Monday, January 15, 2018

Lake effect snow.

Mareefe | CC0 | Pixabay
You thought I forgot about posting this week, didn't you? Of course I didn't forget. Today is a federal holiday here in the U.S. -- Martin Luther King Day -- and a lot of businesses are closed today. So even though it's Monday, it feels like Sunday. So it's like I'm posting on time, if you squint just right.

Okay, fine. The real story is that I have a bit of personal-life business to attend to this week, so I've driven from my home near DC to northern Indiana. Alert readers of hearth/myth will recall that I set Seasons of the Fool in this neck of the woods, and there are several scenes in that book that are set in the winter, and they involve snow. And today, true to form, I found myself driving through a couple of snowstorms to get here.

I explained this once before on this blog: I grew up on the eastern tip of Lake Michigan, 60 miles away from Chicago by land, 30 miles as the crow flies. The Chicago Loop is west-northwest of Michigan City's lakefront. In winter, storms typically sweep across the country from west, or north, to east. The wind blows across the lake and picks up moisture there, then dumps the moisture -- usually in the form of snow -- when it hits land on the east side. That's called lake effect snow, and the folks who live here get it all winter long.

I was commiserating with the locals about it earlier today. If Chicago gets two or three inches of snow out of a storm, the Indiana side of the lake gets a foot. Well, maybe six to eight inches. Although the difference hardly matters when you're shoveling the stuff. And you never quite know how much you're going to get -- it depends on how much snow the storm decides to dump on you.

The thing is, you get used to it. You get out your winter coat and boots in late October or early November, and you keep wearing them through March, or sometimes mid-April. The snow sticks around and gets dirty and ugly, and more snow falls on top of it. It piles up. You spend several months out of the year picking your way over snowbanks and hoping you don't get snow down your boots or your socks will be wet all day long. And of course you go to school, because the region gets too much snow for the schools to shut down every time a couple of inches is forecast.

It's been cold here this weekend, too. We had a cold snap in DC over New Year's, and I had to think back to how my mother used to dress me so I could stand on the corner and wait for the school bus without getting frostbite. As best I can recall, it involved a layer of underclothes, then a shirt or dress, tights, pants over the tights, socks over the tights with the pants legs tucked into them, a sweater, and shoes. Then came the winter coat, hat, mittens, and boots. Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to class when I was in elementary school, so when I got to my classroom, I had to shuck several layers -- coat, boots, sweater and pants -- before I could sit down at my desk.

When I got to junior high, the school board eased up a little bit; girls were then allowed to wear pants in class if the temperature was below freezing at 7:00 a.m. Something like that, anyway.

We didn't stay indoors all winter, either. We played outside a lot -- building snowmen and snow forts, and ice skating on the tennis court that the fire department flooded for the village every year.

It's been nearly 40 years since I lived in northern Indiana. Good thing I didn't completely block out the memory of those early years -- it's come in useful several times over the past few weeks. But I hope that when I get home, it's warmed up enough that I can shove the memory back in its hole for a good, long while.

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These moments of frosty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Women with agency and the fanboys whom they make uncomfortable.

First, a show of hands: Has everybody who intends to see The Last Jedi seen it already? It's been out now for several weeks, and...

Oh, fine.

***Warning: Spoilers! Turn back now if they would upset you.***

Are we good now? Okay.

There's been a fair bit of, um, consternation in the fandom over this movie, as there was over The Force Awakens. Certain male fans were dismissive of the plot of Episode VII -- it was derivative, they said. Too much like Episode IV (a.k.a. Star Wars for those of us who are old enough to have seen it when it was first released), in which a nobody, overly endowed with sensitivity to the Force, is dubbed the One Who Can Save Us All and is dragged into a galactic war. Except this time our savior is female.

So when The Last Jedi kept Rey as its protagonist and brought along a cast of multicolor and preponderantly female Good Guys, the True Fanboys (tm) complained even louder. The problem, though, as this post at Bitter Gertrude points out, is that the complaints about this movie are all over the block. "Derivative" makes a comeback, but a myriad of other criticisms tag along, many of which cancel each other out. The film wasn't funny, or it was too funny, or it was funny in the wrong ways. The plot is terrible, or the acting is terrible (really? Have these people not seen Episodes I-III?), or the pacing is terrible, or... something.

And Leia! How could she have saved herself from certain death in deep space? It's not like she could wield the Force herself or...anything... Oh, right. "There is another," Yoda says in Return of the Jedi -- another strong wielder of the Force than Luke, he means, and he ain't referring to Chewie.

But never mind that. Something is wrong with this movie. The True Fanboys (tm) are sure of it. They just can't quite put their finger on what it is.

It occurred to me while reading that Bitter Gertrude post that I've heard this song before. In fact, I've been hearing it since 2004 -- the year The Runes of the Earth, the first book in the Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, was released.

As this third series opens, Covenant himself -- who has headlined the past six books -- is dead. He can't be the main character. Well, okay, he could be, but not plausibly. Not yet, anyway. Some other stuff has to happen first. So the author chooses Linden Avery, MD -- Covenant's lover in the Second Chronicles -- as the protagonist for the Last Chronicles.

Copyright by zorm | DeviantArt.com

That's Linden, in the crook of Frostheart Grueburn's elbow, helping the Giant fight off a skurj attack by wielding the Staff of Law.

Predictably, the fanboys didn't like it. Linden is whiny and indecisive. (Never mind that Covenant spent six books being cranky and indecisive. I guess cranky beats whiny?) She's too focused on her adoptive son (who's -- hello! -- missing). The book moves too slowly. It's too late in the series to bring in a whole new magical race that we've never met before. And so on. Some fans of the author even went so far as to start a conversation about how they would have written the book differently. (My response: You want to write a novel? Knock yourselves out. Let me know how it works out for you.)

But everything always came back to Linden. They just didn't like her. They wanted Covenant back.

Sure, part of it was that they'd grown to love Covenant. But just like with Rey and Leia and Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, part of it was that Linden wasn't male. And just like with today's True Star Wars Fanboys (tm), male fans of the Chronicles got really testy when I suggested to them that their reaction to Linden was gender-based.

My point, I guess, is that this discomfort with women in lead roles has been going on for a long time, and I think the only way it's going to change is if it keeps happening. At some point, women protagonists in traditionally-male roles in fantasy and sci-fi will become so commonplace that nobody will question it anymore. So kudos to Disney and the team behind this series of Star Wars movies. Keep doing what you're doing -- and may the Force be with you.

***
These moments of bloggy Resistance have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Living in liminal time.

Happy almost 2018! We're a few hours short of midnight here as I write this. Hoping to get it online before the world goes mad...

Alert hearth/myth readers know that I talk a lot about liminal spaces. This time at the holidays is such a space -- perhaps the only one that still gets a nod of recognition from modern society. I don't know about you guys, but I've had the sense multiple times over the past week that this time between Christmas and New Year's is sort of a throwaway week, that we're in a sort of holding pattern while we wait for life to start up again. Admittedly, my sense of "what's the point of this week?" might have been exacerbated by the fact that I went in to work at the day job every day -- one of the few at my workplace who did.

But these weeks between the solstice and the turn of the year have long been considered a time out of time. Early calendar calculations left a short stretch of days that didn't fit evenly into a month. The Romans used these days for their Saturnalia celebration -- which included the appointment of a mock king who ruled over the drinking and debauchery.

Christmas celebrations in medieval England included a similar figure, popularly known as the Lord of Misrule -- often a peasant who was elevated to the lofty position to oversee the drunken mayhem. There's some evidence that the idea of a Lord of Misrule began as a pagan custom and was later tolerated by the church to varying degrees.

In any case, nowadays the holidays pretty much end with New Year's Day. It's the last hurrah for the season of big parties (unless you count the Super Bowl, which used to be in January, but I digress), and the last chance, too, to take a breath and think about how things went for us in the past year and where we'd like for them to go in the year to come.

I read a blog post earlier today that suggests spending part of this evening meditating, envisioning how you'd like for the next year to look and what you'd like to see happen, both personally and in the world around you. The idea is that imagining a thing in detail is the first step in making it manifest. Personally, I think dreams require some work on the part of the dreamer before they are made manifest. The Universe sometimes operates on chance, it's true, but typically your overnight success has toiled in obscurity for years.

On the other hand, it can't hurt to have a vision of where you want to go. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes, just as soon as I post this.

Happy 2018, everyone. May you manifest everything you desire, and may the new year be better to you and yours than the old year was.

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These moments of manifest blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, December 25, 2017

"I believe," said Sage.

A few nights ago, on the eve of Yule, I read a new story live on Facebook. It's a Christmas story, more or less, and it stars Sage and Webb, those two crazy kids from the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. In case you missed it, here's the link.

Last time I tried linking a Facebook video on the blog directly, it didn't work -- so if you're not on Facebook, the link probably won't work. Just to cover all my bases, then, here's the text of the story. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and see you back here next Sunday to help me kick 2017 out the door.

Thirteen-year-old Sage Curtis sat stiffly in the back seat of her parents’ SUV, her arms crossed. “Tell me again why I have to go to this thing,” she said.

Her mother, who was driving, glanced in the rear-view mirror and shot Sage a look that would have made a god behave. “Because Aunt Shannon was kind enough to invite you,” she said.

Sage’s ten-year-old brother Webb turned toward her with a bounce. “Come on, Sage. It’ll be fun!” he said with a happy grin. “There will be cookies…”

“And about a million little kids.” Aunt Shannon had invited all of her nieces and nephews.
“Kerry’s coming,” Mom put in.

“She is?” Webb asked, his face lighting up. Kerry Hanrahan was Sage’s best friend. Webb adored her.

“Yes, Mother, she told me,” Sage said, ignoring Webb. “That’s the only redeeming thing about this whole stupid party.”

“Santa’s coming, too,” Webb said.

“Oh, for gods’ sake,” Sage snapped. “You know it’s just Uncle George in a red suit.”

“It might be the real Santa,” Webb said.

Sage stared at him. “You’re not serious. You don’t still believe in Santa, do you?”

Webb faced forward and pulled some string from a pocket of his pants.

“Mom,” Sage said, shocked out of her bored pose. “Do something!”

“What do you suggest?” Mom said, glancing in the rear-view mirror again. It looked like she was suppressing a smile.

“Talk to him!” Sage said. “He’s too old to believe in Santa!”

Webb shot her a sly smile and went on fiddling with the string in his hands.

“What are you making, Webster?” Mom asked.

There was that Trickster grin again. “It’s a secret,” he said.
Aunt Shannon’s house was already in an uproar when they arrived. “Thank the gods you’re here,”
Kerry said, her blond ringlets bobbing as she met Sage just inside the front door. “These rugrats have nearly tripped me three times already. Come on.” She grabbed Sage’s hand and led her through the throng, past the towering Christmas tree in the living room and into the brightly-lit kitchen.

“Oh, good,” Aunt Shannon said as she fussed over a tray of cookies. “You’re here. Where’s your mom?” Sage opened her mouth but didn’t get a chance to reply. “Would you girls please take care of the cider? It’s in the dining room. Paper cups are on the table.”

“Sure, Auntie, no problem,” Kerry said, pulling Sage through another door.

“Only fill the cups half-full!” Aunt Shannon called after them. “The kids will spill it otherwise.”

The dining room was relatively quiet. Kerry set the cups on a tray while Sage poured.

“So I found out something shocking today,” Sage said. “My brother still believes in Santa.”

“No way!”

Sage nodded. “Yes way. He was all excited in the car on our way over here.”

Kerry looked thoughtful. “Maybe he just identifies with the spirit of the holiday.”

As if on cue, Webb poked his head in the doorway. “There you are!” he crowed. “I have presents for you.” He presented them each with a small, misshapen packet of silvery paper with tape liberally applied. “Uncle George helped me wrap them.”

“I can see that,” Sage said dryly.

Kerry had pried the tape off one end of her gift and peered inside. “Oh,” she said faintly, and turned it over. Something finely woven of red and gold strands slid out onto her outstretched palm.

“It’s a hair holder thing,” Webb said as Kerry shook it out and tucked her hair inside it.

“You made this for me, didn’t you? I love it!” she said, hugging him. “Thank you, Webb!” She turned to Sage. “What did you get?”

Side-eyeing Webb, Sage unfolded an end and dumped her gift into her hand. Her “hair holder thing” glistened green and gold. As Kerry helped her stuff her straight black hair into it, she asked, “What does it do?”

“You’ll see,” Webb said, that Trickster grin back in place as he ducked out of the room.

Sage wanted to go after him...but it was too late. She was flying.

Flying! Soaring above rooftops. Higher than the trees. As high as the mountains!

Webb knew she hated flying. He was going to pay for this…

But she wasn’t flying under her own power. She was in a sleigh. Pulled by… reindeer?

Slowly, she turned. Sure enough, a fat man in a red suit stood behind her in the sleigh. His beard was as white as her great-grandfather’s hair. His smile was so bright, it rivaled the moonlight on the snow below. And he was definitely not Uncle George.

“Ho, ho, ho!” the man boomed. “Hello, Sage! Your brother has pulled quite a trick on you!”

“Yeah,” she said, scowling. “He’s a real joker.”

“My dear child,” the fat man said gently. “So scornful for one so young. But then you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” He leaned toward her. “Tell me,” he said in a confidential tone. “What’s your fondest wish?”

 She swallowed hard. “To be normal,” she whispered. “I don’t want to shoot fire from my eyes. I don’t want to be able to fly. I don’t want to have to save the Earth.”

“I cannot give you that,” the fat man said sadly. “I can’t change who you are. But I can give you something better.”

“What?”

“Love,” he answered. “Joy. And hope.” He laid a gloved hand on the crown of her head. “Go in peace, Sage Curtis, and save us all.”
When she came back to herself, no time had passed. “Come on!” Kerry said. “I hear Uncle George!”

Hand in hand, the girls entered the living room, just as the front door opened. Uncle George, his ponytail peeking out from under his Santa hat, bellowed a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!” as he came in. Following him was a reindeer who winked deliberately at Sage.

She grinned. “Hi, Dad.” As he ambled past her, she looked out the open door. There, silhouetted against the moon, was a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, with a fat man holding the reins.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Uncle George said again.

And Sage whispered, “I believe.”
These moments of joyful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.