Fractal of Loops

Sure is a State of Being: An Every Heart A Doorway Review

I’ve finished Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, again (in my defense it’s a dainty little book, not even 200 pages). I love it. I have not one single negative thing that I can think of to say about it. I wish I could send a copy back in time to my teenage self, because she really could have used a book like that.

First off, take a minute before you start reading to really appreciate the cover art, because its wonderful.

Mechanically, it’s a great book. The pacing is great; tense, but not rushed. The world-building is incredibly lush, not only for Eleanor’s school and the general setting, but also for each of the students’ portal worlds, even the ones that only get described for a passage or so. The classification system developed to explain the different portal universes, plotted on two axes, virtue to wickedness and nonsense to logic, but peppered with minor directions like, rhyme, and linearity, is just plain fun. Its also very fan-friendly. Its deeply appealing for self-sorting (I’m high virtue, high logic, low linearity, how about you?) and its just begging to be used as an AU setting. The characters are wonderfully lifelike, diverse and brilliantly written. They all have immense emotional depth and even when I didn’t like them, I felt for them.

So, I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard the premise, because a boarding school for portal fantasy heroes is exactly the sort of story I would like, regardless of anything else. But when I found out that it had an ace lead character I immediately bought it in hard cover, instead of just getting a kindle version. Having actually read it, I now need a folio edition because a regular hard-cover just doesn’t express my love of this book sufficiently.

Not only is Nancy an ace character, she’s a fantastic ace character. She’s well developed and interesting and her asexuality is an integral and integrated part of her, but never subsumes her personality. I have nothing bad at all to say about her. I love her. I am deeply grateful to Seanan McGuire for writing her.

There’s one thing in specific, about the way that Nancy’s identity is presented that I want to focus on, the paragraph where Nancy first comes out:

“I’m asexual. I don’t get those feelings” She would have thought her lack of sexual desire had been what had drawn her to the Underworld – so many people had called her a “cold fish” and said she was dead inside back when she’d been attending an ordinary high school, among ordinary teenagers, after all – except that non of the people she’d met in those gloriously haunted halls had shared her orientation. They lusted as hotly as the living did. The Lord of the Dead and the Lady of Shadows had spread their ardour throughout the palace, and all had been warmed by its light.

It would have been incredibly easy to overlook that people might associate asexuality with an affinity for death, or to leave the clarification for later. But instead, the whole train of thought is cut off right away. No one gets a chance to ask if maybe Nancy’s sexual orientation is why Nancy was drawn to the Underworld, so no one has a chance to decide that the answer is yes. Its an incredibly deft way of dodging a nasty stereotype, and I really appreciated it.

MEANINGFUL SPOILERS EXIST BEYOND THIS POINT

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Academic Politics in Numb3rs: A Millie Finch Appreciation Post

 So the subplot in Numb3rs Season 3 episode “Waste Not” is Charlie and Amita’s conflict with their pushy new Head of Department, Millie Finch. Millie Charlie and Amita’s relationship gets a good deal more friendly in later episodes, but in this episode in specific, its pretty hostile. Central to the conflict, Millie demands that Amita serve on the curriculum committee and Charlie serve on the graduate admissions committee.

This sounds like an annoying bureaucratic request, and it is. But its worth talking through the way that committees work in universities, because it’s a bigger part of Charlie’s character arc than you might think.

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On A Fandom Terminology Gap

So there’s a lot of tropes and trends that exist either in media or in the fandom that surrounds it, that are problematic (term used here without irony).

And some of those things really are straight up problematic. Whitewashing and straightwashing characters and settings for example, is pretty much always unnecessary and gross. Characters who are based around ableist stereotypes (*cough* Sheldon Cooper *cough*) are pretty much gross wherever you find them.

And then there’s a lot of things that are “problematic”, not because they’re intrinsically bad, but just because they’re so overwhelmingly common that they’re drowning out all other narratives.

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Come Stand Under My Umbrella

I will say this for The Thinking Aro, they always make me think, even if sometimes, what I’m thinking is, ‘please stop’.

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Book Review: Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, by Ann Herendeen

This was originally published at bisexual-books.tumblr.com in January.  And I’ve only just realized it never got cross-posted to this blog.

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Master Chief is not like Grant Ward!!!!

So yesterday (well, it was yesterday when I started this, it’ll have been a few days by the time I finish it) my friend, and our resident loremaster Haruspis encountered a terrible thing. This terrible thing. Look at it. Its terrible.   So we had a little discussion about how terrible this was. Which is here, if the screenshot isn’t readable.

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What Would Happen if We Got Paid for Fanfiction

Over the course of my life-time, I will only buy a certain number of couches.  Every couch I buy from Ikea, is one I’m not buying elsewhere, and every couch I find on the side of the road is one I’m not paying for at all.  This puts all couch sellers in competition for my couch buying dollars.  And the same goes for food, shoes, bedsheets, and most other commodities.

This children, is called Capitalism.  And its invasive and inescapable.

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Aimless Meanderings about Headcanons and Representations

As part of the current rush of pre-Halo 5 rush of information, Michelle Lukes, a mixed race British actress, was recently revealed as the new voice for Kelly-087.

A tweet announcing that Michelle Lukes will voice Kelly-087 in Halo 5, an image of Kelly-087 from Halo 5 aiming a pistol, and an image of Michelle Lukes doing the same.

Kelly is a long standing and beloved character in the Halo’verse and has, in addition to Ms. Lukes, been portrayed by voice actress Luci Christian (in Halo Legends) and actress Jenna Berman, who are both white.  This does technically leave a certain amount of room for interpretation of Kelly’s race.  But as far as I’m concerned, Kelly is now a canonically mixed race character, and I think you should all agree with me.

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Earthly Knights

John and Cortana’s relationship is, in essence, one long retelling of The Ballad of Tam Lin.

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Medieval Thought in High Fantasy

Inspired by this Tumblr thread and because I’ve started reading the Song of Ice and Fire series.

One of the more interesting courses I took during my undergraduate degree was called A History of Magic, Science and Religion. Which was about exactly what it sounds like. One of the more interesting things I learned during that course is that the modern idea of progress is relatively recent. Nowdays we tend to see progress as more or less linear. We assume that technology will get more advanced and society more sophisticated and just as time goes on.

But this originated sometime during the Victorian era (I can’t remember exactly when anymore). Earlier than that, and during the Medieval era especially, people believed the opposite. Most medieval scholars believed that the Greek and Roman eras represented a Golden Age, and that both people and society were deteriorating. So while a modern person given a time machine might be tempted to travel into the future to see the various innovations they would expect, a Medieval person, given the same opportunity would probably much rather travel back in time to see the wonders of the past. They would expect that the future would look very much like the present, if not worse.

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