Jan 112013
 

So I’ve been editing a little over at wikipedia (what, why else would I be stumbling across Jenny von Westphalen’s page?) and editors there get a userpage. One of the things people do is make and share userboxes. Here is a person I don’t know, who has a bunch of them (scroll down a little).

There are a bunch of fan-type userboxes (for instance) but there was something missing. So I started making Dragaeran cycle userboxes. Yes, I just spent the last several hours searching for heraldic animal pictures and making little colored boxes for wikipedia users instead of sleeping.

Because I am a fangirl.

Obviously I haven’t done all 17 yet (well, 18, since I did phoenixes at both ends, and maybe 19 since it might be nice to add one for Easterners, and if I do maybe I’ll use a little mustache picture). I wanted to use the little glyphs for the pictures, but they’re not on wikimedia commons so I contented myself with heraldry.

 

ETA: And I’m done! 🙂 All the houses, and yes, one for Easterners, with a handlebar.

Jan 082013
 

Most of us have a pretty close relationship with our name, even if our name was the most popular baby girl name in America for a million years around the time we were born. I have a thing for songs about Jennifers (like Cain – Jennifer, off Better Read Than Dead). I notice when I read about a Jennifer or a Jenny.* When I was a kid I pretended my name was really Guinevere, and that I was a princess, because being a princess is loads better than being a female donkey, okay?

Anyway, today I noticed Karl Marx’ wife was named Jenny von Westphalen.** How fucking cool is that? She’s the original jenphalian!

Also, all of his daughters were named Jenny. All of them. I’m not even making that up. It is on the wikipedias! There was Jenny Caroline (or Jennychen, how fucking sweet is that nickname?) who was an activist and died of bladder cancer a few years older than I am now. Jenny Laura went by Laura, was also an activist, and died in a suicide pact with her husband because he thought he was too old to keep contributing to the party and I guess that meant she was too (I’m probably an asshole for paraphrasing wikipedia like that). Jenny Eveline Frances died in infancy, which is sad. Jenny Julia Eleanor (her nickname, Tussy, is very similar to a dog I know, but she had it first) was an activist and sometime literary translator who also committed suicide, but she did it because her partner was unfaithful or accidentally married an actress.

So here’s a picture of Jenny. The daughter, not the mom. The eldest one, not the other ones, they all used non-Jenny names from what I can tell. Is that not an awesome dress? Look at the sleeves, they are the best shape! And the waistline! I bet she’s got some serviceable stays under that thing.

If I had a dress like that, I’d get the appropriate accessories, and do my hair properly, and spend at least a month cosplaying Jenny Marx, until everyone got sick of me and started telling me to go put on some damn jeans or else.

 

* No, you can’t call me Jenny. I hardly ever insist on all three syllables of Jennifer, but you can only shorten it to Jen, nothing else.

** Yes, it is possible that I’ve been told this before. I have a shitty memory. It is easy to surprise and delight me.

Jan 072013
 

I spent a few hours playing this PC adventure game Primordia. If I recall correctly, chaos ordered it for me when I was mourning Glitch and complaining that I hadn’t liked a PC game since Myst.

It was both fun and irritating in all the usual ways of adventure games. You get a blowtorch but rarely get to burn things. The inventory puzzles are frustrating (but could be much worse).* I admit that I used a walkthrough at times, and didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about ruining the purity of my experience.

There are some well-written reviews of the game that will actually describe it for you and help you decide if you want to drop a few dollars to play it (just don’t read the comments, unless you enjoy mild console-vs-PC flamewars).

What I don’t see reviewers mentioning is the sexism in the game. Really interesting sci-fi adventures that examine societal identity and creation issues should do better than lazy titty jokes and references to “gynoids” — in my opinion, anyway. Why is the little floating circular sidekick robot interested in human sex characteristics in an all-robot society that barely believes humans ever existed? Is this some sort of commentary on how boobs are inherently interesting to all intelligent life forms? Why is there a little female robot who ends up as a romantic prize for the sidekick once he completes the quest to “find the courage to talk to a girl” (a quest that is completed by, and I’m not making this up, talking to a lamp for practice)? Maybe that little female robot had hopes and dreams of her own. Maybe she’s a better conversationalist than a lamp.

There is one decently developed female character, who travels with the protagonist for a while and is primarily interested in the law, but she’s also the only character who has a humanoid shape with secondary sex characteristics and doesn’t wear head-to-toe baggy clothes. She has nice gynoid boobs and shapely legs, but I never get to see how hunky the robots are (and I’d be objecting less to the term gynoid if the males were actually called androids, but they’re not). I have problems with the final boss, too, and without giving away the whole game, there are some elements of “bad things happen when a woman gets uppity and tries to leave the kitchen to do men’s work.”

None of this was purposeful, I don’t think, and I’m sure that if the gaming community read this they’d call me a whiny baby for even caring, but these elements bounced me out of the narrative of an otherwise fun game. It may have been avoided if there’d been some women involved in production (I don’t think there were any based on watching the credits). Anyway, it all contributes to the feeling I’ve always had that my money is good in gaming stores but I’m not the target audience for games. I’m either an afterthought or a prize.

 

* This footnote is a nonsensical excuse to link to this hilarious fancybears thing.

Jan 062013
 

Did I title this rip-offs? I meant fanfic. No wait … there’s probably some correct publishing term for them. Maybe they’re just “Pride & Prejudice sequels.”

I had a sample of Death Comes to Pemberley* sitting on my nook for many months, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I was halfway through Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. I sped through DCtP over Christmas, and then waded through the rest of MDV on trains in the days after New Year’s (fittingly, since Austen had a fetish for modes of transport and MDV involves near-constant travel).

I had high expectations for MDV, both because I love paranormal romance like Cheryl loves being choked and because Amanda Grange wrote Mr. Darcy’s Diary and Colonel Brandon’s Diary, both excellent books. So when I started it, and many chapters in there were still only ominous hints of vampires — sorry, vampyres, and the writing style seemed entirely modern, I was irritated. I complained loudly about the steady stream of clunky references to P&P, seemingly stuck in to prove the relationship to the source material, since the characters and setting seemed unconnected to it.** Elizabeth and Darcy both read like a straight-to-dvd movie sequel where the leads are replaced by C-list actors and the production company kneecaps the director on the first day of shooting to motivate her to get “great performances” from them.***

DCtP, on the other hand, is a murder mystery and I rarely read mysteries. I had never heard of P. D. James (who turns out to be kinda badass) and didn’t trust this to entertain me, but I had it right there and the cover art was nice so I gave it a go. From the beginning, the narrative style pleased me. The book’s prologue summarizes P&P and the six years between the books, and those six years were a relief to me: any discrepancies I perceived between canon Elizabeth/Darcy and sequel Elizabeth/Darcy would be explainable in my mind by six years of unseen character growth. (MDV didn’t get that benefit because it starts on the day of the wedding.)

By the end of DCtP, though, I was dissatisfied. As the murder mystery progressed, Elizabeth took more and more of a hand-wringing background role to the action. Wickham became a more prominent character. Wickham! Taking up more space in my brain than Elizabeth! Insupportable! Mrs. Wickham, one of the most irritating Austen ladies ever, also disappears, which is both pleasant and out of character. The vanishing females was my biggest complaint, and felt like a betrayal of Austen’s consistent, faithful portrayals. I wondered if they disappeared because the only canonical motivation the author found for them was marriage, but the best part of Austen is how she used that overarching fact of their lives to show how they had so much more humanity than just “potential wife”.

The dreamily be-ribboned existence of marriage-minded ladies in grecian dresses is actually replaced by some enjoyable Downton-Abbey-esque manor home machinations and fine details of period English legal process, so there are still tasty cookies to be had. Overall, it was a good book, and I wouldn’t tell anyone not to read it, but a P&P sequel with a dull Elizabeth could never fully capture my heart.

Returning to MDV, I was ready to forgive the many sins if the book would just get around to some sort of repentance, preferably in the form of sumptuous continental balls or even, I don’t know, maybe some tormented-vampyre-Darcy action? Well, it delivered, and then delivered some more. Transylvanian**** castles complete with pitchfork-wielding mobs, Venetian masquerades, and ancient unspeakable evil. I was finally happy, even with the twee-as-fuck magic ending***** and the lame hand-waving over the immortality problem.

So now what? Is the purpose of blogging a review to recommend books? Very well. If you like Austen stuff, you may or may not like these. I don’t know mystery well enough to call DCtP a good example of the genre, but it is a good read. If you dig Twilight or historical romance at all, then yes, MDV is totes for you. If you don’t like any of those things, I don’t know why you read this at all, but maybe go with Old Man’s War or something.

 

 

* While harvesting these links I learned that she also wrote Pride and Pyramids. Yes, there are mummies.

** Such vociferous complaints are why certain innocent bystanders encouraged me to blog about it rather than continuing to drone on and on in person.

*** This probably happens all the time in Hollywood.

**** Actually, the geography of this was super-sketchy, and there was a food description that indicated maybe Hungary, so I don’t think it was meant to be Transylvania. But that’s where they were in my head, so that’s what I’m going with.

***** SPOILER: I mean, I would have been happier with a Vampyre Elizabeth than Darcy turning back into a human, but whatever. At least they finally got to fuck each other.