But those words make sense separately

Isn’t it funny when you see a particular piece of social fail replicated in different areas all in one week after not seeing much of it for months and months? The example I can use that seems least likely to be acrimonious for people reading this is adjunct professor, assistant professor, associate professor: these are all different things, but people who have not paid attention to academia may well not be able to parse by looking at them which one does what with which status, which pay, which opportunities for advancement, which authority over which other persons.

By way of saying: other people’s industrial terminology is not automatically intuitive even when it looks simple enough, and it’s best for all of us to remember to ask maybe? Before going around with grand theories and pronouncements about how it all should be handled? All of us including me. Yes.

The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

Review copy provided by FSG.

Ten pages into this book, I thought, why have I not heard of her other books? A hundred pages in, I went and put them on my library and Amazon lists. Because: sold. Yes. This is one of the times when I see that something is only the first part of a trilogy and think YES GOOD MORE rather than OH CRUD NOT AGAIN.

So one of the two main characters. Kestrel. So well-done on so many, many levels. First of all, Kestrel is allowed to be a strategist, both by inclination and by–brace yourself–study. She is not merely a natural prodigy. She gets better at strategy by studying it and thinking about it. Also, she has blind spots instilled by her culture and upbringing, so even though she is both strategic and treacherous (we love treacherous heroines!), she is not infallible even in the areas of her skill. I loved that. I loved that she was a competent fighter and that she used her areas of more-than-competence to get around her areas of mere-competence.

I loved the blind spots. Really, truly I did. Because Kestrel is on the winner’s side. Kestrel has been raised by the powerful in the empire, in the slave-owning empire, and even when you have compassion for your slaves, even when you have asked for freedom for your very favorite slave and have a loving relationship with her, even when you think that you understand about the things that slaves are not free to choose–even with all of that. If you are part of that culture, if you are that part of that culture, there are elements of it that do not just evaporate like the morning dew no matter who you meet, no matter what happens. And Kestrel was written just beautifully that way.

And Arin, the other main character, has his blind spots, too. He has the places where the things he has learned has taught him to expect very different things of Kestrel than what she is willing to do, able to do, interested in doing…they are perpetually wrong-footed with each other in all the right ways. It works so very well. There are games and friendships and music and politics and I love it.

(I will note that the politics does not happen right away. Trust me. There will be politics.)

And this book: if you are thinking, oh, the winner’s curse, that’s an economics term: you are correct. It is indeed that winner’s curse. Marie Rutkoski has written a YA fantasy novel with a major central love story around an economics term. She’s explored it on more than one level. Because she is smart and trusts young people to be smart. And also old people. Whoever, really. I appreciate that a lot.

Administrative note: comments on the blog side

Is anybody attempting to comment on marissalingen.com instead of on lj, and if so, are you getting error messages? I haven’t shown anybody attempting to comment since, oh, last summer, but I got an email report that there were too many comments in moderation. And I don’t know if it’s that that person has too many comments in moderation in this system elsewhere or what, but I show zero comments from anyone in moderation (and the person attempting to comment would have been approved on this blog, as they are well-known to management and a substantive and civil commenter). So…any problems from anyone else? I just assumed all conversation was happening on lj. Holler at my gmail (which is marissalingen) if you have troubles, worries, etc.

If you just like chatting on lj instead of on the marissalingen.com site, that’s totally fine, no worries.

Dialect nerding with Mris

Okay, another dialect question. Haven’t done one in awhile. Does your home dialect contain the phrase “a goin’ concern,” usually applied to small children? And if not, would you still have some sense of what “that child is a goin’ concern” might mean if someone else used it, or would you be completely in the dark?

(Sometimes when I’m talking to my grandmother things come out of my mouth that I never, ever say to my friends, and then I stop and realize that I have no idea if I don’t say them because it’s an old-fashioned phrase we just don’t really use or if I don’t say them because my friends would find me incomprehensible. And this is what the internet is for! Someone might have told you it was for porn. Someone nicer might have told you it was for kitten pictures. They were wrong, or rather, they were right but in the broader sense. It is for assuaging random curiosity. And I do have a most ‘satiable curtiosity.)

Also: if you are a person who says “a goin’ concern,” at what age does a person stop being a goin’ concern? Because I am now a little worried.

Asking for a friend: the not-amused edition

I have a friend who has developed an academic interest in what she terms neo-Victorian kids’ lit (/MG) and YA. I have asked, and she does not draw a firm line between that and steampunk. Recommendations, anti-recommendations, interesting works to discuss: go.

I’ll start: Chris Moriarty’s The Inquisitor’s Apprentice fills my heart with joy, and I only wish she would write another, or I only wish they would publish another, or something. (That is, however, Victorian era but US setting. Not sure if it matters. Friend can show up and say so if it does.)

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

I never met the man, but you can spot him at whatever age. Whether you’re watching the Weavers videos from 1951 or the concerts before the first Obama inauguration in January of 2009, Pete led with his grin. You can see immediately that it’s the same guy because he’s lifting his chin and grinning in the same way. With so many 94-year-olds, you’d say, well, he had a good run, or, I guess he was about done, it was time for a rest. But with Pete, no; with Pete there was still so much to do. There was always so much to do.

Because Pete Seeger was one of those people who appeared to honestly and truly believe in improving the world. All the way through. He was blacklisted and shut out for so many years after the HUAC testimony, and he kept on singing about making the world a better place, and he kept on making the world a better place. I’m a Gen Xer, the young end of Gen X; grunge and cynicism are my coming-of-age music. Also I am not a fan of the banjo. But in college I discovered Pete Seeger, and I just couldn’t resist. Fell in love with the Peteness right away. And when you hear him in person, as we did in 2011, when you hear him sing “We Shall Overcome”–not only do you believe for a minute that we shall, but for a minute you can even believe in we. Even if you’re a congenitally grumpy Xer. Because Pete.

Just last week, Timprov and I were driving home with four new tires and zero new photos (…long story), and I asked what he wanted on the CD player. And he said, “I don’t care…wait, have we got More Together Again?” And we did, so we put it in: Pete with his grandson Tao and Arlo Guthrie and other musicians they know and like. And we sang along all the way home, “Midnight Special” and “Abiyoyo” and “Guantanamera” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “This Land Is Your Land,” all of it, all of it, through the dark night home with Pete.

Edited to add: I realized the obvious thing to link. Here, have Precious Friend.

Lockstep, by Karl Schroeder

Review copy provided by Tor Books (in eARC form).

Karl Schroeder is very good at doing SF that no one else is doing. In this case he’s combined lack of FTL travel with extensive robot presence and effective ubiquitous hibernation, so that colonies choose a ratio of months “wintering over” to months awake–common ratios including 360:1 and 270:1–so that their bots can harvest resources for humans providing much more limited drag on the system.

He does a really good job of not drawing attention to some of the questions that spring to mind most immediately as problems for me in this system, and one of the key skills of writing SF is drawing reader attention towards the things you find interesting and away from the things you do not. (In my case, the first few problems that sprang up were “what are these colonists doing–not their bots but them” and “how does human development work with hibernation, given that almost every long-hibernation creature we know of mature before hibernation/estivation.” There were not really characters shown doing serious high-level work or small-child characters.) He did show a little bit of raiding of the hibernating planets by those out of sync with them, so that was satisfying.

The main focus, though, was on family relations. The main family core of this book actually reacted to each other like family, which I found satisfying, and so did the secondary dynamic family. The resolution of the power dynamics relied very much on who they were in relation to each other, and I enjoyed that very much. I also found this to be a satisfying stand-alone, not the beginning of a series whose resolution is entirely unknown as yet.

The diversity of the “seventy thousand worlds” was a little more referred to than shown, and I was halfway through the book when I was clear on how things like linguistic drift were working over a fourteen-thousand year time-scale. I would like to see less of a unitary culture even with characters like Evayne working to keep it that way–but I was willing mostly to behave as though it was only that those were the worlds these characters cared about. (I did wish that Our Hero had been willing to run off to some worlds “no one” cared about, or at least to consider it as an option. There’s a lot of “no one” in the universe.) But even with those caveats: more like this but different. Yes. Definitely an interesting thought experiment.

Public service announcement from the frozen north

Did you know–I did not, which is why I am telling you–that they sell little compressor dealies that will plug into the cell phone charger slot in your car? (It is not either the cigarette lighter. Ours never once came with a thing that would light cigarettes. It is the cell phone charger.) So that if you regularly go places that are so cold that a) your tires will deflate somewhat and b) the air hoses at gas stations will freeze, then you can just carry this solution along with you in the car, and it is a very small box and reads out the pressure for you so you can tell how long to run it?

Obviously this is not a solution if you have shredded a tire so badly that it is more of a tire fringe than a tire. Very few things are a solution to that, and you probably already know what they are. But if you have a slow leak, or if you are just in the cold conditions described above and your tires are fine, then you can have this lovely little gadget that will set your mind at ease about being stranded somewhere with mildly flat tires. Or if you worry about someone else you know who goes places where this might apply, then you can stop worrying about them. The nice-ish ones are $30. They sell even less-nice ones for less than that. It is a thing that should be known. So now you know it.