At last, I know what a childhood of X-Men reading prepared me for: coping with the severe cognitive dissonance when different components of/perspectives on a fictional world are staggeringly different from each other in tone.
Except that, where X-Men (and similar) comics have passed through countless creative teams over several decades (and are a big enough thing to have all kinds of quirky sideline projects), in this case, said staggeringly-different aspects are written by the same person.
I'm now mostly caught up on K.B. Spangler's work in the A Girl and Her Fed (AGAHF) universe, which consists of the ongoing A Girl and Her Fed webcomic and five novels (so far), one of which is Not Like The Others. Oh, and the first of a planned series of novellas cheerfully (and accurately) codenamed "Joshsmut".
I came at this world...out of order, I guess, in that I started with the novels. I'd heard of the AGAHF comic and had been meaning to read it, but I do better with novels...and I didn't really realize how intertwined the projects are. Here's an io9 review of Digital Divide, the first Rachel Peng novel. (Four of the five novels currently available focus on Rachel.)
(Note: I'd heard of A Girl and Her Fed off and on for at least a few years, and had it on my to-read list before I mentally connected it to the Rachel books, but I never really looked into what it is...even though I always tripped, and still trip, over the title because I always parse it wrong. My instinct is still to read the "fed" as a conjugation of "feed", not as "federal agent", which makes no sense at all. How am I STILL DOING THAT?)
So Rachel was my gateway. Rachel as we meet her is a smart, driven, ex-military federal employee who's working as the liaison between the D.C. police force and her own federal agency, OACET, which is made up entirely of a large group of cyborgs. More specifically, a large group of cyborgs created in a catastrophically flawed project that took some of the best and brightest young civil servants from across the federal government, put chips in their heads, and left them collectively traumatized and disturbingly overpowered.
Emphasis on the "collectively". The (functionally nonexistent) "So You're A Cyborg" manual didn't have a chapter for "Welcome to Your New Hivemind! (Please stop screaming! Everyone can hear you!)"
Rachel's books start several years after all that, and several months after she's joined the above-mentioned police force, for the express purpose of helping to ease the public into the idea that Cyborgs Are People Too!, and super-useful to boot! And guys, I love Rachel dearly, so she was a great gateway for me. I kept going with her books until I discovered that the sole (so far) Hope Blackwell novel is set before Rachel's fourth book, so I opted to both read that book and finally backtrack to read AGAHF...
And it turns out that my X-Men experience is only barely up to this whole experience. ( cut for length; there's about as much text under here as there is above )
Two things of note:
1) Spangler is in the process of redrawing the first chunk of AGAHF. I don't know when she started doing that, or how quickly it's progressing, but the result is that the first 90-100 strips or so have been redrawn (each one linking to its original version) and have had some dialogue tightened and some plot holes smoothed out, but then you run out of redrawn art and get dropped into the original art style for a while, and it's...well, it's pretty jarring. (Here is the current/redrawn first comic; here is the original version. So you see.)
2) I'm not great at picking up things that call for content notes/warnings, unless they're pretty obvious. But one thing that bothered me, and recurred often enough that I feel like I ought to mention it, is the frequent use of "psychopath" (plus some instances of "sociopath") as a descriptor. ( briefly expanding on that; not very spoilery )
"Social workers began going door to door in San Juan housing projects, explaining that a pill could be taken daily to prevent pregnancy. Once women were told what the pill did, they signed up by the hundreds. However, these women were not informed that they were part of a clinical trial or that the treatment was experimental."
"Side effects [of the vaginal implant] can range from chronic pain and loss of sexual function, to major complications like the implant protruding through the bladder, or bowels, even necessitating removal of organs ensnared in the mesh. It can shrink inside your body, slicing through nerve endings, tissue and organs."
"If someone makes the effort of going to doctor after doctor, and all they are given is a pat on the head and told, 'Oh, sweetie, you'll be OK—you just need to smile more,' that is a failure of the physicians." Article covers both social biases (like doctors assuming a woman's problems are psychosomatic instead of doing tests) and biological ones (like researchers only testing on male mice, leaving them with huge gaps in knowledge regarding biologically female humans).
"The Gay Men’s Chorus posed to illustrate the impact of AIDS. Those dressed in black, with their backs turned, represent those who had died." This 1993 photo is a punch in the heart.
"The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care."
And for something more hopeful:
An experiment, recounted in comic form: If you put rats alone in cages, they'll addict themselves to morphine. If you put them in an enriching environment with a bunch of other rats to hang out with, they'll avoid it.
Gisella Perl, the "Angel of Auschwitz" -- who got that title by providing abortions, so the Nazis wouldn't have pregnant Jewish women to experiment on.
"As what was thought to be the largest referral service in the country, which referred an estimated half million women for abortions in its six years of existence, the [Clergy Consultation Service] had significant market power that it leveraged to reduce the going rate for an abortion." The name isn't a euphemism. It was literally a coalition of Protestant and Jewish religious leaders.
"Intersex advocates are rejoicing at a paper released by three former US Surgeons General. The surgeon-generals called for an end to forced medical surgeries on young intersex people."
sent to beta
had a cheeky break
dealt with life
Discussion: reading. What kind of fics do you like to read?
What I Just Finished Reading
Lhind the Thief, by Sherwood Smith, which I had as part of the Light in the Darkness collection. Lots of really unusual worldbuilding, and great characterization.
Jackalope Wives and Other Stories, by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon). In addition to the award-winning "Jackalope Wives" and "The Tomato Thief", there were lots of other delightful stories here. I loved the bird ones (of course.) $3.99 on Kindle today, and worth every penny!
What I Am Currently Reading
In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan, which I saw recommended by Martha Wells yesterday, and checked out on a whim. I have not laughed so hard in ages! Every single YA portal-fantasy trope is sliced and diced with consummate skill. I am very much looking forward to settling in to finish it this afternoon.
What I Am Reading Next
My hold of Golden Hill, by Francis Spufford, has finally come in! I have been waiting to dig in to this.
Question of the day: What books/movies/TV shows are you looking forward to right now?
But that notwithstanding, we got some erranding done and had dinner and saw Atomic Blonde with lawyer!friend, who we hadn't seen in...a month or two? (I can't even with time.) So the day wasn't a wash, just frazzling. ("Just". -_-)
(I didn't know until the opening credits that Atomic Blonde is adapted from Antony Johnston's graphic novel The Coldest City, which I'm wholly unfamiliar with, so I have no idea how faithful to it the movie is.)
Three Amazon-related things, weirdly (and very tangentially, in the third case):
--Question: if you have a trial Amazon Prime account and preorder something that won't come out until the trial ends, and you don't opt to keep Prime, do you then pay for shipping when the item is released and ships to you? Or is it still the free/quick Prime shipping because of when you ordered it?
--I don't know if I'm more confused by Amazon's insistence on sending a separate email for every order represented in a package when they bundle items from multiple orders together, or by the fact that the emails don't all come at once. Did I really need four email notifications about one package? And why did it take over ten minutes for them all to arrive, start to finish? (Don't try to answer the "why they don't all come at once" part; I'm sure there's a technical reason, but that doesn't/won't change my feeling that it's silly for them to not arrive all at once.)
--And finally, Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands (the polished/expanded novel version of The Turn of the Story, which she serialized online and which I love fiercely) is out today! It's a BOOK! A book I'll be able to hold in my hands! With mermaids on the cover! It's been fleshed out/revised and edited, and we'll get the ending from Elliot's perspective! (The Turn of the Story is from Elliot's POV, but its original ending was actually written before TotS and is a story in the Monstrous Affections anthology, and is from Luke's POV.)
...and for whatever reason, at least on Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca, the hard copy of the book is still slated to release on August 25. >.< I have a preorder of it via Kas' Prime account, as does Ginny. But the ebook version is already available for both Kindle and Kobo, and the book is officially out today in general...so I think I'm going to cave and buy an ebook copy too, so I can read it.
Here's Sarah's release-day post! The book has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers’ Weekly, and Sarah says "Bullied due to his personality! Inability to keep his mouth shut! I love how the reviews so far have been like: the hero is a terrible pill, but we are willing to buy this pill and take him home."
And here is Small Beer Press' post about the book's release, which opens with "Five years ago Sarah Rees Brennan emailed Kelly her story, “Wings in the Morning,” for our anthology Monstrous Affections. It was long: 17,000+ words in that early draft — although Sarah told us the actual first draft had been 30,000 words".
So you see, I've both already read and not read this book. I already adore it; I also, unsurprisingly, have a corner of my heart saying "but...but this means the story I already love is changed...?" and worrying a bit. But mostly I'm thrilled about it finally being a BOOK I can HOLD. And did I mention the mermaids? (I did.) Elliot, for all his brattiness and lack of enchantment with the magical place in which he goes to school, is appropriately entranced by and appreciative of mermaids.
Serene! Luke! ELLIOT! My heart...!
Some people join the challenge midmonth, or comment on check-in posts without signing up, which is fine -- I'm glad there's a way for the challenge to be useful in a variety of ways.
But for those of you who find the commitment of signing up useful, please leave a comment with the below information.
Signups will be open until the end of August.
- Level of challenge: 1 chapter, 1000 words, 1 fic finished, whatever you like
- Fandom(s) involved: if you know at this point
- What you're looking for from the challenge: this could be as vague or specific as you like: someone to be accountable to, someone to remind you to write, someone to bounce ideas off, etc.
- What you could offer other participants yourself: ditto!
- How people should contact you: DW message, e-mail, IM etc.
- Time zone: useful for seeing who might be up for a writing session at a time convenient to you
I couldn't continue to run this challenge without assistance with the daily check-in posts. Many thanks to everyone who's helped with the check-ins before!
Please let me know if you'd be interested in helping out. A week per person would be ideal (I usually assign weeks running Sunday-Saturday just for consistency). I'm happy to help come up with suggestions for discussion topics (& Friday or Saturday is usually the general chat/snippet/beta-seeking etc. post).
(& if you've completed a fic through the challenge, don't forget our collection on AO3! If you need AO3 invites, let me know.)
sent to beta
had a cheeky break
dealt with life
Discussion: midway. As were roughly halfway through the month (give or take a day), how are you getting on with your goals?