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It looks like I might only make it there for the first three days - or not at all. I won't be able to get all the necessary days off work, so now I need to find a return ticket for the 17th, which may be impossible. If I can find one, I'll be at the con from 14th through 16th of August. If I can't... well, I dunno. Can you resell Worldcon tix?
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How did institutional British magic become a genre?

And why does it work so much better for me than its American, rugged individualist counterpart, the paranormal PI?
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If you think the above might make for an interesting character trait, the Laundry books might be for you.
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Maybe I'm unwittingly participating in a disinformation campaign by the real Laundry. They're setting me up to help saturate the public with fictionalised accounts of their doings, so that nobody will know or believe what they're really doing. ;-)

Something like that would be the Laundryverse explanation for a coincidence like this, anyway.
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But first: @beccadg: I will reply to your comment... soon, I hope. Just kind of extremely pressed for time, these past several days (and probably also the next three).

Okay, now for the weirdness: today I went to a flea market, a small one, where there were mostly clothes and all kinds of small trinkets and knick-knacks on offer. Some of the stands had a few books, too, though, and guess what the first two books I saw there were? Books 1 and 3 of the Laundry series. In English.

I don't even know how to describe how unlikely it is to find *any* English language science fiction/fantasy books on a small German flea market focused on clothes and old porcelain. And it wasn't just any two English sf/fantasy/horror books - it was the series I've been gushing about here (and obsessing about in other places, too) for the past two weeks! Also, they were the same editions as mine - American for book 1, British for book 3. And, last but most certainly not least, books 1 and 3 together constitute the starter pack I've given to several friends to try to get them into the series: book 1 because it is the start of the series; book 3 because I have some strong reservations about book 1, and think that in many ways (though not all), book 3 is a better book. It's as if SOMEONE or SOMETHING (probably something extradimensional with too many tentacles) meant for me to assemble another Laundry starter pack to give away to someone.

Three out of four of these books were found in suspicious circumstances

Left: books I bought at the flea market today. Right: my own books. One of which, incidentally, was also found in unlikely circumstances. I feel like someone is leaving a breadcrumbs trail of Laundry books for me all over the city...

(Speaking of coincidences: Rebecca count for last weekend is now up to five - found out that the colleague I'd been chatting to at work is also named Rebecca. Huh. I feel like I'm turning into a walking probability anomaly.)

Oh dear.

Jul. 15th, 2014 01:56 am
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It's been a week since I read book six of the Laundry Files and the cravings are only getting worse; also, I'm beginning to do mindfic in my head.

I think this is my new fandom.

How inconvenient.
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Today's motto. :D
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you can check out the Hugo Award winning Laundry novella The Concrete Jungle here for free.
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(Kidding. I do want you to read the Laundry books because they're incredibly fun, mostly. But yes, please, do write more fic about them, too.)


Jul. 12th, 2014 01:47 am
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I really only want people to start reading the Laundry so they'll start writing more fic, because despite this being such an awesome universe, there's only 7 fics for it on AO3. For shame!

Here's a good one.

May I suggest the Laundry might be crossed, to very good effect, with Welcome to Night Vale?
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I need to talk about how much I love the Laundry series. I've spent the past several months in a state of constant low-level excitement for the impending release of the latest volume, and now, after reading it in essentially one go last Sunday, I'm going to spend the next year (yes, the next volume comes out exactly one year from now) in anticipation of the next. Painful anticipation. *sobs*

A year and a few months ago, after moving to this part of the city, I found the third volume of some... urban fantasy series? - I wasn't quite sure what it was, and I'm still not sure how I would classify this - on a bookcrossing shelf here. It was one of two English-language books on there, both of them from the sf and fantasy spectrum. This one was by Charles Stross; the other by Bruce Sterling. I remembered enjoying the only bit of Stross I'd ever read, and not-so-much-enjoying what I'd read of Sterling, so I only took the Stross – despite the fact that it was part of a series (I'm not too keen on series), and the third volume and thus almost certainly a bad place to start. (I should have taken the Sterling, too, really. When I came back a week later it was gone.)

I started the book without expectations, but it grabbed me, hard, from the very first page. The first two pages of The Fuller Memorandum dump what feels like a truckload of major spoilers on the reader – terrible gods and lost love and grievous injuries and on top of that, nothing less than „the beginning of the end of the world“. Reading this laundry list (heh) of disasters, you may find yourself checking the book's length: but no, it really has only 350 pages. To be fair, one of the items on the list, lost love, is a bit of an overstatement on our narrator's part. The rest, though, yeah. They definitely happen in those 350 pages.

Then the first chapter proper begins, and it's the contrast between the drily humourous tone on display there, and the prologue's dire foreshadowing that really sold me on the book, I think. The first chapter takes us back to our narrator Bob's everyday life. Bob (not his real name), whose narrative voice in this chapter is less drenched in the cynicism and despair of the prologue, and instead is characterised mainly by the sarcasm of the put-upon office drone, is an IT guy in the civil service, who does IT guy things, like revising cabling proposals for a building project, and civil service things, like filling in lots and lots of forms. But - he's an IT guy in a top-secret government department – nicknamed the Laundry – that deals with the occult, and so his job also occasionally entails, say, exorcising haunted jet fighters. Magic, it turns out, is a branch of applied mathematics in the Laundry universe, and that's why a lot of computer sciences students and IT professionals there end up accidentally branching out into summoning monstrous creatures from beyond space-time. Stopping that kind of thing from happening is part of the Laundry's job.

There's a strong line of office/IT humour running through this series (more evident in the earliest three volumes than the latter two) – it's been compared to Dilbert, The Office, or the IT Crowd, among other things; there's also an element of pastiche, in particular of British spy novels (mostly in the first four volumes). Yet the third main ingredient is a heavy dose of the cosmic horror of H. P. Lovecraft, and that element is mostly played straight. The horror sits strangely against the humour, but somehow the two don't clash but rather, sort of, amplify each other. It's a great literary trick, if you can manage it.

The constant tension between the series' disparate elements makes for a great deal of its charm. Still, it might grow stale, if Stross kept recycling the same recipe. Starting with volume three of the series, though, comes a major shift in the series' emotional tone: our narrator begins to understand that he is living in the actual, proper End Times – that the „walls“ between realities are growing thin, and very soon all the horrors of the multiverse will enter his world, where they will probably find humanity, as Bob puts it, „crunchy and good with ketchup“.

I'm not actually a big fan of grim, dark and gritty stuff per se. I rather enjoy a healthy dose of fun in my reading (and watching, and gaming etc.). Mix the grim and the dark with the fun in just the right proportions, though, and it can, occasionally, be delicious. The Laundry series get the mixture exactly right.

Another thing Stross gets very right in this series is how to turn a character who started out fairly lightweight and lighthearted into... something very, very different from that description. Bob acquires a set of rather interesting and unsual talents (unusual, that is, even in fantasy – especially for a main character)... and I can't really talk about this part here without going into full-on spoiler mode, which is a shame, because as so often, it's the character development that gets me truly hooked on this series.

Speaking of Bob, I also need to mention Mo. Bob, you see, is married. His wife Mo is also an agent of the Laundry, and she kicks as much ass as he or more - and she does so with one of the more original magical weapons I've seen in fantasy so far: a vampiric violin made from human bone, whose music kills demonic critters. When she comes back from whatever the latest job the Laundry sent her on was – likely an assassination or something similarly stomach-turning – Bob breaks out the comfort food and the Scotch, and holds her while she cries. When Bob wakes up screaming at night because he's having nightmares in which he (REDACTED), she does the same for him. They're a hurt/comfort kind of couple, and they're lovely - heartbreakingly brave, and sad, and laughing in the face of a cruel universe.

The Laundryverse's apocalypse is approaching - has, in fact, already begun, and is rapidly picking up speed. It looks like Stross will give us open magical warfare in the streets of London fairly soon, with all the shocks and changes that implies for a modern, intensely non-magical society, and I can't wait to see how he's going to handle that. It looks as if at some point the Laundry series will pivot to show us not just the impact of magic on individual characters, but on an entire society that is very poorly equipped to deal with it. This is especially intriguing to me since the usual mode of the genre seems to be for magic to somehow always remain hidden from the public – contrast that with the Laundry, which even in the current, fifth volume, is preparing a public information campaign for the inevitably approaching moment when reality incursions from other universes will become undeniable...

I should perhaps also note here that magical warfare in the Laundryverse isn't so much wizards waving wands („wizards“, incidentally, is a word not generally used by practitioners there - who, if anything, are more likely to call themselves sorcerers or computational demonologists or necromancers, depending on their specialty) as heavily armed special forces who are quite officially, though also very secretly, part of the British army... Also, when conventional heavy weaponry and magic both fail, nukes are the natural next step.

(I was going to continue here for a bit yet, and then also add a couple of paragraphs about the reservations I have about the books - because these books aren't perfect, and there are a couple of things that bother me about them, and also, they're kind of hard to get into for a lot of people, I suspect, because especially in the beginning, they're absolutely packed with IT references, which makes them intermittently near-incomprehensible to non-IT nerds. But, I'm just so in love at the moment I don't really feel like dwelling on the negatives; and also, very very tired. So here, have a love bomb instead.)
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I've been very nearly completely offline for... weeks (pretty much since I made my last post here, exactly), and only partly online again for... a week or so. My laptop died. Completely. Not even the "power on" diode is working anymore. My ancient desktop, after a three-day period of trying and failing again and again, turned out to be incompatible with Linux (which I tried to put on it so as to have at least *some* sort of working computer again with which to go online and look for computer advice as well as start shopping for a new laptop). I'm now on a borrowed eight-year-old laptop (which was also broken/heavily infected with something, and which has an extraordinarily crappy keyboard), on which I installed Linux and which is therefore, now, somewhat safe to use for going online again. I've also finally ordered a new laptop, which should be delivered sometime this week. Pheew.

The novel is now at 1,500 words, roughly, btw. Have been somewhat stuck/blocked for a while though, mainly because I have some trouble developing the setting in my mind - seems like I can't really write unless I can imagine the world my protagonists live in. I've started borrowing lots of geography books from the local library; maybe that will help.

I've finally started reading comics again! I sort of fell off that particular wagon a year or two ago, mainly because I switched to reading more novels again. I've started reading Saga now (which had been brought to my attention a couple of times before, but I wasn't in comic buying mode then, so it never stuck). It's good, but not as weird as I feel I'd been promised. I think reading Finder and Donna Barr's stuff and assorted Manga has forever ruined me for finding any comic coming out of the mainstream weird. The world also doesn't feel quite as fully realised to me yet as reviews had led me to expect. Again, I'm probably spoiled by Finder. Still, it's promising - and it's definitely a flavour that you don't get much in comics, so I'll support it for that, too. Mind you, I only have the first volume, so far.

Prince Robot is totally modelled on The One Electronic, though.

One thing that's kind of interesting is that what Saga tries to do - telling a love story about an established relationship, against a background of large-scale conflict - is *sort of* what I'm trying to do in my novel. Huh.

As for weirder comics: Finder: Third World, the story that was serialised in Dark Horse Presents, is finally getting a trade paperback release in August. This is making me very, very, very, very happy.

Also, it seems there will be a Hellblazer, pardon, Constantine (pronounced wrong, though, ugh) tv show? Not sure how I feel about that, but it's reminded me of the fact that my Hellblazer collection is sadly incomplete. Turns out that now they're finally collecting the whole shebang from the beginning and without gaps. Well, hooray. Only I've already bought about a third of the entire run in various other forms. I doubt the new collections will neatly fill the gaps in my stack of issues and trades, so I suppose I'll end up with lots of spares. Meh.

I also still haven't read the actual ending of the actual comic (stopped reading for money reasons, a while before it ended). Was it okay? Or is it better to just... not read it, ever?

Aaaand speaking of London magicians, I also recently read Rivers of London and enjoyed it quite a lot. What I didn't enjoy quite as much were some of the spoilers I read online about Lesley's future. Fingers crossed that those were misinterpretations or something. Now waiting for the second volume to be delivered... which should have arrived last week already, so I'm getting antsy.

Right, well, gotta get off this thing now as it's getting late and I have to get up early tomorrow...


May. 11th, 2014 10:15 pm
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I want to reread so many of my favourites (The Lord of the Rings, and Gene Wolfe's entire solar cycle, most of all, at the moment). I just finished the last of the Short Sun books in the latter cycle, and they've left me with a strong desire to start again at the beginning of the twelve-volume series to see how it all reconfigures with the knowledge of the later books. But there are so many new books I want to read, too. Not to mention so many I want to buy. Arrgh. Where to find the time/money/space? Money's actually the smallest problem - used books are usually so cheap that even I can afford them. Space is the bigger problem, really... And time (although hey, I have a loooong commute... nearly three hours total per day!)

In other news, I'm still kinda trying to write a novel myself, although that's still a patently ridiculous statement, considering I'm all of 850 words in and have already decided to scrap most of the landscape description so far because the world has shifted a lot in my head since I started writing. (From at least partly semi-arid to something a lot more wet and green, also probably a lot colder, and possibly with a rather different diurnal cycle.) I'm actually taking a break from the writing itself now, because I need to do some research and some serious worldbuilding before I can continue to really think about plot. To do this well, I suspect I need to get a better idea of geology and climatology; and biology, esp. botany as well. Not quite sure how to do that... Head over to the local university library and just read a bunch of introductory textbooks, for starters?

The other big thing in my life is the same as always: I miss people terribly yet am unable to take any measures to fix this. Half the time I kind of want to send everyone e-mails or postcards that say "I miss you", but what would be the good of that? The fact that I've essentially been working fulltime plus X since February doesn't help, of course.

I think of you, many of you, every night.
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when you can't carry your luggage, can't walk for long, can't ride a bike, can't drive a car, and are travelling alone, i.e. can't let someone else take care of the business of locomotion?

I have a burning desire to be outside and experience nature somehow, but I can't figure out how I might do it. Any tips welcome.

Oh, also, it has to be really cheap, because even though I do have a job now, it's only a part-time job and I don't really earn a lot.

I'm starting to suspect I need to buy something like a scooter...
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"You should only ride your bike when you're pain free."


So, basically, never?

Well, that's all right then. Why would I want to be outside, ever, anyway?
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Weeks late, so it's nowhere near the con site (it's somewhere near Canary Wharf instead), but the good thing about that is that it's actually pretty fucking cheap (and probably horrible, but never mind that, I'll be at the con all day anyway).

Anyway, because it's so far from the site I'll have to travel for quite a bit every night when leaving the con, and so I'd be really happy to find a travelling companion... the hostel is 101 pounds for a bed in an all-female four-bed shared room, for the entire five nights. The hostel isn't full yet, so you could conceivably still join me there and we could walk there together at night.


Con website.

Mind you, I'm still not entirely sure I'll be able to go, because I definitely can't get any time off in August, so this plan rather depends on my ability to arrange the shifts of my part-time job in such a way as to leave those five days (six, if you count the travel days) free. Still, our shift coordinator tells me that that should be possible...
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Exhausted by work. Slightly depressed by knowing I'm not doing something I have any talent or deep interest for, though only slightly, really. Mostly, it still feels like having been pulled aboard a lifeboat. Just kinda wish I didn't *need* the lifeboat. (Also worried they might want to throw me back into the ocean because I'm not particularly good.)

Missing people. Slightly depressed that both my so-called Real Life and my fannish enthusiasms have mostly been removing me from people, and people from me, for years now. Not sure how to change that, on account of see above (exhaustion).

Vaguely inspired to write fic, a novel, and possibly work on my Knytt Stories level; no energy.

Really sucking at goldsmithing.
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What does that say about me, psychologically speaking, I wonder?


Mar. 23rd, 2014 03:43 pm
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is where my love is at this year, mostly, but I'm really unenthusiastic about the way the games industry seems to be so keen on developing virtual reality goggles. DO NOT WANT. Keep making games I can play on a screen, please. A screen that isn't directly in front of my eyes, that is. I like that bit of extra distance, I don't *want* to be *in* the game.

April 2016

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