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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Rush-That-Speaks' LiveJournal:

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    Friday, July 11th, 2014
    11:08 pm
    new Strange Horizons review
    My review of Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song is here.

    Unsurprisingly, since it is by Frances Hardinge, I liked it a lot. It's not her best novel, but that leaves a lot of room for it to still be very good.

    Again I note, if you see me at Readercon, say hi, and PLEASE come to my reading at 2 PM on Sunday, as I am succumbing to the traditional fear that no one who is not my lover or otherwise family will turn up.

    You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
    Thursday, July 10th, 2014
    12:26 am
    my Readercon schedule
    A tad late, since the con starts tomorrow, but hey, at least it hasn't started already...

    Thursday, July 10th


    I... have a whole lot of things I could say about expected audience, and whether there is a difference between reviewing and criticism, and the way reading a reviewer over a long period of time does and does not reveal bias, and we'll see what direction this goes.

    9:00 PM ENL Readercon Classic Fiction Bookclub: Memoirs of a Space Woman. Amal El-Mohtar, Lila Garrott (leader), Sonya Taaffe. Naomi Mitchison's 1962 exploration of a life lived nearly entirely in space has deep humanist themes. Mary's specialty in alien communication leads to a life and profession of embracing the Other, literally realized in her accidental pregnancy via a Martian. We'll discuss criticisms of the book's heteronormativity and biological determinism as well as the themes of Mary's immersion in alien cultures.


    Friday, July 11th

    6:00 PM ENL The Convergence of Utopia and SF. Lila Garrott, Chris Gerwel (leader), Kameron Hurley, Paul Park, John Stevens. In a blog post about Readercon 24's utopia panels, Chris Gerwel wrote, "Utopian thought is a systemic 'what if' game: If we adjust the systems that shape our society, how will our society change?" Observing that "what if?" is at the heart of science fiction, Gerwel adds, "Can we have science fiction that isn't utopian? Or can we have a utopia which isn't science fictional?" This panel will tackle these and other deep questions about the nature of utopia and its relationship with SF.

    I think John Crowley gave this talk last year, but it should be an interesting panel.

    I have no programming on Saturday, but I should be around. I'm expecting this to be a fairly low-energy con, which means probably various people's readings, dealers' room, and, if it has turned out decently after the renovations, a certain amount of lurking in the bar. Say hello if you see me.

    Sunday, July 13th

    2:00 PM ENV Reading: Lila Garrott. Lila Garrott. Lila Garrott reads an excerpt from an unpublished novel, and possibly one or two published reviews.

    I am very sad to be scheduled against Gemma's reading! That said, PLEASE COME. Given the way con season works, this is the last chance I'll have to read from this book in public before it's Sitting On Someone's Desk Somewhere Waiting For A Decision and I am chewing my nails to the elbow about it.

    You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
    Monday, July 7th, 2014
    3:10 am
    recent happiness
    -- I was initially skeptical when the city of Boston bumped its fireworks a day early on no notice due to weather forecasts, and then even more confused when the show itself started more than twenty minutes before schedule. But then, when [personal profile] sovay and [personal profile] gaudior and [personal profile] jinian ([personal profile] jinian is local now yay my girlfriend living in town yay) and [profile] derspatchel and I were walking back from the hill nearby where we watch it, fwoosh. That is an approximation of the actual sound effect. I have been out in harder rain, but never in any that came on so suddenly. It went from completely dry to 'is there even air in this water' in .5 seconds. So we got to see the show without any hitches, as opposed to the terrible year when we got shooed off the Esplanade and later allowed back and all was chaos, and then we also got some of the most spectacular weather it has been my privilege to see in this city.

    -- did I mention [personal profile] jinian is local that is pretty boss

    -- This has been going on for long enough now that my impostor syndrome is dying down, so I may as well mention that I have been reviewing books lately for Publisher's Weekly. They practice strict anonymity (reviewers get their names in a list of contributors, but we aren't allowed to say what we actually reviewed), so I can't link you to the reviews, but that is a job that I have now. It is fun and I think it is good for my writing, because one has to cram a great deal of information into a very small wordcount, and so I have been forced to hyperfocus on my own ambiguities, loose prose, grammatical peculiarities &c. I certainly continue to indulge some of these things elsewhere, but I am far more deeply aware of what they are.

    -- If I did not have a terrible cold, I would have finished writing this novel by now. Wait, I am trying to accentuate the positive. I am so close to draft oh god oh god oh god I hate being ill.

    -- I was feeling so sick and tired and brain-drained and generally lousy yesterday that I watched The Fifth Element on Netflix, because sometimes one wants a Big Dumb Movie. And it was really dumb! The script had so many holes in the first scene alone that I seriously considered putting the whole thing on mute with no subtitles and just watching the scenery. But the design was all amazing, and the worldbuilding was really lived in and solid and had this grimy retro-future-of-the-nineties feel that was enjoyable. And, and this is genuinely great, it was the least white future I have seen in that sort of movie. Background characters are PoC, foreground characters are PoC, people in authority, people not in authority, heroes, villains, people just trying to do their jobs, competent people, not-so-competent people, all of these are PoC and it was so amazingly relaxing. There were about 2.3 egregious instances of sexism, but apart from that, it was a really painless experience as far as that sort of Big Dumb Movie goes. Also, I am happy that the hero has all of Viz's mid-nineties English-language manga titles stacked on a table in his apartment. It's blink-and-you'll-miss-it set-dressing, but it was so pleasantly nostalgic.

    -- Have finally gotten around to rewatching/finishing Mawaru Penguindrum after several years, which is nice. I watched a chunk of it initially with Thrud in Florence, Italy, clutching each other and whimpering at the things it was doing with and to Rose of Versailles, and then when I got back to the States I started showing the beginning to various people, and not all of it was out yet, and the end result was that I snagged in the middle. I have not yet gotten as far as I did the first time, so the director is still setting up the ways in which he is fucking with the audience and the genre on a metafictional level, as opposed, mostly, to enacting them. Which is to say I've gotten as far as IKUHARA WHAT ARE YOU DOING and not as far as HOW DID THEY GIVE YOU ANY MONEY FOR THIS THIS IS THE LEAST COMMERCIAL SHOW EVER MADE. Thoroughly enjoying it.

    And I think that's about where things are at the moment.

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    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
    3:04 am
    a meme
    [profile] tilivenn tagged me for one of those what-music-are-you-listening-to-lately memes, so. Why not. I'm so close to done with my current novel draft that I've started listening to the playlist for the next novel, which is not quite the same thing as 'the True Detective soundtrack on repeat forever', but is kind of disturbingly close.

    So, the first ten things that come up when I hit next on my music:

    'Far From Any Road (Main Title Theme from True Detective)', The Handsome Family
    'Cry Little Sister', G Tom Mac
    'Cat-Eye Willie Claims His Lover', Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
    'Hurt', Johnny Cash
    'Kid Fears', Indigo Girls
    'Ballad of Mary Magdalene', Cry Cry Cry
    'Sleeps With Angels', Neil Young & Crazy Horse
    'Pearl-Handled Pistol', Jeffrey Foucault
    'Black Soul Choir', 16 Horsepower
    'Drought', Vienna Teng

    ... yeah, that's actually fairly representative of what I've been listening to lately. Needs more Wovenhand.

    Speaking of which, recs for terrifying blues and folk and folk-rock would be nice right about now, as I have intentions of writing a Southern Gothic. 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand are the kind of thing I mean, scarringly sincere religious content not necessary but a bonus.

    Also, if anyone knows of any other female-led industrial/noise bands who sound anything like the Snake River Conspiracy, I'm looking for that sort of thing too.

    You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
    Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
    9:01 pm
    it's hard out there for a kit
    Usually, our two cats do not give us much in the way of sturm und drang when they have to go to the vet. Usually, this is because at least one of them is not feeling terribly well. Today, they had a well-cat visit, and I was not able to help Ruth wrangle them because I had a conflicting appointment for which I was leaving the house slightly earlier and in the opposite direction. In future, we may wish to consider well-cat visits as a separate taxonomic classification, as before I headed out I witnessed approximately the following:

    Ruth: *swoops down on Rafael-cat, puts him in his carrier*

    Lucien-cat: *makes a hellishly loud crashing noise somewhere in the bedroom, disappears from human ken*

    Rafe: I SHALL DIE.

    Me, to Ruth: I think Lucien went behind the filing cabinet and used that to get behind the bookcases somehow even though they are flush to the wall?

    Ruth: *begins climbing over the furniture necessary to determine this*


    Ruth: Not back here.

    Me: Where else could he be?


    Ruth: Under the bed?

    Me: The bed is really heavy, and we blocked it off really thoroughly.

    Ruth: *moves seventy jillion things with which we blocked it off* He's under the bed. Somehow.

    Rafe: O ANGST
    O WOE
    O DEAR
    O NO

    Ruth: *moves the bed, with great difficulty, prods at cat with broom*

    Lucien: *leaves bedroom in a flash*

    Ruth: So, okay, now I think he's in the living room closet, but I can't see him in here... ! He teleported into the kitchen.... got him! *stuffs cat into carrier*


    Lucien: I know where you all sleep

    Ruth: Okay, next time we catch Lucien first.


    Lucien: Our entire family is made out of meat

    And at this point I had to leave, and the problem is, I don't know which one of them ought to get the Oscar.

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    Friday, June 13th, 2014
    2:22 am
    recent anime
    I went through a couple of years of not watching very much anime, and I couldn't figure out what was up with that. There just didn't seem to be anything I wanted to watch. Fortunately, that's recently improved dramatically, so much so that I don't think it was just me, I think there were some bad years in there. So, some mini-reviews of stuff I have watched and am watching lately, in order of how much I like them:

    Akuma no Riddle (ongoing, has aired through ep. 10). SO. TRASHY. This is an anime about teenage girl assassins with torrid lesbian romance and Yun Kouga (Loveless) character designs, and it is even more ridiculous than it sounds. They've put their entire animation budget into having a different character song as an ending for every episode, the protagonist is a cipher who spends most of her time grunting and looking angst-ridden, random people keep turning out to be, like, cyborgs, and I am reasonably certain the ending is going to disintegrate in a puff of logic. I am enjoying the basically entirely female cast, the fact that the Damsel in Distress/Designated Target has saved herself repeatedly at this point and is the most competent person in the show by a huge margin, the ludicrously convoluted nature of the rules of the whole setup, and the queerness. Also if I was hearing correctly (the translation wasn't great, so I've been doing dialogue by ear) somebody was literally an Immortal from Highlander at one point, which was pretty hilarious. Available widely in fansub; if it's legally streaming they've titled it something different in English and I haven't found out what.

    Samurai Flamenco (finished, 22 episodes). Neither samurai nor flamenco are involved in this anime. It is actually good, but almost everything interesting about it is a major, major spoiler. It starts off as a parody of heroes-in-colored-suits shows such as Power Rangers, although you don't need to be familiar with those as a genre to get the humor. The protagonist, Masayoshi, is a young man who grew up on those shows and who is trying to become a superhero despite not having any superpowers and the general limits imposed on him by realism. He made his own outfit! He goes around on a bicycle lecturing people for littering! Then-- well, this show turns out to be a really interesting meditation on several topics, including The State Of Anime Today, the concept of superheroes and heroism in general, a comparison of the way the U.S. and Japan look at superheroes and their jobs, and, most controversially, a look at in what ways you can bend a genre's implied contract with its audience before said audience simply leaves. (A LOT of people walked away from Samurai Flamenco. It's worth staying! They know what they're doing!) I do wish it knew what to do with its female characters. Like, at all. In any way. Ever. Legally streamable.

    Hunter x Hunter (2011) (ongoing, has aired through episode 130-something, I am on episode 97). If they were going to take one thing from Shonen Jump magazine which had already had an anime and remake it with a bigger budget and more manga source material available, I am so very, very glad it was Hunter x Hunter. I loved the 2003 anime profoundly, despite the fact that they clearly had no idea where the story was going so they kept changing tone wildly, and then they got canceled in the middle of a major story arc and finished animating that arc as a direct-to-video with, basically, Sharpie and a couple of copy machines. Now they have enough manga to do foreshadowing correctly, and enough money to do actual shadows. Hunter x Hunter is one of the smarter shonen action titles, having sufficient worldbuilding that the mangaka made up his own alphabet for the series, and it has a different moral code than most action shows, in that the need to win at all costs is clearly demonstrated by the narrative to be pathological. It is one of the fandoms I have been in longest and I love it to pieces, even though the arc I am currently watching is in the process of breaking me. I have a devastating insect phobia and this arc can be summarized as 'the mangaka read George R. R. Martin's short story 'Sandkings' and then sat down and tried to figure out how to make it even more disturbing to people who hate bugs, with unfortunate success'. I am hoping it will be helpful in a desensitization way. Legally streamable.

    Kill la Kill (finished, 24 episodes). Clothes are literally evil! We must fight them! I hope whoever came up with this idea for an anime was given some kind of award by the founders of Gainax. Honestly, I expected the show to be unwatchable, but it takes its ludicrous premise and runs so hard with it that the sheer lunatic daring is hypnotic. It helps that, of course, a lot of the cast is female, on both the good and evil sides, but all of them are way more interesting and nuanced than they had to be; that the substantial male portion of the cast is just as ridiculously oversexualized as the female portion; and that it is never only the attractive people who are running around mostly naked. I think there may also have been an intellectual argument somewhere it wanted to push about conformity and fascism and the Japanese national character, but honestly nobody cares. Clothes! Evil! Except the talking school uniform which is the protagonist's armor/friend! Either you can go with it, or you can't, and if you can, it's a great deal of fun. Legally streamable.

    Kyousogiga (finished, 10 episodes). Honestly, I mostly started writing this entry because I wanted to burble about Kyousogiga. For the first few episodes, I was intrigued, but extremely confused. For a couple of episodes after that, I was delighted, but had no idea what was going on. And then I realized: there are many, many, many ways in which this is the closest thing I have ever seen in anime to a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, except made very, very, very Japanese. And then I spent the rest of the show smiling until my face hurt.

    It begins with a priest, who is one of those priests who is so good at drawing that the things he draws can come to life, and in fact one of his paintings, a painting of a little black rabbit, does come to life and falls in love with him. She is lent a body by the Buddha of the Future, and in various ways the two of them have several children. But this is a scandal to the entire surrounding neighborhood, so the whole family picks up and moves to the Land Beyond The Looking Glass... and that is where we start. The narrative is extremely nonlinear, focusing on characters rather than on chronology, and this was very frustrating for a while, because I couldn't figure out why they were doing it that way; when I realized just how much information the writers managed to cram into very little space, I understood. It has gentle humor, and aching sadness, and a scene where I said to myself 'huh, I always wondered where the train in Spirited Away went to, isn't that nice to know', and one of those DWJ-ish plots where even if you are looking for the catch and the twist, and even if you think you spotted it, it was right there under your nose the whole time and makes perfect sense and is a genuine outright surprise. Oh, and there's a thread of it that is Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. After so many Wonderland adaptations, it's nice to see a Looking Glass. Oh, and the priest is based on a real priest, who was an important figure in Shingon Buddhism and the founder of an important temple near Kyoto, though I don't know what the real one would have thought about marrying a rabbit. Also, the art is very pretty. Legally streamable.

    You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
    Saturday, June 7th, 2014
    7:26 pm
    chop *all* the things
    It has gotten to be the time of year where my first food thought is salad.

    This was not always how things worked, with me. For many years I thought that I hated salad. Certainly I never ordered it anywhere, and I actively hid from it at potlucks and cookouts. I would eat it when it was made at home, with a feeling of being deeply virtuous and also vaguely penitent. It turns out that I was wrong. I do not hate salad.

    I hate salad greens.

    Iceberg lettuce mostly tastes like nothing in particular to me, although there was an incident many years ago where I put lemon juice into a meringue before baking it (note: NEVER DO THIS) and the end result tasted distinctly and strongly of lettuce, to the point where I realized not only that iceberg lettuce has always had a very faint flavor but also that I have always disliked it. Cranking it up did not help anything. We took those meringues around to people and got two reactions: "Oh my God! It tastes like lettuce!" followed by "Wait, lettuce has a taste!", and then we threw the rest out.

    What is referred to as 'spring mix'-- escarole, endive, and the like-- is, since I am a supertaster, a palette of bitter on top of bitter with a side of bitter. I can handle Romaine, but it's dull. And I actively like spinach, but it's so much work, because even when you've only just bought it half the bag has gone mushy, so you have to pick it over to get those bits out, and then you have to wash it, and then you have to get the water out of it again somehow, and then if you're me you like it twice as much if it's been stemmed, and by this point you have been standing over one half-pound bag of spinach for forty-five minutes questioning your life choices.

    My epiphany about salad was that it does not have to have greens, and when it does not have greens, it comes down to one simple question: what is there in the house that I can chop?

    Because there is bound to be something. Just about any vegetable, blanched or raw. Nuts. Fruit. Boil some eggs, chop those. I don't do it myself, but I am told people chop toast and call it croutons. Dice some cheese. I have never encountered cold rice salad in the wild, but there is an Elizabeth David recipe for it in the house, so someone at some point somewhere did that.

    And you don't have to have very much of any one thing, either. The word here is 'garnish', or possibly 'accent'. Tonight we had a salad of sliced cold boiled potatoes and hardboiled eggs. I covered it in a pesto made of the last handful of fresh basil before it went off, and about half a bunch of parsley, and a small fistful of the grated Parmigiana that's been lurking forever, and the maybe five cashews left over in the bottom of the bag after somebody ate the almonds, and the final smidge of cream cheese from Ruth's birthday cheesecake, and some olive oil. Topped with one halved cherry tomato, each, and three capers per person. What I am saying here is I boiled some potatoes and tidied the odds and ends from the fridge and the vegetable area, and it was very good. Because what else are you going to do with five cashews, a smidge of cream cheese, and two cherry tomatoes? Salad. This is, I have discovered, the point of salad.

    Just about anything will go in some combination of oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and mayonnaise as a dressing. I use very, very little mayonnaise ever, just enough to help emulsify. Veggies like more mustard than fruit does. A fruit dressing should get the juices left over from chopping the fruit thrown into it, and more vinegar and less oil. Avocado, apple, and clementine count as either fruits or vegetables.

    I haven't done it yet, but I'm considering boiling a huge pot of potatoes and eggs and, like, beets and maybe some celeriac and sweet potato, and then keeping all the boiled things for salad, because the most annoying bit about wanting a salad of cold boiled whatever is getting it cooled off again after you've boiled it. Also, days when the stove does not get turned on at all are nice.

    In conclusion, it also turns out that just about everything that isn't salad greens lasts longer than salad greens do before going off, so there's that too. Salad. If you eat at my house anytime this summer, there are even odds that that's what you're getting. Because there is always something to chop.

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    Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
    6:45 pm
    he ate a largish piece of basil, too
    The list of foods the cat likes enough that he should not be left alone with them has now been updated to include mustard-based balsamic vinaigrette.

    What the hell, cat.

    We told him he is an obligate carnivore. We told him several times. He smiled and looked smug and licked his chops.

    It was tangerine-infused balsamic, too, and cats are theoretically supposed to have a species-wide aversion to all citrus, although, given that this cat has happily chomped lemon slices before, in my wife's wise words: "Species-wide aversion, my Aunt Fanny. I don't even have an Aunt Fanny."

    So now I guess I get to spend time keeping the cat out of the salad bowl.

    What the hell, cat.

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    Saturday, May 17th, 2014
    8:23 pm
    a movie meme
    Because I am exhausted.

    Everyone should post their ten most CRUCIAL CRUCIAL CRUCIAL-ASS movies, like the movies that explain everything about yourselves in your current incarnations (not necessarily your ten favorite movies but the ten movies that you, as a person existing currently, feel would help people get to know you) (they can change later on obviously).

    Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia (1989), dir. Ulrike Ottinger (my write-up here)
    True Stories (1986), dir. David Byrne
    Orlando (1992), dir. Sally Potter
    Basquiat (1996), dir. Julian Schnabel
    Singin' in the Rain (1952), dir. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
    The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
    The Pillow Book (1996) and Prospero's Books (1991), dir. Peter Greenaway (what do you mean, they aren't one movie, I basically always double-feature them)
    The Neverending Story (1984), dir. Wolfgang Petersen
    The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), dir. Terry Gilliam
    Kenji no haru/Kenji's Spring/Spring and Chaos (1996), dir. Shouji Kawamori

    and one for luck: Labyrinth (1986), dir. Jim Henson.

    ... with the one musical outlier, those are clustered a lot closer in time of production than I had really anticipated. Huh.

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    Monday, May 12th, 2014
    6:45 pm
    some music videos
    It's been a couple of years since I did a post about music videos I like. Here is one.

    Cake Like are my favorite riot-grrl-type band that doesn't get talked about. They did a kind of free-association sound-poetry, which is a lot more melodic than that sort of thing traditionally turns out, and somehow were considered commercial enough that they got two videos back in the nineties. Of those, Suck is the masterpiece, a witty and adorable and excruciatingly painful look at sexual violence, with an entirely female gaze. I mentally classify it with Hole's video 'Violet', although that one's more about violence and the male gaze in general and 'Suck' is more about incest and hiding abuse. It is also an extremely catchy song. Note: while it's never actually NSFW, there are a couple of points of the video I have great difficulty looking at, so, something of a content warning.

    My favorite vampire movie, period, end of sentence: Mylène Farmer's Je Te Rends Ton Amour, featuring blindness which is not cured by vampirism, Farmer being naked enough to be banned from French television, and blood in extraordinary quantities. A heartwarming little tale about taking control of your own life via Satanism, hypnotism, and general eroticism. This video goes on and off Youtube for copyright and content reasons, so the link is to Vimeo, where someone has posted a high-enough quality version that we can see the knitted stitches of the garment in the bit where Farmer is theoretically dressed only in blood. In case it wasn't obvious, NSFW.

    Susanne Sundfør, White Foxes. Thoughts on the line between inside and outside one's head, the line between human and animal, between indoors and outdoors, and not as pretentious as I'm making it sound. Foxes. Snow. Warning for gore in a medical context, although possibly not NSFW depending on your standards. I also admire her 'The Silicone Veil', but I'm not linking it because that one is really disturbing.

    By way of a performance on film rather than a video as such, here's Ed Sheeran covering Nina Simone's Be My Husband, without changing the pronouns.

    And here's one of my major candidates for my own favorite music video of all time, and certainly the one which fits the tone and meanings of its song best: Talking Heads' Sax and Violins. Calm is not the right word, and neither is melancholy, but they come as close as as I can manage at the moment.

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    Saturday, May 10th, 2014
    8:23 pm
    Socca, or possibly farinata
    Recipe for a sadly non-quick but amazingly low-effort dish: the chickpea flour food known as socca or farinata in various parts of Italy. No one seems to know what the difference between the two is, and I've seen this substance described both as 'savory crepe' and as 'pancake'. It can vary in thickness amazingly, but the kind we just had for dinner was about an inch thick.


    1 cup chickpea flour (gram or besan in an Indian market)
    2 cups water
    1 scant teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    optional: some cumin

    a pie tin
    a sieve

    Whisk everything together in a large bowl. Undersalt, as the salt will come out very strongly in the baking. Pour the batter through a sieve a few times and smash out the lumps. You really do need a sieve. The first time [personal profile] sovay and I tried to work with chickpea flour, we didn't believe the recipe about the sieve, because so often people say these things about various batters and you can just brute-force it with the back of a spoon, and no, here you can't, and I defy you to hand-mix a chickpea batter that isn't filled with tiny clumps. But it will all come right with a couple of passes through a sieve, and then whisk it up until frothy.

    Then let it rest for an hour. At some point, preheat your oven to 450 F.

    Oil your pie tin thoroughly. Preheat it for a couple of minutes in the hot oven, and then pour in the batter. Bake it somewhere between 40-60 minutes, depending on its thickness and your oven-- keep an eye on it. It's done when the top is brown and hard, but not black, and the batter is pulling away from the sides of the pan.

    Run a butter knife around the outside edges, slice into wedges, and serve. I did mine with a very simple sauce of chopped tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. You could do cheese of some type. This would go well with fried eggs, although it doesn't need them because it is basically entirely protein and fat as it is. In the winter, I think grilled cheese sandwiches with this as the bread.

    Vegan. Gluten-free. Relatively cheap. Creamily, complexly delicious.

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    Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
    2:37 am
    Only Lovers Left Alive
    I've heard the name Jim Jarmusch around because I read a lot of film criticism, but I didn't have his filmography firmly enough in my head to know whether I'd seen anything else he directed when I went into the theatre for Only Lovers Left Alive. It turns out that yes, I've seen two-- Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, with Forest Whitaker, in the theatre when I was in high school, a great movie that is impossible to describe in any way which makes it sound remotely as good as it is; and Dead Man, with Johnny Depp, on video, in college, which I hated. I hate Dead Man so fervently that I briefly considered boycotting everyone who had ever been associated with it. I hate Dead Man so thoroughly that I try as hard as I can to forget that it exists, and I am pleased when I manage and sad when something reminds me of it again. I don't know how to begin to explain why I hate it so much; I tend to resort to helpless gesture. Arm-flailing. Epithets. Anyway, because I blocked it out, I forgot Jim Jarmusch had directed that. So it's probably just as well I didn't look up the director before Only Lovers Left Alive.

    Which turns out to be more describable, if not necessarily more accessible, than Ghost Dog, and also turns out to be a good movie. It is a vampire movie which never uses the word vampire. It would make a fascinating double feature with Neil Jordan's Byzantium, also a vampire movie which never uses the word. Both films pace themselves at the deliberate slowness of things dissociated from human time, but where Byzantium contains a kind of detached analysis of cruelty, Only Lovers Left Alive intersects with horror only in so much as the feeding requirements of vampires mean that vampires can produce horror and live with it intimately. Of course, to the vampire, blood and horror are not necessarily in any way related to each other.

    Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) live on separate continents, in tumbledown old spaces filled with piles of art. They have been married a very, very, very long time. They have been married sufficiently long that, watching them, I became fairly certain that Eve and Adam are not only noms de guerre but the names they took upon getting married, because those names express something about the way they approach the world. What plot there is is almost domestic comedy: Adam is somewhat depressed, or at least wishes to indicate that he is, so that Eve will visit him; the realities of travel are onerous; the realities of in-laws are more onerous still; the supply of blood is difficult to maintain, since they prefer to buy blood or obtain it from middlemen, rather than killing for it in a world in which such things are noticeable. A lot of the movie is very funny (Mia Wasikowska, as Ava, Eve's sister, earned my eternal approbation by managing to sum up everything obnoxious possible about a perky younger sister with merely the sound she produces when she knocks on the door).

    The tone is difficult to describe, because it is so unrelated to most tones movies have. Every emotion Adam and Eve have is both transient and part of the conversation they've been having for centuries. They can be distracted to the point of flightiness, because anything really important will turn up again later. They do feel things deeply, but there's so much that they have to get around to. Adam's dramatic melancholia is both completely real and completely theatrical, and something he is probably growing out of as the centuries go by, albeit very slowly. He hasn't grown out of it enough yet not to let it make him a bit of an asshole, but he has just enough to notice that he's being one. Vampire mythology, and the paranormal in general, hover just around the edges. Adam powers his house with a Tesla-designed generator, producing electricity from the ground itself. Would this generator work if anyone else had built it? This is not a question which occurs to Adam. Coyotes track the couple, howling, as they walk through the streets-- well, it is an abandoned area of Detroit, so maybe that would happen anyway. Amanita phalloides, out of season, appear behind a house they live in, and they don't attempt to explain that at all, even though to me as a viewer it seems obvious, bright, shiny, innocuous-looking death cropping up where vampires stay. They can probably influence human minds, but they don't, much, because there is no reason to. And this is not a film in which vampires make basic and cliche mistakes, because these are old vampires, who have lived a long time, and survived a great deal already.

    Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston bring an amazing physicality to their roles. They look the same age and they look the same species. They move the same. They move the way people do who know one another so well that they anticipate one another's movements. They aren't particularly gendered, in body language, or in hobbies, or in dress. It's impossible to tell whether there is no sexuality between them, or one so all-pervading that it can't be seen separately from everything else, and it doesn't matter. But she burns with happiness, at being in the world, at living, and he doesn't, which is the principal difference. There's a scene where, on her way to him, she packs up some books, and we see her sitting down to pore over them. I was reminded of the legend that, if you pile books around your bed, a vampire will not be able to reach you, because they must read every word before they can walk by the pile. (It also works with grains of rice, or lentils, or sesame seeds, which they must count.) But her expression of delight indicates that, even though she might be reading because she must read the entire book every time she picks a book up, she'd read them all anyway if she didn't have to. She doesn't care about the amount of time involved, because she has all the time in the world. He doesn't care about time either-- he simply never looks so delighted. She says yes to life and he says, maybe, or what was the question again? And this is the root of their long, long conversation. Depicting a not particularly important or significant stretch of that conversation, showing how that might actually work over a span of immortality, is the artistic work of the movie, at which I believe it succeeds.

    The film also contains John Hurt, playing Kit Marlowe as a man vampirized late enough in life that the change is not an explanation for whatever happened at Deptford, still gallant enough to politely mention Tom Hiddleston's extraordinary beauty, in the terms of a gentleman carrying out an obligation, and then setting the subject down with some relief. Mia Wasikowska, as aforementioned, the world's brattiest eternally vaguely-teenage sister. Jeffrey Wright, as a human doctor who is in the vampire movie the rest of the cast is not playing, so that he keeps looking vaguely over his shoulder in some nervousness. Detroit, at night. Tangiers, at night. There are no scenes not at night. A lot of music, some live and some old. A very few perfectly chosen special effects. I've seen it reviewed as a cautionary tale-- Vampiric Hipsters Could Be Living In Your Neighborhood!-- and yes, the protagonists did like whatever it was before it was cool, no matter what we might be talking about. But I think the film earns its slow pace, its interludes in which nothing particularly happens. They make up the world the way its characters see it, in which nothing much ever particularly happens, until it does.

    Which is the point.

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    Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
    9:51 pm
    reasons I don't have Twitter, #? of a series
    Earlier today.

    Ruth, to me: Are you sure you care a fig for that? How many figs? How can we tell how many figs you care for that?

    Me: It's not difficult. We figure out with what force I care for that-- get an exact number-- and then the question is just how many figs are in each Newton.

    I don't have a Twitter because this sort of thing is what I would put on it.

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    Friday, April 25th, 2014
    4:42 am
    on this year's Hugo nominations
    There's a thing that I have not seen mentioned about the Vox Day situation with the current nominations for the Hugo (link to [personal profile] kate_nepveu for summarizing purposes). It is possible that I haven't seen this mentioned because it's so obvious that it goes without saying, but I want to say it anyway, because there's a conversation going on now about whether people who intend to vote for the Hugo ought to feel obligated to read, or try to read, the VD story so that they can vote down the piece on its incompetence as opposed to who its author is and what he believes.

    You all realize that he pulled this whole mobilizing-his-fanbase-to-get-him-a-nomination thing to a) hurt people and b) waste their time, right?

    I mean, I have no doubt that he wants a Hugo. All kinds of people want a Hugo, because it is a big deal award, and it has, historically, meant a lot.

    But. There are many people out there who want a Hugo, and what they do is they work very hard at a thing, and get that thing in front of people, and when Hugo nominating comes around, they might say, Hugo nominating is coming around, could you all maybe go read or reread or watch my thing with that in mind. And, if they are the people I know, they do that latter bit with a whole lot of agonizing about what amount of self-promotion would slip into declassé, not only because of not wanting to be declassé but because they are aware that overenthusiastic self-promotion may well become extremely unpleasant for them when the internet lands on them like a ton of annoyed bricks. Overly visible promotion = internet landing on you (especially if you happen to be female, but that's a different post). The cause and effect relationship here is fairly clear.

    You will note that the internet has, in fact, landed on VD like a ton of annoyed bricks, which was the effect he obviously predicted and equally clearly desired. It has, one hopes, quashed his chances at actually getting the Hugo. I don't think he came into this expecting to win the thing, because although he is demonstrably living in a different reality from the rest of us, winning it would not be the point. It would contribute to his point, but honestly, his point has already been made.

    The point is outright rubbing in the faces of everyone he hates that he can game a system that they value. And by 'everyone he hates', I mean everyone who is GLBT, who is a POC, who is a feminist, who does not fit his standards of attractiveness, who is female and does not fit his standards of what women should be and do, and on and on and on. He did this to hurt us. That is why he did it. He wants us not to feel safe in SF and fantasy; not to be safe in SF and fantasy. So that we have to, for the rest of this award season, and whenever we might, in the future, look at a list of past Hugo nominees, remember 'that was the year the guy who said those beyond appalling things about N.K. Jemisin got onto the ballot'. So that whenever a friend comes up to us and says 'I'm trying to read the things that people think were good this year and what was up with that one', we have to wince and say, well, here's what happened, and here's why you should avoid this guy. So that we know that a man who has publicly called the shooting of Malala Yousafzi justified can, because he wants to, take up that amount of brain space, of history book space, of people having to deal with him. I'm writing a post involving him right now! Because he made it so I have to think about him when I consider my Hugo nominations, in case I might have forgotten that somebody out there hates me.

    I've seen people say that he's trolling. He is. He has already successfully trolled. He is hurting people. That is the point. He is wasting people's time. That is the point.

    Why, then, should we make his trolling more successful by putting any time and energy into reading his work? He already got a huge chunk of what he wanted. Let's not give him any more.

    Or, to sum up: Don't feed the troll. Acting as though his work is on the ballot for reasons having anything to do with its quality, as opposed to its author's ability to mobilize people around his politics, is feeding the troll. Feeding the troll? Does not help. I wouldn't be doing it by writing this post if I hadn't seen basically no mention of the fact, not just that reading VD's story could be harmful to those aware of his hatred towards them, but that some amount of harm has already occurred.

    Note: leaving comments on. I reserve the right to revoke this decision on little or no notice, should things go a certain direction of badly.

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    Monday, April 7th, 2014
    5:20 pm
    new Strange Horizons review
    My review of Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice is up at Strange Horizons.

    I liked it very much-- the Radchai are the most interesting mix of utopian and dystopian society I've encountered in probably years. Looking forward to the sequel.

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    4:25 pm
    The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir. Wes Anderson
    This marks the official end of more than a decade of avoiding Wes Anderson movies. I went to see Rushmore in theatres when I was in high school, and it was one of the more aggravating experiences I have ever had at a movie; as that was sixteen years ago, I don't remember much beyond the haze of frustration and boredom, but I remember that vividly. It is possible I may have been too young for it, but at the time I walked away convinced that somebody was trying to sell me something, and I had no intention of buying it.

    I also can't remember quite why I got talked into seeing Moonrise Kingdom when that came out, but it may have had something to do with it having been fifteen years since my previous Wes Anderson movie, and wondering whether I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyhow, I wound up seeing that one four times in theatres, which is simply not something I do.

    One film I like that much is a fluke. Two is a trend. If I like his next half as much, I suppose I shall have to go back and fill in the intervening filmography.

    Anyhow, The Grand Budapest Hotel. The best way I have to describe it is W.G. Sebald writing for Buster Keaton, or possibly Proust for the Marx Brothers. Or a night of Patrick Leigh Fermor getting really, really drunk in a pub somewhere southeast of Bratislava. It's a shell game, and under every shell is World War II, but you might as well take a good long time to watch the proprietor spin them before you pick anything up.

    The hotel in question, somewhere in a country not literally called Ruritania, is, through a maze of frame stories, the setting and support of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), one of those amazing self-created gentlemen who have come up from nothing five or six times and reveal it only through the indelible layer of profanity. M. Gustave is the concierge to end all conciergerie, and his guests all just simply adore him, leading to a bit of an issue when one of the numerous elderly ladies with whom he is having an affair (Tilda Swinton-- who wouldn't) keels over in mysterious circumstances and leaves him a Treasure Of Renaissance Art. The resulting shenanigans catch up the young lobby boy (Tony Revolori, new and very good), who we know must be competent and interesting, as he has the good fortune to grow up into F. Murray Abraham. I am probably being overly flowery here, but this is the sort of film about which a reviewer is required by law to use the word 'confection', not least because there is, in fact, a plot-necessary pastry shop, which cranks out foot-high towers of the sort of pastel Mitteleuropean pastry fantasy that everywhere else in the world never quite tastes as good as it looks. There is a funicular. There is a shootout in which nobody hits anything. There are the hotel's Arabian Baths, somewhat depreciated under Communism, but still the fantasy of decadence as interpreted by those who have never seen decadence up close but are willing to give it a jolly good shot. There are ski holidays and cable cars, black-leathered villains on speeding motorcycles, and every character actor Wes Anderson has ever exchanged Christmas cards with (keep an eye out for George Clooney).

    It's all kept from spinning off the deep end into entire tweeness by three things: firstly, it is genuinely funny. Secondly, there is a thick layer of literary-artistic joke which the action doesn't focus on but slides by, and those are all funny also-- the unhanged paintings stacked around the schloss where the Renaissance masterpiece lives, the ones the family didn't think enough of to put up, are all Modernist works of a very high order, Klimt, Egon Schiele, Klee; the butler whose name is given as Serge X in the news when he is a suspect for something at one point shows his traveling papers, and his surname is actually, legitimately X. And, less a joke and more homage, the extended prison break sequence is as accurate a film of P.R. Reid's classic WWII memoir Escape from Colditz as I could ever hope to see, so that I sat back and luxuriated in a good twenty minutes of one of my favorite books from childhood as an added bonus in the middle of it all.

    And thirdly, we know those shells have to be picked up eventually. It can't be madcap forever, and it isn't. If Moonrise Kingdom was a specific sort of teenage dream, sheltered from time in the great intensity of adolescent heartache, this movie is a different dream, not more realistic but in every way less sheltered. The reason I love this film so much is that it knows the limit to the power of laughter, but also the limit to the power of terror. History is the nightmare from which M. Gustave is trying to escape, and that works as well as it ever does, which is to say, for long enough, until it doesn't.

    That said, dammit, Wes Anderson, could we have some more women? Tilda Swinton is Tilda Swinton, and Saoirse Ronan is enchanting and brave and competent, and Lea Seydoux is underutilized, and not one of them says a word to any other woman. I know this is a Boy's Own Adventure, but it didn't have to be as Boys as all that. Nothing here like the saving grace of Suzy's thorny, tangled relationship with her mother in Moonrise Kingdom, and no, it would not have been impossible to write in. We have a necessary deconstruction of M. Gustave's self-made chivalry in the face of the lived experience of someone whose skin is not the color with which he is accustomed to dealing, and that's good, as far as it goes, and I was glad to see it; could we not have had a similar deconstruction of all that endlessly spouted romantical poetry? It is the film's greatest flaw, and it is the kind of flaw I have become heartily tired of.

    Hopefully he will do better in whatever it is he does next. I await whatever it is with curiosity and interest, which is a new experience. Three films like this would make him one of my favorite directors.

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    Monday, March 24th, 2014
    10:03 pm
    advice to aspiring writers
    I swear one of the three best things I have ever done for my writing process is to put a copy of Edward Gorey's The Unstrung Harp on my working computer.

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    Friday, March 21st, 2014
    10:51 pm
    cusp of spring
    Seen while walking yesterday: an evergreen, in a yard, on which someone had in a colder season hung several large metal red balls, Christmas ornaments. It has been above fifty Fahrenheit for much of the last few days, but because (as I finally figured out) the ornaments were both metal (so they conserve cold) and out of direct sunlight, each ball was covered in a fragile shell of real unmelted ice. Icicles were still reaching down from the bottoms of the balls.

    In the greening grass underneath the tree, the ground was entirely covered in blooming crocuses. No snow visible anywhere else for literal blocks.

    Sometimes I do wish I carried a camera. Mostly it would not be worth it.

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    Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
    1:17 am
    The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu)
    Hayao Miyazaki has said after every film since 1997's Mononoke Hime that he is retiring, and, four directorial credits and two cowritten screenplays later, I have rather ceased to believe him. If he's telling the truth this time, though, at least he'd be leaving on a high note. While Spirited Away is the greatest of Miyazaki's children's movies, and his later works haven't managed to reach any higher in that direction (it may not be possible), his ruminations on war and personal responsibility, never quite worked out to their full potential in Howl's Moving Castle or Ponyo, have culminated in a magnificent piece for adults.

    Kaze Tachinu shares a visual vocabulary with the rest of Miyazaki, the glorious landscapes, liberated aerial swoopings, and blurring between the worlds of reality and dream. It adds a layer of intellectual intricacy and literary allusion (the title is from Paul Valéry), and irony so fanged I can't tell when I started bleeding. It's an incredibly uncomfortable masterpiece working on many levels, one of which is that ninety percent of it is uplifting, soothing, and funny in the best of Ghibli tradition. It seems to have managed to have offend both the left wing and the right wing in Japan, which is entirely as it should be.

    The film calls itself a tribute to Jiro Horikoshi, who designed several of the most prominent Japanese fighter planes used during World War II. It is a tribute with an edge of fiction, in that everything about Horikoshi's personal and private life portrayed in the film turns out to have been made up, and it is, as I mentioned before, a tribute with more than a dash of the ironic.

    Jiro Horikoshi's working life is portrayed as accurately as research would allow, and the film lingers with interest over his designs, over the designs by the Italian aircraft maker Caproni which inspired Horikoshi as a child, and over the designs by Hugo Junkers which secured Germany's place as an air power in the years entre deux guerres. We see Jiro's dreams about flight and planes, literally; the endless hours of labor he puts in at his office; the tests and retests and more retests yet again, the ways he tries to draw inspiration and lessons from nature and the ways he tries to learn from other countries' state-of-the-art technology. He is both a workaholic and an obsessive, a genius with a real and desperate vision, and the planes of his imagination fly at the height of Miyazaki's capacity for joy.

    At the same time, when away from work Horikoshi is shown as a kind and absent man, capable of deep feeling but with almost no understanding of social referents outside his own milieu. He continuously tries to do the right thing, and he doesn't understand why everyone else doesn't just do that also. When, after the stock market crash of 1929, he tries to give street children food, he is genuinely confused when the girl in charge of the group reacts to him with fear and distrust, and then startled again when the friend he relates the incident to is not surprised.

    The romance in the movie, Jiro and his eventual wife Naoko, is adorable and sweet (and contains the most direct reference to sex I suspect we will ever see in a Miyazaki film), poignant and passionate, and yet. And yet. She has tuberculosis. They criminally mishandle her health, because they cannot bear to be apart from one another. They fall into the genuinely sad position of doomed lovers, focused on the day-to-day, rejoicing in each moment they have together, not considering tomorrow or next year-- which might, not certainly but might, have been avoided if they had been willing to think about tomorrow or next year in the first place. Their pain is real, their suffering is great, but isn't it on some level easier to be beautifully, regretfully, tragically doomed than to try for a future, knowing that it may not come to pass no matter what you do?

    Jiro's designs are funded by the Army, by the Navy. They are fighter planes, they are bombers. He always knows they are going to be used to kill other people. On some level, he believes he accepts this as the price of being allowed to do the work he does, and on some level, it simply isn't real to him. Even the pilots of his test designs aren't real to him-- the only one of them who gets any dialogue is the one who wants to compliment him on the plane. The Paul Valéry quote of the title reads, in English, 'The wind rises, and therefore it is time to live'. In Jiro's dreams, the wind keeps rising, and it brings with it fire and bombs and fear, but in his head those bombs are a natural disaster, simply brought on by the wind. In the outside world, his remark on the secret police of Hitler's Germany is a vague 'that shouldn't happen in a modern country', and when the secret police of his own nation briefly turn on him, it's an inconvenience that means he's forced to work from another location for a while. He never considers any risk to himself, and he never considers any risk to those who shelter him, because he cannot conceive of those things as real. If they're anything at all, they're part of the wind rising, and the wind is fate. In the face of the wind rising, his responsibility is to work and to love: fine, as far as it goes. That carries him through the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake with no problem, because that is a natural disaster.

    But when the wind is war, then the regrettable fact is that war is caused by people, and the unwillingness to consider the use and disposition of one's labors in the face of war could be a failure of moral responsibility. Horikoshi never seems, for instance, to consider leaving Japan and seeking somewhere he could work in civilian-based airplane design, even though other nations are more technically advanced. This does not appear to be patriotic nationalism on his part so much as it is the desire to do brilliantly even from so far behind, but it enables the patriotic nationalism of others. Horikoshi has a beautiful dream. How defensible is that dream when it will be used to bomb civilian populations?

    The thing that makes this film a masterpiece is that the dreams are that beautiful, the airplanes are that beautiful, the love is that great between Jiro and Naoko. There really is no one as good as Miyazaki at portraying sheer selfless joy and happiness, and here it's the happiness of young love between people who really are exactly perfect for one another and the happiness of a genius artist working at the absolute peak of his capacity to create art. The terrifying consequences are understated, slightly offscreen, because Jiro doesn't have to look at them, but they are borne in even more inescapably on the viewer whenever we see him being blind. Miyazaki is not trying to make a point as to whether these consequences are worth it for the world, or even as to whether they were worth it for Jiro. What Jiro might or might not have done if he were genuinely considering the consequences of his actions is a set of questions outside the scope of the movie, and it could be argued that an ethical person might well behave in exactly the same way. What Miyazaki is trying to say that it is always a mistake to think we are not part of the wind.

    By way of footnote: the English dub cast does an even better job here than is traditional for Ghibli movies, which always get the best dubs in the business. Critical portions of dialogue are left in German and in Italian, which is appropriate, and sterling work by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, and of all people Werner Herzog (playing a character from Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, yet!) makes the film a joy to listen to. That said, there is a letter left untranslated when its text clearly appears in Japanese on the screen in a readable format, and it is somewhat plot-critical, and I am annoyed by that. Also, I desperately want to watch this film in Japanese, not just for the language choices, but because Horikoshi is played by Hideaki Anno, that Hideaki Anno, director of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I really, really want to know what Anno makes of the role of an artist who is semi-wittingly hurting a whole lot of people, because that is a whole other meta-level of self-awareness and cutting irony that I always hoped Anno would reach* and genuinely never expected.

    * To summarize a giant mess of things, Anno did not handle fan reaction well post-Evangelion and has stated in so many words that his intention with the film End of Evangelion was to hurt and alienate as many of his audience as he could because he figured they deserved it. It was pretty successful at that. Later on he showed some awareness of the kind of nastiness this had been on his part, but this role goes well beyond even that, and I respect him a lot for doing it.

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    Thursday, March 13th, 2014
    3:34 pm
    oh hey
    In the department of general news, my former housemate, good friend, and Sassafrass composer Ada Palmer has sold a series of novels to Tor Books, with the first one coming out in 2015 and almost certainly called Dogs of Peace.

    I've read several versions of this in manuscript, and it is going to be a very interesting contribution to the general conversation in SF, I tell you what.

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