Daily Archives

November 22, 2011

Other People's Books

RIP Anne McCaffrey

Like most of the rest of the net, I’m seeing the news today that Anne McCaffrey has passed away. The initial link I was given is here, and another early report link is here. They’re saying she had a massive stroke.

This one hurts, people.

I remember the Pern books being among the very first SF/F books I read as an adolescent. In turn, they influenced other books I went in search of–notably, Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series, which always struck me as Pern-like in flavor. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, I get huge echoes back to Pern through the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, as well.

PernMUSH is one of the three MUSHes that formed the bulk of my online roleplaying history, and almost at the same time I joined PernMUSH, I also joined the offline group Telgar Weyr. Like many in Pern fandom, I had my share of issues with many details of Anne’s world, and eventually I actually enjoyed Pern fandom in many ways more than I did the original canon material. But I cannot deny that she created a world that had a massive, massive influence on me. To this day I have friendships that were forged because of Pern fandom.

PernMUSH established my ability to roleplay–and by extension, to write–from a male point of view, since F’hlan was the first significant male character I ever played. F’hlan taught me a great deal about the kinds of male characters I liked to play, and how to keep a long-running romantic relationship lively. (Melora, I am looking at you.)

I must also give mad props to the Crystal Singer books, since a significant bit of my roleplay history was on CrystalMUSH as well. Killashandra Ree, I loved you. You led me to roleplaying Kevlan Sharr, Tance Vokrim, Jerrik Rawn Deegan, and Tamber al-Acorrin (who had the distinction of being the first gay character I ever played on a MUSH).

Because of all the writing I’ve done for Pern fandom, McCaffrey’s influence on me as a writer has certainly also been profound. I have characters that still vividly live in my head, and make sad faces at me that I haven’t ever properly finished their stories, or otherwise adapted them into characters I can put into my own work. McCaffrey’s been a template for me on how to do strong female characters–and, since I always took issue with her penchant for setting up strong female characters only to have them eventually play second fiddle to their men, she contributed to my resolve to never do that with my own heroines. Similarly, as I was always unhappy that she gave queer males a presence on Pern but never queer women, that has set a goal for me to achieve in my own work.

I even met Ms. McCaffrey once, way back in the day when userinfosolarbird and I still lived in Kentucky and I had a brief interview with her for Dara’s magazine LOW ORBIT. I remember thinking at the time that she was a very concise interviewer, answering pretty much what questions I asked her, no more, no less. Man, that made me nervous. But it was very gracious of her to do that, too, regardless of any issues I developed with her work later!

John Scalzi has a post up for her here. The Fandom Lounge on JournalFen speaks for her here. And Tor.com has an announcement post here.

The sound you hear, O Internets, is every single dragon I have ever written or roleplayed for keening. Gold Timbrith. Bronze Tzornth. Bronze Valreth. Brown Trollith. Blue With. Green Yfandeth. Likewise, all of my characters at Far Cry Hold must mourn.

RIP, DragonLady, and thank you so much for your works and how you have molded my life. You will be missed.

ETA: userinfolyonesse reminds me that Pern also influenced my gaming in gaming groups as well! She ran an excellent RPG game in a world very loosely based on Pern, which ranked among the most enjoyable RPG adventures I’ve ever played. My character there, Rillawy, was in turn based on my original secondary character from PernMUSH. And the aforementioned Tamber al-Acorrin was partially named after Ric al-Acorrin, Rillawy’s second love interest in that very game.

Also, io9 now has a post up.

ETA #2: GeeksAreSexy.net chimes in here. Suvudu has a post up here.

ETA #3: userinfomizkit has a beautiful tribute post for her here.

Quebecois Music

La Bottine Souriante album review!

I’ve been anticipating the new album by La Bottine Souriante for weeks now, and WOO! It’s finally out! The album’s called Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée, and I yoinked that thing right down from iTunes as soon as I saw it go up.

For my first exposure to the band’s current lineup, it performed splendidly. I had an undeniable initial “buh?” reaction to several of the tracks–because I have of course imprinted on a lot of the earlier La Bottine albums as my example of what they should sound like, and that’s not entirely fair to the newer members. Yes, vintage La Bottine is a POWERHOUSE OF AWESOME, and those are mighty large (smiling, aheh) boots to fill. I’m now quite prepared to state that the newer members are also awesome, but you have to go in with an open mind and open ear. Since there are so many new people in the lineup, the overall flavor and chemistry of the band is not the same, and so it’s necessary to judge the current lineup on their own merits and less on how much they sound like all the people that came before them (though I’m not discounting that, either).

On the whole I do quite like this album. After the first listen, I was a bit dubious. But after two more, I found it growing on me considerably. Granted, I was predisposed to like it anyway just because Éric Beaudry sings many of the songs–but on the other hand, his presence in the vocals was actually also kind of confusing to my ear! I’ve gotten used to hearing him as part of De Temps Antan as well as on his album with his brother Simon, so hearing him in this context is something I’m not quite used to yet.

There are two other gentlemen singing lead on the album as well, for whom I do not yet have names, and both of them did a fine job. The presence of so many backup singers makes for nice round vocals on many of the tracks.

Instrumentally, overall, the horns are sometimes more subdued than I might like–but again, a good chunk of that is coming out of my exposure to vintage La Bottine. When I cut back on that reaction and judge the blend of the horns with the rest of the instruments they’re playing with, I feel much better about them.

And now, track by track reactions!

Cette Bouteille-Là – I really like this one, which was the first of the free tracks the band was offering for download just before the album came out. This has an excellent blend of all the instruments and voices, and some jaunty energy to it. This is a great track for showing how the current membership of the band are inheriting from the older members.

Mon Père – Ah and here we have Éric Beaudry’s first lead song on the album! This has strong vocals in general, not only M. Beaudry’s, but also all the backup vocals. Some great deep vocals in the background, and all of the voices are set off nicely against the percussion. I particularly groove on M. Beaudry hitting his high notes in the background on the very last few bars of the song.

Reel à Roland – This is an instrumental, and starts off sounding fairly standard until the horns start coming in on the second iteration of the A part. Once the horns and piano build up, you start thinking, okay yeah, this is La Bottine Souriante.

Le Gourmand – Back to M. Beaudry on the lead vocals, which is always a good thing, though this is one of the songs on the album that kept making me think “wait wait this isn’t a De Temps Antan song”? Mais non, because there are horns here, and a lot more backup vocals! Also, M. Beaudry is rather more expressive on his vocals here than I’ve heard him be with De Temps Antan so far, possibly because he’s doing more lead singing here.

Chus Chatouilleux – Good strong punch from the horns to start this one up. I don’t know who’s singing here since I don’t know all of the current lineup of the band yet, but the singing’s good. It’s a bit weird for me though since whoever’s doing this singing has an accent similar to the lead singer over in Mes Aieux, so I’m once again having to remind myself that this is in fact a La Bottine Souriante album. When in doubt, listen for the horns.

André Alain en sol majeur – Another instrumental. It sounds like there’s a keyboard in here, which is another thing I’m not used to yet with the current La Bottine lineup. There’s a bridge in the middle with a keyboard solo, which gives this piece an almost jazzy feel. I find myself wishing that the horns were doing more than just backing up the keyboard, though; I really want to hear some trumpet love on the melody line.

Au Rang D’aimer – Back to Éric! A more plaintive ditty, this one, but nice full vocals.

Intsusadi – This is a good one! I don’t know what’s doing the main percussive line here–a steel drum? It’s a new sound for me in my La Bottine experience, regardless, and it makes this one the most interesting instrumental on the album for me.

Reel Calgary – While the previous was perhaps the most interesting instrumental, this one is nonetheless very appealing to me. Nice fiddle and footwork. As with track 3, the horns are pretty subdued–more than I might perhaps like. But on the other hand, they’re coming in at a good balance with the rest of the instruments and the overall somewhat wistful flavor of the piece.

On Va Barrer Les Portes – The other La Bottine singer I don’t know yet, but this is the same gent who sings lead on track 1. This song’s primarily vocal call-and-response, with just piano and footwork on the verses, until the horns and fiddle come in on a nice jaunty bridge. That bridge? That’s what I listen to La Bottine Souriante FOR.

Pèle-Mèle – One more Éric song! Good big fat bridge from the horns and keyboard.

Le Baillard – The album’s final track is one more instrumental, and a good long, strong one as well, layering in all the various instruments and letting them build power at a good pace. By the time you’re three minutes into the track, oh yeah, there’s excellent muscle to the horns here. And about halfway through, an excellent stomping bit! This one reassures me that while I may miss the powerhouse of awesome that was vintage La Bottine, modern La Bottine can bring it too.

Long story short, if you’re into Quebecois music or think you might want to be, yes, you should buy this album. I was delighted to see it go live on iTunes AND on the Amazon MP3 downloads store for purchase, which means it’s readily available to US customers. Their record label also has it available for purchase right over here!