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I had so much fun that I’m already looking forward to next year’s ARGFest.
Not much to say about the drive down to Portland other than that I made good time, it was hot, and the last 10 miles took half an hour because of traffic. Also, a netbook does not work terribly well as an MP3 player, but it will at least get the job done.
About 3pm, I finally arrived and got all checked in and registered at the hospitality suite — which was cute, because I’m used to anime cons and such where there’s a dedicated room/table/stretch of hallway for registration. Here it was just in the suite, and once I was checked in I wandered over to check out the activity going on in the suite: namely, constructing giant robot heads out of foil-covered cardboard boxes and assorted cables and bulk strips of resistors and keypads and crap.
Why, you ask?
I answer: for the Robot Speed Dating session organized by RobotFriendFinder.com, of course! I had originally been waffling about whether or not to take part, and then had pretty much decided to go just to attend but watch only. But…then I started helping Tonamel with her robot head, and then she had to go save something that broke, and somehow I ended up being the one of the two of us who was less shy and more willing to make a fool of myself in front of others (and on camera, even!). Thus, I wore the Marleytron/Bot Marley head to Robot Speed Dating. And brought it home with me.
I should have known that an ARG live event calling itself “speed dating” wouldn’t JUST be speed dating — each dater got a puzzle and during dates, people swapped puzzles and tried to solve each others’. The more people who solved your puzzle, the more points you got, and the 2 people with the most points at the end got prizes. (There is YouTube video, and a ustream.tv video. Bot Marley is the one in the red shirt with the car charger “dreads.”)
So that was surprisingly fun, and then afterwards there were cocktails and I drank like 5 rums and coke and chatted with a lot of people, including Ineffabelle and Pixie.
Saturday was the day of panels and meta stuff, i.e. the nominal reason we were all there.
First panel: interesting, mainly dominated by the two Must Love Robots guys. There was discussion about freedom of vision when making indie ARGs versus ARGs for clients, and the highlight was pretty much one of the MLR guys saying, “Well, we have a camera and a cardboard box, we can do ANYTHING.”
Second panel: made me conclude that I must visit San Fran sometime this year. It was run by the people behind the Jejune Institute, and they gave a spoilerriffic overview of basically the whole course of Jejune thus far. Frankly, it looked amazing. The amount of money and effort and creativity and love put into it really shows. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the entire room was pretty much wowed, even the hardened, jaded veterans who’ve been ARGing since the early days.
I picked up some of the printed swag they brought to share after the panel, and then it was time for the drama panel. A bit of background: the Terms of Service of the unforums say that the unforums are Out Of Game. Period. Full Stop. End of Discussion. If characters in a game go to unfiction.com they get a 404 error. Etc etc.
The drama panel had the following:
* An unfiction moderator
* Steve Diddle, a guy who “played” an IG character on the unforums and on ARGN.com (another strictly OOG site).
* Brian Bricker, an author who (if I’m understanding things right) started an ARG with no connections to himself by posting IG in the forums, then later on came in and filed a “cease & desist” against the unforums for sharing his unpublished manuscript, then turned out to be IG, but he’s a real guy writing a real book…in short, trampled all over the fourth wall, any and all IG-OOG boundaries, and the unforum terms of service.
Steve seems like a genuinely decent guy who “gets it.” Brian Bricker…seems like an asshole. Case in point: someone asked him what he would change about the unfiction terms of service if he could, and he basically responded that he wouldn’t change anything, he just didn’t agree with the rules. Let me rephrase: he didn’t want to change the rules, he just wanted to be a special sunflower and break them to fuck with people’s minds.
Also, the Jejune folks talked about their goal being “social re-engineering,” and explained the concept as wanting to change the way people interacted with society by bringing back more of a sense of wonder and creativity and the idea that you could find something fascinating around any corner. Brian Bricker sat there at the very next panel and said (almost direct quote) he didn’t think there was a future for “social re-engineering.” I think you’d have had to be there to get the full effect, but when he said it I decided a) he had a pair of brass ones, but b) he is, in fact, an unmitigated jackass, and c) he does not “get it” or even want to get it. Apropos quote from the IRC room (you could hear several of us typing furiously as he talked, it was pretty amusing): “his ego barely fit in the door” (not that there aren’t some big damn egos in the ARG community already).
Personally, I find the game he’s running pretty uninspired and badly-run (with the exception of a few sparks of creativity), so I hope he takes his toys and gets the hell out of the sandbox when he’s done and his book comes out (at which point he would have no further use for ARG players). He’s a little too much like a real-life griefer for my taste.
Jackass aside, it was an interesting panel, and even having Bricker there provided a foil for the other participants.
After that wrapped up, there was a tribute video for Dave Szulborski, a near-legendary figure in the community who died of leukemia this April — which reminds me I need to get tested for the bone marrow donor program. Everybody at the conference got a coupon waiving the usual $45 testing fee. In a way, I owe my ARG start to him, since the first game I got involved with was Urban Hunt.
Apparently there was a trailhead in the tribute video (…leave it to ARGers), but I’m torn between posting it and not. It could be a great tribute, or it could just be tacky, and I can’t quite decide which it is. I know at least 3 other people are aware of it, and none of them have posted it either, which makes me think it’s more tacky than tribute. Then again, I doubt the people who made the video would have left the clue if they didn’t want people to pursue it…
Oh, well. Currently the site says “still waiting for them to take this FREE stuff off the top,” so maybe I’ll keep an eye on it for the next couple days and post it once that happens.
Moving right along! We broke for lunch, and I ended up with Tonamel, RobMagus, and his girlfriend, whose name I cannot recall, at a Greek place. It was good, and had a GIANT purple octopus on the wall outside.
Right before lunch, someone received a package with a clue for a currently running Halo-related game known as Intimation. This led to 4 coordinates in a nearby park, and when I heard there were more people than vehicles wanting to go in search of the drops, I volunteered my car.
So then I spent a while running all around a section of Washington Park with Celina, Dav, Lu, Enaxor, AgentLex, RobMagus and his girlfriend and maybe one more person whose name I can’t recall, looking for these dead drops, which turned out to be (in proper geocache fashion) small skulls wrapped in camo tape. We had a little trouble finding them. XD
Once we did, though, we all raced back to the hotel because we were about to be late for FestQuest! The group of questers was divided up into 5 and each group got a pack of clues to try to rescue SpaceBass (unforums member #1), who had been abducted. Pixie and I ended up on the same team, which was fun.
Our group’s set of clues was REALLY DAMN TRICKY. We had to go to a library…but then someone walked up to us and handed us more clues, and some money, in a pack of envelopes labeled (respectively) “civet,” “ass,” and “coffee.” Then we had to decode a message saying “change of plans, go buy some beer because SpaceBass drank it all.” We were directed to two breweries and given a particular beer to buy at each, then we had to work out four more puzzles in order to make two lines cross on a map to find the next rendezvous point.
Once we got there, we found out we were the last group to arrive and there was some kind of drink we had to order, but it took forever to figure out that “civet ass coffee” was the name of the drink. Sadly, we failed to “rescue” SpaceBass in time, but he magically turned up at the keynote dinner anyway.
The keynote dinner speaker was Jordan Weisman, who…has done a lot of stuff, including founding FASA and WizKids and working on both the Beast and I Love Bees. He gave a good talk with some funny anecdotes, but which I don’t really know how I can distill down into a summary. I will say that he really sold me on picking up a copy of Personal Effects: Dark Art (see Powell’s section on Sunday).
And after that, I somehow ended up in a room up on the 15th floor that had Rock Band…and also like a dozen other people. Apparently some people went out to bars and whatnot, but me passing up a perfectly good RB jam session? Pffffff. So I played a few songs, and was pleased to be able to impress the crowd by rocking out Foreplay/Long Time on expert guitar. X3
The last few people finally dispersed from the room at around 3 AM. I went to bed, but apparently some people were up shooting the shit in various rooms and corners of the hotel till about 5 or 6 AM.
I got a few hours of sleep and rolled out about 11 AM, checking out and leaving my stuff with the front desk.
I really didn’t want to do a lot of walking (feet still hurting from yesterday’s adventures), but I ended up going to breakfast at Voodoo Doughnuts with RobMagus, his girlfriend, and a few others…and then we ran into more ARGFesters at VD and turned into a veritable small horde.
In case you’re wondering: yes, I had a Maple Bacon Bar, and it was delicious. I also had an Orangutang (okay) and a Grape Ape (very good).
Even though my feet hurt, I didn’t feel impelled to split with the group when they headed for Powell’s, so I found myself at the great city of books wandering around mostly with AgentLex looking for other people (everyone instantly dispersed upon entering). We relocated Pixie and Tonamel and found 2 copies of Personal Effects (which went to Pixie and Tonamel; I ordered mine today on Amazon).
AgentLex picked up a copy of Munchkin Cthulhu, and someone else picked up Star Munchkin, so once we collected up a few more people most of us went back to the hotel to play, while a few split off to go play with the Hidden Park iPhone app since there was a park nearby that used it.
On the way (actually, before we really got underway, we were right next to Powell’s), we ran across thebruce, who was looking for a geocache near this art installation on a sidewalk island. AgentLex figured out the clue, but half the group was still looking in the wrong area. Having just recently gone cache hunting with my mom, I had enough of the right mindset to find the cache — a tiny Altoids breath-strips tin hidden in the base of a traffic light pole. Cache successfully located, we all continued our migration.
Munchkin Cthulhu is a blast. It has many, many terrible puns. I picked up a copy today myself along with Personal Effects, and will probably be scheduling a Munchkin party via Facebook sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Anyway, after a lot of Muchkining, it was time to regroup at PF Chang’s for the Straggler’s Dinner. There were a lot of stragglers, it turned out — the reservation had been made for 35, and when the last group of us showed up (about 15, we’d been waiting to make sure Ineffabelle wasn’t left behind), there wasn’t room because there were 50 of us total and the reservation had only been made for 35.
Fortunately, the staff were exceptionally good to us and there were a couple of large booths open near the group table, so we were able to split up and distribute ourselves. I sat with Pixie, AgentLex, Tonamel, and…two other people whose logins/names I never caught.
Dinner was delicious, and as things started winding up and people started leaving I found myself really strongly wanting not to leave to start the drive back. I mean, I was really forlorn inside. So when some people started heading back to the hotel to play more Munchkin, I joined them.
And ended up playing Munchkin until 1 AM. XD
Note to self about driving: make sure driving playlist doesn’t have unexpected “HOLY SHIT SOMEONE IS BLARING THEIR HORN AT ME AAAAHHHHH WHERE ARE THEY I CAN’T SEE THEM I’M GONNA DIE” brass interludes.
When I find myself driving down a highway in the middle of the night, I’ll catch glimpses of the night sky that always leave me wishing rest stops weren’t so well-lit. The stars are amazing from the middle of freaking nowhere.
I made it back home just as the sky lightened with the approach of dawn, right after a stunning moonrise. Fell into bed for 3 hours, went to work, and the rest is history.
I really…don’t get how I met and interacted with so many people, thinking back over the weekend. And everyone was so friendly! My convention/conference experience is mostly of big cons with thousands of people, but I’d love to see numbers on ARGfest attendance. I can’t imagine there were more than 250 people there across the whole weekend, and most of them knew most of the rest. ARG people are great, too: by and large, I find that they are intelligent, funny, friendly and diverse.
The atmosphere of the con was very egalitarian, as well — original Unfiction members rubbing elbows with people who’d just gotten into ARGS recently, “famous” people and puppetmasters hanging out with the rank-and-file players. I played Rock Band with Elan Lee (he’s awesome on drums). I got a hug from SpaceBass (and several others) when I left. Seriously, it was like being in a big, close-knit family. I’ve been thinking during the past couple of months about how I miss the sense of community/connection I had at Bryn Mawr, the “walk out of your room and find a random group of people/hallmates/friends hanging out in the hallway” college atmosphere, and ARGFest was just like that.
I was pretty out of it on Monday, thanks to sleep deprivation and lots of caffeine, but going to work today was a trial. I really, really, really just…wanted to be back at ARGFest, with all the awesome people I now feel so much more connected to.
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Today I went to City Hall to attend a hearing on whether or not the city should grant a special license to Planned Parenthood to open their second clinic in the whole local area (about 230,000 people, the size of Orlando, FL, Norfolk, VA, or Baton Rouge, LA).
I almost didn’t go — I really didn’t expect it would be that big of a deal. I certainly didn’t expect to be there for three hours.
In some ways I’m glad I went, but in other ways I’m just depressed now that I’ve seen the way the “concerned citizens” (how I loathe that phrase) around me view the world.
It’s nice to be able to surround yourself with people who generally share the same views as you — I know I have some people on my flist whose views differ from significantly from mine, but by and large I feel like I share a certain amount of common ideology with the people I interact with online.
In the “real world” I live in a very repressed, politically conservative area in many ways. Attending the City Hall meeting and hearing the number of people speaking out against the new clinic, most of whom talked about how God/the Bible says it’s wrong to murder babies (I wish I were exaggerating), made me feel alien and alienated in the place where I live all over again.
At one point a guy probably my age went up to the mic and started talking, and almost before he even opened his mouth I thought, “this guy looks like a d-bag.” Turns out I was right and all he wanted to do was talk about the ABORTION center and how the ABORTION center was providing ABORTIONS and murdering the unborn and omg ABORTIONS and had he mentioned ABORTIONS?
It’s important to note at this point that a) this clinic specifically would not be providing abortions, only the other clinic would continue to do so as it already does, and b) he wasn’t even a local, he was from Seattle and employed by the WA state branch of Focus on the Family.
Yeah, I pretty much wanted to punch his smarmy-looking, overweening face in.
I will even admit that the site chosen could be less contentious — the back of its lot borders the back of an elementary school lot, so quite a few people were freaking the hell out about, I dunno, comprehensive sex education being spread by close contact between real estate. (I see this as a sign that they themselves did not get adequate sex education as children.)
However…despite what I said at the mic — that it’s our responsibility as citizens to raise the level of the dialogue and not to give in to fear by saying “don’t put it here because we’re scared of violence and picketing and omg people will bomb our children” — it really just makes me want to leave for greener pastures where people aren’t so batshit crazy.
But given that I have a house to pay for, I’ll temporarily settle for signing up to volunteer with PP. Suck it, anti-choicers! Congratulations, you’ve motivated me to stop sitting on my ass and start actually taking action against you all!
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The thought of my mom going into Hot Topic to find this stuff (three pairs of fingerless gloves, one lace/fishnet, a pick, a guitar patch, and “Rock the Arts” mints) for me really made my weekend.
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This is my Cloverfield review. It’s going to get long-winded, and quite probably very off-track at some points. It’s also going to have spoilers, so stay above the fold if you want to remain pure.
My main expectation for the film was that there would be a giant monster involved, though I’d speculated that they might manage to never actually show us the whole thing, just suggestions, fleeting glimpses, and aftermath at best. Giant monster: check. From here on out, spoilers.
I also guessed (based on a tip from a coworker friend) that the timeline would be not entirely chronological, which seemed like a very JJ Abrams thing to do — not that I’ve actually seen any LOST, mind you.
Lots of people die in giant monster movies. Usually not the “main” characters, though. Cloverfield established a small ensemble cast, with Hud as the eye of the audience, and proceeded to eliminate all but one — Lily, not even the main character — throughout the course of the movie. Gritty realism has been a fad in movies of late (Casino Royale, war movies for the past several years) so it only makes sense to show the “realistic” view of a giant monster attack; that is, massive casualties.
The direct implication of the “metadata” at the beginning is that this is only a small piece of evidence in a larger story. It’s the foundation of a sequel if ever I saw one, but I see a chance to do something completely different with the story. I don’t want just a sequel.
The movie was a primary source for a fictional event — there was no constructed plot, no grand story, just one guy filming his lovesick friend’s attempt to save the love of his life. One videotape labeled “recovered at site#[whatever], codename Cloverfield, formerly known as Central Park.”
The movie had a viral advertising campaign from early on, complete with at least one in-universe website (this is where I admit I didn’t follow it much and don’t know the details). The base of some really spectacular chaotic fiction is already there — all JJ Abrams needs to do is keep providing the world with primary sources for this fictional universe of his. Letters from the front.
While I wasn’t strictly accurate in my guess that we’d never see the actual monster, as I left the theater I mulled it over in my mind and realized I wasn’t as far off as I could have been if the nature of the movie hadn’t been was it was. We never saw a complete shot of the creature. We saw a limb smash a bridge. We saw it crawling between buildings, obscured by one or more at any given time. We saw a giant maw rushing toward the camera. We saw a huge torso towering over Hud just before his death. Just like the movie never provided a clear explanation of the bigger picture, the camera never provided a clear view of the monster. Even its parasites, offspring, whatever they were, always had motion blur or bodies obscuring them, or were presented as a shadow play against a tarp, or as grainy specters in the camera’s night-vision.
I would love to never get a straightforward, high-budget action flick out of Cloverfield. It would be a great vehicle to give alternative reality games more visibility. And frankly, it would just be made of awesome.
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Today the Amazon Kindle was officially announced to the public.
Feel free to take everything I say with a grain of salt — I will be the first to admit I have a bias — but I honestly think that if anyone could make ebooks a successful business model, it’d be Amazon.
When I learned Amazon was developing an ebook reader, I was pretty dubious. I didn’t think it was the way of the future. Once I actually had one in my hands for training purposes and was able to put it through its paces, I found myself nothing short of a convert. I love it and I need one and I get tetchy at people who dismiss it or insult it when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
There is something astonishingly seductive about it.
* Yes, my first reaction to the name is that it’s some kind of Fahrenheit 451 reference. I’ve gotten over it. It’s not about burning books, it’s about (re-)igniting a love of reading in the digital age.
* The e-ink takes the eyestrain out of long-term reading. It’s also about as readable as paper in regular daylight.
* The capacity is more than enough to carry an entire suitcase full of books — in a package smaller than a single paperback. Without even adding an SD card.
* With an SD card you can put a metric fuckton of books on the thing — or fill up with music to make your reading experience more enjoyable. The music playback is still being worked on and improved; currently it’s much like a Shuffle in that you start it, it plays random tracks until you stop it.
* No PC/Mac needed. You can shop for content right from the device.
* The general web access is not spectacular, but certainly comparable to a cell phone — and being able to search Wikipedia at the drop of a hat is sheer brilliance.
* Yes, the design could be improved on. But for all the reviews on the site complaining about how ugly it is, how many are from people who have actually seen and used one? Maybe one or two out of over 200. Far more reviewers who have one are at least as thoroughly converted as I.
* It is very flexible in terms of supported formats. .txt, .doc, Mobi, .htm/.html as well as .jpg and .gif for images and even experimental .pdf support — only experimental because it doesn’t quite meet Amazon’s quality standards for conversion. Most .pdfs are going to be perfectly readable when converted.
* Sending yourself
documents. Letting other people send you documents. Having Daily Lit send you documents (which I just thought of last night as I read the Newsweek article). This is awesome.
* That said, I plan to upgrade mine (when I get one) with an Eye-Fi SD card so I can use it with my home network, hopefully.
Agh I hope that demonstrator guy was on a set because if he was wandering around SEA or SLC waving that thing around for the world to see I want to punch him.
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I’ll be surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t already heard this news already, but Madeleine L’Engle died of natural causes yesterday at the age of 88.
Like the Dark is Rising sequence, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet were treasures of my childhood. Later on, I picked up A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star, but it was definitely the original three that left the strongest impression on me. In fact, I just bought them a year or two ago for the daughter of one of my mom’s coworkers to encourage her to read more (her brother, a big Star Wars buff, got the first 4 X-Wing books).
I…don’t really have much else to say, except that the world has lost something very precious.
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Well, a blog can’t live on book reviews alone. I’ve got a post written up about Territory and a couple of other books I’ve read recently, but in the meantime, Rudy Giuliani scares me.
This ties in to the thoughts I’ve been having recently, trying to sort out my own political position in a way that I can identify and label and explain to other people.
I’ve decided just about everything boils down to this: I’m in favor of choice.
Abortion? Should be a choice. The woman’s choice. End of story, until men can be implanted with fetuses and carry them to term.
Getting married? Should be a choice, for two men or two women just as it is for one man and one woman.
Children should be educated in science, especially the theory of evolution so that they can choose whether or not they believe that man was created in a day despite substantial evidence to the contrary.
Children (hell, people) should also be educated on the principles of religions other than their own, and encouraged to question their own beliefs, often and thoroughly.
It does get more complicated when the choices of one person affect the choices, or ability to choose, of another, but I will generally fall on whatever side of the argument allows the greatest number of people the greatest amount of choice.
Pretty straightforward when you get down to it, I guess.
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I’ve just finished Mainspring, by Jay Lake, and I thought I’d write up a short review since I’m trying to keep this blog, uh, respectable in content.
Mainspring is a book about a universe made of clockwork. Our hero, Hethor Jacques, starts off as a humble clockmaker’s apprentice (a job field fraught with controversy, as some call it “playing God”), and is given a quest by the Archangel Gabriel to wind the Earth’s ailing mainspring using the Key Perilous. Hethor spends time imprisoned, gets shanghaied into Her Royal Majesty’s navy for a fateful trip to the Equator on the airship Bassett, and travels through darkest Africa on his journey.
I am absolutely fascinated by the setting. A whole clockwork world? (Link from Amazon.com’s Bookstore Blog) What a concept! At one point, Hethor actually crosses the Equator, which involves running for one’s life in order to get across the Equatorial Wall before the next gear-tooth comes along and crushes you like a tiny insect. The whole Northern Hemisphere has little knowledge of the Southern, since it’s so hard to get there, and views on it range from utopic to heathen to magical.
The time period is 1900-ish, and dirigibles are common. Christ was never crucified — instead he was horofixed (horofied?), and instead of making the sign of the cross, people make the sign of the horofix. The changes in Christianity and societal concepts to fit the horological model are comprehensive and follow a quite sensible internal logic. It is patently obvious someone has created the world, so (in Jay’s own words) “there are no atheists — only dissenters.”
I suppose this is the heart of one of the things that sits badly with me about the book. While reading it I had a constant nagging feeling that expressing an appreciation of the creativity inherent in such an obviously manufactured world is liable to bring on comments along the lines of, “A-ha! But it’s not really so creative, since the laws of physics of our world clearly suggest that it was designed to bring about life by God himself! We might as well be living on a clockwork planet!” Basically, I recognize that the clockwork solar system can be presented as a metaphor for the real world, but I disagree that it’s an accurate one.
Am I making any sense? I hope so. It’s a paranoid thought, and I try not to be a raving, rabid atheist/agnostic, but it really did decrease my enjoyment of the book. That and the fact that after a while I didn’t really feel drawn in by Hethor’s quest. The progress of his quest was so…random that I just couldn’t keep up the enthusiasm. I think the airship portion was the peak; after that things got less interesting. Especially when the romance subplot is introduced. I can understand the message of true love and sacrifice saving the world, but this particular true love didn’t resonate with me.
Still, the great setting is going to stick with me a long time, and it’s certainly a book that provokes thought. I get the feeling someone more familiar with the Jesus Christ mythos (and possibly some of the finer points of Arthurian legend as well) would get a lot more from it than me.
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Look, it’s my very own blog! Still very uncustomized, and it looks a little funny being named “Galactic Drift” with the nice green theme I picked, but for now it’s good enough.
Currently I work at Amazon.com, and while I enjoy getting a paycheck every 2 weeks (hourly, not salaried, blah), I find a ridiculous portion going right back into Amazon’s pockets thanks to all the orders I make. Most recently I picked up Firebirds, Firebirds Rising, the Shoujo Kakumei Utena movie, and The Princess and the Hound.
The Princess and the Hound turned out…interesting. A little disjointed, but I did enjoy it. I suppose since I skipped most of the YA genre growing up, I’m feeling the need now to go back and see what I missed.
The two Firebirds anthologies I picked up expressly for the
purpose excuse of reading more Emma Bull, since she has a new book coming out soon, but I’ve been enjoying practically all the stories so far (I’m about a third into Firebirds Rising right now).