Monday, December 3, 2007

nanowrimo aftermath

I went off to Bremerton without my laptop. Intentionally. It felt odd to walk into the Coho caff without looking for a 3-prong outlet. Instead I tucked myself in a corner and wrote Christmas cards. What are you writing this month? This month I'm writing Christmas cards and letters.
All my US cards have been addressed, stamped (with the stamps on hand, lord knows if they were correct) and posted from Port Angeles. If I can get the UK and Canadian cards off this week, it will be an unprecedented achievement for me. Usually I send New Year's cards, or Epiphany cards. What may yet bring me down is the writing of Christmas letters, and over half of the UK cards require letters. One year I got all my cards off early, and never mailed the letter-included cards at all.
I'll have to offer myself some sort of bribe.

The drive back from Bremerton to Port Angeles was entertaining. The weather along the route varied from snow to sleet to rain, and all pretty much horizontal. Probably a dozen cars in ditches, including one lying right on its side on the shoulder, and two or three attended by police cars with flashing lights. I crawled along at 30 mph for much of the snow passages, keeping carefully in the tracks of the car ahead. I spent enough time behind a red pickup truck to wave goodbye to it with quite a feeling of regret when it took an exit.
Very scenic, though. Very winter wonderland calendar picture with the snow. The rain less so. Driving through falling snow is mildly hypnotic, for me at least, and just before I reached Port Angeles I was overcome with a conviction that I'd driven past it without noticing. Yes, I know it's next to impossible to drive through Port Angeles without noticing, but bear in mind that when I was driving the I-5 on a fairly frequent basis, I managed to drive through Seattle without consciously registering it. And Seattle is bigger than Port Angeles.
Do not underestimate my powers of abstraction.

Accomplished: Well, I didn't make the 50k wordcount target. But I had fun. My main character has caught a wendigo in a sack, been swallowed and disgorged by a monster, scared off the Bad Thing by exposing herself to it (there are folkloric precedents, yes), sulked her way into being allowed to witness the ceremony for restoring life to her murdered friend (motif J1955, in case you wondered) even though she isn't in the right clan, and is about to confront the Bad Thing again in a carnival Spook Ride, while dealing with distracting feelings about the Girl Who Might Be an Angel, as well as an old flame who works at the carnival.
Eventually I should stop dropping visual hints about the angel-aspect (dust cloud billows up like wings, light halos hair) and start just calling her that--there's still the question of what kind of angel she'd be. Bendy the devil is a devil, that's established, but I'm not sure whether his belly-mouth tells the truth more than his head-mouth does, and what about his arse-mouth? It hasn't said anything yet, but it could.
It would help if I knew what was really going on, but it's too soon in the story still. I have no idea where the unreadable book with the Library of Alexandria bookplate will come in, but maybe I'll figure that out.
1/3 of Christmas cards sent, 1/3 addressed but not sent.

Reading: things to do this month are finishing Christmas cards, baking, and reading. Harsh, mm? We don't do the tree until Christmas eve. Not much shopping, since most of my gift-list are adults now, and adults get charitable donations.
Read Blood Engines (great title) by T.A. Pratt, urban fantasy, published Bantam 2007. It took me a while to get wrapped up in the book, and if I hadn't been in a ferry lineup I might have put it aside. Pratt has taken the chance of starting with a somewhat off-putting main character, who does improve and learn from her mistakes as she goes. The secondary characters Rondeau and B carry the weight of reader interest for the opening. B in particular intrigued me. At first he seemed like a Tim Powers character who'd wandered in (which is a good thing) but he became more integral to the story and to providing an alternative way of being to the MC, Marla Mason. Once the chained god Chang Hao showed up, the story picked up greatly for me.
On the downside, it was another festival of infodumps. This time it was backstory for Marla and her colleagues. While I do very much like the idea that we've come into Marla's story partway through, and all these characters have a history, whether of their own or with each other, I don't necessarily want to know all about their history when they first appear. Seriously. For instance, Marla did a serious wrong to Rondeau when he was a 'child'. Cool, this is intriguing. It's not so intriguing when I'm flat-out told about it with no relevance to the story. Much later, Marla confesses the story to an ally - see, there it was relevant. And it would have been a shocker if it had first come up then, instead of having me going yeah, yeah, already know that.
This bugged me enough that I did not bother to read the teaser for the next book. And dude, I always read teasers. And prologues, and acknowledgements, and dedications, and appendices. But I couldn't face the strong possibility of yet again having every character's backstory dumped on me, plus, I suppose, whatever items of interest had been added in the first book.
There was a lot to like in Blood Engines. If the infodumps could have been trimmed out, I'd be almost certainly buying the next one. As it is, I don't know.
Second thoughts: I skimmed through the last part of Tinker, with a growing unease. Here's my issue. You've got the impossibly gorgeous long-haired Nordic-type elves, who have kind of a crap political system (I give Spencer credit, the elf social system gets some criticism), with whom our heroine allies herself, not entirely by choice (again, good for Spencer, I like uncertain and equivocal alliances).
The baddies, and are they ever bad, are another supernatural/alien race, the oni. And their slave-races, the kitsune and tengu. Spencer is obviously an anime/manga fan and that's cool too. However. One of the sympathetic elf characters says twice that the oni and associates "breed like mice". Anybody else catching ugly echoes here? Because I am.
The human baddies are the Chinese, who stole Tinker's dad's plans and killed him in the doing, and built the Gate that dumped Pittsburgh in Elfhome. There are supposedly Chinese immigrants in Pittsburgh, though I don't recall any Chinese characters actually appearing. It turns out

*SPOILER ALERT*

that the Chinese govt is actually being run by the oni, and all the Chinese immigrants in Pittsburgh are actually oni in disguise.

At which point, the WTF indicators lit up. Look, I'm just an old white broad who never got past second year in Asian languages, but even I know that oni are Japanese, as are kitsune and tengu. Where is Japan in all this? Why is China ruled by Japanese spirits, and why do they not have Chinese names if they've embedded themselves in Chinese culture as long as suggested? Are there no real Chinese or Japanese people? Are they all evil spirits that breed like mice?
I'm sure Spencer is a very nice person. And none of the Amazon reviews commented on any racist subtext. So maybe it's just me. But it made me uncomfortable, and I'm not inclined to read the next one.

4 comments:

Chris said...

On my LJ, your spoilers come up as extra bright (more noticeable than the regular text) ;)

But that does sound like a book I really wouldn't enjoy anyway.

batgirl said...

Oh, that's odd. I wonder if I should have put the text in white? But I think I give it away anyways in the following plain text.
-Barbara

prusik said...

You made your spoiler invisible by making it the same color as your background. This won't work if the aggregator (e.g., LJ) has a different background color than your blog. In that case, we just see text the same color as the background of your blog.

Having said that, I do wonder where the Asian good guys are. Yeah, I know. I'm working on it...

batgirl said...

Okay, John, it's been a month, I'm waiting on those Asian good guys...
Oh, wait, you were reading my endless knot of a story, so you didn't really have the time. Maybe I'll make do with reading Snake Agent in the meantime?
-Barbara