A Kickstarter Campaign in need of assistance

Published August 16, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Unlike on my dolly blog, I have so far left this blog free of “hey, please help out this Kickstarter I’m backing,” because, well, a lot of reasons.  (Mostly because it’s easier to gauge the tastes of readers of a doll blog than of a…uh…whatever kind of blog this has become.)  However, that’s changing now, because I want to do all I can to help this Kickstarter campaign, and since I can’t afford to fund the whole thing myself, and I don’t use any of the more typical social media, all I can do is to plug it here.

The campaign is to fund the fifth year of a digital magazine called Sparkler, which features a variety of types of content, inspired by Japan’s mega-sized manga magazines, of which the most famous in the West is probably Shonen Jump.  The campaign describes its goal thusly:

Twelve more issues of women-oriented, LGBT+ friendly webcomics, light novels, and audio dramas in our digital magazine!

And that seems to sum it up pretty well.  (Of course it does.  Why else would they have picked it as their campaign header line?)

I’d never heard of Sparkler until I came across this campaign, but judging by the free download sampler of first chapters, it’s completely freakin’ awesome.  I ended up making a pretty hefty pledge in order to get all the back issues so I can catch up.  (Which will likely take absolutely forever, but…hey, it’s always good to have extra reading material, yeah?)  Of course, that means there’s not a lot of extra material I can add on to my pledge to help out further.

Anyway, despite that it’s aimed at women, I think a lot of this content would also interest men.  (Just as there are a lot of Shonen Jump properties that also have female fans.)  The genres run a complete gamut, from slice of life comedy to magical girl (and magical boy) to sci-fi to horror to fantasy adventure to revenge story to romance…and I probably left a lot of the genres out.  And the romance covers all the main bases:  straight, f/f and m/m.  (I don’t think it covers trans, but that’s about it.  But there are also a couple of Kickstarters for trans-focused comics going on right now.)

Please check out their campaign page, okay?  And/or send word of it to any friends/relatives/acquaintances/co-workers/total-strangers you’ve got who might be interested.  They have a long way to go and a short time in which to get there.

Sample Sparkler issue cover.

Sample issue cover. Image source Kickstarter. Click for link.

Book Report: The Story of Hong Gildong

Published August 15, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

For Challenge #17, “Read a classic by an author of color,” I eventually settled on this one.

The back of the book proudly exclaims that “The Story of Hong Gildong is arguably the most important work of classic Korean fiction.”  It’s a tale about Hong Gildong, the son of an important minister by his concubine, which leaves Gildong a second class member of society, unable to climb the usual social ladders, despite his overstated gifts.  He eventually tires of being treated as less than a proper member of the family — he is always complaining “I cannot even address my father as Father and my older brother as Brother” — and leaves home.  Through a series of events, he ends up leading a bandit army, usually only robbing corrupt targets, leading to an inaccurate comparison to Robin Hood on the back of the book.  And that’s only the first half of the book; one thing no one could complain of is that nothing happens in this book.  There are a lot of other things one could complain about, but I’ll get to them later.

There are two very important things to keep in mind when reading this book.  First, this is a pre-modern text, and does not follow the same story rules and expectations that a modern novel does.  Second, it’s the product of a culture very different from a modern Western culture (and in some ways very different from modern Korea as well), so one shouldn’t judge it out of its proper cultural context.

The latter makes it more interesting to read, as it functions as a window into pre-modern Korea (the exact period of its writing is unknown; it has traditionally been dated to the late 16th or early 17th century, but the evidence presented in the introduction makes a very compelling case for dating it to the 19th century), presenting the modern Western reader with various aspects of the culture, particularly in the way people react to each other and their opinions on their own relationships.  The former, however, presents some problems.

Read the rest of this entry →

MLM No “K” Repost – “The Heartless Queen”

Published August 7, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Heartless Queen”

When the Queen was a little girl
Her mother told her
A little white lie:
“It’s my own fault
That your father doesn’t love me anymore,
But I’m sure he’ll love me again soon.”

But her mother was wrong,
And her husband never loved her again,
And she wasted away loveless and alone,
And soon the future queen was without a mother.
But her father had decided that he didn’t care for wives,
So he didn’t re-marry;
He preferred the single life.

When her father died,
The little girl became the Queen at last,
And she made her first proclamation to her court:
“I shall never wed, and I shall never love,
And I will not have a heart,
Because only through a heart
Can a queen be hurt or die.
This is the command of your Queen.
See to it.”

One of the men of the court objected.
“It is impossible not to have a heart!”
He complained.
“Perhaps it is more possible not to have a head,”
The queen replied.  “Let us find out.
Off with his head!”
The headsman obliged.
It was not possible to live without a head.
The men of the court scrambled to obey their queen.

They found doctors.
They found wizards.
They found witches.
They found shamans.
They found priests, faeries, giants and ogres.
But no one could remove the queen’s heart
Without her dying in the process.

Read the rest of this entry →

Book Report: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Published August 3, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Yay!  I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while now!  This is for Challenge #15 “Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.”

This was one of many books I discovered through Book Riot’s list of suggestions for books for this challenge, a list I never seem able to find again.  (I’ve already read two of the others, and have a couple more sitting here waiting to be read, and more than that on my unpurchased TBR list.)  The book wasn’t even out yet when they put it on the list, and they summed it up very briefly as two young men off on their Grand Tour of Europe, and I think they put in some kind of expression of the fact that they were each others’ love interests.  Very bare bones suggestion of what the book was about, but it was more than enough to pique my interest, especially since the model on the cover makes me think of Brian Slade.  (Yes, yes, don’t judge a book by its cover, I know.)

So, a more detailed hint at what the plot is would go something like this:

Young Henry Montague — Monty to his friends — has recently been expelled from Eton, and is now being given one last chance to redeem himself.  He’s off on his Grand Tour, and upon his return, will be forced to take over his father’s estate and live a respectable life.  Of course, he’s determined to make the most of his year-long tour of Europe, especially because he’ll be travelling in the company of his best friend, Percy Newton, with whom Monty is intensely in love, though he’s never had the nerve to say so.  (Monty’s sister, Felicity, is to travel with them as far as Marseilles on her way to finishing school, but Monty isn’t particularly interested in that.)  The plans for their Tour have been laid out with care, ending in Holland, where Percy is to attend law school.  Of course, the more carefully laid plans are, the less likelihood that they’ll turn out the way they’re supposed to…

So, a few words on our three main characters.

Read the rest of this entry →

IWSG – Another Plot Up For Adoption

Published August 2, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

A week or so ago, I came up with something really pertinent I wanted to say this month about writing, possibly something I thought of because of July CampNaNo.  Whatever it was, I forgot it almost immediately, and I never have remembered it.  Soooooo…posting something else instead.

I thought I could share a plot idea — or maybe it’s only a situation — that might make a really nice story in the right hands, but those certainly aren’t my hands.  (It’s not the kind of thing I write.  It’s not even the kind of thing I usually read.)

The way I came up with this idea is as follows:  I work at a museum, and I’ve been cataloging some old documents that have been in the collection for ages, but haven’t been properly scanned and transcribed until now.  Some of the ones I’ve done lately have been letters from 1904 and 1905, from a man attached to the Japanese Pavilion at the St. Louis World’s Fair to the widow of one of the two men to whom the museum is dedicated.  There’s nothing even the slightest bit suggestive about these letters; he’s just being polite and friendly to a woman who was friendly to him, and whose late husband was an author whose works he admires.

But the fact that he wrote to her repeatedly (and that she kept the letters) always sets my writer’s soul twitching.  So the plot I’m releasing to the world is something like this:

An older man from Japan (say late 50s, early 60s, either single or a widower) comes to America for the World’s Fair, where he meets a woman some five to ten years younger than himself, a society widow, and she works in one of the ladies’ committees associated with the fair, so they end up seeing a lot of each other.  Slowly, they fall in love, but there are all sorts of social obstacles from both cultures, so it’s not just about their love, but also about whether or not they can bring themselves to defy the rigorous social conventions among which they were raised.  (St. Louis’s 1904 fair or Chicago’s 1893 fair would both work equally well for this, though I don’t know off-hand if there was any Japanese presence at the Chicago fair.)  Depending on the genre, they might well prefer society to love.

MLM No “J” Repost – “The Tale of Lazyboy”

Published July 31, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

The Tale of Lazyboy

Once upon a time, there was a young girl. Her family was poor, and she had no choice but to marry young to the man her father selected for her, the owner of a tavern. It wasn’t a happy marriage, and her husband died when she was still young and childless.

So when she found a baby boy washed up on the beach near her tavern not long after her husband’s death, she thought her prayers had been answered, and she told everyone that it was her own son, and that they simply hadn’t noticed she was pregnant because she was so slender. They didn’t really believe her, of course, but they were too polite to say so.

At first, she was very happy with her new son.

That didn’t last long.

She expected him to start doing chores around the tavern as soon as he was able to walk and talk. But he kept expecting his mother to love him and cuddle him and treat him like a son instead of like a servant.

By the time he was five, she called him by his name so rarely that she had almost forgotten he had a name, and by the time he was fifteen, the tavern’s patrons tended to call him Lazyboy if they called him anything at all.

Lazyboy wasn’t much more than eighteen when he thought he had found a way out of that miserable tavern at long last, but all that had happened was that he got a dunking in the sea near the astronomer’s tower, and then had a long, wet slog home again. And then he got a long lecture from his foster mother for getting his clothes all wet, as though he’d done it on purpose.

In the end, Lazyboy was only able to get away from his unhappy home the way most other young men his age were: the king went to war with a neighboring kingdom, and all the young men got called up to serve in the army if they were able. Lazyboy didn’t want to kill anyone, but he didn’t see that he had any choice, and anything had to be better than staying where he was!

The war was horrible, as wars always are, but at least it was a short one, as few wars are. In fact, it had taken longer for the army to march to the battleground than it had for them to be horribly massacred there.

Once the slaughter was over, the survivors had only to march back—on their own pace!—to be free to return to their lives. And Lazyboy was in no hurry to return to that awful tavern, so he decided to take “the scenic route”…

…which meant that instead of returning to his own kingdom, he went deeper into the kingdom his army had utterly failed to invade. Read the rest of this entry →

Book Report: A Wrinkle in Time

Published July 26, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

I’m still a little conflicted about counting this one.  For Challenge #16, “Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country,” I went to look at a page that had a lot of lists of banned and challenged books.  (I think the lists were from the American Library Association.)  As I was looking at the list of year-by-year challenged or banned books (most of them merely challenged, or banned from school libraries, rather than banned entirely), there were a lot of interesting books, to be sure, but most of them either not quite something I felt like reading, or something I had read before.

Then I ran out of annual lists and looked at the Top 100 banned or challenged books from 2000-2009, and A Wrinkle in Time was on the list (admittedly down about 94 or so, I think), which was already on my TBR list because a) I had picked up a copy on a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Barnes and Noble a while back and b) somehow I’ve never read it before.

It’s hard to know what to say, of course.  This book is a classic of children’s literature from the 1960s, and it’s important to remember both the age of the book and the age of its intended audience.  I don’t have much experience (as an adult) with children’s literature, so while I’m doing my best to keep its status in mind, I’m not 100% clear on what all that implies.  For example, the heroine, Meg, spends most of the novel not really doing a lot and depending on others, but is that because it’s from the ’60s, is that because it’s for children, or is it to give her character growth?  Probably the third one, maybe the first one, likely not the second, but…yeah, dunno.  I like the fact that Meg’s personality doesn’t fit the traditional “feminine” tropes:  she’s good at math (though not so good at most other subjects) and short-tempered, even a little prone to violence.  But there seemed to be a hint of a romance shoe-horned in that was entirely unconvincing, unnecessary, and even slightly inappropriate.  (Not inappropriate due to anyone’s age, mind, just inappropriate to be in the story, because the characters really shouldn’t have been wasting energy thinking about things like that while going through so much else.)

Anyway, the main thing I can think of to say about this book is that it has a huge tone shift about halfway through.  It seems to be a normal(ish) story about a girl trying to cope with her life with a father who disappeared years ago, problems at school, and a differently abled younger brother who has the reputation of being an idiot because the other people in their little town don’t understand him.  Then, suddenly, things become very different, as three mysterious old women take the children and their new friend Cal to rescue their father.  And yet, despite the tone shift, it’s a smooth read and you don’t feel terribly jarred by it.

I kept wondering why it was banned/challenged.  I’m assuming it was probably because of some of the things that happened during the rescue — especially to the younger brother, Charles Wallace, who’s about five years old — but…gah, could be anything.  Those year-by-year lists gave reasons for most of the bans/challenges, and most of them were pretty ludicrous.

One thing I was especially struck by was the initial description of the place they had to reach to find their father.  In places it was reminiscent of some earlier works, but what it mostly reminded me of was the kind of thing you find in much later, purely visual works, like Edward Scissorhands and Eerie, Indiana.  And I’m sure a lot of other places that I just don’t know about.  (The former is probably the more apt comparison than the latter, since the description was about conformity more than anything else.)  So this is a book that’s had a big impact on things that have come after it, and it’s always interesting to see the history of a concept.

Of course, now I’m going to have to read the rest of the series, because it doesn’t come to a very full ending.  But being written for young audiences means it won’t take long to read the rest of them, so that’s not a big deal.


I’ll probably have my next of these posts pretty soon, because it’s quite grabbing me.

Book Reports: Oscar Wilde and Velvet Goldmine

Published July 22, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Several reports at once here.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the edition of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde that I’ve got on Goodreads, so here’s the closest cover I could find.

The one I have is a Barnes & Noble edition from 1994, long before they were doing the leatherbound thing.  (Which I found at a local used store.)  It’s got this photo on the cover, but a bit smaller, and tinted slightly blue.  And despite that it calls itself “Complete” it isn’t really complete.  The things most people want to read are all there — Dorian Gray, the plays, and the short stories — and there’s a lot of poetry, though I haven’t bothered to look up if it’s all the poetry.  (And it claims to have an introduction by George Bernard Shaw, but what it actually has is a letter from him to an early Wilde biographer recounting his own memories of Oscar Wilde.  Which is far from being an introduction in any standard sense.  It was interesting stuff (and in one place wonderfully useful to me) but not an introduction.)  But there are only a handful of letters and essays.  Which, for most people, is probably not much loss, because most people are likely to only want the fiction, whether in prose or play form.

And no, I haven’t read the entire thing cover to cover.  It’s about 1200 pages, so that’s a lot of reading.  But I have some reports on the individual pieces I have read.  (And I plan to read more of the pieces later.) Read the rest of this entry →

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