Monday, June 29, 2009

Speaking of death...

Two books that came off my "to read" shelf and were quickly enjoyed, both keepers. First was Mistress of the Art of Death, which I put off reading a while ago because it didn't suit my mood at the time. This time, I flew through it, basically finishing it in two days.

Historical mysteries are a favorite genre of mine - this one also had historical *medicine* which is another favorite. Now make the lead character a woman doctor-sleuth and give her a couple of decent companions and a rich background - it's a grand combination. Some fairly typical additions - the love-interest-who-starts-off-as-a-suspect, the nasty-obvious-suspect-who-didn't-do-it-but-we-hate-anyway, and it still entertained. I put the rest of the series on my wish list to investigate later.

And to match the Mistress of Death, who else, but the first Death Knight himself, Arthas? Warcraft novelizations have suffered from every sin of media novelization and then added some. First sin? Assume anyone reading the books is nine. Several of the books are SO simplistic, and so packed with stereotypes, cliches and very lame attempts at dialogue it made me want to go find the author and personally beat them about the head with a copy of The Hobbit. Bound in steel.

Second sin? Pay no attention to the source material OR be so slavishly devoted to it that anyone who has actually played the game would say..."But I know all of this!"

For example, Richard Knaak is one of the more prolific WOW hacks, and we are all the worse off for it. The man needs a thesaurus, fast. Every dragon is "a behemoth." Repeatedly. Knaak manages to disregard almost every aspect of magic in the actual games. His mages either perform tiny cantrips which manage to annoy the enemy, or they hurl huge fireballs. The spell mechanics of the game, which are ripe for plundering, are completely ignored. Knaak has no problem writing a gory scene of arms being ripped off or chests being torn open, but can't write a love scene without adolescent sniggering going on in the background.

I mean it, he really pissed me off in his depiction of the love triangle between three of the games uber-characters. We're talking the master of all the druids, the high priestess of the goddess of the night elves and a chief villian for over ten thousand years, and it reads like a junior high school drama. Complete with elbow nudging from supporting characters. I kept waiting for one of them to ask someone to pass a note. (Malfurian to Tyrande: Do u like me? Y or N?)

Naturally, to Knaak fell the task of writing one of the biggest epics of the Warcraft storyline. It's enough to make me ponder the wisdom in writing adult fiction. Maybe I should have gone into gaming novels.

Anyhoo, Arthas: Rise of the Lich Kingis written by Christie Golden, who has written Ravenloft and Star Wars novels. She wrote two previous Warcraft titles, Lord of the Clansand Rise of the Horde. Lord of the Clans was problematic because of a weakness in the source material, but I found the writing pretty good. Rise of the Horde was better. Arthas would be her first foray into writing about the Alliance, and I was more than curious to see whether the sympathy she obviously had for the Horde would flavor her Alliance characterizations.

I think this is the best Warcraft book yet. Naturally, that doesn't say much - it's still a genre inside a genre. Its limitations are pretty clear, and for this one, it is absolute devotion of the source material. Almost every cut scene from the games is here in text, for example. But for some reason, this didn't annoy me - possibly because these scenes have become part and parcel of the story of Arthas. We need to see him waving his men away from trying to save the young Jaina Proudmore as she blasts her way through the Plaguelands. The friendly confidence he had in her and her magical powers were not only scene setters - they indicated the level of trust and affection between the characters.

But about half way through the book, I began to look forward to spotting in-game references. Even certain lines one hears from famous characters come to life here; for once, Sylvanas makes sense when she asks, "What are we, but slaves to this torment?"

Golden walked the line between devotion and creativity quite successfully for my taste. Her characters sound more realistic than they ever have in previous novelizations, and the slow deterioration of Arthas' morality is a satisfying glimpse into a descent into panic, fear, and ultimately, madness. She even managed to add new elements into his story which, importantly, not only do not contradict established lore but actually make it deeper and richer. That is what a good novelization does; that is what an author brings to the table.

My only regret was that the complete story could not be told in one volume. The book itself was also handsomely name, cloth bound with a striking dustcover. Well worth it for Warcraft fans - unlikely to win many fans who come to it cold, though.

But I'll tell you this - it made me want to make a new death knight, just to interact with Arthas in game again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer reading without any sign of summer

Something like 18 of the past 22 days have been gray, rainy and gloomy. And oddly enough for someone who does not like to go out much, I get very cranky when spring and summer come by and I do not get enough sun. Maybe that's why my summer reading spree started with those Harry Dresden books; it was my way of demanding the weather fit my reading mood.

It hasn't worked.

However, having finished every book, (through Turn Coat (Book 11)I am now a certified fan of The Dresden Files, at least in written and comic book form (The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle.) The show, not so much. If you like your reading light-hearted with monsters and mayhem, not a lot of deep philosophical thought required, Jim Butcher can deliver. Good luck finding them on Paperback Swap though...maybe that should have indicated to me how much fun they were.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed them so much was the skill Butcher has in compacting maximum information in minimum of space - when he introduces a character, you can immediately get a feel for them. He is not above using the standard tropes of mysteries - the "one day I will tell you all about this matter you hadn't thought of until I mentioned it," sort of thing. But eventually, he does seem to get to that point, and without repeat visits to the tease. (A la that other Harry I enjoy, one Mr. Potter. How many times did someone promise to tell him everything he needed to know?)

Butcher had started out wanting to publish his swords, horses and magic books, but found the Dresden books were snapped up first. Now that he has established his name, he found publishers more willing to print up some fantasy novels for him. I'm somewhat gun shy of high fantasy - read far too many dreadful examples of it in my teens, and actually wrote some myself. (Shudder.) But like his publisher, I will take a chance on his fantasy - Furies of Calderon
- having read his horror.

While waiting to assemble my Dresden collection, I filled in some reading time with the final book in the Jaran series, The Law of Becoming. I almost wish I hadn't. It's huge, which I find encouraging. But the author had apparently decided her previous leading characters were no longer interesting, and this other guy, a third-string dude who made a pair of stupid choices in the previous books, was much more interesting. I obviously do not agree. But by shifting the focus from the small world where our romantic heroes struggled in low-tech battles into the larger universe and the incredibly complex alien society which holds humans in a rather benign pax-aliana, she threw her previous heroes into the dustbin of history, lost and forgotten, literally kidnapped in one case and nearly completely impotent in the other.

I felt like I had been baited and switched. By the end of the book, I was actually offended. It was like Elliot had simply written herself into a corner - how can a bunch of low-tech barbarians help topple an empire old enough to have seeded other planets with early humans?

Well, they can't. (Ewoks included.) So instead, the aliens, who have been so mysterious anyway, mysteriously elevate one of said barbarians to their ruling class, and who needs a coherent explanation for that? Did I mention they were mysterious aliens?

I am pondering whether I will keep these or pop them back on PBS. I liked the earlier books just fine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Logo contest for Passionate Bonds

Are you good at logo design? Midori and Laura Antoniou are looking for someone to design a simple, neat logo for our new weekend intensive, Passionate Bonds.

This special, limited registration class is intended to allow people involved or interested in D/S relationships to discover and create for themselves the optimal way of expressing and getting what they truly want. The themes of the classes and workshops include personal discovery, values, power dynamics and protocol.

Some advice and ideas:

It needs to include the words Passionate Bonds.
Don't make it too complex. See the Wikipedia article on logos for some information on what makes a good logo.
Stay away from well known BDSM symbolism - no leather pride flag, no little zen thingie, no handcuffs.
Ditto, no gothic visuals, cartoons, or cheap clip art.
Although color can be used, the logo should not depend on it; it must be acceptable in black and white.

The entries must be submitted as a scalable vector graphic in EPS format, and also as a JPG. All submitted work must be original and not based on any pre-existing design. Files may be sent to Laura@Lantoniou.com

The winning artist will get a handsome selection of autographed books from both presenters, including at least two first edition books (hand numbered) from the Marketplace series. Plus, you will get bragging rights and mitzvah points. And, if you intend to attend one of these events in the future, you will be fast-tracked past any waiting lists.

This contest ends at 11:30 PM, EST, July 31. These instructions may be announced, e-mailed, cross-posted and otherwise distributed at will.

Contest sponsors:
www.PlanetMidori.com
www.FHP-inc.com
www.lantoniou.com

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm world famous!

Look what I found in a brochure for a series of workshops given in Hong Kong!

Lucifer, Ling Hung(洪凌):”A time out of joint; a place for enigmatic quest:
Reading three trans-men in their BDSM way of being” <時移事不魍,物換星
不移:從跨性男的愉虐敘事分析酷兒時空模式>
This paper showcases three approaches of transsexual man’s mode of desire,
emphasizing on their articulations of temporality and spatial locations in regard
to an excruciating, intoxicating enactment of queer gay relationship embedded
within the locus of sadomasochistic power play.
The first part is a re-writing (or reverse writing) based on the Hegelian model of
“bondage and lordship”, in which a trans-man slave undertakes his trajectory on
a process of bodily transfiguration, branding his identification by way of a
Nietzschean discipline that trains a (masculine) animal into a promising being
across the boundary of time and space. I will read this remarkable and strenuous
bildungsroman via a close textual and inter-textual analysis of a serial queer
BDSM literature, Marketplace Series by celebrated author Laura Antoniou. This
cycle of stories vividly invokes a politically sensitive and phantasmatically
constructed reality in which a centralized anti-hero figure, a closeted trans-man
Chris Parker, posits as an emblem for this pansexual backdrop of an unruly
leather community. His is a story told in unyieldingly tricky tone, both densely
agonizing and perversely compelling, finally reclaiming a status by recourse to a
complicated (re)inscription of bodily modification, liminal subjectivity, and a
dialectical struggle between memory and amnesia, stigma of the past perfect
tense and stigmata in this present “after-life” which allows for his relocated
embodiment as a slave man per se.


Wow!

(Goes off to look up some words...)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Midori & me in a new weekend intensive. Interested?

We've been working on it for about a year now, and we're ready to take it out in public.

Anyone who has seen me present knows how much I loathe anything that smacks of "one true wayism." For years now, I have been limited to mostly 90 minutes in which to get people as much information and personal attention to create their own best relationships - their own personal best "lifestyle."

Midori, a long time friend and absolutely not the model for Ken Mandarin, shares many of my values about SM, relationships, and the romantic, wonderful ecstasy that can come when things work out well. Some time ago, we wondered...could we teach this together? Not as a simple 90-minute class in a busy event, but as an intensive, personal, educational and, yes, passionate exploration of what a smaller group of people really wanted to work on.

Limited class size, one location, one weekend of uninterrupted access to two people who want the same thing - for folks in the scene to have the best relationships for them.

No bondage how-to classes. No safety 101. No auctions, dances, awards or sashes. Nothing but how to make your personal world work for you and your partners.

It's coming, this autumn, to a location we'll choose based on what sort of interest we get and where we can have a good mix of privacy and comfort.

If you might be interested, let me know. You are welcome to post here, of course, but you can also write directly to me at Laura@lantoniou.com. We're looking for serious players ready to commit time, money and personal effort for a weekend they'll never forget.

Passionate Bonds: Creating Empowered Relationships

DESCRIPTION:

Tired of searching for the ultimate guide to your D/s or SM relationship? Do you want to make your BDSM relationship the best it can be for you and your partners?

Join Marketplace author Laura Antoniou and internationally acclaimed educator Midori for a special weekend intensive designed for real people who enjoy power dynamics and want to have quality relationships that suit their hungers and needs.

Learn about the many styles of relationships we enjoy and discover the hidden and vital aspects of your own special way. You will be guided through a special curriculum designed to clearly identify your value system, behavior preferences and relationship goals.

Participants will develop insights to help them get what they want in current and future relationships. This unique curriculum will provide the tools for each individual or relationship unit to create their own customized manual of effective protocol, rules, etiquettes and codes of conduct. The instructors work closely with each student through out each step.

This weekend will include lectures, group discussions and exercises, with time for reflection and time for pure fun.

While experience or current D/s relationship is not necessary, students must be prepared for hard but fulfilling work. Sincerity, willingness to communicate and full participation is required.

Open to anyone with an orientation or a strong interest for a relationship which includes some variation and expression of power exchange or dominance and submission. Any experience level welcome. The weekend is excellent for those in current relationship or domestic units of 2 or more people. It is also highly effective for those who are not currently in relationship but wish have clear visions, goals and structure in place for future relationships.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unacceptable

Antisemitism, if you use that word. Jew-hatred, if you want to argue semantics about semites, as many Jew-haters do, when trying to change the subject. It's a disgusting, backward, fucked-up, paranoid frame of mind in which someone believes canards such as how Jews simultaneously are both the worlds communists and socialists and the greatest capitalists. That the Jews control the banks, the media and the government, yet are vile, vermin-like creatures who use subterfuge and crafty pressure to be accepted among polite company. Or that Jews were not targeted and murdered throughout history, most especially not by Hitler and his enthusiastic helpers and passive cowards. And also that the Nazis didn't kill enough Jews.

It is unacceptable from the right. Especially so when they advocate and use violence to spread their hate.

And it is unacceptable from the left, even if all they use are words.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Turning Japanese

Recently, I also caught up with a Sano Ichiro mystery I had missed, and a neat little book on the Japanese bath.

My attraction to mysteries seems to include a few necessary elements. I like a lengthy series of books, the better to collect and re-read, and I prefer settings which have an element of unfamiliarity - historical mysteries, psychiatric evaluations, that sort of thing. Add to this my quirky fetish for things Japanese, and bingo! A detective operating in the 17th Century Shogun's court, with his wife as an occasional aid and occasional plot device. I do not grab them reflexively as I do with other novels; they are fast reads which seem to find their way into my briefcase while I am in airports, mostly. This is not a series to be read for the rich depth of the plots or settings. But they are fun, and I have a library card, so The Assassin's Touchwound up in my stack of books to be read. It is about the same as the other books in the series and I tore through it in a day.

I actually enjoyed the non fiction book, Getting Wetmore than the mystery. Our friend Tom brought it on his last visit - more, I suspect, because of our repeat visits to the local Korean bath house, Spa Castle. But I liked the breezy, conversational writing of Eric Talmadge, a Tokyo based editor for the Associated Press. I also appreciated the pictures included. Sometimes, no matter how well something is described, only a picture will make it clear for me. Seeing a classic style vs. modern style home bath, a rustic spring in the mountains, a public bathhouse, a sort of bathhouse amusement park and a Soapland room beats reading the descriptions by a long shot.

It's not a scholarly work, and it sure isn't for anyone who actually has real life experience in Japan, but I will keep this one on my reference shelf.

Second verse, etc.


Depression, for the record, sucks rotten donkey dong. I hate whining about it, and to tell the truth, it's been pretty well managed with drugs for years, but this year, (and part of last) - not so much. The adventures involved in trying new substances which my insurance will pay for have been annoying and distracting. For the slower of thought, I might add that being depressed makes me not want to write. (Big "duh," right?)

But every once in a while I try to push though. The worst part this year seems to be that I want to read less than I usually do and am far more entertained by passive entertainment - i.e., TV shows - than I usually am. Blech. I am so ready to move on and get better. If only my pharmaceuticals would get on track.

Not that I haven't been reading. But the volume is way down from my usual level. So, playing catch up again, here's what has passed my way since the last time I updated:

Two more Dresden novels, Summer Knight and Grave Peril. Still like them! I like Harry Dresden and his various friends and issues, I like the other worldly aspects both for the honoring of standard horror tropes and for the gleeful skewering of them. I'll probably read more of them as I find them.

However, the The Dresden FilesTV show, which lasted for one season on the newly re-branded Ski-Fee, er, SyFy...whatever...channel - yeah, those who warned me against it were right. They got rid of some of the things that make me like the books - little fairies who eat pizza, holy knights wandering around Chicago with swords, tons of gore - and made Harry into a ...whiner. They also stripped him of his iconic mantled coat (very Dark Shadows), his not-so-Blue Beetle, and made his cop friend Murphy into yet another girly police officer with Issues. I did like his using a drum stick for his "blasting wand" and a hockey stick for his "staff." And...um...Ok, I liked Bob the elemental spirit being changed to a ghost who can manifest because, well, he was played by Terrance Mann who is Teh Hawtness. (See photo above. Look for white hair and pale eyes in an upcoming MP character, that's all I am saying.) But I watched the entire season and, well, my verdict is, "Meh." It was OK. But if it was still on, I'd forget when and watch it online from time to time while playing solitaire on the side. Of course, I included the link to buy the set on DVD, but I think you can still watch it for free on the aforementioned cable channel's website.

More books, other updates later.