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June 11th, 2021


04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off
Anonymous comments have been turned off because of the volume of spam. Sorry! Please let me know (via email: emily@emilyhorner.com) if you need a Dreamwidth invite or if this otherwise poses an inconvenience to you.

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July 11th, 2014


09:25 pm
In the wake of my fabulous success finishing the short story I'd been working on for HALF A YEAR and submitting it to a magazine, I've decided to set myself a goal: 8000 words a month of fiction, freewriting, brainstorming, revising, et cetera, even when I'm not working on a novel (or even if it's not work on the novel that I'm working on.)

I've been going too long feeling like short stories don't pay real money and I'm bad at writing them, and both may be true, but it would at least help to combat the feeling that I'm getting absolutely nothing done in my writing!

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July 8th, 2014


08:40 am
I guess I would not have gotten het up about the whole "adults should feel ashamed of reading YA" discussion if it had not generated a whole mess of Catch-22 reading guilt: that I am not reading enough YA for my own professional development purposes (as a librarian and as a writer), and that I am not reading enough Serious Fiction to be a Serious Person and a good writer, and that I cannot possibly do both.

Eugh, I guess the sense that you're good enough has to come from the inside, but that's so much work.

(Maybe in an ideal world I would be reading enough to stay on top of the heavily buzzed YA books, and the books that I'm genuinely excited about, but sometimes the Books Of Grim Duty turn out to be surprising and fantastic. I'd be sad if I'd skipped over Middlemarch because it was a Book of Grim Duty.)

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July 3rd, 2014


11:32 pm
My frustration with arguments about the literary value of YA is mostly that usually the most highbrow YA book that comes up in the discussion as a thing people have read is "The Fault In Our Stars." And -- it's kind of silly to pretend that there's some contest to read the most highbrow books possible, right, instead of reading what makes you happy (or gives you whatever you want from a book at any given point in time), but as somebody who really likes good sentences, and likes a lot of things that are deemed by the literary establishment to be "good literature," I can't help but feel like a lot of authors who are doing great work get erased.

There was some discussion over at the "Someday My Printz Will Come" blog when TFIOS didn't win a Printz award or honor, and there were lots of people who thought it should have won something and there were lots of people who thought it was right that it didn't -- because it was too sentimental, because the arc with the author character wasn't handled well, whatever. I liked it well enough, but I had to give "Code Name Verity" and "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" an edge in the plot-construction department and the prose department, respectively. TFIOS is not the beginning and the end of "literary" YA, and if you think it is, I WILL GIVE YOU A READING LIST.

It's a complicated thing to talk about because as a reader and as a librarian, I firmly believe in reading the things that you want to read for whatever reasons you have, and in not shaming people for their reading choices. But as a writer, I think it's necessary for me to hang on to my own not-objective sense that some things are better than other things -- that I have some sense of what craftsmanship looks like, what carefulness looks like, what creativity looks like. And there are so many YA books that I didn't read because they were easy, because they were fun, because they were escapist, whatever. I read them because they pricked up my sense of "this is what a really good book looks like."

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09:19 am
In the course of my Chinese learning, I've often referred to David Moser's essay on Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard, partly for reassurance that my own flailing -- and ability to read everything on the subway in Spanish better than everything on the subway in Chinese -- was a problem that every serious student of Chinese had, and not just a problem of my own laziness or bad study methods.

I would put a "Well, yeah, but...." against almost every single one of this points, but in the end, you just need an enormous amount of reading to make word recognition turn automatic without the help of roman letters and easy cognates. And Chinese characters are a road block when it comes to extensive reading. In languages that are written phonetically, once you get to the point where you can understand 98% or so, you can just barrel along guessing unknown words from context and you'll be fine except for when you don't realize it's a silent "g" in "paradigm." In Chinese, you can make a guess based on a character's phonetic components, and certainly in Japanese I had some words where I basically knew the meaning but was vague on the pronunciation, but it's bothersome to have that link between the written language and the spoken language obscured.

Still, I get to something like this:
Someone once said that learning Chinese is "a five-year lesson in humility". I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.


And I can't help but thinking that this is a guy who's doing too much studying and too little easy reading. Which I can't blame him for. 1991 was before miles and miles of online text, before Amazon.cn, before ChinaSprout, before online dictionaries and electronic dictionaries with handwriting recognition. Between lack of resources specifically for second language learners and the fact that (mainland) Chinese children's books seem to assume that young children know a hell of a lot of characters, it's really hard to get a toehold in extensive reading. But once you do... your Chinese starts to become not-abysmal. You finish a novel (for six-year-olds, granted). And then you start to read even Taiwanese romance novels and realize that you basically understand what's going on. And you measure your 5-year-progress not against scholarly books but against the kind of books that a 5th-grade kid might be reading, because the capacity to read scholarly books is a product of years and years of extensive, not-too-hard reading.

Well, I guess I still have some years to go on the "lesson in humility" thing.

But I've done this in Japanese, and that means I realize that the farther you go, the more you feel like you have to learn: the words that are common in historical novels but describe things that aren't in daily use anymore, classical language, the (truly endless) learning of vocabulary words, and so on. And once you accept that you aren't on a set timeline to where you can be perfect, or conquer the language, or achieve some mystical level of "fluency at the level of a highly educated native speaker of the prestige dialect," then you can get down to the far more interesting question of what you can do, right now, with what you know.

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July 1st, 2014


05:15 pm
I'm about halfway through an abridged, simplified retelling of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" for young children -- I've just reached the Battle of Red Cliffs.

Zhuge Liang is the best, but Cao Cao is sort of the character I have the most sympathy for, because I'm always going "No, it's a trap, don't do it!"

It's really not the best book to read in a highly abridged version because it's so hard to keep track of all the characters and all the plot machinations, and who's a good guy and who's a bad guy, probably more so than if it were a full length modern language translation (such a thing must exist, right? For when I'm fluenter?) but I'm entertained by it nonetheless. And it has adorable little cartoony illustrations.

The Red Cliff movie has Takeshi Kaneshiro in it, so I probably should watch that immediately.

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June 26th, 2014


02:33 pm - This One Summer - Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
In the first couple pages of this graphic novel, you see protagonist Rose reading a perfectly depicted, almost parodic page of a shoujo manga. It's a perfect moment -- a casual snapshot in the summer vacation of a young teenage girl, and at the same time, a nod to all the themes that go through the book (performativity, the male gaze -- or the female gaze, desire, what it means to be a girl).

Rose is up at Awago Beach with her family -- I guess one of the lakes in rural Ontario, which made this a rather intense read for me as somebody who's spent weeks and weekends in summer at the lakes and rivers of rural Ontario! She's hanging out with her friend Windy, who's a year and a half younger than her, enough that they're both starting to feel the age difference pretty keenly as the pressures of dating and sex start to hang over them. They hang out at the general store, and Rose is intrigued by Duncan, who has a girlfriend. Is it a crush? Maybe -- or just that he's a window into the mysteries of being a little bit older, old enough for drinking and sex.

Meanwhile, things are tense between Rose's parents; her mother is cold and moody. How can you draw an uncomfortable silence? How can you draw bristling at someone's touch? But Jillian Tamaki does. It's a brilliant thing to behold.

There are the pleasures of swimming and smores, claw machines, picking up rocks, riding bicycles, snooping on the neighbors. There's the complicated pleasure of one of the graphic novel's big conceits, as Windy and Rose rent a string of horror movies -- Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, Friday the 13th. Terrifying or fun, something you enjoy for their own sake or because you think they're something you're supposed to enjoy? A badge to prove your own bravery and adulthood by?

It's a complicated, rough-edged story of friendship, and also of how you try to navigate being a girl, woman, or mother in a patriarchal world -- what it means to start growing into some consciousness of your place in that world.

It's so good. Really, really good. It's maybe the first YA fiction book this year that I would completely go to bat for if I were on the actual Printz committee.

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June 20th, 2014


10:24 am
Would really like to see a book similar to The Artist's Way that

a) Doesn't have any prosperity theology in it!

b) Acknowledges that what works for the subset of people who are wealthy enough to spend (several hundred dollars?) on a creativity class is not going to work for everybody

c) Acknowledges that the 'magical coincidences' that occur when you try to pursue your artistic dreams are, in fact, a function of living embedded in networks of other well-off creative types, and you're much less likely to have a dentist whose brother is a literary agent if you live in Brownsville instead of Greenwich Village

d) Acknowledges that there are some people who can leap and have confidence that the net will be there, and there are some people who know that if they leap they might just go splat.

I have nothing against lawyers and dentists and executives pursuing their creative dreams! It will do them more good than a lot of the things they could be doing instead. But to not even address the question of whether working-class people face the same kinds of barriers... it feels cheap. And it feels like those personal finance books that tell you to just buy fewer lattes.

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June 19th, 2014


09:33 am - I have "low self-confidence" which... yeah.
After seeing the authors of "The Confidence Code" on the Colbert Report, I was compelled to go over to their website and take their confidence quiz

It said I had low confidence. And then I make a joke about how no one was surprised -- but really, it's a weird quiz and I'm not at all sure it's measuring what it's purporting to measure.

Some of the questions -- they ask me to evaluate the probability of a manned Mars mission before 2025, and ask how sure I am of my answer; they ask me to estimate the temperature in Fairbanks in August -- are questions where you get dinged for having skepticism and humility. I would rather have skepticism and humility than confidence.

It also asks you whether you have strong opinions, and whether you think it's a good thing to have strong opinions. And I do have very strong opinions about a lot of things! But am also mindful of the Buddhist idea that a strong attachment to one's own opinions can be a problem in the way that all strong attachments can be.

And then it asks you to evaluate statements like "I see myself as anxious and easily upset," and "I see myself as calm and emotionally stable."

Well, hey, I have an anxiety disorder. I actually am anxious and easily upset. I am somewhat less anxious and easily upset than I was for a long time; but it makes more of a difference, I think, that I see myself as an anxious person who has the self-care tools to deal with anxiety. (And sometimes doesn't, and that's not the end of the world.)

This is relevant to my interests in the sense that I am looking at jobs right now, and I am trying to remind myself that I shouldn't be afraid to apply for jobs I'm only 3/4 qualified for and confidently assert that I can figure out the rest, but it comes back to how I learned to write as a person with not a lot of self-confidence. How I had to learn to tell myself that I didn't have to believe I was going to write something great, and I didn't have to pretend to believe it. I just had to treat the work in front of me as a job that needed somebody to do it, however badly, and nobody else was going to do it but me.

And contemporary American culture does reward confidence, does value people who really believe they're awesome or can act like they do, and it's worth talking about how this systematically disadvantages groups of people who are raised to believe that they shouldn't talk about how awesome they are. But I do bristle at this notion that we just need tips and tricks to play this capitalist game a little better.

I don't need to think I'm awesome. I need to feel that I am valued whether or not I'm awesome.

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June 5th, 2014


10:06 pm
It's so much fun when people who've read half a dozen YA books in their whole lives want to talk about how serious literature doesn't exist in YA.

And the counterargument is that not everything has to be serious literature and you're allowed to read books just for fun.

I agree that not everything is serious literature and you're allowed to read books just for fun! But why write off serious literature as something that YA can't/doesn't/won't do, unless you have actually read enough books to evaluate that in an honest way?

Oh, people would just rather make fun of teenage girls? OK then.

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June 3rd, 2014


07:11 pm
Sometimes I have to read the reading comprehension packets that kids get assigned in school (I'm not talking about young adults -- I'm talking about middle elementary grades.)

I don't know if this is directly traceable back to Common Core or No Child Left Behind, and I don't know if this is typical just for certain kids in my area or if it's something that's happening more widely, but these reading comprehension packets consist of a bunch of very short (1.5 pages, largeish print) nonfiction articles and stories, followed by questions that very much resemble the things that standardised tests ask for. (Why did X happen? Give two details that support your conclusion.)

They are so bland. The prose is so bland, the information is so bland, the stories are so bland. Super-commercial series fiction, the kind filled with fairies and ponies, is less bland. Authentic literature has more in common with a boiled egg than with these stories, if the boiled egg has a little salt on it.

There are so many things I don't know about education and how to fix the problems with education but I do know that I am the person I am today because my elementary school teachers read "Charlotte's Web" and "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "A Wrinkle in Time" to the class. And because of the big boxes of Roald Dahl and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary that I got via Sea Mail while I lived in France.

I do believe, very strongly, that even very easy reading materials can be interesting and stylish. (Hello Kevin Henkes! Hello Mo Willems!). And I believe, very strongly, that nobody gets to be a fast, fluent reader or a skilled writer without having read a lot of books because they were interesting and enjoyable.

If school systems in the US are throwing this kind of stuff at kids, and then acting surprised when they don't succeed at reading and writing, then we are in trouble.

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June 2nd, 2014


06:17 am
Clearly what I need to do is learn to make great pie crust in the winter when my kitchen's cold so I can isolate all relevant variables that aren't "it was too warm and my butter melted."

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May 29th, 2014


12:00 am
Last week I was at the point where I had drafted a letter to my superintendent and management company to say "This is the temperature of my hot water. This is the law. You are breaking the law." (It's not very hot.) I would've put it in the mail before WisCon, but I ran out of time, so I figured I would get some new temperature readings after I got back.

They're going to be doing boiler maintenance tomorrow.

Fingers crossed that it actually improves anything.

Probably it's because I called 311 and asked them to inspect the building, but I like to think I managed to telepathically transmit my white-hot rage.

(TAKING SHOWERS AT WISCON THOUGH. VERY WATER PRESSURE, WOW.)

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May 28th, 2014


07:12 am
[personal profile] oyceter and I got to talking about how incredibly much a boy's club anime music video fandom was Back In The Day, even more so than anime fandom as a whole because of the technical equipment and expertise that it required, and men tended to be socialized to get into that stuff more than women.

So, I went looking on animemusicvideos.org for a specific Battle Angel Alita vid that I remembered as being quite good, and... there was so much Linkin Park. So much.

Oh, the world of the late 90s and early 00s. You can stay right back there at a safe distance.

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May 27th, 2014


05:59 pm
I still have a lot of hearts and sparkles about the WisCon vid party

AND I have a pretty fast new computer.

(At this point the logical part of me says "What, you need a new hobby?" and the less logical part of me says "Shut up!")

(I am well-off enough that I'm not going to pirate software but also not so well-off that I'm willing to spend even enough money for Microsoft Office, so this does depend on how far I can get with free/cheap software.)

But seriously, Faye Valentine/any Shiina Ringo song would be pretty amazing, right? (What are the logistics of foreign language songs in vids, anyway? Subtitle both the original language and the translation?)

Also I should listen to more new music because no one cares about Shiina Ringo like I care about Shiina Ringo.

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May 26th, 2014


07:26 pm - The Sheriff's Secret Police Would Like You To Say Nothing
I also have the title as "The Sheriff's Secret Police Would Like You To Speak Up." I feel like this inconsistency illustrates something important about the Kafkaesque nature of authority in Night Vale, where you can be punished for breaking rules that are impossible to follow, or that you didn't know existed.

This was an impromptu panel dealing with the surveillance state especially in the context of Welcome to Night Vale, Agents of Shield, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, and Person of Interest, (and also what Candra Gill called "cop-adjacent" genre shows that make use of the tools and techniques of surveillance.)

I am really interested in surveillance in Night Vale -- it's the thing in NV that is both really spooky and really reminiscent of the current state of things in the US. How you can have a surveillance state that's not a dystopia, that reflects the accomodations and acceptance that we all have to make in order to keep on living our lives, and sometimes it's horrifying and sometimes it seems so normal that you forget how horrifying it is. And I'm interested in the ambivalence/ambiguity/total moral incoherency of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in regards to surveillance. And this was my favorite panel this WisCon!

(Note: lots of people in the audience were people I know, but in my notes I've left them as just 'audience' mostly because I was typing really fast trying to get everybody's words in, also because I feel making a long-term and identifiable record of your words is kind of sketchy if you're not one of the people who volunteered for the panel. Because this panel is the kind of panel that makes you nervous about surveillance.)

Contains some mild spoilers for Continuum, Welcome to Night Vale, Winter Soldier, Orphan Black, Elementary. Less minor spoilers for Agents of Shield, Person of Interest.Collapse )

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May 24th, 2014


03:56 pm - Judging the Tiptree
Description Current Tiptree jury members discuss the process of judging and selecting the Tiptree Award winners.
Location Senate A
Schedule Sat, 2:30–3:45 pm
Panelists Christopher Barzak, Nene Ormes, Gretchen T.

Note: Christopher Barzak was not present. The moderator was someone I didn't know who had previously served on a Tiptree jury.

Read more...Collapse )

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12:14 pm - Feminist Endings/Beginnings: Stories Without Romance
Description Many speculative fiction novels include a romantic subplot with often a paired coupling at the end. This is particularly so in YA. How can feminist writers resist or re-imagine different kinds of endings if a large sector of the reading public has been encouraged to expect romance? Is a desire for romance one of many basic human desires?
Location Assembly
Schedule Sat, 10:00–11:15 am
Panelists M: Trisha J. Wooldridge. Hiromi Goto, Lauren K. Moody

Read more...Collapse )

Something I find frustrating about WisCon panels talking about romance fiction is the assumption that romance fiction, or fiction with a romance plot, is explicitly about modeling a real-life romantic relationship. I think that it can be that -- I think it often is that -- but I think romance in fiction so often plays out as an arena for self-discovery, for articulating one's own desires, for thinking about the parts of oneself that are able to be loved and valued, and what one desires and values in other people. As much as I hate badly done love triangles, a well-done love triangle is about how to know who you are and how to know what you want, and I think that's bigger and deeper than a lot of people give it credit for.

That doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to see a lot more diversity in terms of characters and relationship types in YA, because I definitely would! I don't really mind if you have a relationship between straight white able-bodied characters and you say "Oh but it's universal." I mind if you have an overwhelming majority of relationships between straight white able-bodied characters and you say "Oh but it's universal."

(I appreciate Hiromi Goto's comment about librarians, by the way, but the philosophy of public librarianship in a lot of places has swung so much towards ordering whatever is going to be popular that ideologically we almost might as well be Barnes and Noble.)

I think the question of having *healthier* romantic relationships in YA and the question of having romantic relationships not be such a singleminded focus in YA are two separate questions. (That's just panel topic drift. But really, I was more interested in the latter. I am -- sort of torn about "healthy" relationships because I think that not many teens are really that self-actualized. I think realism is a positive good and I think modeling healthy relationships is a positive good and you can't necessarily have them both at the same time. So. Complicated.)

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May 23rd, 2014


10:43 pm
My first boss, when I was in college in Japan, was a Canadian dude who liked to talk smack about how Canadians were smarter than Americans. He thought he could get away with it because I was also Canadian and would understand. (In fact, he could get away with it because he was twice my age and in a position of authority over me.) He couldn't read or write Japanese despite having lived in Japan for nine years or so, and his speaking ability was genuinely lousy, and he sexually harassed the cashier at the donut shop, so I did not have much respect for his claims of intellectual superiority.

That's the main thing I thought about when I read this Macleans article about anti-intellectualism in the US.

Anti-intellectualism is a real problem. The fact that a lot of people don't believe in evolution, and don't believe in climate change, is probably going to have serious consequences in the future. But that's not actually related to the word "folks" (which is the friendliest, most gender-inclusive word I know to address a group: "Folks at the computers there, please watch your language.") And anti-intellectualism isn't the same thing as the breakdown of public education in high-poverty districts, which is above all a poverty problem and not an education problem. The wealthy congresspersons who talk about evolution being lies from the pit of hell are the same people who vote against minimum wage increases and school lunches and education funding; but they do so because of an ideology and a political climate that's much bigger than who values knowledge, or science, or education. (My experience is that the southern conservative upper-midde-class actually places an enormous value on education in their personal lives and for their families, and raises a lot of really smart homeschooled or private-schooled kids who can read and write at a very high level even if they do think the earth is 4,000 years old.)

The fact that conservatives play both sides of the intellectualism coin -- "Those people over there are poor because they don't make the effort to educate themselves" at the same time as "We don't need those elite people in ivory towers thinking they know better than we do" -- is interesting, and deserves a better article than that one to explore it.

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06:37 am - Pre-Wiscon PSA
I am flying in this afternoon!

There is a chance that I'm getting a cold, so ask first before hugs even if we are on a hugging basis.

I am still a tiny bit weepy about recent upheavals and may need a good bit of alone time. But I am really looking forward to seeing all of you whom I know!

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