Links for Halloween haters

Confession: Apart from the RIP Challenge, there’s nothing about Halloween that I enjoy. I don’t eat candy anymore, and having to put together a costume stresses me out horribly. So none of these links have anything to do with Halloween! Down with Halloween!

Oh, except for this one: Lory of Emerald City Book Review is kicking off an awesome new blogging event, Witch Week! This year, we’re celebrating the inventor of Witch Week (the week between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day) with a week-long appreciation of Diana Wynne Jones. Lory will be hosting guest posts from me and a number of awesome fellow bloggers, and we’ll be doing a readalong of Witch Week as well. Don’t forget to join in! It’s going to be awesome!

Slate has a new podcast called Working that’s about people’s jobs and how they do their jobs. I have no proof of this, but I theorize that Slate invented this podcast just to make me happy, since this is exactly in line with my interests. Thanks, Slate! You’re a doll!

Pixar’s rules for storytelling remain excellent.

This article about the American diner made me terribly homesick for my favorite New York diner, Tom’s. Next time I go to New York I shall eat at Tom’s twice.

“I’m pregnant so why can’t I tell you?”: A piece about the silence around miscarriages.

Alyssa Rosenberg wrote an excellent article about how Gone Girl and 50 Shades of Grey are both basically stories about women who make their lovers change completely while they do not change at all. Reading this I thought: “Wait, they stop having kinky sex in the second and third 50 Shades books? Then what are people reading for?” If you know the answer to that question, please tell me in the comments. It’s definitely not the scintillating dialogue; I have read excerpts.

Speaking of fan fiction, here’s Elizabeth Minkel — a writer I’m swiftly growing fond of, over at the New Statesmantsking over Benedict Cumberbatch’s snotty remarks about Watson/Sherlock slashfic. I tsk over that too, Elizabeth Minkel!

Vulture, as usual, is doing the important investigative work of our time: If you recreated the cast of Friends in The Sims and then took away their bathroom, who would be the first to pee on the floor? In gifs. I sent this to some of my friends along with some nostalgic comments on the fun of murdering Sims, and they clearly thought that I was a psychopath. Please back me up: Half of the fun of the Sims is killing off your Sims in inventive ways. Right?

A marker of mourning: On the occasion of an exhibit at the Met, the New Republic makes the case that we should bring back mourning attire. I am so on board with this (like, as an optional but accepted and widely known thing).

In praise of the feminism of Veronica Mars.

A snotty review of Chuck Palahniuk’s newest book, Beautiful You. I don’t think anyone should dedicate themselves full-time to writing negative reviews or anything, but the occasional nasty review can make a girl’s heart sing.

Interesting: Liberal cities tend to have more intense income inequality.

The whole mess with Jian Gomeshi is ongoing. I found this post particularly enlightening, because my own experience of creepers is that oftentimes everyone knows. Not necessarily that they’re a rapist or an abuser, but everyone knows that they push boundaries and make people uncomfortable. When I was in high school, I don’t think I had even finished the orientation events before I knew exactly who the creepy art and math teachers were that I should not be alone with. Word spreads.

Dystopias, the Diversiverse, and Death (a links round-up)

It’s the Friday after podcast day, which means another links round-up!

Don’t forget that A More Diverse Universe is going on now! Head over to Aarti’s blog to see all the amazing POC authors people are discovering and rediscovering this month!

More awesome discoveries by science: Scientists have found the most complete dinosaur skeleton yet, and they have named it THE DREADNOUGHT. I hope it’s not too late to incorporate it into Jurassic World. The tail alone is thirty feet long. This is awesome. Science is the best.


The wonderful and brilliant Jenny Diski has inoperable cancer. Stupid universe. In other sad news, much-acclaimed fantasy writer Graham Joyce died last week of also cancer.

Here is a history of the “Can This Marriage Be Saved” column from the Ladies’ Home Journal. I love that column, but okay, yes, its history is not the greatest. Yikes, guys. It is like if Roger Goodell were masterminding a marriage advice column.

Speaking of which, the National Football League has been making me alternately furious and miserable this whole past fortnight! “Fuck you Roger Goodell” is far from a new sentiment for me, but man, he’s really pushing for Worst Human Person this year. Alyssa Rosenberg is typically cogent about how they should behave.

Emily Asher-Perrin’s Harry Potter reread continues to be pretty much the best thing ever. Yesterday’s recap produced this:

I really feel like Hogwarts has probably not changed any school rules (outside of not torturing students in detention) in a few hundred years. Like, what is the Board of Governors even for? Pretty sure that other than Lucius Malfoy strutting around and getting in people’s faces (back when he was a member), they probably just get together to drink sherry, talk shit on various Ministry policies, and reminisce about when they used to be students. In fact, I guarantee you that this is exactly what the Board does. . . . Can I be on the Board?

How not to respond to a bad review. Basically, just don’t respond to it. Keep your feelings to yourself, and everyone will like you better. I absolutely promise.

Ten lessons from real-life revolutions that fictional dystopias ignore, from the good people at io9.

My favorite thing The Toast has produced in this past fortnight: How to Tell if You’re in a MFA Workshop Story. I like “You saw something horrifying at the circus.”

Last but not least, the lovely Lory of Emerald City Review has come up with an idea that it’s weird to me nobody came up with before: Witch Week! From Halloween (31 October) to Guy Fawkes Day (5 November), we’ll be spotlighting a fantasy author — this year, it’ll be the wonderful and inimitable Diana Wynne Jones, who coined the term “Witch Week” in her book Witch Week. There will be guest posts (one by me!) and giveaways, and you should get excited.

Review: Witch Week, Diana Wynne Jones

I am selectively craving Diana Wynne Jones right now.  Diana Wynne Jones is so great that I’ve devoted nearly half of the spinning bookshelf my father made me to her books alone.  (The spinning bookshelf denotes great favoritism and also contains Martin Millar, J.K. Rowling, and Rumer Godden.)  (Er, just so we’re clear, it doesn’t spin perpetually, like those spinny restaurants.  It’s more like spinning earring racks at gift shops, except bigger and wooden and it has books on it rather than accessories.)

Does anyone else take great notice of words whose letters are all standards, which is to say, letters that neither stretch tall (like t) nor drop low (like g)?  All-standard words include scarecrows, savannas, and renascence; if you are willing to fudge a bit and include the letter i (like I am), you can have reconnaissance and accessories, which is what brought this to mind in the first place.  What’s also fun (if you are a total dork already) is to find words that are all standards and can be typed with only one hand, like scare and raze and verses.  Continuing on the assumption that you are a total dork, it might please you to know that the bottom row of your keyboard has six standards, the middle two, and the top six again; that the bottom row has the fewest non-standards (only one); and that the top row has a pleasing and palindromic (if you count i as standard) pattern of non-standard, standard standard standard, non-standard non-standard, standard standard standard, non-standard.

But, Witch Week.  It’s set in an alternate world quite like ours, except there is magic there, and the magic is illegal.  If a witch is caught, she or he is burned straightaway.  Mr. Crossley, the English teacher of Class 6B at the Larwood House boarding school, is dismayed, therefore, to find an anonymous note amongst his textbooks accusing someone in 6B of being a witch.  Is it plump, unpopular Nan Pilgrim, descended from the famous Archwitch Dulcinea Wilkes?  Is it perpetual victim Brian Wentworth, the deputy headmaster’s son?  Charles Morgan with the evil stare and the encoded journal?

(Not telling.)

I’ve said I like Diana Wynne Jones because her characters tend to move from selfishness to self-awareness; I also like her because her nicest characters have flaws (which they learn to work around), and her nastiest ones have virtues (which sometimes get lost in their pursuit of – well, whatever it is).  Her books do not look kindly on small-mindedness or selfishness, in the villains or the heroes.  The day gets saved when people overcome their fear and selfishness and act like their best selves.  Not in a moralizing way.  Just in a, sort of, look how good humans can be sort of way.

Spoilers in this paragraph only!  And if you have read Witch Week already, please tell me what you think about this.  I ordinarily come away from a Diana Wynne Jones book feeling absolutely satisfied with the ending, even if it’s a quite sad ending (Homeward Bounders breaks my heart every time); with Witch Week I never feel this way.  Their whole world disappears at the end!  It is less than ideal!  And sure, they end up with a nicer version, but they don’t get to be witches anymore!  Plus, how come the unpleasant boys – Dan Smith & Simon Silverson – get to stay at Larwood, and even be friends with the sympathetic characters, while the unpleasant girls – Theresa and her lot – all get shipped off to the other school?  Hmph.

It took me several tries to like Witch Week, which is typical of my relationship with Diana Wynne Jones’s writing, but now it’s one of my favorites.  Whereas my little sister, to whom I read many DWJ books aloud in our youth, has never warmed to it.  If you are thinking of reading it, I’d suggest reading Charmed Life first, just because – well, mainly because I like Chrestomanci, and I feel you will appreciate him more as a character in Witch Week if you are already familiar with him and his awesomeness.

(awesomeness – all standards.)

I have not said enough about Diana Wynne Jones on this blog.  The extent of my love for her is not adequately reflected here.  But all that’s going to change, my friends.  I love Diana Wynne Jones and I am totally in the mood to reread all the Chrestomanci books, and the Dalemark Quartet, and the books with the Magids, and the books with Howl; and I suspect I am in the mood to give those of her books that I haven’t been mad about in the past another chance.  I am counting 23 of her books that I could totally go for right now.

Other reviews:

the stacks my destination
Puss Reboots
Rhinoa’s Ramblings

Let me know if I missed yours!