August 10th, 2019

Winter Sunlight

Sidling in with some recs

I meant to do this on Reccing Thursday but, uh, didn't.

So basically [community profile] justmarriedexchange happened this week, and my gift was AMAZING!

blood in blood and hand in hand (Captain Marvel, Carol/Yon-Rogg, 13K wds)
This is the weird, vaguely guilt-inducing disaster pairing that no one was supposed to come out of the movie shipping but I totally did and this fic NAILS IT. This is the slow burn redemption-arc soulbonding fic of my dreams. It's all I want from a fic about this pairing; the characterization is fantastic all around (in particular, I think the author really nails Carol's mix of soft places and hard edges, and the ensemble is well handled as well - there's a strong sense of community with the other people in the fic, which I always love), the emotions are beautifully done, there's h/c and gradual bonding and a nuanced look at the Kree that doesn't devolve into apologia for their crimes. This fic is a complete delight and I could not possibly love it more. If you're at all interested in the pairing or even willing to give it a try, it's totally worth your time.

I've been too busy to read much else in the Just Married collection, but I did really enjoy this one a lot:

if we never see daylight (Iron Fist, Danny/Ward, 3900 wds)
I don't often read this pairing, but this story totally worked for me, I think partly because it's focused mainly on how ridiculously fond they are of each other with the pairing being kind of a side effect of that. It's really sweet and adorable, and also exactly the kind of bonkers plan that Danny would come up with. I love it.

Oh, and a few weeks ago I participated in a flashfic exchange: Writing Rainbow: Blue, in which all fic had to include the color in the title (there will be more rounds in the future for other colors). Flash exchanges have kinda become a thing in the last couple of months (Escape the Iron Triangle was another), and they're fun - low pressure, low word minimum, extremely short writing period, and stripped-down matching rules (this one just matched on fandom and freeform tags, and those are all the guidance you get - no requests and no DNWs).

With exchange rules having generally become so standardized lately, I really enjoyed doing something a bit different, and I got nice things! I had requested original fiction among other things, and got two nice pieces of original fiction based on the tags I had picked out.

Scales as Blue as the Open Sky (5300 wds) - A glorious steampunk/sci-fi mash-up with dragons. I wish this was an entire TV series with a fandom. I would be SO THERE.

Orange is the New Blue (600 wds) - A fun little slice-of-convict-life fic.

And I wrote two things for it, Blue Light Special (Doctor Strange, a bit of genfic in which Strange semi-accidentally tries his hand at gardening) and Blue Skies For Miles (GotG aftermath-of-sex-pollen fic - well, technically alien mating pheromones, but the same basic effect).

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Winter Sunlight

Lawrence Block - A Long Line of Dead Men

This is one of the middle books in Block's Matthew Scudder hard-boiled PI murder mystery series. I reread this book recently enough (in the last couple of years) to remember whodunnit, but I read it again this week just to appreciate the intricate murder mystery plotting. It's a very 80s book and particularly 80s in its character archetypes (the recovering alcoholic PI, the call-girl girlfriend, the streetwise teenage sidekick) but it's dated in a way that's mostly charming, and the misdirects/fakeouts in this book are so well done. Mainly I just wanted to take a careful look at what he did and how.

Below the cut I'm going to mention a few highly spoilery technique notes. I'm not going to summarize the plot so much as just mention the things I think it did particularly well. Still, if you like murder mysteries and you like to be surprised, it's worth reading this one unspoiled, because it's very well done.

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So after reading A Long Line of Dead Men and enjoying it, I went and got some more of the Scudder books from the library. I own a couple of random ones, and I've read a lot more, but I haven't read most of them in decades and I've forgotten almost everything. Thus far I've read Eight Million Ways to Die (published in 1982) because I was under the mistaken impression that it was the first book in the series. Turns out it's like book 5, oops. So now I'm moving on to A Time to Murder and Create (1976), which is book 2 (the earliest one in the series that the library had).

Eight Million Ways to Die doesn't have as well-crafted a mystery plot as A Long Line of Dead Men (the mystery, which involves murdered prostitutes, actually feels somewhat random and not very well set up) but the characterization is much better, sharper and more literary with less of a "80s TV movie of the week" feeling to it. It's also got an incredibly wrenching day-by-day description of going through the early days of breaking a severe alcohol addiction. The author is either working off personal experience or read a lot of memoirs. I'm simultaneously taking mental notes for writing Ward, and just really wanting to give the protagonist a hug.

The books are, obviously, quite dated in some ways, but one thing that I find interesting about them is a level of casual background diversity that I wouldn't have expected for books of their era (the ones I've been reading were written between the mid-70s and early 90s). I mean, given that they're hard-boiled crime novels, a lot of it is the kind of diversity that you don't precisely want, but it still interests me that even as far back as the 70s, and maybe earlier, Block populates the background of his world with racially diverse people and gay people and so on. I'm particularly surprised by how many background LGBT characters he has, in an era when you just don't really expect that from genre fiction all that much. And yeah, some of them are prime examples of What You Don't Want, but there's also things like a character's offhand mention that he bought his house from a gay couple and so forth, or the protagonist dropping in on a mostly-gay AA meeting -- it's just a very casual part of the world. There's a trans woman in Eight Million Ways to Die, who is a dead prostitute because of course she is, but I also noticed that she's consistently referred to with female pronouns and, while the way that some of the (non-protagonist) characters talk about her is ... very 80s ... there's also a lot of narrative sympathy for her in the book and, in general, the feel you get from the book is that both the protagonist and the book itself are fine with gender reassignment as a thing. This from a book published in 1982. It's kind of like ... I wouldn't exactly hold these books up as great examples of representation, particularly by modern standards, but Block also clearly recognizes that he and his protagonist live in a world that's full of black people and LGBT people and women, all of whom are just people, and his books reflect that, which I appreciate since it's definitely not a given from a white dude born in 1938.

So yeah, so far I'm finding that Block is a similar author to Dick Francis in that his books are dated but not nearly as dated as I was expecting considering the era in which he was writing. (As opposed to the vaguely similar John D. McDonald books, which I also read and enjoyed back in the day, and tried rereading a couple of years back and ... yeah. Nope. The Suck Fairy has been there big-time.)

The library also had a few of his really early ones from the late 50s and 60s, reprinted with their gloriously cheesy pulp-era covers, so I picked up a couple of those too. I hope that Killing Castro is as amazingly bonkers as the title and premise suggest.

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