All her life Cersei has been a thing used by other people. She never mattered. She was marriage-material to be traded for alliances. She was a mare to be bred. Her opinions and feelings about her life didn’t matter.
The most poignant example of this is during the battle for King’s Landing, when Cersei, Sansa, and the other royal ladies are sheltered in an inner room while the fighting goes on outside. Cersei lets Sansa know that the executioner isn’t there to protect them. He’s there to kill them all should the city fall, because it is more merciful for them to suffer a quick death than to be slowly raped to death in the sack of the city.
The one thing the world has said over and over to her is that unless she has absolutely power, she has none at all. Even as the wife of the King, she is a thing foremost.
And then the High Sparrow really brings this home with the torture, degradation, and ultimately the public humiliation of the Shame! scene. All the while no one came to save her, because she was being weighed for her usefulness. Her safety and dignity were being traded around like so many pounds of wheat.
She’s decided this will never happen again. She’ll take any steps to prevent it. I love that.
I’ve seen this type of anti-hero before. Most recently, Syenite of The Fifth Season. I love that character as well, for the same reason. There comes a point where you’d rather see the entire world destroyed than condemn yourself to such an existence. Where you’d rather kill your own child than let them live such a life. Where you no longer care who dies, because everyone, EVERYONE was fucking complicit.
So I understand why, for Cersei, remaining in power is more important than saving Westeros. If either the undead or the humans are destroyed at Winterfell, but the opposing side is weakened enough that Cersei’s army can destroy what’s left and secure the continent under her rule, that is ideal. Humanity gets to continue to exist, all her enemies are dead, and she will never be used like a thing again. There is the possibility that the undead will win and destroy all life on Westeros, yes. But that is preferable to returning to life as chattel. If humanity has such a problem with extinction, maybe it shouldn’t have made life a living hell for so many.
Not that I agree with this, of course. I’m very pro-humanity. It’s just that this type of character speaks to me on such a deep emotional level that I can’t help but feel every single ounce of rage and despair with them. <3
For the use of my book club, plus whoever else would like a linked list. These are the short stories and novelettes that are up for a Hugo, and also available free online. This year, that’s all but one.
This is the first awards season since I predicted No Print Magazine Will Publish a Hugo-Winning Story Again. Since no print magazine even got a nomination this year, I’m not wrong yet. :) We’ll see what future years bring, though. Of note is that one of the nominees isn’t available free online! While I didn’t specify that as a criteria in my post, it surprises me nonetheless. The whole reason I predicted print magazines are out is because they cannot be shared like online stories can, and thus can’t capture enough attention-share. While Bolander’s story is online at Tor.com — the current clearing house for online commercial SF — I would’ve thought that the paywall would prevent achieving the number of readers needed to make the nominations. It’s a shame I won’t get to read it. :(
- If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho, Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
- The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly, Tor.com
- Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com
- The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Tor.com – Not Available Free
- The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny Magazine
- When We Were Starless by Simone Heller, Clarkesworld Magazine
BEST SHORT STORY
- The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed Magazine
- The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher, Uncanny Magazine
- The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark, Fireside Magazine
- STET by Sarah Gailey, Fireside Magazine
- The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meatby Brooke Bolander, Uncanny Magazine
- A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine
Every now and then I post a reminder about my ongoing novel. In the most recent chapter:
Despite a burgeoning famine and chaos in the streets, the emperor will not see his week of revelry and gladiator games interrupted. But he gets more than he expected when a demonic embodiment of Pride materializes in the Colosseum.
Read it as it’s being published at WhatLiesDreaming.com
You can also vote for it up to once per week via this link to Top Webfiction.
And, for those waiting to get it all at once, the full version will be purchasable in early July!
Synopsis: Having infiltrated their ruling elite, Baru begins working to destroy the nation that conquered her homeland.
Book Review: I’ve been a fan of Seth Dickinson for many years, so I was expecting something pretty good from him. I read the prologue and I was not disappointed! Good stuff! Then I read the first chapter, and I put the book down. And I went and got a drink, and then another one, and ended up just drinking way too much that night, and not coming back to the book for a couple days. Because I realized while reading it that I will never, in my life, write anything this beautiful and this moving… and it’s kinda crushing.
I don’t want to over-hype the book, because nothing kills a story like insane expectations that no work in the real world could actually meet. But this is astoundingly good writing, and gorgeous prose, and I love it. It’s the first time I’ve read a middle-book in a series that I liked more than the first book.
As always, Dickinson does a great job of bringing you into the mind of the protagonist. You don’t just feel her emotions, you follow her thought patterns. Everything is translated into the logic of economics and capitalism. He explains what a hash-function is, in a fantasy setting, in a way that is both easy to understand AND completely in-character for the setting, AND is a moving and relevant part of the story, which I wouldn’t have believed was possible if I hadn’t seen it done myself. Without ever saying anything about the modern era, Dickinson says a lot about neoliberalism and the Molochian forces grinding away our humanity.
And in the occasional chapters where he goes into a different character’s POV, Dickenson shows us the world from their startlingly-different but instantly relatable view. I was surprised how quickly and intimately I felt my perspective on what was happening change by having it presented in such a viscerally relatable manner. Dickenson is a master of putting himself (and the reader) in the mind of someone different and also correct in their way. Call it steel-manning or call it true empathy, it’s awesome either way.
The biggest issue with this story is the large cast. There are a LOT of people who matter, with many existing relationships, and some of them with multiple names. It was sometimes hard to remember who was who. I recommend taking quick notes. It is absolutely worth it.
One of my favorite books now. Highly Recommended.
Book Club Review: Not everyone was as thrilled with this book as I was. Dickenson doesn’t coddle his reader, and expects you to put in effort. One fellow club member said he’s almost like Peter Watts in his attitude of ‘Keep up or drown, I don’t have time to talk-down to you,’ except “not as bad as Watts.” :) I don’t think they meant it as a compliment, but…
Another member felt that Dickinson was a bit over the top in some respects, and absolutely relentless in others. Be ye warned – the title of this book is accurate. Baru is not called “The Monster” without reason. If you do not wish to feel the things that would drive a monster, this probably isn’t a good read for you. There is nothing gratuitous, but there is a lot of Grim here. I, of course, love this. And there is absolutely a point to it, it is worth taking this journey. But I can see how it could be overwhelming.
Given the beauty of the prose, and the interesting twists that will spark conversation, and the things the author is saying/implying about what we value today and what we sacrifice in the pursuit of it… this makes for a lot of good talking. It’s work, and it’s not easy to read, which probably makes it a harder sell for book clubs. Check in with your group first to make sure they’re up for a harder read. Nonetheless: Recommended.
In my previous post Guys, Take A Knee, I had several people express confusion as to what I was talking about. I turns out I’m taller than average, and most people cannot take the action I was recommending.
I realize that, at nearly 6’3”, I am statistically taller than average. But aside from rare occasions when my tallness is being called on for a specific purpose, I never feel tall. I simply feel like a standard-issue human.
Back when I was overweight, I never felt fat either (surprisingly, that came after I lost the weight). I just felt… normal.
I have two exceedingly short friends who both have told me they never feel short. They feel like they’re on par with everyone else, and are surprised to see themselves in pictures standing next to taller people and being significantly smaller. Or about the rare rude shocks of being reminded of their shortness when a typical task for everyone else is beyond their reach.
I wonder if this is a similar phenomenon to the Typical Mind Fallacy? They don’t seem like they’re the same, as TMF often is a result of the fact that no one is explicit about their mental processes (most of the time), and since we can’t read other people’s minds we can only assume they work similar to ours. TBF doesn’t have that problem, since we CAN see our bodies, and how they compare to others nearby. How the heck would one miss the fact that they are taller/shorter than most people around them? But they seem to both tap into a sort of invisibility-of-the-self, a lack of awareness of oneself as a distinct thinking unit (or physical object). I am not a body in the physical world. I am not a brain running a prediction engine. I simply am.
I think this is also why I can never remember what the protagonist of a story is supposed to look like. They become the Invisible Self, a Me by other means, and so physicality drops away.
Except, of course, not everyone is like that, as another commenter pointed out. It’s fascinating that there are so many ways to be human. :)
In most *written* secondary-world Fantasy, and far-future Science Fiction, race doesn’t much matter. Because those worlds aren’t contemporary, and written word is a non-visual medium.
Synopsis: A number of ordinary men are abducted and forced to relive the crimes of infamous psychopaths in recent history as part of a bizarre research project.
Book Review: After I finished it, it took me several days of thinking about this book to decide how I felt about it.
It is exceptionally well-written, as one would expect from a long-time, award-winning author. When I read this book, I really felt like I was in the UBO facility. I could see it and feel it around me. But it’s very dark. Like, ugly dark. Many parts of the novel made me feel ugly reading them, and I wanted to purge myself afterwards. Which is also good writing, just not a trip some people want to take.
The thing is, when you get to the end, you’re left wondering, what was all this for? In the penultimate chapter the protagonist gives an answer to that question, but it’s not a satisfying one, and it seems to be contradicted by the final chapter of the novel. And that final chapter… wow. It’s like emerging from underground after being trapped in a collapsed mine for twenty-one days and finally seeing the sky again.
In the end, I think every reader will have to come give their own meaning to this story. For myself, I view it as treatise on depression. The entire book up to the last chapter is what living with depression is. Everything is crumbling and dirty and rotting. All of humanity is wicked, and you are literally unable to gather the will to fight it due to subconscious sabotage. Merely existing is an ugly act. And one keeps asking oneself – why? What is all this for? Why are we enduring all this, what’s the point?
Why am I reading this?
And then the final chapter gives you your answer. It gives you the bloom of color that keeps you going, in spite of it all. Because there is some beauty out there that’s worth it.
I kinda like books that makes me think for days before I know if I like them or not. And I have a long history with depression. So in the end, I’ve decided I love this novel.
In fact, looking back on the past couple years, it seems that I’ve really liked all three horror novels we’ve read. I never read horror, because I associated it with torture-porn and sadistic grossness. But maybe I’m a horror guy at heart? And I should be reading a lot more of it? Something to ponder.
In the meantime: Highly Recommended!
Book Club Review: There’s definitely quite a bit to talk about here. The book is very open to interpretation and imposition of meaning. But as someone pointed out, people often force meaning onto unpleasant and awful things, perhaps in an attempt to make the experience have some value aside from just suffering. “If you were unavoidably hit by a baseball bat every day, you’d find meaning in it…” and so forth. And much of my book club did not think the payoff of having this book to ponder over was worth the price of having to read through depictions of being a killer. I think this is certainly not a good choice for people with certain sensitivities, so I can’t give it blanket recommendation.
But on the other hand, I would have never picked this up myself, because I thought I hate horror. I only read it because it was part of the book club reading, and I’m so glad I did. If you do pick it for a book club, it’s probably best to warn people beforehand. I’d give it a recommendation for provoking discussion, but only with caveats and some knowledge of your members’ personalities.
That being said, if you are me or sufficiently like me, read this!
1. For the past 15+ years you’ve either lived alone or with a housemate whose level of dirtiness tolerance is much higher than your own, and thus you are the primary/sole cleaner of common spaces,
2. You urinate via external genitalia.
Sometimes when I use a public restroom I see cute signs over the toilets or urinals that say “We aim to please! You aim too, please!” As a often-cleaning person (trait A) I absolutely sympathize with these signs. However I’m pretty sure the people who place them don’t have experience urinating with external genitalia (trait B). My penis is, perhaps sadly, not a precisely crafted piece of rigid machinery. It’s a floppy, biological pee-tube. Its physical characteristics vary widely based on temperature, excitement, and recent storage conditions. It sometimes hides subtle kinks or pinches that are not apparent from sensation or visual observation. And there’s no way to “set it to true.”
What I’m saying is, when first one lets loose to pee, ain’t no damn way to tell what’s gonna go where. You just point in a direction, hope for the best, and quickly adjust if expectations don’t match reality. If that’s possible… On occasion a weird pinch will get you a sorta split-stream effect, and adjusting for one makes the other go haywire, and oh god, why is this happening, what did I ever do to deserve this??
This isn’t normally the case, of course. 97% of the time you point, the urine goes basically were you expect, and everyone’s happy. But those other 3% can be a killer.
But even that’s not entirely true. Because even in those 97% of the times that go according to plan, there’s splash. Have you ever let a garden hose trickle from waist-height into a shallow pool of water on the ground? Or held a straw-full of soda a foot over your almost-full glass and then let the liquid drop into the glass? Imagine that effect for 21 seconds. A toilet bowl is deep enough to catch almost all the tiny flying droplets that splatter everywhere… but not quite all. There’ll always be a few little buggers with Olympic aspirations making a leap for freedom that get up onto the seat or rim, or sometimes even further. (This is why carpet in a bathroom is the most disgusting idea known to man. Yes, even worse than pineapple on pizza).
I’m sure that for marking one’s territory far and wide, external genitalia was a godsend. But in the modern era, it is the undisputed inferior way to pee.
And yes, while in theory one could sit to pee like our internal-genitalia’ed brethren, very few people do so.
First, it’s weird. Sitting is what I do to poop. When I sit down on a toilet but I don’t have to crap, my butt gets confused. “What am I doing here?” it asks. “Should I go now? Is it my time? I’m not ready, but ok, here I go…” and the rest of me is all “Wait, no, goddammit! It is not your turn!” And then there’s just chaos.
Second, it’s slow. I gotta take down my pants and undergarments, and turn around, and lower myself, before I can even start. And then I have to do the whole thing again in reverse. Ugh, such a pain. Ain’t no one got time for that.
Third (this is gonna sound kinda sexist, but dammit, I’m stuck in this same patriarchal bullshit as all the rest of you so don’t judge my socially-instilled bad instincts) it feels girly. I know girly isn’t bad. I know this is a stupid emotional reason to not do something that makes sense. But I still live in a time/place where I’ll be looked down on and thought less of for sitting down to pee, but not for spraying urine all over the bathroom stall. Or at least, looked down on less.
But there is one action that solves all of these problems. One blessed act of physical strength and dexterity that turns one from a hated pest to a noble defender of virtue. I speak, of course, of Taking A Knee.
First, Taking A Knee is not weird. There is no confusion with any other common actions, unless one is in the enviable position of being knighted frequently, or in the unenviable position of owning a pair of shoelaces that will not stay tied. Either way, not your butt’s problem.
Second, it’s basically just as fast as standing and peeing. Ok, there’s a split second of extra action required, but it’s barely noticeable. Kneeling has been the preferred way of getting closer to ground for Men of Action since time immemorial, due to how quickly and efficiently one can go from standing to kneeling and back again. It’s literally closer to the starting-spring position of a sprinter than standing is. Should an enemy kick down your door while you are kneel-peeing, you are in a perfect position to launch right into an up-the-wall-flip emergency parkour move to turn the tables on them.
And it solves all the problems of peeing with a squishy meat hose! No matter how that urine stream bursts forth, when you’re starting out at the same level as the toilet’s rim it’s nearly impossible for the pee to travel up and over it. And being mere inches away from the porcelain means it never gains enough velocity to splash more than a smidgen.
Obviously you don’t want to do this in public bathrooms, where everyone else has been peeing on the floor and your knees will be soiled. But in your private dwelling, doing this will save you a ton of cleaning and unpleasantness. My life has been much improved by this simple fix. And if you are at the private residence of someone who you like, and who’s bathroom looks well-kept, consider kneeling at their place too. They’ll thank you for it later. Except, only in their head. Not literally, out-loud, to you. That’d be weird.