avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Here's the link:

https://www.patreon.com/zandamyrande

I hope to be able to earn some financial support this way, rather than simply panhandling.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
[livejournal.com profile] watervole responded quite impassionedly to my suggestion for some dialogue that I would quite like to see in a movie, in response to a certain rather tired cliché that I have encountered rather too often in various forms of fiction, and most recently in Doctor Strange, which we otherwise enjoyed quite a lot. She seemed to think I had missed the point of the statement. Since the point she thought I had missed was stated in the immediately following line, I rather think I did get it. I just didn't agree with it.

Quick show of hands. How many of you here reading this (not many any more, I know) actually treat every single moment of your lives as precious? How many fill each and every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run? How many live every day as if it might be your last? Every moment? Every minute? Every day? Honestly?

Can't see your hands, of course, but I'm open to the idea that I'm the only one here who ever gets bored, ever feels dull and uninspired, ever gets tired and just wants to stop. I've always known I was deficient in many ways, and if I was alone in that terrible vulnerability that wouldn't surprise me. But if by some chance I'm not, if there are others of you out there who have black moments and terrible quarter-hours and days when you just want it all to be over, tell me this: how does it make you feel when someone tells you that you should really regard every moment of your life as precious because it might end at any minute?

Exactly. It's rubbish. As a reason for valuing your life, it's among the least rational of all. When (not, thank gods, if) I have times when my life seems precious to me, it's because I have friends and family, chosen and unchosen, whom I love, and because I have things to say that I think need saying and music to make that I think will make the world just a tiny fraction richer and people whom I believe I could make laugh if I could just get the words in the right order, and because there is more to see and more to do and more to experience, and the notion that all that could be chopped off at any moment by a random stroke of fate...just makes the whole thing seem even more pointless. Half the time when I want to die it's because I know that I'm going to, at some point, and when it happens I probably won't be ready anyway, so it might as well be now when I'm as ready as I'm going to be. What can I say, depression isn't logical.

Life isn't gold. It isn't some useless metal that only has value because it's scarce. Life has value for a whole host of reasons, and the fact that it will end is not one of them. So no. Death does not even give life meaning in that way. It just takes it away. And if you are so far down that the only reason you could possibly have for valuing your life is its temporariness...then that's not going to do it for you either. Trust me on this.

And I wouldn't have gone any further into this, except that a piece of speculative movie dialogue got mistaken for a serious philosophical essay. Which is probably my fault, for not making it clearer what I was doing. I'm sorry. But I stand by what I've said in both posts.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
"'Death is what gives life meaning'? You're seriously saying that to me? That's your conclusion based on however many centuries of thought you've given to the matter? Okay, then, here's a question. What is the actual meaning that death gives to life? What meaning will my life have after I'm dead that it didn't have before I died? Because my thinking, my feeling on this, is that it's what you do while you're alive that gives your life meaning, it's what you say and what you think and what you do before you die, and what death does, the purpose and function of death, is to stop you doing and thinking and saying any more, it's to end the meaning in your life, to put a limit on it and curtail it, kind of like the full stop that ends a sentence, and you'll have noticed that I haven't ended this sentence, I haven't used a full stop, and I could have done, I could have put in lots of full stops and made it into lots of little sentences, and it would have meant exactly the same, but the thing about life, the real bugger about life, is that we only ever get one sentence. We only ever get one sentence. We. Only. Ever. Get. One. Sentence. A life sentence, ha ha. And too many of us, far too many of us, never get to finish it, so our sentence, our sentience, ends up meaning nothing. Death is the full stop that ends our sentience, often before we've even got to the verb. Death is what takes away the meaning from our lives.

"Death has functions, useful ones. It stops the planet getting even more choked up with life than it is already, it frees up the matter and the energy that's held in our bodies so that it can nourish other life, it ends pain, it provides closure for lives that have long ago stopped meaning anything, sentences that have just become word salad. Death is useful. Nobody denies that. But to say that 'death is what gives life meaning'...well, people who say that, they either haven't thought about death at all, or else, like you, they've thought about it for so long that they've lost sight of whatever sensibility they might have had, lost sight of how life feels. It's nonsense. It's meaningless nonsense. And nobody should believe nonsense.

"Believe that when we die we go on to another place. Believe that when we die we're born again. Believe that when we die we rejoin the great cosmic mind. Believe any of that. But never, never, ever, believe that death is what gives life meaning, and don't try to make me believe it. And don't ever try to stop me fighting against death. Because my sentence is nowhere near ready for a full stop."
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
"Everyone's entitled to their own opinions. Nobody is entitled to their own facts." (Internet truism)

I've said before that essentially, nearly all "facts" as we understand them are in fact opinions, based on or supported by what we believe to be evidence, as filtered through our sensoria and interpreted by our brains. In practice, for the most part, this is a difference that makes no difference, and anyone who makes anything serious of that argument is being studenty and pretentious. There is one reality, and for the most part, in most cases and most of the time, we can agree on what it is. What it *means*...well, that's another kettle of fish entirely.

The abovementioned truism has been getting quite a lot of use in the last couple of years, and with Tronald, the current President of the USA, and his team busily coming out with "alternative facts," that seems likely to go on. What interests me about it, though, is the large hole it blows in the idea that non-religious people (who, I believe, comprise the majority of users of said truism) are actually capable of religious tolerance in any real sense.

When you call them on this, they stoutly maintain that they think everyone should be entitled to believe whatever they wish, as long as they don't try and force it on anyone else. Which is as good as saying that everyone is entitled to "their own facts," since it must surely be obvious to anyone who thinks about it that, to a religious person, a religious belief must of absolute necessity have the status of a fact, or what exactly does the word "belief" mean? Christians are not "of the opinion" that God sent His son to redeem mankind. Buddhists do not "incline to the view" that the material world is an illusion that must be transcended if the soul is to attain Nirvana. Jews are not "prepared to entertain the notion" that Passover night is different from all other nights. If any of them say they are, then in my estimation (and I admit I'm an outsider, see below) they're just being nice and trying to avoid causing conflict or offence, which is laudable but not conducive to greater understanding. An atheist friend, not so circumspect, told me quite flatly the other day, "it's a fact. There are no gods." It may be her fact, but it's not everyone's.

How all these contradictory beliefs may be reconciled is not an insoluble problem--I can think of half a dozen reasons why a deity might have communicated, or been understood as communicating, different truths about itself to different peoples, without using the words "sadistic," "psychopath" or "deceiver" once--but happily, it's not my problem. I have no facts in that area. None. Nor any opinions. I have nothing to defend except truth and logic.

But when you say "nobody is entitled to their own facts," and then claim to be okay with different people believing that different deities created the world, you are contradicting yourself. Because a belief is not the same as an opinion.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
I've just read an article, which I can't now find, by Gabrielle Bellot about this subject and a new book by Mark O'Connell called To Be A Machine. It was on a site called Literary Hub. I hope that will give you enough clues to find it if you're interested.

The article made a lot of good points about transhumanism, and had some interesting information in it, but one thing was borne in upon me with smashing force as I read; how deeply, pitifully pathetic it is.

Transhumanism is for people who can't hack being human.

They can't cope with physical weakness, so they want to be stronger. They can't cope with being slow so they want to be faster. They can't cope with having to remember stuff, so they want a computer terminal in their heads that can access Google in nanoseconds so they don't need to remember anything at all, even where they put their phone. All these enhancements, all this tech, is just training wheels and water wings and crib sheets for being human. Which, up to now, we've had to manage on our own, without any of that.

And--as is manifestly clear to anyone who looks around--we haven't come close to getting it right yet. Some individuals, yes. The species, no. We all know this. We haven't mastered living on a planet, or getting off a planet, or living with each other or living without each other, or anything. Banging the rocks together is still about our speed.

So it's hardly surprising that some people, seeing this complete and abject failure becoming more and more likely to be our last, think: let's move the goalposts, then. Let's make it easier by cutting out the need to be human in the first place. Robot bodies don't need an ecosystem, get on better without it. Computer minds don't need emotions, we know this from Star Trek, get on better without them. Let's cut out all this human weakness and become something better.

Something weaker. Something that never has to make an effort, because it depends on mechanisms which make effort unnecessary. Something increasingly flabby and etiolated, encased in gleaming metal, safe from the world.

Some people will tell you that there's no difference between having a cyborg body and using a shovel, or having a computer beaming information directly into your head and having a smartphone, or a television. But of course there is. Using a shovel, using a smartphone, switching on the telly, requires effort, requires will power, requires choice. Shutting off the damn smartphone, turning off the telly, requires even more effort and will power. How much nicer to have that option permanently removed, to have cyberspace screaming constantly straight into your head. You'd get used to it. After a while you probably wouldn't even notice it. Like leaving the telly on when visitors come round, so you don't miss anything important.

Your freedom to swing your fist, they say, ends just where my nose begins. Our freedom to remain human ends just where our skin begins. Of course it's all a matter of choice. Plastic hips, pacemakers, these don't make us any less human. They keep us able to function at the level that other humans do. But when we admit that we can't even manage that, and cry out for machines to take all the drudgery and pain of being human away from us...we've lost the point. It's not evolution. It's abdication.

We can make ourselves better than human...by making ourselves better at being human, at being better humans. There ain't no other way.

(The article ends with Mr O'Connell saying "the meaning of life is to live, to imbue your life with meaning." If anyone can tell me whether or not this word salad actually means anything, I shall be very surprised. It also occurs to me that Jack the Ripper probably imbued his life with a great deal of meaning for a while there. I think I'd want something with a bit more of a moral dimension.)
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
I love Stranger In A Strange Land. It's about the only thing of Heinlein's I do actually love. There is much wrong with it besides what I'm going to talk about, but much right as well. He did, however, fall victim to the very common fault of idiot plotting.

This is where, in order to make the story work, some or all of the characters have to be too stupid to do what to the reader is the obvious thing. To be fair, this may be because it wasn't obvious to Heinlein either, but since he conceived the characters, the situation, and the plot, one has to ask why not.

The omniscient narrator states as a fact that the driving force behind all humanity's strivings is the bipolar nature of human sexuality. If there's evidence to support this contention, I missed it. The driving force behind humanity's strivings is far more obvious to me, and if it had been explained to Mike early on in the book, a lot of heartache might have been avoided.

Jubal, or Jill, or Ben, or someone, could so easily have sat Mike down and said something like this. "Look, kid. Where you come from, when Martians get old they leave their bodies and hang around as Old Ones giving advice, right? They transform into some sort of incorporeal form of life. We don't. When we get old, we die, and we either stop existing altogether or we go somewhere else, we don't know where. Opinion is divided on this because we don't know.

"We just don't know. We don't know anything. We don't know what's going to happen next. We don't know what the universe is really like. We don't know, but we want to, real bad. And since we don't know and we don't have any way of finding out...we guess. We imagine. We make up stories. We guess what happens after we die and we call it heaven, or hell, or reincarnation. We guess where the universe came from and we call it god. We guess what's going to happen tomorrow, and if the guess is good we call it hope, if it's bad we call it fear. And when we guess right, we figure there must be a reason and we make a guess about that and call it intuition, or clairvoyance, or reasoned deduction, but all it is is a guess, because we don't know."

And that is the real driving force behind all our strivings. We strive to take care of our future needs because we don't know if we'll be able to do it tomorrow. We desperately strive to understand the universe because we don't know what it's going to do next. And we defend our guesses, whatever they may be, because if we lose them we're back where we started, in the void of unknowing, and we don't trust other people's guesses because we don't know what's going on in their heads. But all the while we know, deep down, that everything we like to think we know is just a more or less informed guess, and the only thing that makes that uncertainty bearable...is faith. Faith in our guesses, whatever they may be. Faith in the reliability of science, faith in the validity of the evidence we think we have, faith in the veracity of our own perceptions, faith in other people, faith in the rightness of law, faith in the future, or faith in gods. It's all faith. Because we don't know.

Faith is what drives human beings. It's all we have.

Heinlein's Martians don't have any of that. They know everything about their universe, because Heinlein decreed that it should be so. And nobody in the book twigs that that's the difference, that's what tears Mike apart, because he feels he should share that certainty, he tells himself he does, but he doesn't have the equipment to perceive it. Of course Heinlein also decreed that there was an afterlife for humans in his universe as well, but the humans didn't know that and neither did Mike, till after he was dead. Up to that moment, just like everyone else, he was relying on faith.

Maybe Heinlein did know all this, and his apparent nescience was a sophisticated bluff...but it certainly leaves what looks like an idiot plot right at the heart of Stranger, because nobody ever explains to Mike the central fact about human beings that sets them apart from Martians, and it's certainly right out there with a big neon sign pointing to it.

Or maybe I'm wrong. I don't know.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Re-reading Colin Wilson's first two "Lovecraftian" novels, and wondering what the hell I ever saw in them.

I mean, people talk about HPL's repellent views, and they're right, but if this reflected anything of what Wilson was actually thinking then he's just as bad. Only he wasn't (for his time) particularly racist. As far as I can gather from the text (and his challenge from August Derleth, having vilified HPL in an earlier book, was, I gather, to express his personal philosophy through the medium of a Lovecraft-style story) he viewed all ordinary people with much the same contempt and disgust. Because, of course, he was an intellectual. He was special.

These books express exactly the feelings I've talked about in earlier posts, here, on FB, everywhere. "We" are not ordinary people. Ordinary people have small minds, they live on an emotional level because they aren't capable of rising above their emotions and achieving true detachment, and they are bound to be superseded by the superior man who is a creature of pure reason and intellect and therefore lives in a constant state of ecstasy (which is presumably not an emotion for the purposes of this argument) and has mysterious psychic powers because he uses all his brain at once.

I mean, talk about your adolescent power fantasies. Eat your heart out, Superman. I can quite see, on reflection, why my younger, misfit bookish brat self would have gobbled this stuff up. It's all part of the immature, fans-are-slans closet elitism that pervades, not just fandom, but the whole of the so-called progressive movement. We are the future. Stand aside, old-style humans, and bow down to your new rulers who have your best interests at heart. You just got out-evolved.

The sheer arrogance of my younger self appalls me. Thank gods I got past that.

I just hit the bit in The Philosopher's Stone where the protagonist and his friend are discussing how atrocious a writer Shakespeare is, having just decided that he was actually Bacon, and how a Shakespeare play is like listening to "two queers arguing at a party." I know I baulked at that even back then. (And decided that if that was his opinion of Shakespeare's writing then his opinion of HPL's writing was probably worth about the same.)

I do notice that the main effect of the protagonists' mental advancement in both these books is to make them more and more bored and discontented with life as it is, which is presumably the "new existentialism" that Wilson was apparently into. Fortunately they manage to find solace in exploring the wonders of the universe and not bothering with mere humanity any more.

If I thought this was the way forward when I was whatever age I was, I was an idiot. That hasn't changed, but at least I'm a more experienced idiot now, and I can see the traps of hell a bit more clearly when they gape.

I may actually let these books go. I'm not decided yet.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
A LOADSCREEN MADE ME DO IT

TTTO: "Abdul the Bulbul Amir"

Oh, the horses of Skyrim are hardy and strong
And built for endurance, not speed,
But the stoutest of all, as you'll hear in this song,
Was Dudley, the Dovahkiin's steed.

When the dragons returned, as the Scrolls did foretell,
They ravaged the land near and far,
But the worst was a beast with a heart straight from hell,
The dragon they called Sisboombah.

To the snow-covered slopes of the Throat of the World
To the steps that approach High Hrothgar
Flew a menacing form as the snow flurries whirled--
The dragon they called Sisboombah.

And a figure forlorn and foreshortened she spied
And her jaw clenched in hunger and greed.
Standing there till his master was ready to ride--
'T was Dudley, the Dovahkiin's steed.

All unknowing, the Dragonborn loitered within
While the Greybeards were teaching him DAH.
There was no-one but Dudley to save his own skin
From the dragon they called Sisboombah.

Down she swooped from the clouds like a wolf on the fold
And prepared on roast horseflesh to feed,
For he made her mouth water, more even than gold,
Did Dudley, the Dovahkiin's steed.

But it watered so much that it put out her flame
Which caused her a terrible jar;
When her Shout petered out she was wracked with the shame,
The dragon they called Sisboombah.

So she veered off in haste and then circled around,
On her quarry she got a clear bead--
When the heavens above were convulsed with a sound
From Dudley, the Dovahkiin's steed.

It was only one word, but his Thu'um was true,
And his talent was well over par;
It was “NEH,” which means “never,” a concept quite new
To the dragon they called Sisboombah.

She lost all control and she fell from the sky,
On the landscape she left quite a scar,
And the folk round about came to kiss her goodbye--
The dragon they called Sisboombah.

But the Greybeards had heard, and came out of their doors
To find this new student in need,
But to their amazement, saw only a horse--
'T was Dudley, the Dovahkiin's steed.

Now the Dragonborn works up at Mixwater Mill
And damns the entire equine breed,
But the Greybeards are teaching a Dovahkiin still—
'T is Dudley, the Dovahkiin Steed!

Minimal explanation: Skyrim has loading screens which carry snippets of information about the game world, and one of them begins "The horses of Skyrim are hardy and strong..." Well, I mean. Asking for it or what? "Dovahkiin" means "Dragonborn," an epithet applied to the protagonist, who learns from the mysterious Greybeards in High Hrothgar how to Shout Words of Power in the language of dragons, who all have names composed, like Shouts, of three such Words. I'm not sure what "Sisboombah" would mean in Draconic, but "Bah" means "wrath," so we're in the right sort of territory.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
"Aw, man," groaned Turbul gro-Tesk. "Our good axe too."

Anfang opened his eyes and sat up, feeling the ache in his bones and joints. Getting killed would do that to you, especially after the seventh or eighth time.

"Every damn week!" the orc groused. "Every damn week some lousy adventurer comes along..."

"This is the main road from Whiterun to--well, just about everywhere east of here," Anfang pointed out. "Where else would they go?"

"I remember when that was a good reason to set up here," Dilecta said from the doorway. "Lots of rich merchants to rob, you said. Easy money, you said. Collect a toll, you said--"

"I know what I said!" Anfang snapped. "What did they take?"

"Everything!" Turbul slammed his hand down on the table. "All the cash, all the food, all the alchemy supplies..."

"The potions?"

"Every last one."

"Even the one in the--"

"Yes." Anfang didn't know what it was, bad water or bad air or too much steamed mudcrab, but ever since they'd set up camp in these towers, visits to the privy for all of them had become...difficult. It only made sense to keep a bottle of healing potion nearby.

Well, there was no help for it. "Did you get a good look?"

"I never saw a thing," Dilecta said glumly. "Arrow through the back and out went the lights."

"It was a woman," Turbul said. "Small, dark. Merchant's outfit, I think. That's all."

"All right," Anfang said. "We see her again, we kill her on sight. Right?"

The others nodded, each thinking the same thing; that they would be lucky to get a glimpse of her, or any other adventurer who happened along, before they got skewered. They weren't up to this.

Anfang sighed heavily, and got to his feet. It would take days to gather the ingredients for more healing potions, never mind anything else.

Some days, being a bandit was just not worth it.

Why?

Jan. 15th, 2017 09:47 am
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
[livejournal.com profile] greygirlbeast likes the new Star Wars film, Rogue One, because it's "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark."

I'm glad she likes it...but really, does *EVERYTHING* have to be "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Does one even go to Star Wars for "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Are there not hundreds, thousands of other story 'verses out there that are "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Are people still making good, well-told films for grown-ups that are not trying to be "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark," that are trying to be positive and bright and hopeful and visible to the partially sighted?

There is a place for all kinds of stories, beyond the promptings of passing fashion. In these coming days I predict that we are going to rather go off "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark." There'll be too much of that all around us. We'll be looking for a Frank Capra de nos jours, to tell us that in spite of everything there is goodness and light in the worlds.

In the meantime, I don't think I'll be making a point of seeing Rogue One. I go to Star Wars for a very specific kind of experience, and that...if Aunt Beast is right...is not it.

Old times

Jan. 13th, 2017 12:00 am
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
"Scientists today unveiled a startling new theory about the nature of time, which could go some way to explaining a number of things we find perplexing. Speaking to our reporter, Professor Hilda Gefarr of the Orthodox Research Consortium explained the theory as follows:

"'If we postulate that the universe had a beginning, and furthermore that neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed, then every part and particle that makes up the universe began to exist in the same moment, currently estimated to be some four and a half billion years ago. This would include all of space, and all of time; all the matter, and all the energy.

"'Now we think we understand the processes that affect matter, energy and space, but we have hardly begun to explore how time is affected by, in fact, itself. Yet, if you think about it, the time we are experiencing now is some four and a half billion years older than the time around the universe's beginning. It has been around, in the back of the universal refrigerator so to speak, for all that time, waiting to be used. We are experiencing very, very old time.

"'If time has a shelf-life--an age after which it gradually begins to deteriorate--then this time, our present now, is quite probably past it. Indeed, the process of deterioration might have accelerated to the point where it can be observed even by non-scientists. This could explain, among other things, the pervasive sense among humans that present time is merely a pale shadow of a former time which was better. Till now this has been put down to selective memory of the freedom of childhood, but I find this hypothesis quite implausible. It seems to me far more persuasive that our time has, in fact, started to go off.

"'Whether it will last till the postulated entropic collapse of space and matter is a question we are doing our best to answer, while we look for some way of refreshing our time and prolonging its useful life. I should emphasise that at this point we have no idea how long we have before time begins to dry out and sprout blue fur; it could be days, it could be millennia, it could have already started. The only thing we can say with certainty is that the popular truism is correct; the future is definitely not what it used to be.'

"Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Rocket Group was unavailable for comment."

Well.

Jan. 6th, 2017 11:17 am
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
I've been told that I ought to stop posting on LiveJournal, because the servers have now been moved to Russia, which means they are governed by Russian law, which means something I'm not too sure about but which probably doesn't involve evul Commie tentacles emerging from your computer and sucking out your brains. Dreamwidth is apparently much better and nicer and cleaner and thoroughly safe in all respects, unless you happen to know that one of the founders of DW used to work for LJ and did nasty things while they were there. But never mind that.

I am aware that Russia is now the Big Bad again (Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia) and that we all should go in fear and trembling of what they might do with our personal data. I can't imagine anyone being remotely interested in my personal data, but apparently it's not about me, it's about the hordes of fans who flock to my LJ and hang upon my every utterance, thus putting them in immediate danger of sinister Russian spybots ferreting out their secrets and doing something nasty with them. That's you, by the way, reading this. Yes, both of you.

So, if this concerns you, I would suggest you stop reading this right now and forget you ever knew about my LJ account. Myself, I find the idea of throwing away something for which I paid a not insignificant sum to me back in the day mildly distasteful, especially when what's happened to it since is none of my doing, and I have no idea whether I will feel up to migrating everything over to a DW account which I created for a specific purpose and which I hardly ever look at. So if I do stop posting here, I shall probably retire into obscurity altogether, at least for a time.

And I am just as concerned about sinister spies from America, or Afghanistan, or France or Britain, as I am about those in Russia. I don't know if there is a single government in the world at the moment that I would trust to tell me if it was raining outside, and I don't see that changing any time soon. (Maybe Iceland. There are probably no sinister spies from Iceland ferreting through my data. Probably.) They are all out to get us, and sooner or later they will. Shifting the deckchairs may make us feel a little better, but it makes no long-term difference.

So, if I continue to post here, it's up to you whether or not you read it. If I start posting on DW, ditto. FB, the same. But, as the spectre of Great and Powerful Russia shouts louder and glows with fiercer demonic fire and smoke, do keep looking for the man behind the curtain. Because, you know, I'm really not convinced.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
The woman who called herself Lethiel Lightfoot crept, almost invisible, almost inaudible, into the final chamber of the tomb.

Temperamentally and by parentage not a cruel or violent person, she had prepared herself with considerable forethought for a career in this world where violence and cruelty were practically the norm. She had honed her skills to perfection, had by devious means provided herself with the best possible equipment, had practiced religiously till she could pass like a shadow through a crowded room, could defeat any lock on any door or chest, could fell a man or a monster of humanoid dimensions with a single arrow from a considerable distance. She was weak on hand-to-hand combat, and possessed no aptitude for magic, but as a thief or an assassin she yielded to no peer. It was the best she could do, and it meant that any fighting in which she was involved tended to be decisive, short, and as painless as she could make it.

The adversary she would face here was something special, an undead sorcerer who possessed the ability to pass instantly into another plane and emerge somewhere else moments later. She would have to be quick, if she were to get her hands on the mystical amulet that he wore round his desiccated neck. She reached her goal, the best position from which to command the entire chamber, and readied her bow, nocking an arrow. She would have one shot at best, before he phased out and things got...complicated.

The lid of the sarcophagus cracked open, and the creature climbed out and stood up. Lethiel fell into the practised routine. Breathe, aim, focus. Time seemed to slow down as she levelled the arrow and fired.

The undead jerked as the shaft struck home, jerked and flung up its arms...and vanished.

Lethiel waited.

After several minutes she said softly, "Bugger."
avevale_intelligencer: (kay)
I didn't like Princess Leia, and it was all because of one line. See the icon.

I didn't expect her to be grateful, or fall wiltingly into Luke's or Han's arms, or anything like that. She was already established as a strong character. She had withstood Vader's Terrible Invasive Torture Machine That Leaves No Trace, and she was still strong and feisty even after Alderaan (so very predictably) got blown up anyway. (Big hint: villains lie.) I even thought she would probably take charge of her own rescue, being more experienced in these matters than either of the boys. But that line, delivered over the shoulder with a smug little smile while strutting out in front and not particularly looking where she was going, got me on the raw. To me it illustrated in pinpoint detail the difference that does exist between "displaying leadership qualities" and "being bossy." And while I'm sure that if she had looked back and found herself alone she would still have managed to get away perfectly competently, I couldn't have faulted the boys for just letting her get on with it.

But see, the thing is, I didn't have to like her. She didn't have to be perfect. She could have flaws, and be irritating, and be real, just like Luke and Han and all the rest. And it was Carrie Fisher, in that pivotal moment of which I've spoken when the writers and the director and the crew have all done as much as they can and it's just down to you, the words, and the camera...it was Carrie Fisher who made her real. Flaws and all.

RIP.

Oh dear

Dec. 27th, 2016 01:27 am
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Dear Professor Brian Cox,

I was very interested to hear you say, on national television tonight, that crop circles do not exist. I have a feeling you may be receiving a number of photographs in the near future. I did not photograph the one my wife and I saw several years ago, as I was driving at the time, but it definitely existed.

It's possible that what you intended to say was something along the lines of "yes, of course crop circles exist, but there is at the moment no conclusive evidence that they are caused by anything other than human agency, and as a scientist I prefer in this instance to go with the explanation that best fits the available evidence," but it was cut for time, or for some other reason, putting you in a position of going on record, admittedly in an entertainment context, as blatantly denying observed facts; not actually that scientific.

Still, that's showbiz for you. We very much enjoyed the programme.

Love,

Me

P.S. I say I say I say, what's the difference between "aliens" and "dark energy"?
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Sophie Labelle's latest Assigned Male comic (http://assignedmale.tumblr.com/image/154503698872) says "Looking for a biological cause for transness is neurosexist, transphobic, cisnormative and eugenist."

I suppose it depends why you're looking. If you just want to understand, then I don't see any harm. If you are in fact looking for a way to "fix" it, to put things "right," or to junk the "defective" models, then it's all those things. And some people will be, because that's how some people are.

But it seems to me that there's an inescapable conclusion here. If being gay, or bi, or trans, or ace, or straight for that matter, is not a "lifestyle choice," and yet is not caused by anything in the physical, biological composition of the person...

...then we have to postulate something in the makeup of living things (not just human beings--well, not necessarily just living things, but let's keep it simple for the moment) which is both (a) real, and (b) not a physical, biological phenomenon. If being gay, or bi, or trans, or ace, or straight, is not a choice and not a variation in the way the body (which includes the brain) works, but is nonetheless a real and unchangeable part of the person, then that person has to have something to them besides their body. That person has to have a soul.

Which, of course, will come to some of us as no surprise at all.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Across the room, Allie too was laying down the law to a group of intense young people in politically adorned t-shirts.

"Of course there's a consperacy," she snapped. "There's always a bloody consperacy. You just don't recognise it. You expect it to be guys in stchipid black cloaks and hats scuttling into a coal cellar with secret handshakes and passwords and all that shite. Or grey men in a boardroom in the sky using euphemesms like 'eleminate' when they mean 'murder.' That's just movie clichés.

"People are always trynae do each other down. Not everyone, or not everyone all the time, but somebody somewhere at any geven moment. For every ediot like us there are three who are looking for advantage and don't care how they get it. So that's going on all the time, right? And sooner or later somebody gets good at it, and they get money and power, which makes them better at it, 'cause those are the tools. And they carry on doing it, 'cause it's what they do best. And then they start to move in the cercles where people like them move, and they make friends, well not friends as we know it, but people they know. And sooner or later one of their 'friends' asks a favour, and they do it, and then they ask a favour back, and the other guy does it, and pretty soon you have this tight little group of very rich, very powerful people, all doing favours for each other and getting favours back. All of them hating each other like poison, none of them trusting each other one ench, but bound together by this network of favours. You advertise your cosmetics in my paper, I'll prent an article that makes your fracking operation look good. That kind of theng.

"There's no master plan, no beg map on the wall with red lights, no overall goal...but it is a consperacy just the same. A seedy, shabby, ramshackle consperacy to get through the next day without losing it all. And that's the mess we're in. And don't ask me how to fight it, 'cause I've no sodding clue...but recognising it seems to me like a pretty good first step."

In a nearby corner, silent and unnoticed, Frankie got out his tiny notebook and wrote down:

CONSPERACY

Spero = I hope.

Consperacy = people who hope together?

Join the Consperacy!


He looked at it for a long time, before putting the notebook away and heaving himself to his feet. It was a nice idea...but if Allie thought he was making fun of her accent he would be a dead man, and he hadn't finished his novel yet.

He went to find a drink.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
"Of course magic exists," Dracul said testily. "It's all around you. You just don't see it, because you expect magic to be all hocus pocus and dancing around naked and talking forsoothly. Which is a fun way to do it, of course, but it's just the outward show.

"What do you think infinity is? To start with it was just a word that meant 'endlessness,' and was used to describe God a lot. Endlessly powerful, endlessly knowing, endlessly loving, endlessly beardy, all that. Then, for a while, it was used to describe space and time, because we thought they were endless. We know better now, of course; space and time both had beginnings and ends. Still not sure about God, but that's a side issue. Infinity, to most people, just means 'so big it makes my head hurt.' It's a hot water bottle for the brain against the cold and dark of actual reality. There is nothing in the known, observable universe that is actually infinite. Theoretically infinite, potentially infinite, yes, but in actual hard fact everything, sooner or later, runs up against limits. Your fractal leaf patterns get down to the size of a plant cell and can't go any smaller. Actual infinity doesn't exist. Like the square root of minus one, like pi, it only exists, can only exist, in people's heads.

"And yet, once the clever buggers got hold of it, they managed to create an entire branch of mathematics around infinity, and from those numbers they have derived practical, real world applications which make a difference to all of us.

"And. That. Is. Magic.

"There's absolutely no difference between calling into being a non-existent number to help you build a computer, and calling into being a non-existent kobold to direct you to buried treasure. Magic, as the old Beastie said, is causing change to occur in the universe by the power of one's will, and the tool for that job is the human imagination.

"Why do you think computers are so capricious and bloody-minded? Because they depend for their function on entities we created from our imaginations to cause change in the universe by the power of our wills. Try yelling 'Rumpelstiltskin!" at your laptop. It won't make any difference, of course, but you might feel better about it."
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
So, because I owned the original Skyrim and all the extra modules, I got Skyrim Special Edition free, and I've been trying it out.

On the one hand, it looks gorgeous, even better than original Skyrim with the HD textures, and seems to run better as well. There are some lovely weather effects, and the colours are more vibrant.

On the other hand...because it's a whole new piece of software, designed for 64-bit, there's no way that ordinary Skyrim mods will work with it without being rejigged, and I really do play the game mostly for the mods. Some of them have been reworked, but two of the most important ones, SKSE and SkyUI, haven't yet, and that makes a HUGE difference to gameplay. The best mod organiser software, imaginatively called Mod Organizer, has yet to be updated for the new edition.

And worse than that, some of the best mods will never be redone for SE, because their designers have given up or moved on and taken their secrets with them. It's vanishingly unlikely that my character in SE will ever be able to become a real bard, or deal in property, or grow interesting herbs in her back yard. She rode through the village of Ivarstead last night, and was shocked to see (because she shares a consciousness with me and all her predecessors) a blank cliff face across the river where, in her last incarnation, stood the castle she occupied as Jarl of Ivarstead. So much missing.

I like the Special Edition. But I think I'll be keeping the original as well.
avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
Yes, this is it, the last one. Our long national nightmare is over.

The MS is now in the hands of a reliable editor, who will point out to me such things as Mordecai being good at languages on one page and hopeless at them on another, and hopefully a revised and improved text will be available in print or ebook form via Lulu in due course. In the meantime, if you want an electronic ARC of the text as it stands, let me know via email and I will send you one.

And, of course, if you would like to comment on this chapter or the story as a whole, that would make me very very happy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

“Lady Ralitz,” Gisel said.
“Lady Andemar. And your majesty. Well, this is a surprise.” Lady Ralitz smiled with perfect savoir-faire as she rose from her chair. “May I offer you some tea?”
“Not this time, I think,” Gisel said. “But thank you all the same.” Gisel stood aside as Zivano walked between them into the room. “I believe you've met.”
Lady Ralitz's face twisted into a mask of rage, and she reached for something down beside her chair. Zivano made a single gesture, and she froze.
“You viper!” she spat at Zivano. “You disgusting pig!”
“Enough of that,” Zivano said easily, gesturing again. Unwillingly, Lady Ralitz straightened up, while Gisel retrieved the small bulb of úllama from the floor. “Handle that very carefully, Gisel, and don't squeeze it whatever you do. Now then, my lady, I'm going to ask you some questions, and you're going to answer them truthfully.”
“I'll never tell you anything,” Lady Ralitz snarled.
“Oh yes, you will,” Zivano said. “Because, you see, I'm going to use magic.” He made a gesture, and Lady Ralitz's head twisted upwards and to the right.
*
Cut for length... )

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