pilots: Ghost Wars and Superstition

Oct. 24th, 2017 12:28 am
meganbmoore: (crossroads)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
Based purely on the pilots, Superstition is the better of the new horror-themed SyFy series with PoC leads that had virtually no promotion and just started this month.

Ghost Wars
is about an ostracized young man (Avan Jogia) who sees ghosts who tries to leave town (apparently for the first time ever?), which apparently sets off a series of catastrophic events that causes angry ghosts to start killing residents. The premise is interesting and the acting is solid, but the writing and directing in the pilot were...lacking. I’ve stuck with shows that had worse pilots though.

Superstition is about a less-young man who returns home after 16 years because of visions he had of Very Bad Things. The last vision he had was apparently  ignored, and led to his younger brother’s apparent death and running off to join the army. The family business he rejoins is both running a funeral home and dealing with supernatural elements in town.  None of the twists are actually shocking, though I’m curious to see if one lasts.

I had heard of Ghost Wars before it aired, but only just, but had no idea that Superstition was even going to exist. Given that 5 of the 6 main characters in Superstition are black, I think we can guess why. Hopefully this isn’t another series where the network has doomed it to fail from the start from a 100% failure to support it. (I mean, seriously SyFy, you have Mario Van Peebles both in front of and behind the camera, and you apparently couldn’t even have a trailer out a few weeks before it aired?)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I don't feel like I have a lot to report about my life lately, but I am trying not to disappear. The first half of today was primarily characterized by being terrible and the second half included stressful financial errands, but also a really good bagel (chased with a donut, so that it took me until dinner to eat something that was not toroidal), driving a car for the first time in nearly ten years (around a parking lot, because I didn't want anybody to die, but it was surprising and reassuring how much I had not forgotten), making a double batch of brownies with a heavy concentration of chocolate chips and sour cherries, and curling up with [personal profile] spatch to watch Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939), a late birthday present courtesy of Criterion's half-off sale last week. I truly love that movie and need to write about it one of these days. I need to do a lot of things, like sleep more and not be in so much pain.

FMK white hetero historical dramas

Oct. 23rd, 2017 09:26 pm
jadelennox: Wesley on Angel: Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea (btvs: fernhill)
[personal profile] jadelennox
I was thinking about an FMK (to make it less violent, but keep the acronym, you can think of it as fuck / marry / kick-out-that-door): the Megan Follows / Jonathan Crombie Anne of Green Gables, the BBC Pride and Prejudice, and ... oh I need something to fill out the pattern, so let's say Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

(For me it's probably K: Pride and Prejudice, F: Miss Fisher's, M: Anne.)

(no subject)

Oct. 23rd, 2017 03:38 pm
[personal profile] msdkblack posting in [community profile] findthatbook
Looking for a chapter book from the 80's for 3rd-4th graders about a little Mexican girl who went to live at a hotel or on a ranch and her mom was the maid it had something to do with las palmas or the desert?

hey, look, a yuletide letter?

Oct. 23rd, 2017 05:59 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Dear Yuletide Writer,

I have had this letter at the top of my to-do list for weeks, but when I finally sat down to write it, I couldn't really think of any reason to do it. You have years and years of this tag and so many previous letters if you're the sort of person who wants to dig really deep, and if you're not, you can stop reading now and go back to just my sign-up.

I could go into great detail about where to find the fandoms I requested and so on, but let's be honest, that would be almost entirely for people who might want to write me treats, not for you.

(Although super-quick: all the links you need for Mr. Trash Wheel are in this entry downtag; Njal's Saga is a medieval Icelandic saga which you could probably get a doctorate in but didn't so all I can suggest is gutenberg or a good modern annotated edition of which there are several in many languages, or if you're really ambitious, you can listen to all 12 Njal's Saga episodes of the SagaThing podcast, which is what motivated me to request it. But also I think of stories as old as Njal's saga as living stories rather than a fixed canon so if you want to just find a good summary and work from that, that would be a-ok with me; Murderbot Diaries is so far just one novella, All Systems Red by Martha Wells that came out this year and is probably available at your local library; Girl With The Silver Eyes is a kids' novel from the '80s that is probably not still at your local library but is definitely on Amazon for cheap, at least in the US; and the Barbara Hambly are both many-volume historical mystery series that are still being published, although I would be ok with side-character fic based on characters that only appear in the first volume of either.)

I could also go into great detail about why I like these canons, but you don't actually need thousands of words of rambling about the fundamental essence of Baltimore and urban solarpunk; or about the parallel roles of Hannibal and Simon in re: the construction of Whiteness and classical monsters as racial metaphors; or the performance of gender and honor in medieval Scandinavia; or about the portrayal of neurodivergence mediated through otherness in SF/F stories; and anyway if I did all that it would be totally misleading because really my reaction to these stories is more GIANT GOOGLY EYES and CHEESE CSI and TALKING CATS and SANCTUARY MOON and I read all the Hambly in a month straight while ill last year so really mostly I just LOVE IT ALL on a very shallow and inarticulate level.

I could go into more about my DNWs but honestly my DNWs are usually more about the spirit of the story than the details so it would be just as likely to make you worry about things you don't need to worry about.

(but real quick: please no environmentalism doomy doom for Trash Wheel- post-apocalyptic would be fine but make it hopeful and optimistic no matter how unrealistic that seems sometimes these days; please no doomy doom for Njal either, like, we all know how it ends, it's in the damn title, but he lived to old age which is pretty much a happy ending given the odds for a saga hero and a lot of other stuff happened before that; for Murderbot I think I covered it pretty well in the letter; Silver Eyes and Hambly I'm pretty much good with whatever as long as it's in the spirit of canon more or less and you're careful with the more sensitive bits of the history in Hambly.)

I could give you more prompts but you read my sign-up; do you actually need more prompts? I mean, let me know, I have plenty, but I kind of suspect you are begging me for fewer prompts at this point.

(Crossovers always good, setting-swap AUs also good, the weirder the better, outsider POVs and background characters always good, worldbuilding and setting always good, basically anything in these canons is fine?)

Anyway here is a link to my previous post of my sign-up just for convenience, it is slightly cleaned up with a few more prompts at this point: Yuletide signup

Most importantly, have fun! I promise nothing you write can ruin yuletide for me.*


*That's not a dare. But you would have to try pretty hard to manage it. Truly.

I promise nothing

Oct. 23rd, 2017 07:19 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
[personal profile] branchandroot
Okay, so… I’m not promising anything, here, but the bunnies for today, my day off, have been tugging me back to my Tenipuri Nationals re-write. And I think I know why I stalled so hard on this one. It was trying too hard to keep the relatively decent parts of Nationals canon. Which, to be honest, /don’t fit/ after you’ve fixed all the howling moments of WTF.  So, now I’m doing another editing sweep to refamiliarize myself which what I actually did, and contemplating the possibility of, um, Seigaku losing. I mean, everything else I could fit in reasonably well! But let’s face it, Konomi did not make a good narrative case for Seigaku being able to actually win against Rikkai, not with Yukimura at even half-strength. *frowns at the story* If they do win, the momentum to that point nearly demands that it be, essentially, by luck. Which is fine, but /that/ demands a follow-up, and oh god I don’t know if I’m up to re-writing the Invitational arc. 

Eh, for now, let’s just look at the next bit. Which is Atobe’s arc! And Atobe is /always/ fun to write, especially when he gets into it with Sanada. 

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2yFtWuQ

Lambiel vs. Polunin: who did it best?

Oct. 23rd, 2017 09:00 pm
naraht: (Default)
[personal profile] naraht
Bearing in mind that a fair contest requires you to imagine Lambiel 1) with top-notch high definition camera work and 2) wearing only a pair of ballet tights... I think it's close...

(Though you could argue that Polunin musters up more authentic agony, whereas Lambiel just looks like he's having a lot of fun.)

beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter

When the Supreme Court hears Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission they'll be deciding the future of equality in America. We need to make sure Supreme Court Justices hear loud and clear that America stands on the side of progress – and that means making sure your Members of Congress stand up with you, too.

Send an email to tell your Members of Congress to sign a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of our clients Charlie and David, and the future of equality..

Also, friendly reminder that if you are a US Citizen who would like to keep pressure on Congress to do the right thing, 5calls.org is an excellent website that gives you a bunch of current issues to choose from, phone numbers to call, and a script to say.

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Oct. 23rd, 2017 08:00 am
[syndicated profile] strangehorizons_feed

Posted by Kevin Power


In Plato’s Symposium, Alcibiades describes Socrates as resembling “one of those Silenus-figures sculptors have on their shelves. They’re made with flutes or pipes. You can open them up, and when you do you find little figures of the gods inside.” Translation: Socrates may have looked like nothing much (with his peasant’s clothes, his boorish manners), but if you cracked him open, you would find that wisdom lurked within.

Adam Roberts’s sixteenth novel, The Real-Town Murders, is a bit of a Silenus figure. Superficially, what we have here is a propulsive near-future thriller, somewhat in the mode of John Scalzi’s Lock In (2014). There are murders, mean streets, chases, ticking clocks. The plot is ingenious. The SF conceits are elegantly done (“sims,” “hybrid trees,” “myrmidrones,” an immersive Internet analogue called the Shine). You could take The Real-Town Murders with you to the beach (this would probably be an unusually highbrow beach) and read it for fun. Or you could open it up and take a look inside – in which case, you would find that, hidden inside the trunk of this particular jalopy, Roberts has smuggled a profound excursus on noticing and seeing. Because it turns out that The Real-Town Murders is a novel about attention: how we use it, what it means. So, caveat lector: in a novel about attention, we should be careful about what we notice, or we just might discover, when the final page is turned, that we have noticed nothing at all.

The Real-Town Murders pops up at an interesting moment in Roberts’s career. In a blog post published on his website in August 2016 (and since deleted), Roberts mused on the SF community’s semi-indifferent response to his previous novel, The Thing Itself (2015). “Latterly,” he wrote, “my writing has shifted from being an also-ran to a not-even ran.” It was a moment of uncharacteristic pessimism. Characteristically, it lasted no longer than a paragraph:

Enough of the doleful countenance: I've reappraised. My next novel, coming from Gollancz in 2017, will be a lot less ambitious (a lot less pretentious, you might say). It will be a near-future puzzle whodunit, and I hope it's entertaining, ingenious, and readable. But that's all it will be: it will attempt no Thing Itself-style contortions or clever-clevernesses, it will push no envelopes, certainly not to tearing-point.

Pondering this, a cynic might conclude that Roberts was all set to go slumming. “[E]ntertaining, ingenious, and readable”: it sounds like a frank grab for commercial appeal. On the other hand, by May 2017, Roberts was describing The Real-Town Murders as “part locked-room puzzle-whodunit, part SF/Hitchcockian thriller, and part literary-pretentious meditation on location, gender and textuality.” Kicked out the door, ambition and pretentiousness appeared to have snuck back in through the window. Perhaps it was a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la chose elle-meme (oh dear).

But let’s have a look at the thing itself. The inciting incident of The Real-Town Murders derives from an unrealised idea of Alfred Hitchcock’s, which Roberts recounted in a pre-publication interview for Amazing Stories:

The germ of the book was an account I came across of a film Hitchcock never got around to making. He had the idea for a pre-credits sequence, set (this was the early 1970s) in a fully automated, robot-only car factory. He said the camera would follow the whole process of a car being made: you’d see the raw materials being delivered by automated truck; the camera would work its way along the assembly line […] No people around at all; everything automated […] the camera would follow the now completely built car out the other end of the factory, down a ramp to join a long line of similarly assembled autos […] and … inside would be a dead body. “If only I could figure out how that dead body got into that car,” Hitchcock said, “I would make that movie.” But he never did, and so the movie was never made.

And this, transposed to a UK roughly half a century hence, is the opening scene of The Real-Town Murders. Our protagonist is Alma (no surname given), a licensed private security agent who lives in R!-Town (formerly Reading) with her partner, Marguerite. When the novel begins, Alma has been hired by the owners of McA, a company that makes “artisanal autos, built the old-fashioned way, not just squirted out of an industrial printer, each detail checked by hand” (p. 6). (This is sly: Roberts knows that new bits of tech make old bits of tech look more “natural,” and therefore more authentic.) In the trunk of a car manufactured at McA’s all-robot plant, the body of Adam Kem, a civil servant in his 50s, is discovered. Kem’s internal organs have been pureed by an unknown weapon. Nobody knows how his body wound up in the trunk: the car has been constructed entirely by machines under the supervision of the factory AI, and the security feed shows no human interference of any kind. The mystery seems insoluble. Worse, secret government agencies are circling, and Alma’s movements are heavily constrained: her partner Marguerite has been maliciously infected with a genehacked disease, an “aggressive neoplastic lipid” that can only be treated once every four hours, and only by Alma herself, “or a sudden brainstem inflammation would kill Marguerite in minutes.” Alma’s iron need to treat Marguerite every four hours generates much of the novel’s suspense: will she make it home in time? Will she outwit the police myrmidrone stationed by conspirators outside the door of her apartment? More piquantly still, Marguerite is the brains of the operation—the one most likely to actually solve the case. As she reminds Alma, “I’m the Mycroft here. You’re not the Mycroft. You’re the Yourcroft, at best” (p. 9). The chase is on.

So far, so near-future-thriller-business-as-usual—although we must admit, we’re in the presence of an unusually good near-future thriller, in which the ticking-clock mechanisms have been designed as if by one of those artisanal robots, with near-inhuman precision and poise. But at this stage, we’re still only seeing the outside of the Silenus-figure. It is, I suppose, theoretically possible to read The Real-Town Murders without noticing any evidence at all for the existence of the little gods within. But look again: that sequence in which Alma, paralysed by a sedative, succeeds in crashing a plane and escaping her captors—isn’t that vaguely familiar? And what about the scene in which an army of predatory drones settles ominously all over the street, the individual drones whirring and cheeping as Alma picks her way past—haven’t we seen that before?

Of course we have. The plane-crash set-piece is a riff on a drunken Cary Grant escaping his captors in North by Northwest (1959). And the drone attack (the chapter is called “The Drones”) homages the ending of The Birds (1963). By the time we get to the climactic battle—which takes place in and around a giant chalk effigy of William Shakespeare’s face, carved into the Cliffs of Dover—it would take real effort to miss the point: Roberts has written a Hitchcockian chase thriller crammed full of Hitchcockian allusions. Let’s see: Hitchcock’s original title for North by Northwest was “The Man who Sneezed in Lincoln’s Nose”; the final showdown of The Real-Town Murders takes place in a chapter called “The Woman who Sneezed in Shakespeare’s Nose.” And Alma, of course, was the name of Hitchcock’s wife and screenwriting partner (although the word alma—as the classically-trained Professor Roberts certainly knows—also derives from the Latin almus, meaning “nourishing,” making it precisely the right name for a character who nourishes her bedridden partner both literally and figuratively). And finally—In case we’re still feeling obtuse—the epigraph to Part 1, from T.S. Eliot, is attributed, or misattributed, to a poem called North by North Wasteland (“Think of the key, each in his prison/Thinking of the key”). No clever-clevernesses, eh? As D.H. Lawrence said: trust the tale, not the teller.

But hang on: what the hell is The Waste Land doing there, at the head of a novel that pays such elaborate homage to Alfred Hitchcock? Think of the key: this sounds like an instruction, direct from Roberts himself. And the key, in this instance, is the Shine—the World Wide Web on steroids, the implacably seductive cyberspatial playground that sits at the heart of Roberts’s vision of the world to come. I mentioned Scalzi’s Lock In up above. In that novel, victims of a paralytic syndrome called Haden’s have been furnished with an immersive virtual-reality forum called the Agora, in which they can act, think, fantasize, and be. The Shine is Roberts’s version of this concept—not by any means a new SF idea, but used, in The Real-Town Murders, in a deeply interesting way. As a deluded government whistleblower called (ho ho!) Derp Throat tells Alma, the Shine is:

online and inline. It’s immersive […] Almost everybody has visited. And why wouldn’t they? It’s so rich an environment. It’s a place where dreams can be actualised. Made to come true. It’s a technicolour paradise. It’s a million paradises stacked up, and easy access to any of them […] People gravitate to the Shine because […] it’s simply better […] You can’t bully people into staying in a place they don’t want to stay in. (pp. 50-52).

The Shine, it transpires, is so great, so rich and interesting and cool, that almost everybody on earth is more than willing to spend every waking second inside it. Rather than unplug from the Shine, people zip themselves into “body-mesh” suits designed to move their physical form automatically, “to keep it limber, to avoid bedsores, stretch the muscles a little” (p. 9). When people do exit the Shine, they have forgotten how to speak: their verbal prose gets mangled in all sorts of interesting ways (a conceit worthy of Roberts’s great hero Anthony Burgess, this). The streets are denuded of people: this is a world in which eight individuals gathered together constitutes a crowd (p. 173), and in which Reading—or R!-Town—is “a desert cityscape” (p. 78), “all servers and storage” (p. 94). The terrain of the real has been sterilised and abandoned to machines: “Everything was continually cleaned away by tireless bots. It gave the whole place the vibe of a film set. Alma found herself wishing for a little honest urban dirt” (p. 223). The triumph of the Shine has also meant the wholesale export of civic participation to the online realm: questions of real-world political economy now languish, neglected, as everyone pursues online trade and pleasure. As another government employee—the sinisterly omnicompetent Pu Sto—puts it: “It’s not that people in the Shine don’t care, exactly: it’s that the Shine is so absorbing and so entertaining and so distracting that they only care if things intrude too disruptively” (p. 158).

Subsidiary to the Shine—and not entirely of it—is the feed: a neurological interface by means of which people can scan each other’s profiles, fire off instant messages, access email, and perform general interwebby ablutions. The feed is not immersive, but it has become indispensable to the business of daily life. For various reasons (ill-health, religion, principle), stray individuals choose or are compelled to live outside the Shine, but they still depend quite heavily on their feeds, which keep them jacked in to the global information networks. Alma is one of these individuals. Because of Marguerite’s condition, Alma must remain outside the Shine, adrift in Real-Town, among the bots and the server farms, in the eerily empty streets—her attention fixed (now we’re getting somewhere) on a world that has become (oh, yes) a waste land.

Think of the key … The key thing about the Shine and the feed is that they’re not reality. In fact, they’re better: character after character wonders aloud why anyone would prefer reality to the Shine. The Shine co-opts human attention on a global scale. But as readers we have no choice other to take all this on trust. Like Alma, we find ourselves excluded from the Shine. Roberts never shows us the stacked paradises of his neuromantic utopia. We only get to hear about them secondhand. This is interesting. But then again, the novel isn’t called The Shine-Town Murders. It’s called The Real-Town Murders. And Real-Town—or, more simply, real town—is what Roberts wants to talk about. (Compare, again, Scalzi’s Lock In, in which we are blithely escorted into an Agora that turns out to be kind of dull.)

This is a novel in which the old version of reality, deprived of attention, is losing vital substance to the new. The rebranding of Reading as R!-Town—updated, along with Wow-it’s-Slough! and Basingstoked!—was, we discover, part of a desperate attempt to sex up reality, to make the real as interesting as the Shine. But the only result has been to cheapen reality further. In UK-OK!—and in the world more generally—the attention of human beings has shifted to the virtual nonworld, and the real is fading fast. By now, you get the point: attention, in this novel, really matters. If there’s a hidden philosophical axiom underwriting The Real-Town Murders (if there is indeed a little god inside this particular Silenus-figure), it’s this: What you pay attention to, you make real. The book in fact begins with an act of attention, as Alma watches the security footage that shows the discovery of Kem’s body at the end of that assembly line. Notice is served: attention is what matters, to Alma, to Roberts, and to us.

A thousand SF writers have been ready to suggest that a wholly virtual future—a world stripped of the benefits of human attention—might turn out be threatening, or dangerous, or desolate, or corrupt. It takes Adam Roberts to show us that such a future would be terribly sad. Roberts is explicit about this:

Two neighbours, deep in the Shine for over a month now, were bodily out and about in their mesh-suits […] Overhead the sky was yawning into mauve, the first stars pipping into view. Alma’s block looked like a stilled chainsaw on its end. Something sad, somewhere. Something very sad, iceberg-sized and immovable and decanted into solidity from a thousand years of sorrow drizzling down from above. Was it hers, this sorrow? Surely not. (p. 24)

Of course, this “iceberg-sized” sorrow is partly Alma’s. She has sound personal reasons for feeling sad (Marguerite’s illness; her own isolation and fear). But the sadness Roberts is evoking here isn’t merely Alma’s. It’s a sadness that permeates the whole cosmos of The Real-Town Murders. Roberts seems to suggest that the ultimate victory of the online world—the victory of the Shine, with its massively supervening claims on our attention—is a kind of tragedy. (And, of course, it is: it is the tragedy of our moment, now, the moment at which, in case you need reminding, a bloviating orange-haired con-man is trying to start a nuclear war via Twitter.) Roberts isn’t going to let this tragedy pass unmarked. If humanity, in The Real-Town Murders, is a hermit-crab that has outgrown its shell, Roberts is going to make us look around our abandoned domicile. He’s going to compel us to put our attention back where it properly belongs: the streets of real town.

He does this the way a writer would: with his prose. This is Roberts’s description of the McA factory’s assembly line at work:

She watched the supply packtruc deliver raw materials, and toggled the p-o-v three-sixty as the materiel was unloaded and prepped. She watched old-school robots, fixed to the floor, pick up panels and slip them into the slots of various presses. Not a person in sight. Blocky machines spat smaller components down a slope, chrome nuggets tumbling like scree. She watched other robots, nothing more than metallic models of giant insect legs, bowing and lifting, moving with a series of rapid sweeps and abrupt stops like bodypopping dancers. Not a human being in sight. Rapidly the shape of the automobile assembled; a skeleton of rollbars and support with – her Alma froze the image, swung it about, zoomed in: nothing inside. Restart. The panels were welded zippily into place. The body of the car rolled down the line. It was a process familiar, traditional, as old as manufacture itself, and it went without a hitch. (p. 4)

This is a brilliantly paradoxical bit of writing: a lyrical account of a mechanical process. The prose, here, partakes of what Gerard Manley Hopkins called sprung rhythm, that bouncy metre in which spondees predominate. “[P]acktruc,” “old-school,” “machines spat smaller,” abrupt stops,” “zoomed in,” “Restart”—it all suggests the rhythmic swing and the jerky movements (“abrupt stops”) of preprogrammed machines. There is also a hidden joke, at the very end of this passage: if the process went off “without a hitch,” then the absent hitch, surely, is the Hitchcock who never got around to filming precisely this scene. This is very rich writing. In fact, its very richness is what compels attention. Real-Town might be Thriller-Town, all chases and fights. But it’s also real town, where the real still lives. And for Roberts, the real lives in language. This is why The Real-Town Murders repeatedly interrupts its action scenes and battles with bursts of beautiful perception. Towards the beginning, Alma notes “many starlings silhouetted against the sky like tea leaves left at the bottom of a pale china pot” (p. 20). Flying above the Channel, she sees a “cargoraft” on the open sea, “drawing a great bridal train of a wake behind it” (p. 71)—the word “drawing,” here, is laudably precise. More flying: “A pebbledash beach swung beneath them, and then a fuss of verdure” (p. 71)—that “fuss of verdure” is almost onomatopoeic; you can practically hear the grass hiss beneath you in the wind. Fleeing her pursuers in an underground car park, Alma crests “a DNA curl of concrete ramp” (p. 154).

Roberts’s lyricism extends, too, to his descriptions—more Eliot than Hitchcock—of R!-Town’s various outposts of abandonment and decay. He gives us “a decommissioned brick factory whose loading yard was littered with what looked like dusty avantgarde sculptural discards—a rusting truck cab, a stacked heap of metal casings, a large metal cube the colour of Marmite brailled all over with weathered pockmarks” (p. 10). Note, again, the sprung rhythm (“truck cab,” “stacked heap”). Note, especially, “brailled.” You can feel this world with your fingertips—which is, of course, entirely the point. Roberts’s prose, in attending so closely and so inventively to the felt textures of life, scatters water on the parched earth of the waste land. Welcome to the desert of the real? Not if Adam Roberts has anything to say about it.

The secret story of The Real-Town Murders is all about how Alma is forced to dispense with the virtual world and confront the textures of the real. When Alma, meeting Derp Throat, finds that she must switch off her feed to evade police detection, she is immediately overwhelmed by the realness of reality: “Perhaps she had spent too long plugged in […] The light had a different quality […] Seawater flaking and shoaling. Mist burning into gemlight. Abruptly she couldn’t look, and covered her eyes with her hands. Get a grip on yourself, lady” (p. 47). As the book progresses, Alma comes to appreciate the virtues of a no-filter sensorium. Here she is, seeing the jazzed-up Cliffs of Dover for the first time:

The White Cliffs of Dover had been sculpted all along their length into the gigantic visages of famous Brits—another attempt at injecting rebrand vibrancy into the declining real-world economy […] The real-world giant chalk faces reeked of desperation, people said. A desperate attempt to inject cool into a radically uncool Reality. Yet she had to concede, seeing them with her own eyes: there was something rather impressive about them. (p. 64)

The key phrase here (Think of that key) is “with her own eyes.” There is, after all, “something rather impressive” about reality—about the thing itself. The sculpted Cliffs are scorned by denizens of the Shine, who have seen much cooler stuff in their unreal kingdom. But Alma comes to understand that the real is worth attending to—that what we attend to is, in fact, where we truly live. When you see with your own eyes, you give life to what you see. This is a lesson for us, now, here. It’s impossible to imagine The Real-Town Murders appearing in any year other than 2017. Like the best SF, it isn’t about where we’re going; it’s about where we are: marooned on the steel beach, staring at our phones, endlessly invoking the dopamine hit of another tweet, another meme, another like, while around us, the real world dwindles. All of which is to say that The Real-Town Murders carries an urgent message—for those who are willing to hear.

But let’s put the hidden gods aside for now and look, once again, at the exterior of the Silenus-figure that is The Real-Town Murders. Do Alma and Marguerite solve the mystery of Adam Kem’s appearance in the boot of the machine-made car? They do—and brilliantly. (Hint: the first solution you’ll think of is wrong.) The journey is gripping—as gripping as North by Northwest, or The Birds, or (another reference-point here) The 39 Steps. Roberts is a tremendously expert plotter—which is another way of saying that he is a tremendously expert storyteller. The Real-Town Murders works as a story before it works as anything else, and this, I think, is what accounts for the unique pleasure to be found in reading it. The ideas, in Roberts’s work, are inseparable from the stories that tell them—just as the Silenus-figure is at once “made with flutes or pipes” (the materials of pleasure) and a container of hidden gods (the repositories of wisdom). The Real-Town Murders is, as Roberts intended, entertaining, ingenious, and readable. But it’s also a great deal more—if, that is, you care to take a closer look.

conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Until the 30th. (That site was easier to navigate than Amazon's, which is all flashy flashy, of course.) There are also book giveaways this week, though you probably won't win.
spacemutineer: (Default)
[personal profile] spacemutineer posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Adventure of the Devil’s Snare
Recipient: [personal profile] sanspatronymic
Author: [redacted]
Rating: Teen/PG-13
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, John Openshaw; mentions of Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson
Relationships: John Watson/Mary Watson (at the time of the case); Sherlock Holmes/John Watson (unspecified later time)
Warnings: References to atrocities committed in the American Civil War and Reconstruction eras; canon-typical violence; canon references; Victorian-era racial terminology and attitudes; a more-or-less verbatim quote from The Five Orange Pips reworked into the story as a ‘resource’
Summary: “Of all the mixture of half-truths, gross oversimplifications, and farrago of lies I have sent him over the years, the Adventure of the Five Orange Pips stands out as one of the most extraordinary taradiddles that ever masqueraded as a truthful account.”
Word Count: 7,625
Author’s Notes: As you might guess from the above, The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips never made sense to me as written. I’ve taken your prompt of “a fondness for 'deleted scene' type works (ie, something that would fit nicely into a hole left in a canon story)” as inspiration and…well, pretty thoroughly rewritten the entire thing. I hope it pleases you!
Special thanks to: [redacted] for the beta
Disclaimer: The original story and characters belong to Doyle; all mistakes are my own.

Doctor Doyle – my editor and publisher, insofar as he takes public credit as the ‘author’ for my work … )
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

Since I moved in with my sister three months ago, I’ve been….missing things. Things that are important to me, things I wouldn’t normally lose. My boyfriend’s $700 camera. My only/favorite pair of sunglasses. An Adderall prescription.

I’ve complained about this to my sister. I’ve wondered aloud to her if our third roommate has been going in my room, or if one of the friends passing through isn’t as trustworthy as we think. I’ve talked to her about how weird it makes me feel to worry that people are in my room when I’m gone, about how much I hate to distrust anyone, about how I try to convince myself that there’s some innocent explanation I’m not seeing. It did not occur to me that she could have anything at all to do with the situation–I trusted her completely. Until the day before yesterday.

The day before yesterday, we found the camera. Well, I shouldn’t say we. She found it. We weren’t even looking for it. We were trying to find the bottle of adderall. The adderall had been missing for days, the camera had been missing for months. Within minutes of us starting the adderall search, she opened up the cabinet under the silverware drawer, moved the paper napkins, and said, “Hey, is *this* your boyfriend’s camera that’s been missing so long?” It was.

Normally that wouldn’t seem suspicious to me, just weird that it showed up in a place that neither I nor my boyfriend would ever put it, and weird that I’d been using the cabinet for months without noticing the camera. But I had just watched the episode of Mad Men where [spoiler!] Sally steals the $5 from Grandpa Gene and then “finds” the money when he makes a bigger deal of it than she had anticipated.

Pretty soon she was asking all these questions…didn’t my boyfriend already get a replacement? What was he gonna do with this one now that we found it? Did he want to sell it? It probably wasn’t worth as much as he paid for it, the case wasn’t made of great material, good but not great, could she buy it for a couple hundred dollars?

It all made me so, so uncomfortable.

And today I remembered that around the time my sunglasses went missing, my sister bought me a new pair. They were old-fashioned and had that tortoiseshell look, like the ones I lost, but they were cheap and much too narrow for my wide face. (Part of the reason I’d been so bugged by losing the first pair is that finding cute wide-framed glasses has always been difficult for me, and I’d spent a fair bit of money when I finally found a pair I liked.) Now that interaction seems tinged with weirdness to me…like, was she trying to make up for taking or breaking the sunglasses in the first place?

And the Adderall never showed up, which is such a huge hassle.

I don’t know. Obviously none of this is 100% proof that she took these things (or that anyone did! maybe I just lost them!). It would be so much easier if I knew for sure….even if I knew for sure that she did it, I wouldn’t be super mad. But I would feel justified in taking action to move out and protect myself. As it is, I’m stuck in a state of uncertainty, having to live with someone I don’t totally trust, and feeling guilty for being distrustful when she might be totally innocent. In fact, the only things that make me feel suspicious of her, are good things she did–finding the camera, buying new glasses.

Help me, Captain! Did she do it? And, given that you probably can’t answer that, how do I live with this doubt without being unfair to her or myself?


Lina McLaidlaw

Dear Lina McLaidlaw,

You might never get the full story of where your stuff went or if it’s your sister’s fault, but here’s something you do know:

  1. You didn’t keep “losing” valuable stuff this way before you lived in this place with these people.
  2. It’s okay to take care of yourself around this by finding a new place to live even if you aren’t 100% sure what happened.

Like, maybe you don’t need beyond-a-reasonable-doubt legal case to say that something is off about the situation and to get out before it gets worse? If it is your sister, remove temptation. If she’s protecting or covering for a friend or roommate, or if she’s oblivious to what they are doing, remove yourself from that shitty situation. If your sister is totally innocent in all of this? You still get to move. Your reason can be as vague as “It’s not working out” or as specific as “My stuff keeps going missing and it’s really bothering me. I don’t want to blame anyone or accuse anyone, especially you, but I can’t live somewhere I don’t feel safe.” You’ve already talked to her about the missing stuff so it shouldn’t be a surprise.


Your boyfriend should not sell the camera to your sister or to anyone associated with her or anyone who lives in that house. Either keep it or sell it to literally anyone else. That whole situation smells.

While you live there, get a lock for your room’s door and a locked cabinet for things like meds, computers, camera equipment, jewelry. If your sister or roommates are suddenly offended by the idea of you locking things away, that is what is known as a telling detail. If you find yourself really resistant to the idea, like, I should NOT have to lock up MY THINGS inside MY OWN HOME, then…that’s one more argument for moving out.

This is so awkward, I’m sorry. Your instincts, especially re: the camera + controlled substance prescription drugs, are spot on. Trust those instincts and find a new place to live!


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