to write a novel

  • How Arab SF could Dream a Better Future

  • Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation?

The last two presenters speak better for themselves.



The last gave me a chance to ask what term is better (in a story) --Mexican, Chicano, Latino--because I was criticized by using the word Mexican.  Not surprisingly, Rudy Ch. Garcia said it depends on the era.  He was raised Chicano.  As evidenced by a conference that started a couple of days after our own, many people are not comfortable with Latino.   (I sent some time wondering about what that convention was all about.  An angel stopped me on Saturday and told me that it was a Latino version of the Essence Festival.  There were musical acts at night and during the day, there was panels, speeches, booths just like those set up at the convention center.  This was Target’s third year sponsoring it.)

I was impressed that Yasser Bahjatt's company has committed to publishing in both English and native Arabian dialects in order to get exposure for the writers

Real Politics:

writers were encouraged to remember that even in a totalitarian society, the members of the society receive something in return.  To not indicate that in a story would be unrealistic.  The trains have to run on time.  The bridges have to be built.  The roads must be paved.  That’s why many people remain complacent.

The writers on the panel also mentioned that they books annoying that have missing levels of bureaucracy.  People are able to get into the office of whatever management level they need immediately. 

Ultimately, they ask:  What is the author trying to do. How well was it done?  Was it worth doing?  What does the story have to say about being human?

How to write a novel

Some obvious stuff but it bears restating.

What is at stake?  What does the character want?  What can go wrong? What is the purpose of this scene? 

If you are have problems finishing a novel -- take a moment to write down what you fear.  What is keeping you from finishing the novel? (That one was new to me)

For inexperienced beta readers: Ask them to tell you what they think that the story was about.  Ask them what they think of the character.  Ask them how a particular scene left them feeling.

ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

I have been trying to group the panels that I attended.  That is difficult at times because I attended some panels merely because I had never attended a panel in that area before. 

  • Pattern Basics (How to use a pattern to make a costume)

  • Art Docent Tour

I’ve worn a costume at a Worldcon only once and I think it was a Worldcon in San Antonio.  I went to this because it sounded like fun.  And the presenters did offer some basic information.  They also noted two websites that I have to look up.



The Art Docent tour was led by someone knowledgable but had never led a tour before.  After 15 minutes (out of an hour), someone spoke up and reminded the artist that we only had an hour to see all of the art.  He sped up somewhat.  By the end, our group of ten or twelve had dwindled down to three.  I loved the quilted painting, some as detailed as a mosaic.  And staying to the end, gave the three of us a chance to meet the person who created the base of the 2013 Hugo awards.  We works in cast iron and he brought a mini-foundry to do a casting demo in San Antonio.

ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

Science Panels

  • Bloopers and Blunders of Science

  • Where There’s a Will There’s Way: Reproductive Technology, Medical Ethics and the Law

  • Scientific Literacy vs. Human Knowledge

The first was kind of a bust for me.  Again, it was an early panel. Some of the same panelists were much better in latter panels.  The panels centered on ideas in science that were later repudiated.

In the second one, the panelists chose the issues that they saw as ethical issues. They churned through those and they went back and forth with prompting by the audience.

Described ethical issues:

  • The ability to choose a genome

    • Since cost is involved, one panelist quipped that this may be the one time that the 1% are used as Guinea pigs.

  • Outsourcing to Asia

    • I didn’t understand this at first.  But the audience helped to clarify.  In Germany, single women are not allowed to use sperm donor medical facilities.  So, they tend to go to a country that allows that.  The panelist then noted that there are also women who go to Asia to hire a surrogate mother.  The child might then be raised in a Denmark/Sweden/Norway -- someplace with a better child rearing policy.  So it is possible to have a child with a borrowed egg, borrowed sperm, surrogate mother, and raised in a yet another country because of its childcare policy.  Whose child is it? (And where should their loyalty lie?)

  • Parents who are looked down because they carried a child to term that they knew had a birth defect

    • Who is responsible if parents decide to have a child that they can not afford to support medically?

    • One of the panelists taught ethics in his country and he was participating on several panels.  He stressed that the society needs to decide on its basic philosophy to answer this.

  • End of Life issues. Ethics change due to technology.  Until the possibility of breathing tubes and feeding tubes existed, those were not ethical dilemmas.  Technology will continue to bring new end of life issues.

  • Why do we favor parental choice over governmental choice?

    • Example -- we recoil at China’s one child policy.  Is that governmental choice worse than the ones that the parents then made -- to abort female embryos?

  • One from the audience: What should society do about medical care staff (doctors, pharmacists, nurses) who refuse care to women who may terminate their pregnancies?

  • Another panelists mention that there are always blockages.  We may learn to clones organs, but you still need transplant surgeons.

  • Ultimately, one panelists said that we need to ask ourselves “why should I get what I want?”

Some of the issues continued to the third panel because of one the participants was the same--Torie Hoie (of Norway, I think).  He spoke with appreciation of the science training in Finland.  After deciding that teaching to the test was not working, they decided in 1968 that all teachers --at every level--would get 5 years of training.  I am wondering if he means that they pay for your education if you go into teaching because he continued to say that teaching is now the most popular course of study.  They now have to turn away 90% of the applicants.

A person in the audience how they solved the problems of

  1. teachers uncomfortable with science

  2. teachers unwilling to accept correction when the textbook is out of date

He said that the training helps to solve the first problem.  Also, in Finland, the teachers create the curriculum.   Other panelists had similar teaching experiences on the college level.  They sometimes have to retrain students to understand the scientific process of coming up with a theorem and testing that theorem.   Students are never presented with a rote answer even though he admitted that some students resist going through the process.  They just want to know “the answer”. Torie Hoie believes that all students should get a class in philosophy along with any class in science.

Torie Hoie spoke of the limitations of his method of teaching.  He wanted his students to write about one of Pzier’s drugs but the company had all sorts of roadblocks to the public getting comprehensive information on their products.

Questions left on the table: Who decides what a baseline knowledge of science is.  What does one measure against that baseline?


The second panel with its list of problems could make innumerable stories. Lots of possible moral conflicts.

I was blown away by the idea that teaching could become the favorite course of study. And the idea that even elementary school teachers would have training on how to teach science to elementary school children.  I still remember being in a delegation to my principal in junior high because we found out that our teacher had not taught science in 20 years and had only taught in an elementary school.  We were stuck with her--a wasted year.

ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

Two panels that I attended were poetry workshops.

  • The Poet as Activist: On Seeing and Saving the Natural World

  • Speculative Poetry Workshop

An early panel , the first was somewhat unfocused. However the presenters did note that while most literary poetry journals pay in copies, most SF magazines actually pay for poetry.  They gave the attendees the names of market lists.  Part of the problem was the focus on “the natural world”.   One participant asked about how to use poetry to reach mental patients and students in high school.  I immediately thought of Kalamu’s story circles.  The other note that I made in my little yellow tablet was the definition of “lune” poetry - a haiku styled poem with the 5-3-5 syllable count.

The Speculative Poetry workshop was interesting even though I got there a little late.  (It was murder trying to get from one wing of the convention center to another.)  I got there in time to be handed three words from three different canisters with the instruction to write a speculative poem using those 3 words.  I felt very happy with myself when I finished early, despite writing 3 drafts.  Someone in the front row was more productive.  She wrote  3 effective poems using her 3 words using her experience on a recent tour of San Antonio.

My three words were misty, interstellar medium, regent.  Go ahead. Try to write your own.

My poem

Read more... )

ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)

As Worldcon recedes, memories get all timey wimey.  That’s what reflection is.

I took notes, I journaled.  Among the choices, I tried to occasionally drop into a panel outside my immediate interests.  There were around 9 possible choices every hour.  Some were good; others disappointing.  I’ll be back to reminisce.

So a quick list of what I did attend.

  • Bloopers and Blunders of Science

  • Part of the Opening ceremonies--which I left and headed to lunch

  • The Poet as Activist: On Seeing and Saving the Natural World

  • Where There’s a Will There’s Way: Reproductive Technology, Medical Ethics and the Law

  • Tor Presents

  • Scientific Literacy vs. Human Knowledge

  • Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation?

  • The History of Science and the Experience of Science Fiction

  • Pattern Basics (How to use a pattern to make a costume)

  • Reading: George R. R. Martin

  • How to Sell to Ellen Datlow

  • Kaffeeklatsch with Connie Willis

  • Gender in SF

  • Art Docent Tour

  • The Role of the (Doctor Who) Companions

  • 30 Great SFF films you almost certainly haven’t seen

  • How Arab SF could Dream a Better Future

  • Masquerade on Friday night

  • Speculative Poetry Workshop

  • Fiction about Real Politics and How Writers Get it Wrong

  • Reading -- was supposed to be Mary Anne Mohanraj but was not.

  • Jim Gunn’s Teaching

  • Philosophy and Science Fiction

  • a little of the nominated movie Brave

  • Writers, their Fans and Flame Wars, Oh My!

  • How to write a novel

  • reading by Jo Walton

  • Can Traditional SF Communities Survive Multimedia Convention

  • Hugos on Saturday night

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

Waking to weariness,

I am the calf who stumbles

        downwind to the wolf’s den.

Sweet welcome,

      sweet rendering.

But on the other side

      I’ll be the steaming rush of piss that marks

              the boundary between alpha and beta.

      I’ll be top

              dog, my teeth the best provider.

By afternoon, as rancher

      my steel cheeks spit lead

                at wolf, at coyote

                      at borders.

By evening, I’ll lie down as

      the rancher’s cow and

                the grass underfoot.

Before you dismiss me.


Who am I tonight?

The rancher,

the calf,

the grass underfoot

or the wolf and the word

that will bring you screaming down to earth.


Jul. 15th, 2013 11:19 pm
ezekielsdaughter: (VacationPhoto)
Fighting with this poem. Mainly because I keep changing what I want to say. I need to decide.


Waking to weariness,

I am the calf who stumbles

downwind to the wolf’s den.

Sweet welcome,

sweet rendering.

but on the other side

I’ll be the steaming rush of piss that marks

the boundary between alpha and beta.

In the morning, I’ll be top

dog, my teeth the best provider.

By afternoon, as rancher

my steel cheeks spit bullets

at wolf and coyote.

By evening, I’ll lie down as

the rancher’s cow and

the grass underfoot.

Before you dismiss me.


Who am I tonight?

The rancher,

the calf,

the grass underfoot

or the wolf and the word

that will bring you down to earth.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished the audiobook and I was blown away by this novel. In many respects, it does what any good novel does, it gives us riveting and realistic characters. Gil, June, and Enki are all fully realized people with issues, pains, and the occasional unreasonable behavior of 18-year olds. The novel builds to both a catastrophic and portentous end which is foreshadowed but that I was uncertain that the author would be able to carry out.

And oh, the setting! Seldom since Ian McDonald's "River of Gods" has a novel dropped me into an 'alien' culture and told me to hang on, pay attention, and keep-up-will-you! Some of this may be because I was reading an audiobook and did not have the easy option of turning back and re-reading. However, I will say the audiobook did have the excellent advantage of having narrators who could handle the Portuguese terms, give the dialog a Brazilian inflection, and could end the reading with one of the pieces of music referenced in the novel. (Many thanks for that final touch.)

As others on Goodreads have mentioned, the novel is set in Brazil. At least 400 years have passed since a nucleur and climate catastrophe have reduced North America and most of the Western World. What remains is a Japan where many citizens have uploaded themselves to the cloud and isolated cities in South America. Gil, June, and Enki live in a pyramid-styled city named Palmess Tres that is reminiscent of Incan pyramids. Reminiscent in more than one way. Their city is ruled primarily by women (Aunties and a Queen). Each year, the queen chooses a king who is sacrificed at the end of summer. The king's power lies in the fact that he chooses the next queen as he dies. As the novel begins, June and Gil have managed to wrangle their way into the ceremony where Enki is chosen as that year's King. This is an off-year when the summer king should not have much power, but Enki is a child of the Favelas. He lives at the base of the pyramid (again the pyramid icon is used with great affect) and he plans to live his year in a way that will remind the power structure of the people in the bottom tiers.

The novel is beautifully layered. There are multiple love stories. There is June's coming-of-age story as she seeks to prove that she is the best artist in her city even as she feuds with her mother and step-mother. There is the infighting and politics that June gradually discovers in her city. There are the SF elements of body modifications, nuclear winter, warring gangs in other cities. The author has effortlessly given us a world where June's mother loses her husband to a state approved suicide and later marries a woman, giving her a stepmother. Her city is one in which Orishas and catholic saints are revered (although June is not a devotee of either). Outside Brazil, we hear of a Y-plague that almost wiped out the y-chromosome. In making the city a matriarchal one, the author has not merely flipped the usual patriarchal story. There are "uncles" in the power structure. Men are not prohibited from any profession--they are teachers, doctors, and professionals. But in general, they do not rule. One gets the impression that men, in this city at least, looked at the destruction around them and abandoned the political center. That isn't the case in other cities, but every other city that the author shows us is rubble fought over by gangs of young men. By authorial design, June's city is the only "civilized" city that we actually see in full. The aunties may be as conniving as a TV-Borgia, but their city works. It least it works until Enki gives the people of the lower tiers a voice.

I borrowed this audiobook from the library, but this is one book that I will have to buy so that I can read it again. (Or both--so that I will have the two narrator's excellent delivery of the text.)

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ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)
On the way home yesterday, I finished "reading" the unabridged audiobook of "For Whom the Bell Tolls".  16 CDs of unexpected pleasure, I have to admit.

I am trying to clarify for myself what I think of the novel.

After the CD ended, I slipped the first one back into the drive and verified for myself that it does have the circular nature that is so satisfying from me in novels.  It begins and ends with the central protagonist, Robert Jordan, in the same physical position.  He is lying on the grass considering the enemy combatants' position and what his next action should be.  He is not, however, in the same mental position.

When I was actively writing my own novel, workshop members were constantly asking me what my character wanted.  That question drove me batty.  I was more concerned with what the novel was about and the character's total arc. Well, this novel illustrates the difference with clarity.  Robert Jordan WANTS to blow the bridge and get back alive to his base, if possible.  But, that's not what the novel is about. Therefore, this was a lesson for me on how those two things can be different poles of interest in a story.

As it happened, I was still listening to this novel over both Memorial day and the weekend that I finally made it to the movie "The great Gatsby".  So on Memorial Day, I had cause to note that the novel is not a sentimental war novel at all.  Yes, Hemingway lauds the camaraderie of his Spanish Civil War guerrillas.  But he also puts a floodlight on the inefficiencies and cynicism of the competing bands of guerrillas, soldiers and marauding criminals that made up the Spanish Republic. I wonder if any movie that was made from this book, especially right after its publication, contained the underlying cynicism that the novel has.

It honestly surprised me to see a novel of this time (1940) have characters which can express the need for penance for the killings they have done in battle.  The same character who wonders about future penance is Catholic but also expects his new Spanish Republic to be Communist.  Given that, he wonders to himself what type of secular penance will be given to soldiers still experiencing their guilt over what they did during wartime.  Much of that chapter sounds like what we would call PTSD.

It is true that in some respects it is a novel of its time. One of the female characters is a 19-year-old Maria very young and very much in love with Robert Jordan--who she has just met. On the other hand, Hemingway gives us Pilar, Marie's protector, who is very much an adult and very much all woman. She is the one person who can be trusted by Robert Jordan. Both women are weakened by love, something that never seems to weaken the men in the novel.

The novel mocks bureaucracy in both war and in government. There are some very humorous events and the novel and there were often times that I laughed out loud at the guerrilla's bands repartee.

The novel does have the short choppy sentences that every high school teacher tells you to look for in Hemingway but it also has long involved phrasing with detailed descriptions.  Completely different than the phrasing of Fitzgerald (slipped into The Great Gatsby movie). I wondered how some of the language in "For Whom.." would be written now.  It is full of "fake" obscenities. Most of the novel is from Jordan's POV.  We are told that he is a Spanish professor back in America so the language of the book is English, translated Spanish, and Spanish, and an odd type of translated Spanish where he uses thee and thou to represent the intimate form of the word YOU.  And then there are the odd places where men say "Obscenity you"

I have the feeling that I was more patient "hearing" this unabridged novel than I would be reading it.  I gritted my teeth through some of the love scenes between 'Roberto' and Maria.  They were sweet but I tired of hearing Maria beg to stay with Robert in EVERY situation--including blowing the bridge up.  The actor or voice over artist doing the reading was quite good.  He established a voice style for each character without intruding by acting the book.

oh, one more oddity for me was hearing the character Robert Jordan rail against his father for killing himself.  Really, Mr. Hemingway?


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