skygiants: Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle with Calcifer hovering over her hands (a life less ordinary)
So I tried an experiment to see if it was possible to make a Howl's Moving Castle book vid using Howl's Moving Castle movie footage. Results: ???

(Results mostly that I need to get better at figuring out how to change targeted colors in Adobe Premiere, let's just pretend it's fine.)

Title: In Which Sophie Expresses Her Feelings In The Absence Of Weedkiller
Music: "You're A Cad," The Bird and the Bee

Download link
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
As a present for [personal profile] izilen, I wrote Another Country, the Dalemark/Oxford Time Travel crossover that nobody, not even [personal profile] izilen, actually asked for.

Ironically, features no actual time travel.
skygiants: Hazel, from the cover of Breadcrumbs, about to venture into the Snow Queen's forest (into the woods)
So now that I'm no longer secret for Yuletide, who wants to talk about Hexwood? POSSIBLY my favorite Diana Wynne Jones (although as we all know that is a constantly shifting target.) So complex, so id-tastic, so completely fucking weird.

On Tumblr recently I said this about Hexwood:

My favorite thing about Diana Wynne Jones’ Hexwood continues to be how it is basically just Diana Wynne Jones triumphantly checking off an entire trope-bingo card. Diana Wynne Jones, thoughtfully perusing someone’s imagineyourotp list:

- linked by a psychic soulbond!
- forced to co-parent a small child!
- cute office coworkers AU!
- middle ages AU!
- contemporary high school AU!
- one of them has amnesia!
- the other one has amnesia!
- aliens try to make them do it!

and looking at her romantic leads, who are ALREADY a galactic revolutionary space heiress and an angsty mind-controlled slave who assassinates people for the evil overlords that her family is trying to overthrow, and being, like, “yeah, OK, pretty sure I can also hit all these in one book.”

AND SHE DOES, and the book isn't even ABOUT all of that, is the thing. (Although in a way it is, because what is the main theme of angsty fanfic AUs if not the amount of physical and psychological trauma that a person can take and still retain a self that is capable of loving others? The Bannus is the world's most dedicated writer of hurt/comfort idfic.) Anyway. I don't actually think DWJ started out by planning to write the world's greatest one-book fanfic bingo square, ALTHOUGH MAYBE SHE DID. I waffle on where I think DWJ did start out when planning Hexwood, because it's a book in which almost every main character turns out to be somebody completely different from the person they're introduced as (and they don't usually know it) and, like, how do you even start planning out that plot in advance?

But today, at least my strongest hypothesis is that Diana Wynne Jones started by reading at Arthurian myths, and said, "well, there's sure a lot of weird incest in that story," and then she looked at Norse mythology and said, "well, there's also even more weird incest in those stories," and then said, "hmmmm, you know what would make all that weird incest make sense? If it was all part of a GIANT GALACTIC BREEDING PROGRAM."

...and let's just stop for a minute and remember that Diana Wynne Jones wrote a book about a giant galactic breeding program, among other things. Hexwood is actually probably DWJ's most weirdly sexual book? Which also goes back to the idfic factor of Mordion and Vierran's relationship, and is especially strange for a book that I think ... is probably ... in large part about parenting? Or at least child-raising. The most important lesson in the book, the one that everything is about getting Mordion and Hume both to learn and internalize, is that the ultimate sin a person can commit is in thinking of a child as something to be used. Such as, for example, in a GIANT EVIL INTERGALACTIC BREEDING PROGRAM. It is not the child's fault if they are used, but it is their responsibility not to go on to do it to anyone else.

Which also is all tied in with the ways that the book is also about trauma and recovery, and how it is therefore very deliberately structured incoherently -- "like human memory" -- or like a traumatic experience relived. Sometimes with the help of a giant sparkly diamond net of manpain. Wow, this post is possibly more incoherent than the book. I JUST LOVE HEXWOOD A LOT.
skygiants: Natsu from 7 Seeds, looking determined, surrounded by fireflies (survive in this world)
It's time for Yuletide reveals? It's time for Yuletide reveals! I wrote three fics this year, one assigned and two pinch-hits:

A Course to the Ocean, Ivanhoe

This was my assigned fic, which I struggled with a bit initially as it rapidly became clear that I should have thought a little harder about offering a dense text that I had only read once, and not in several years. My recipient asked for friendship between Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Maurice De Bracy; after rereading the book I saw some fun loose ends in the text of Ivanhoe to pull on that would allow me to put together a "Brian lives!" AU, and went from there. (It remains a challenge for me to write any kind of Ivanhoe fic that doesn't have Rebecca in it, but to be honest Rebecca is probably happier being out of it.)

As a sidenote, this was my second year in a row attempting to pastiche a Victorian author attempting to pastiche the medieval era. Sorry, Sir Walter Scott; I could not bring myself to go the full forsooth.

Germination, 7 Seeds

Pinch-hit number one! I actually had already bookmarked my recipient's amazingrequest for futurefic about Natsu, the world's most social anxiety-ridden post-apocalyptic heroine; when I saw it come up on the list I leaped upon it with the speed of a dozen giant feathered dinosaurs, because I LOVE NATSU and the slow process of watching her grow into herself is one of my very favorite things about 7 Seeds. It turns out writing futurefic for open canons is kind of nervewracking, especially when you are trying to juggle a cast of forty people, and also have decided to do several thematic conversations between people who have never actually met yet in canon, because ... it seemed like a good idea at the time? I also did not expect initially to be writing about extinct natural contraceptives. Or Hawaiian generation ships. Or evil dinosaur chickens. But this is what 7 Seeds does to your worldbuilding, basically. I also accidentally wrote myself into shipping Natsu/Semimaru, though Natsu/self-esteem is still my ultimate 7 Seeds OTP. I did sadly fail in my effort to get any one of the characters to describe the imaginary future town where Ran and Nijiko have set up shop as "the land of lesbian infrastructure," but that is what it will always be called IN MY HEART.

Impulse Control, Hexwood

Pinch-hit #2! And what a terrible title, wow. If I'd had another week, I would have attempted to write the EPIC POSTCANON HEXWOOD SPACE OPERA of my dreams, but with the 7 Seeds fic rapidly ballooning I only had time for this relatively short slice-of-ruling-the-space-empire life instead. Mostly I came out of this experience a.) happy that I had the excuse to reread Hexwood and poke a little at some of the MILLION sparky loose ends left at the end of canon and b.) deeply resentful that there isn't more Hexwood fic in existence. Come on, the book ends with our heroine forming a universe-ruling coalition with her ex-brainwashed ex-assassin boyfriend, their accidentally adopted son Merlin, and Merlin's two nephews, one of whom is our heroine's annoying fake little brother and the other one of whom is King Arthur. IT'S THE WORLD'S WEIRDEST SITCOM.
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender points fingerguns (sokka says stay cool)
December 4th! [personal profile] the_rck asked me about one book I think everyone should read, which is a question I'm having a lot of trouble answering. People are so different! There are very, very books I would actually recommend universally. And even the books that I think almost everyone would like doesn't mean I think everyone should read them. VALUE JUDGMENTS ARE DIFFICULT. Like, I do think Howl's Moving Castle, for ex., is almost universally charming to some degree but I don't need it to be imposed on a high school curriculum!

...that's a good way to think about this, though, I guess. What books would I put on a curriculum, if I were designing one? Here's a few uncategorized options:

The Steerswoman, Rosemary Kirstein, because as well as being a good book it's a really useful way of understanding the scientific method

The History of White People, Nell Irvin Painter, because hey, let's start thinking about whiteness as a socially constructed race like everything else and not as a default template, thanks

The Stories of Ibis, Hiroshi Yamamoto, because yes, let's talk about sociology and humanity and relationships in the digital age, hypothetical high school classroom, let's do it!

Black Maria, Diana Wynne Jones (or Aunt Maria, depending on your edition), because OF COURSE I'm putting a Diana Wynne Jones book in my hypothetical classroom curriculum. "But why Black Maria, you don't even agree with most of Black Maria, it's full of bizarre gendered weirdness!" you may say, to which I say, "YES, ABSOLUTELY, LET'S ALL READ IT AND PICK IT APART AND TALK ABOUT IT." :D?

...uh, I don't think this really answered the question that was asked at all. Apologies!
skygiants: Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist with her arms over her eyes (one day more)
My first December meme post! ... will be written up very quickly because of a series of unfortunate events this morning that involved me missing my scheduled bus back to Boston and then accidentally leaving my laptop charger behind in New York in the subsequent chaos. (I did eventually make it back to Boston, I am not stranded in Port Authority in the rest of my natural life, though it felt for a while like a near thing.) Therefore I have about three hours of laptop battery life to hoard until Friday when my charger and I will be gloriously reunited, which will make for an exciting week.

But that's not what I'm supposed to be talking about here, my topic for the first day of the December meme, as requested by [personal profile] applegnat, is a woman I love and why!

I have two obvious answers to this question, because they are two women who made the bedrock of who I am, and the first is my mom and the second is Diana Wynne Jones.

Why do I love my mom? I mean aside from the whole mom thing, it's because she just keeps doing impressive and incredible things, and has been president of this and honored by that and was the first woman to achieve a full professorship in her department, et cetera et cetera, and if you'd just heard about her in that context you would have quite a different image of her I think than the person she actually is, which is the version of her I usually write about and so you guys hear about, this enthusiastic dorky weirdo who'll get briefly and hilariously obsessed with terrible television shows, who invents robots with iPads for heads in her spare time, who turns everything hard that's happened into her life into a wacky story, which is a convenient way of processing emotionally difficult things that I have inherited and which I'm grateful for. I'm really quite a lot like my mom in a lot of respects, which I am sometimes conflicted about, but there a lot of ways in which I am very, very happy and lucky to be like her.

So that's my mom, who shaped the way I interact with myself, a lot of it. And then there's Diana Wynne Jones, who shaped the way I look at other human beings. I mean, I've said this before, but I do think that because of Diana Wynne Jones I learned early to love characters for all the ways in which they're not perfect, for all their flaws in personality and all the ugly thoughts they carry around. And that translates over well to loving real people, I think, loving them for the people that they are, not the people that you want them to be, and loving them for all the ways in which they're not perfect. Diana Wynne Jones isn't perfect either. I love her for that, too.
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
I was scared to read The Islands of Chaldea. In order to make myself read it, I had to get it out of the library, and then let it sit around for a while so I could get used to the idea. I read it on the day before it was due back.

And now that I've read it still don't really know how to write about it. I mean, I've got stuff to say, I just don't know how to say it. It's not that the magic wasn't there, except sort of wasn't. But it sort of was. There are a lot of ways in which, as a book, I liked it better than Enchanted Glass. On the other hand, it was hard not to spend large swathes of the book making unfair comparisons. I could write a whole essay on how Islands of Chaldea seems to lie closer to Dalemark in some ways than anything else DWJ has written (and Ogo is vastly less interesting than Mitt Alhamittson but he has the same physical frame and silhouette, which in DWJ doubles-parlance probably means they split off the same archetype in her mind.)

It does read like Diana Wynne Jones, prose-wise, which means that it's easy to read in some ways, although it hurts in others. I guess maybe the best way to put it is that it feels like there's much more surface to it than there should be. It's like when you jump into a pool, expecting the water to be pretty deep, and it's not, so you stub your toes. But you can still enjoy paddling.

Also, as someone who has in the past spent significant time trying consciously to pastiche Diana Wynne Jones, there were definitely times towards the end when I'd eye a sentence and think, "that sounds so archetypally Diana Wynne Jones that she can't possibly have written it." I mean I would recognize it as the sentence I would have written at that point, if I were trying to sound like Diana Wynne Jones. Which is kind of an interesting feeling to have.

... this is a really useless entry. Have I even said anything about the plot of Islands of Chaldea? There are some very British islands, and a magical barrier, and the cast of characters has to go on a road trip to fix it, there you go. I don't know, someone else please come talk about this and help me sort out my emotions, because I'm clearly not doing a great job of it on my own.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (country road)
I always forget just how much I love Archer's Goon until I reread it.

This is one of the set I mentally classify as DWJ's Really Weird Books (which are of course all the ones I love best.) In it, thirteen-year-old Howard Sykes finds that a group of seven ambiguously super-powered wizard siblings are planning to take over the world as soon as they get rid of whatever block is stopping them from leaving Howard's town.

The block, it seems, has to do with some rubbish short stories that Howard's famous-author father has been writing once every three months, and all of the wizard siblings are now determined to get their hands on them -- and they are not averse to using their powers to do things like shut off all the power, dig up the street in front of Howard's house, send marching bands and disco dancers to harass them at all hours, and stop the family's bank accounts. Every member of the household has a different reaction to all these goings-on:

QUENTIN, HOWARD'S FATHER: storms around shouting dramatically about MEGALOMANIAC WIZARDS and how AS A TAXPAYER and CITIZEN OF THE WORLD it is his bound duty to not write any magical words for anyone! He must TAKE A STAND!
CATRIONA, HOWARD'S MOTHER: is very, very unimpressed with all these wizard shenanigans, until it turns out that super-powered wizards could potentially cause her to lose her job, at which point she becomes very unimpressed with Quentin
AWFUL, HOWARD'S BRATTY LITTLE SISTER: seems to have discovered a new joy in life, which is to be as bratty and terrible as possible to every single super-powered wizard that she meets
FIFI, AWFUL'S FRAZZLED BABYSITTER: is not very comfortable with all these goings-on, until she meets Archer, the sexy oldest wizard brother, and suddenly becomes a little too comfortable with these goings-on
THE GOON: is a tower of strength in their time of crisis! For the record, the Goon does not properly belong to the household; he's a giant gorilla of a person who shows up as Phase 1 of the Campaign to Acquire Quentin's Words and sort of amiably refuses to leave until Quentin produces some words for Archer. Eventually, since there seems no getting rid of him, they make him up a bed on the sofa and set him to running errands and barbecuing in the backyard

You may have noticed something especially unusual about this description now: Howard's parents ALSO have to cope with 'surprise, there's magic!' This is something I feel I always want to see in kids' novels and never do; usually it's the kids' jobs to take care of everything while the parents remain oblivious. Archer's Goon is emphatically NOT THIS. It is, instead, very much a book about families, and how some things about the ways families interact remain the same no matter what the circumstances -- not just with Howard's family, but with super-powered wizard siblings, too, who have a complex family dynamic all their own.

Also, Quentin and Catriona are also probably my favorite set of parents in a DWJ book. They're completely human and super flawed, and prone to tremendous arguments, and not always particularly great people, but the fact that they really love their kids is never in doubt.

Ahhh, Archer's Goon! I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I mean, it's not perfect, and the ending is horrendously unfair to spoilers ) -- but, I mean, no one is saying that anyone involved in making these decisions are actually good people, and I love all the characters too much anyway to care. (Also, where is all the fic about [SPOILER] coming and inviting Awful to rule the world?)
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
While we're talking about Diana Wynne Jones, I guess it's time to write up Reflections: On the Magic of Writing.

So here's a story: in January, I was hanging out in a Denver bookstore, and [personal profile] adiva_calandia found Reflections on the shelves. "Becca!" she said. "BECCA! You NEED this!" and handed it to me.

I didn't buy it then. The reason I said was because it was an expensive hardcover, and I knew I could get it out of the library; this was true. The other reason I didn't say at that time was that I was scared. Diana Wynne Jones and her books have meant so, so many things to me, and what if I read her essays and found out something I didn't want to know?

Well, one cannot live in fear. So I did get the book out of the library, and I read it, and for the most part I'm very happy I did. I did find out a few things I didn't want to know, most notably spoiler-cut in case I'm not the only one who doesn't want to know! )

Then there were some things I was glad and entertained to know, like DWJ's Thoughts On LOTR, and various hijinks-y stories about books coming true, and the millions of sources that went into Fire and Hemlock. (Did anyone else pick up about Thomas Lynne also being Cupid before reading that essay? "Blind and uses a bow," what a gloriously terrible pun. I mean, she means it as in 'and Psyche,' but the mental image is nonetheless hilarious.)

And then there were things that it hurt a bit to read but I'm glad I did -- like, I've known for years that Diana Wynne Jones often had a hard time writing female protagonists because they re too close, and all you have to do is read Aunt Maria to see her struggles with her own internalized sexism and issues with being a female person. But it doesn't make it less of a home hit to hear her talking about reading Britomart in The Faerie Queene and thinking for the first time that it was all right to be a girl, she could still be a hero, that was possible.

And I forget if it was DWJ herself or one of her sons who pointed out that she writes an awful lot of writer protagonists, and most of them end up somehow sacrificing something significant for it. That hit me home, too.
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
A couple years ago, I made a lengthy Dalemark Quartet playlist!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Dalemark Quartet, they're set in a culturally and politically divided nation and are some of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones books -- I mean, okay, I have a lot of favorite DWJ books, but the Dalemark Quartet is quite different than a lot of hers books, much less madcap, and much more thoughtful and numinous and sad, with themes about war and revolution and history and storytelling and mythology woven all through it. (It is also one of the main influences on the Attolia books, so, you know, if you like those . . .)

The books in the series, which all stand alone except for the last one, are described in more detail under the cut. )

Anyway, the reason I am suddenly lauding these books to you now is that today [personal profile] izilen emailed me unexpectedly and said, "HEY BECCA I MADE YOU COVER ART FOR YOUR DALEMARK MIX AND ALSO PUT IT IN A MEDIAFIRE FILE FOR EASY DOWNLOAD," because she is amazing.

So hey! Have a Dalemark playlist with proper gorgeous cover art which you can then click to download in convenient .zip files!

 photo CartandCwidderFanmix_zps004649b1.png

 photo DrownedAmmetFanmix_zps9391f46c.png

 photo TheSpellcoatsFanmix_zps56f8260d.png

 photo CrownofDalemarkFanmix_zps8f5f00c6.png
skygiants: Nice from Baccano! in post-explosion ecstasy (real nice girl)
Yuletide reveals are live! I wrote three fics this year, thus officially ending my streak of writing one more fic each year than the year previous, ah well.

My main assigned fic was Nice Holystone Remains Unafraid To Throw Herself Into Explosive Situations, a Baccano! fic about Nice and Jacuzzi, and Eve Genoard, and Al Capone, and obviously a whole lot of bombs.

I got called out as the author of this almost the first day the archive opened, which, I will admit I was sort of expecting, given that it is exactly like all my other Baccano! fics in being enormously long and having a ridiculously convoluted plot full of lulzy cameos and too many puns. In short, I AM THE SNEAKIEST NINJA. (Although I laughed so hard when I saw the comment -- [personal profile] nextian, it's not fair, I didn't even know you'd seen Baccano! I guess you have probably earned some sort of fic-shaped prize if you want one though, so let me know!) One way in which this is not exactly like all my other fics: people actually make out onscreen! THIS IS A STRANGE AND PERPLEXING THING FOR ME. Generally as far as I get is people hanging around not making out due to their issues. So go me, I guess?

The other full-length fic I wrote was And Every Homestead Holds a Ghost, a Downton Abbey pinch-hit I grabbed for [personal profile] newredshoes, because a.) I love her and I wanted to write something for her and b.) I'd been eyeing her prompts for the past two months. So, uh, HAPPY YULETIDE, ESTHER! :D

I think I may have been slightly more successfully sneaky on this one,even though it's much more the kind of thing I usually write - gen, ensemble-fic, and what [personal profile] genarti called a very Diana Wynne Jonesish ghost, although thinking back it was probably based more on the Shirley Jackson I'd been reading than anything else. I spent a few days complaining to my long-suffering betas about my extreme frustration with the fact that the Downton Abbey Christmas special was not going to air until the day after fics were due; then it did air and spoilers! )

Lastly, I wrote Barriers for Hexwood as a Yuletide treat, mostly because [profile] dictator_duck and I had been talking about Hexwood a lot recently and I had it on the brain.

Barriers was a weird fic for me to write. Basically, it was my effort to show some of Mordion's severe and complex psychological trauma, while keeping a DWJ-ish style, and also trying to deal with the fact that Hexwood -- while containing absolutely nothing sexual and barely even romantic onscreen -- is nonetheless one of the most strangely sexual of DWJ's books. (ALIENS TRY TO MAKE THEM DO IT. Still not over that one.) I have no idea if I succeeded in any of this, and basically what it boils down to is a proud return to form of people hanging around not making out due to their issues, so, uh . . . happy Yuletide, world!

Edited to add: I forgot that I was also going to use this time to talk about what I wrote for Kaleidoscope, since I never did that! I wrote Soulmates Never Go Out of Fashion, a Capital Scandal backstory fic about Cha Song Joo and Woo Wan being lulzy friends that officially means that 50% of the Capital Scandal fic in existence was written either for or by me! CAPITAL SCANDAL-INATING THE COUNTRYSIDE, ONE FIC AT A TIME.

Also now I can say thank you to everyone who took the time to listen to my Yuletide (and Kaleidoscope) flailing and read my fics in their proto-form: [personal profile] genarti, [personal profile] thewickedlady, [personal profile] agonistes, [personal profile] saramily, [ profile] rushin_doll, and [profile] dictator_duck. (Special kudos go out to Gen, who refused to let technology defeat her and wrote out a detailed line beta for my fourteen thousand word Baccano! fic THREE TIMES OVER. That is dedication far above and beyond the call of duty.)

Speaking of Gen: I may have forgotten to mention it, but I kidnapped her for an awesome weekend that included hijinks and fic-planning and the lovely [personal profile] aquamirage, and today she's driving me back up to New York, where we will proceed to kidnap [personal profile] jothra! So I have been scarce and will probably continue to be for a few days, and you can all spend your time being jealous. :D
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
If anyone ever asks me what my favorite Diana Wynne Jones novel is -- well, actually, the thing is that nobody ever would ask me that because they know very well it would set off an eternal round of "the Dalemark books are so excellent as a whole -- no wait maybe Hexwood, it is just so hilariously weird! -- but Howl's Moving Castle is a book nobody could dislike, so --" and eventually end in Out of Cheese Error, Reboot From Start. BUT if I was forced at gunpoint to pick a top five, The Homeward Bounders would definitely be in there floating around near the top.

The thing is I just think -- setting aside all personal preferences and cool bits -- it's one of the best books that she ever wrote. For one thing, unlike with many DWJs, the premise is simple enough to be summed up in a sentence: twelve-year-old Jamie Hamilton stumbles upon Beings Of Terrible Power playing games with the world and promptly gets kicked out to wander the multiverse until he can find his way back Home. For another thing, again unlike with many DWJ's, it has an ending that's actually an ending, and it's a killer one.

And for yet a third thing, it has Helen Haras-uquara, PROPHESIED SAVIOUR OF HER WORLD, POSSESSOR OF THE MAGIC DEMON ARM, and the most badass and least socially competent teenaged caterpillar collector in the multiverse; and it has Joris, who is polite and helpful and the best boy scout demon hunter ever, and who is full of simmering anger about being a slave; and it has Konstam Khan, who is ten feet tall (sort of) and strong and brave and handsome and totally blind to his own privilege; and Adam, who is an admirable and terrible person in the way that cool-headed, clever children are admirable and terrible; and Vanessa, who lets everyone cry on her shoulder but forgets basic kindness towards her family; and Jamie himself, who is funny and resilient and callous and a smarmy little brat and a survivor, and an amazingly unreliable narrator, and who breaks my heart every single time.

And every time I read the book I love them all more, and then I have to find someone else to make read it so I have an excuse to babble about it all over again. [personal profile] innerbrat fell on the bullet after this particular reread, but watch out; YOU MAY BE NEXT.
skygiants: (wife of bath)
Oh man, I have been looking forward to this one. [personal profile] kd7sov asked me for my top five love songs I associate with specific characters! This is my favorite way to listen to music, because I am an enormous dork with thirty vids in my head that I will never acquire the technical skills to make.

Cut for what turned out, unsurprisingly, to be long! )

YOUR TURN. Share with me the songs that you associate with your favorite pairings! Or anti-pairings or friendships or whichever, really. Anything goes!
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
The Time of the Ghost ranks way high up there among the absolute weirdest of Diana Wynne Jones' books, so of course it's one of my all-time favorites.

It's also even more difficult to talk about than Diana Wynne Jones' weird books usually are, starting from the fact that even the protagonist has no idea who or what she is. She seems to be a ghost, and she's fairly sure that she's one of a set of four adolescent sisters - who are as bizarre and believable and flawed and hilariously cranky as DWJ siblings usually are, and whose parents are even worse than the usual run of DWJ bad parents, appearing to regard their daughters most of the time as nuisances whom it is too much trouble to feed or clean. (This is Diana Wynne Jones' most autobiographical novel, by the way. The parents are very believable and very human in their terribleness, because they were in fact her parents.)

The sisters - Charlotte-called-Cart, Sally, Imogen and Fenella - have concocted a Plan to get their parents' attention. The possibly-ghost may have something to do with this plan. But there is also the evil ancient goddess who's molding outside in a henhouse to cope with, and the set of schoolboys the girls have adopted because they are equally bizarre (except the sexy one all the girls are in love with, who unfortunately is probably a sociopath), and then you get to the ouija board and the blood-collecting ritual and the ancient barrow wights in the Back of Beyond and pretty soon the entire cast is taking it in turns to make their own personal version of the Ultimate Sacrifice, and it really isn't what you think.

In case you did not pick up on it, this is a very creepy book; it fits in the set of DWJ books along with Hexwood and Black Maria, which if you've read those should give you something of an idea. I mean, Ancient Evil aside - which is creepy enough in and of itself - several different kinds of abusive relationships run through it, and are presented with as much matter-of-factness as anything else in a DWJ novel, and with the same kind of everyday humor and squabbling and flashes of absurdity. (I love the sisters and their dynamic so much. I love how they get along well in different combinations, how they switch on a dime between excellent teamwork and getting into screaming fights - and how the ghost forgets she is a ghost and starts screaming with the rest of them even though no one can hear her - and how whenever one of them is gone the rest of them start complaining vindictively about the missing one but clearly really miss her at the same time.)

For Yuletide this year, I desperately want postcanon fic about spoilers! )
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
Wow, it has been over a month since I did one of these Top Five posts! At this point I'm just hoping I get all of them answered less than a year from the time I originally did the meme.

Anyway, [ profile] lacewood asked me for my Top Five Awesome Ladies, which aside from being impossible to narrow down also has to be distingished from Top Five Badass Ladies (and also Top Five Cross-Dressed Ladies, and also Top Five Villainous Ladies, etc. etc.)

Under the cut! )

skygiants: (swan)
For reasons that are obvious, I'm probably going to be rereading a lot of Diana Wynne Jones here and there over the next few months.

Two weeks ago, The Magicians of Caprona is what I had to hand - which is not my favorite DWJ book exactly, or even my favorite Chrestomanci book, but that's really like saying that cheese bread isn't my favorite because it's not asiago cheese bread, and, yes, but it's still cheese bread and INHERENTLY DELIGHTFUL.

And The Magicians of Caprona really is inherently delightful. One of the things I love most about it, I think, is that it's all pulled together from tragedies and horrible things - it's made up of Romeo and Juliet and Webster's The White Devil and Punch and Judy (which I refuse to believe is not a tragedy) and the Italian civil war all stirred around together - and somehow by magic she turns all of those ingredients into one of her warmest books. It's about family and friendship and wacky magical hijinks! And war and doom and destruction of course, but MOSTLY the family and friendship.

The plot revolves around the warring spell-families, the Capulets Montoyas and Montagues Petrocchis, who are so busy feuding ALL THE TIME that they almost haven't noticed that the city-state of Caprona is falling apart and on the brink of war with like every other Italian city-state. Most of the book is from the perspective of Tonino, one of the youngest and quietest and least-magically-talented Montoyas, and even though the horde of learned great-uncles and VERY DRAMATIC aunts and quarreling cousins and siblings can get a bit overwhelming at times, he loves all of them and they all love him and you can tell. It is especially notable because: good parents! In a DWJ book! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

Of course you can tell from a mile off that there is going to be a pair of star-crossed Montoya/Petrocchi lovers - who are, by the way, one of my favorite sets of star-crossed lovers in all of literature for how cheerfully and matter-of-factly they go about getting around it, and because this is a Romeo and Juliet who actually care about their families! it's amazing! - and that Tonino and his brother Paolo are going to end up having to cooperate with Petrocchi daughters Renata and Angela (infamous for accidentally turning her father green) to save the day. It's how you get there that's the fun. The bit where the Montoyas and Petrocchis get extremely incensed at each other and have a GIANT MAGICAL FOOD FIGHT in the middle of the city is one of my favorites, because it starts off hilarious and then you realize that hey, this is actually pretty dangerous and might end up with someone dead. (Actually, the awareness that war is coming, and people might die, is a a very strong backdrop for this book under all the wacky hijinks - it struck me especially on this reread.)

Also Chrestomanci is in there somewhere, but you don't need to have read the other Chrestomanci books to enjoy this one; mostly he just shows up and is long-suffering, well-dressed and English at everybody.

But don't read this book if you're creeped out by puppets.

. . . and actually, don't read this book if you don't want to be creeped out by puppets. Punch and Judy will NEVER BE THE SAME.
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
I don't usually make posts for dead authors. By the time I find out about it it always seems everyone else has said what there is to say.

But if there is a single author I had to pick out of a long, long list of authors I love as being important to me, way at the center - as forming the way I think and write about the world - it would be Diana Wynne Jones. I honestly can't remember the first time I read one of her books; they're so much a part of me that it feels like she's always been there.

Thank you for everything, DWJ.
skygiants: Cha Song Joo and Lee Su Hyun from Capital Scandal taking aim at each other (baby shot you down)
[ profile] lacewood asked me for my Top Five OTPs! As with everything else, this is a difficult question to narrow down and will leave out many many things I love, but I WILL DO MY BEST, etc. etc.

Top Five OTPs )

Oh my god, that was the longest I have ever talked about shipping ever. EVER. Distract me from how embarrassed I feel by telling me why you love the relationships you love the most!
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (azula intent)
Okay, last top five request from [ profile] littledust: Top Five Villainnesses!

I actually managed to narrow it down to five this time! Mostly. )

Your turn! Favorite villainnesses? I know there are many awesome ones I did not have room to name!
skygiants: Pique, Duck and Lilie, from Princess Tutu.  HUGS FOR EVERYONE (group hug!)
I have not forgotten about my Top Fives! [ profile] littledust asked me for my Top Five BFF moments in fiction, which is a NIGH-IMPOSSIBLE REQUEST. So, fair warning: I am going to blatantly cheat. I am also going to babble a lot about dorky feelings. Stoic types who are embarrassed by this may wish to turn back here! I won't hold it against you.

Top five totally platonic BFF moments in fiction! And then a few more. Because I can. HUGE SPOILERS for Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Great Escape, Kamikaze Girls, Otherland, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Twelve Kingdoms; minor spoilers for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Princess Tutu, Twentieth Century Boys, Chronicles of Chrestomanci )

And wow, that was the longest meme-answer ever. SORRY EVERYONE.

Anyway, while I am on the topic of memes, and also friendship, and also ~feelings~ - I never remember to do or check anonymeme things! So I was shocked and astounded to find my name up at meloukhia's anonymous love meme. To whoever those people were, thank you; I am beaming all over my stupid face right now. I MAY NEVER STOP.


skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)

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