An Awfully Big Adventure

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Gwen R. Uckelman and Sara L. Uckelman, An Awfully Big Adventure (illustrated by Carolyn Friedemann)

A wonderful short (19 pages) book by Gwen, who was 8 when she wrote it, and her mother Sara. The illustrations are by Gwen’s grandmother Carolyn, so it’s a three-generations collaboration.

What I like about it

Everything. Well, I’ll be more specific.

  • Children have an adventure but their parents aren’t abroad, too busy to notice they have children, or even dead, like in so many other adventure books. They’re around to help and give advice.
  • The parents trust their children, so the children also trust their parents.
  • It’s full of nice people.
  • Nothing really bad happens, but that doesn’t make the adventure less exciting. Even the wicked witch is just away and doesn’t come back.
  • There’s the promise of more adventure at the end.
  • It has a map! (That’s the map on the cover, but it’s at the beginning of the book as well.)

What I don’t like about it

  • It’s too short, I wish there was more! But I don’t mind making up the next adventure myself.

You can buy the book from the link at the beginning of this post. I recommend it for people of all ages who like adventure and fantasy.

Dear DAME writer,

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Hi, I’m sinkauli, and I’m so glad that you’re writing for me! I’m fairly easy to please, but do refer to my Great Likes and Dislikes Master Post.

I don’t insist on all characters in the request: please write one or more as the story requires.

Also, I like Disney films or I wouldn’t be in this exchange, but I don’t need the pervasive heteronormativity, typically-American moralizing tone, or dumbing-down of classic stories that many of them tend to have in greater or lesser degree.

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Characters: Toby, Olivia Flaversham, Basil, David Q Dawson. (Also Olivia’s father, who I forgot to nominate.)

Prompts: The movie is already perfect so what I’d like most is post-canon casefic in which Olivia can show her mettle, perhaps as an unofficial assistant. Or some more Basil/Dawson interaction. No sex, please, we’re British firmly in gen territory here. (Which doesn’t mean that Basil and Dawson can’t love each other, because clearly they do.)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Characters: Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit, Eddie Valiant, Dolores

Prompts: MORE TOON SHENANIGANS PLEASE. Go wild with the tropes! Pranks and practical jokes are actually okay (though humiliation is still out). Bad things happening to toons that they can and do recover from in a toonish way doesn’t count as horror.

Fantasia (1940)

I entered “Worldbuilding” for characters, but what I’d love for this is one or more additional pieces of music (with a link, if you can’t include it for copyright reasons) and a description of the scene that goes with it. Somewhat like this: Fantasia 2020 (but it doesn’t have to be that detailed or extensive).

I’ve dropped most of my DNWs for this as they’re probably irrelevant. It can be eerie but please keep it fluffy!

Robin Hood (1973)

Character: Lady Cluck (the only one nominated and I’m perfectly okay with that; don’t hesitate to bring in anyone else who wants in, of course)

Prompts: I love down-to-earthness and sensible domesticity. And women being awesome, which Lady Cluck is perfectly capable of.

 

The Great Likes and Dislikes Master Post

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I’ve written so many “dear author” letters for exchanges now, and copied my lists of likes and dislikes from one to the other with minor alterations, that I think it’s time for a master post. I’ll still give “hard” DNWs in signups, of course, otherwise they’re not enforceable. But the fact that you’ve reached this letter probably means that (a) you’re going to write for me and (b) you want to make me happy. So I’ll NOT be brief. (For Yuletide, I copy this into dear-author letters almost literally, so there’s no new information in that case)

Likes

This is the easy part. Don’t feel yourself limited to things in this list! There are lots of things I like that I’m not listing because if I listed everything in the world that I liked, there would be literally no end. Any of these will make my face light up with joy, though.

  • Friendship. Unexpected, uncomplicated friendship is good! Complicated friendship too, I like any story with friendship better than one with only antagonism, but my very favourite stories are about people becoming friends, or people who are already friends, doing something together or turning out to have something in common which neither of them would have planned for. Peter and Harriet combing the beach for clues in Have His Carcase is one of my favourite scenes. Also the scene in which they decipher the code letter.
    Friends-to-lovers is okay but it’s a pity if that’s the whole point of the story.
  • Found family, chosen family.
  • Happy ending. I’m a sucker for happy endings, especially other happy endings than “people getting together as a couple”. It’s a good thing when people get together as a couple! But that’s not by far the only way to be happy. I also like open(ish) endings with the possibility or expectation of happiness. The ending of The Goblin Emperor is a good example: Maia and Csethiro are likely to end up very happily married, but at the end of the book they are friends and allies and partners, and for now that’s enough.
  • Autistic characters (canon or headcanon; Dairine Callahan comes to mind) who either come to terms with being autistic in the story, or have already figured it out and can handle it. Bonus points if they use their autistic traits to get things done.
  • More generally, disabled characters who work with their disability rather than “overcoming” it.
  • Religion (real-world or fictional) portrayed in a positive way, including people making harmless, light-hearted fun of their own religion.
  • Kidfic. Canon characters’ kids, canon characters when they were kids, canon characters who happen to be kids (Matilda), original canon-compliant child characters. Either POV or secondary characters.
  • Fluff. Domestic fluff, married fluff, established-lovers fluff, friendship fluff. Don’t worry if there seems to be no plot. One of the great strengths of fanfic is that it doesn’t necessarily have to have plot or conflict or any deeper meaning, though it may of course have any or all of those.
  • Discovery and detection. Plain detective work, casefic. Adventures in which people (children, for instance) find out things. People finding out things about themselves when they do something they didn’t know they could do.
  • Learning. School stories! Good and/or hilariously bad teachers. Give me a good training montage any day, or let someone teach themself. Achieving mastery by hard work.
  • Cooking, food sharing, bonding over food. Recipes!
  • Competence, intelligence, problem-solving, clever escape, clever (preferably non-violent) thievery. Self-rescuing princ(ess)es.
  • Missing-scene fic, interpolation, pre- and post-canon. (How did these characters get here? What was this person like as a student? What happens after the canon says The End?)
  • Cats, mice, meerkats, donkeys/mules/hinnies, elephants, birds (either as characters or supporting). Not “animals” as a category but specifically those.
  • Worldbuilding, with or without characters involved.
  • Fantasy nonfiction. Guidebooks, gazetteers, encyclopedia entries…

A note about crossovers

I used not to like crossovers at all, mostly because when I first started reading fanfic it was all about “I want to read more about X” and then I didn’t also want to read about Y. But I got better! I love crossovers between fandoms I’ve both (or all) requested, or with adjacent/compatible fandoms (will often end up as fusion), like The Great Mouse Detective with The Rescuers, or Lord Peter Wimsey with Miss Marple, when I’ve only requested one.

The greatest problem with crossovers is that if I know only one of the crossovered fandoms, the point may be completely lost on me, and it might spoil the whole story. I don’t know many of the really popular fandoms (Doctor Who or Supernatural, for instance). I don’t know many films, or any TV that’s been aired after, say, 1975. I don’t know anime or manga except Miyazaki, and not much of that.

To be on the safe side, find my profile (I’m sinkauli on ao3) and check my fandoms list and my gifts. If I write for it or have ever requested it, I’m bound to know it.

Dislikes

A lot harder because I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike everything. (But there’s enough that I do like in the list above that that impression is unlikely.) I’ll try to categorize.

Sex, romance

I don’t dislike sex! But I also don’t want any surprise sex sprung on me so I tend to request gen-only unless in very specific circumstances. I’m very picky. I’ve read some smutty stories that I liked but they were mostly joyful consent and vanilla sex. (Note that vanilla is a spice, a subtle and intense one, it doesn’t mean “bland”.) I’m not listing dislikes of particular kinks because, to be honest, for most kinky things people request or put in their likes or DNWs I don’t even know what the words mean. I’ve looked up some and almost invariably shuddered. So, mostly no kinks for me.

  • Rape, non-con. This is one of my hard DNWs. I consider it excluded when I exclude all sex, even though rape is usually not about sex but about power. I also dislike powerplay, hate-sex, and sex between people who are vastly disparate in age, power or experience.
  • Fellatio. (Makes me gag, even when it’s just words.) *deletes a sentence that’s all too explicit*
  • Casual sex without friendship. Includes PWP, I think. Casual sex in general, even between friends, is mostly a no-no.
  • Seduction for any other reason than that one person is in love with the other and is trying to get it across to them elegantly.
  • Soulmates, the trope with explicit markings or similar, it’s okay for a character to say or think “we were made for each other”.
  • Love triangles. A fully explicit and consensual triangle falls under “polyamory” and see next bullet point.
  • Adultery, infidelity. This includes contradicting, ignoring or breaking up a canonical pairing for the sake of a ship.
    Polyamory is okay but I don’t really prefer it.
  • Incest. I don’t care what Boromir and Faramir were up to in their shared bedroom when they were boys. Cross-generation incest is worse.

Interpersonal stuff

  • Enemies-to-lovers. Even if it’s enemies-to-friends and then friends-to-lovers. Reconciling with your enemy: okay. Cautious friendship between former enemies: okay. Hopping into bed with someone who was once your enemy: nope.
  • Bigotry of any kind, unless fighting against it is a plot point. That includes homophobia, TERFness and other transphobia, sexism, racism, ableism, ageism and anything I’ve forgotten.
  • Religion-bashing, against religion in general, a specific faith or denomination, or bullying someone because they’re religious. Unless fighting against it is a plot point.
  • Abuse, particularly of people in a dependent relationship (children, elders, subordinates).
  • Pranks, practical jokes, humiliating people for the sake of it.

Disability, body issues

  • Pathological/medical view of autism or other neurodivergence, portraying it as something that needs to be fixed rather than as a characteristic of the person.
  • Disability as punishment, teaching-a-lesson or inspiration porn. Just let disabled people be people!
  • Discussions of disordered eating or weight (it’s completely okay if someone’s body type is part of the description, like mentioning that the person has dark skin or blue eyes or wears glasses or uses a wheelchair, but no fat-shaming or other judgmental language about weight please).
  • Gluttony, gross drunkenness (tipsy/merry is okay, maudlin is not), vomiting (whether from illness or overindulgence).
  • Body horror, torture, mutilation, gore, cannibalism.
  • Monstrous pregnancy, monster birth. Hard DNW.
  • Mpreg, which is a species of body horror in my book. Such a hard DNW that it will make me throw the virtual book against the virtual wall. (Ordinary pregnancy and childbirth is okay.)

Miscellaneous

  • Horror. Body horror is the worst, but any other horror is also a turnoff.
  • Werewolves, unless very well done. Vampires. Zombies. (Perhaps this falls under “body horror”.)
  • Unhappy endings, unresolved tragedy.
  • Current events, real-world contemporary politics. (Fantasy politics in an invented world is okay! Period politics in a story with historical background is okay!)
  • Suicide, suicidal ideation, depression.
  • Plague, pandemic, terminal illness. There’s enough of that in the real world that I don’t want to also read about it, not even about overcoming it.
  • Climate catastrophe, extinction, (post)apocalyptic anything. (Ditto, in fact.) Imminent/unavoidable destruction of a whole world or a significant part of it. A random natural disaster is probably okay if it’s not part of a pattern of impending catastrophe. (My 2020 Yuletide writer got that exactly right.)
  • Worldbuilding DNW: extra information about a setting that makes it less pleasant (“… but you didn’t know these sordid details”).

Reading notes, week 34

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August 28: Uptown Local and Other Interventions by Diane Duane. (Now at half price if you want it!) Collection of mostly very good short stories, many of which touch on Switzerland at some point.

August 27: The Family at Red-Roofs by Enid Blyton. I couldn’t remember anything about it except that it was a favourite of mine (in the Dutch translation) when I was a kid. Period-true sexism (the fifteen-year-old boy acknowledges that his seventeen-year-old sister is “only a girl” and he has to be the man of the family when both parents are out of action), and some minor cringes, but it’s mostly kept well.

August 26: Bastion by Mercedes Lackey. Last in the Collegium Chronicles. Gratuitous travel (why are all those people going away together? seems like a RPG contrivance) and I could do without the Sleepgivers plot, so added up it seems like I could do without the whole book, but there are some good scenes in there and also a sympathetic (though completely alien) character.

August 25: A whole bunch of miscellaneous fanfic on account of going down several rabbit holes at once.

August 23: An Awfully Big Adventure by Gwen R. Uckelman and Sara L. Uckelman, illustrated by Carolyn Friedemann. Wonderful little book which I reviewed here. My only beef is that I paid FIVE TIMES the price of the book in shipping charges and import duties, but I can totally blame Brexit for that (I wish the author got all that money instead of UPS and the tax agency, though).

August 22: Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey. (A reread, but the last time was long ago.) The book turns into something completely different in the middle, and reviewers are divided into those who like the peaceful and joyful first part (as do I) and those who are glad of the “adventure” in the second part. Well, keep your adventure. And the drugged-nightmares-while-kidnapped bit in the middle goes on and on AND ON, and contains exactly so much relevant information that I have to skim it and can’t skip it, grr. I do like the survival scenes that come after it, and the grumpy young priest (who ceases being grumpy when he makes a real friend and gets glasses, yay). And finally it becomes clear what all the sportsball was for!

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 33

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August 19: Changes by Mercedes Lackey. Starts with a really long and detailed sportsball game that almost got me interested (in the sportsball; I’m already interested in the rest). Now dealing with people so distressed by their family that it’s a good thing for the protagonist that he doesn’t have any. This is the book in which Mags starts really being a spy! (Also it’s the book in which almost all the really exciting action happens in the last 10%. Someone gets kidnapped at 91% ffs!)

August 15: Jolene by Mercedes Lackey, newish Elemental Masters book. A very good one, and refreshing after all the Sherlock Holmes fanfic. My only objection is that it has even more annoying eye dialect (more of it AND more annoying) than the Collegium Chronicles. No rampant nastiness. The main antagonist isn’t evil (just not human) and can be dealt with. (One evil person, two evil corporations. At least the evil person is dealt with too, summarily.)

Index of reading notes is here.

CrossingsCon

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I was so looking forward to CrossingsCon — what’s not to like about a primarily Young Wizards-focused virtual con!

Well, for one thing the timezone. I got up for the fanfic meetup at 2:30am my time, but for the other thing two days later I thought “well, if I wake on my own I’ll get up” and slept through it. Some things were my-evening but there was only one that I stayed up for, 23:00 to midnight, and abandoned halfway through because it turned out not to live up to my expectations.

Also, the interface. I’ve heard several people praising it because it was “so much like a real con”, but I’ve never felt this uneasy at a real con. I felt like everybody was watching me all the time, not only the people who happened to be next to me seeing me arrive or leave, or the people in the hallway seeing me pass. To make things worse, I couldn’t find an avatar that felt like “me”.

That was the closest it got. There was one avatar with glasses but it’s impossible to change the style and color of an avatar’s hair and clothes separately, the edit-character button just gives you a cycle-through-all-avatars function. It’s not even that it wasn’t realistic enough — in one of my favourite games I’m just an @ sign and that feels like “me” — but if I must have a person-like avatar instead of a symbol I’d prefer to have one I can somewhat identify with.

And the environment reminded me most of early 2000s Habbo Hotel, which we once forbade our then-tweens to play because (a) they were too young for it, (b) there was a lot of abuse/grooming going on, and (c) it had insidious payment traps. Okay, Habbo Hotel was isomorphic and Gather is 2D, and now I see that Gather is even more pixelly and 1990s-style.

CrossingsCon library in the Gather interface

Click the picture to enlarge

This is the library; there were a couple of nice Easter eggs, like books you could actually read (on Gutenberg), the virtual fire (left side where my poor little avatar is sitting, pressing ‘x’ got you the fire on YouTube full screen), the cat (next to the flowerpot on the table right of center, went to different livestreams of cats during the week), and in the “garden” a livestream of ducklings. Also, live games but I never saw anybody play one.

I appreciated the existence of “Text Only” corners, but never used even those because I was shy of strangers. I felt like I was in a group of people who all knew each other already, and for all I know it was that way because CrossingsCon is a thing that’s been around for a while. The only interaction I had was a couple of text exchanges in the chat tab.

I’ve been to two in-person Worldcons and I’ve had my share of shyness (check out my Helsinki and Dublin tags) but having this extra layer made that very much worse. Perhaps especially because I found the interface annoyingly ugly and unwieldy, and it was very disconcerting to see a voice/video connection trying to open every time I bumped into someone or even passed them at close quarters. I kept trying to run away, of course bumping into other people. I don’t do voice and video, unless it’s filking or a tabletop game or a Kaffeeklatsch or something else that really requires it!

If the fanfic meetup had been in meatspace, or even a Zoom-style “everybody in their own little screen space” meetup like the Christian-fans meetup at CoNZealand, I’d probably have talked about writing Young Wizards/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover, and that my first published fanfic was Young Wizards, but being a small ugly avatar in a bunch of other small ugly avatars (some of them conversing as if they were just continuing from last week) wasn’t conducive to actually opening my mouth. Also, it was nearly 3am.

Anyway, it was very nice to see Diane Duane’s and Ursula Vernon’s faces and hear their voices (also Megan Whalen Turner, whose books I’ll probably want to read now because she’s a wonderful person). Not that I was eager to enter a raffle for a private meet-and-greet with either of them; I didn’t have any actual things I wanted to talk about and it would have been random fangirling which they’ve probably had quite enough of.

 

Reading notes, week 32

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August 13: Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey. More eye dialect, and polo is invented, and there’s some cringeworthy fat-shaming, but I still want to read this. Catastrophic Failure-To-Communicate (between friends, not lovers) near the end but it’s none of the friends’ fault and it comes right eventually.

August 11: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey. There’s a lot of cringe in it but I want to reread the whole Collegium Chronicles arc (unless I get tired of it) before I get back to The Herald Spy. (Cringe turned out to be bearable. Eye dialect is much worse.)

August 9: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Because it was time for a reread. Ah, my older reading notes just reminded me that the conversion isn’t perfect, but fixing Mangoverse books is now a priority. –Wow, this is perfect, and though the ending is as rushed as in any DWJ novel that’s perfect too. This time I’ll resist reading Castle in the Air as well, even though I see clouds that could be that particular castle almost every day.

August 8: Harry Potter and the Natural 20. Recommendation from someone at CrossingsCon. Weird but fun. (I may blog separately about CrossingsCon, which is weird and not much fun but that’s the fault of the interface rather than the people.) There are two more volumes but those are for later.

Reading notes, week 31

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August 7: The Olive Conspiracy by Shira Glassman. Eek! I’d forgotten that it had the whole story of Princess Carolina’s cruelty (or perhaps most of it is cultural cruelty. But still). It’s also got Tales from Perach in the back, except the hilarious one in which Aviva gets kidnapped by aliens (I’ll read that from the separate book which I’ve also got).

August 2: A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman. Yes, this is a complete Mangoverse reread. This may be the one I like best because Esther is awesome, I never liked the villain even when they seemed to be an okay person, and the trans boy is wonderful. (He gets his bodily transition by magic!) (And apparently I fixed that epub already.)

August 1: Climbing the Date Palm by Shira Glassman. The epub is so badly formatted that I’ve been marking every place where lines need to be joined and I’ll fix it in calibre when I get round to it, but that doesn’t detract from the story.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 30

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July 29: The Second Mango by Shira Glassman. Re-reread, of course, likely to lead to a reread of the whole Mangoverse.

July 27: Inspector French and Sir John Magill’s Last Journey by Freeman Wills Crofts. Trying to read all the Inspector Frenches I haven’t read yet in publication order (and fill up the gaps). Strange about this one: all the Irish people who have a patronymic surname, and most of the Scottish people, have it prefixed M’ rather than Mc or Mac. I thought that was specifically (Northern) Irish until I noticed the Scots having it too. Convoluted ending but everything fits. I do wish Inspector French wouldn’t obsess so about becoming Chief Inspector but it’s probably a running gag of the series.

July 25: The Ponson Case by Freeman Wills Crofts. A very early one that I hadn’t read before. I like Inspector Tanner! Perhaps even better than Inspector French. And there are TWO women with agency in the book, which was written exactly a hundred years ago! BTW I love the Faded Page disclaimer: “You may do whatever you like with this book, but mostly we hope you will read it.”

the magic we knew by kitsunerei88. Fire and Hemlock/Harry Potter crossover. Polly and Tom’s daughter gets her Hogwarts letter.

Index of reading notes is here.