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Tolkien reading day
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Umberto Eco & why he is wonderful
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The Iliad
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The narrative significance of Dickens' death
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Clovelly
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50 book challenge
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Liveblogg Nyttårsaften 2017

GODT NYTT ÅR!

01.06: Vi har vedtatt å fortsette brettspillet i morgen tidlig slik at mamma kan være på lag med Karoline. Så da går vi og legger oss. God natt!

Vi håper 2018 blir bedre enn 2017 og 2016, sånn jevnt over.

00.54: Silje har dratt og nyttårsaften er dermed offisielt over, men vi fortsetter modig fremover og Karoline forsøker desperat å forsvare lagets ære ved å fortsette spillet alene.

00.50: Vi har tatt en gjennomgang av gjennomføringen (eller the lack thereof) av fjorårets nyttårsforsetter, og er nå klare for nye.

Silje skal trene tre ganger i uken, og skal komme seg på aikido-trening igjen i løpet av året. Hun skal kjøpe seg teaterkort og bruke det. Og hun skal gå på minst én konsert med symfoniorkesteret hvert halvår. Hun skal fortsette å jobbe med det med avspenningsteknikker og koble av fra jobb, og jobbe minst mulig overtid. Og hun skal (garantert) gjenoppfriske pianokunnskapene sine (det blir test nyttårsaften 2018: Måneskinnssonaten).

Karoline skal prøve å få pakket ut alt i den nye leiligheten. Hun skal igjen forsøke å spise middag hjemme minst én arbeidsdag i måneden. Hun skal lese ferdig Amalie Skrams Hellemyrsfolket. Hun har lyst til å være snill og grei, og hun har lyst til å få besøk på det nye gjesterommet. Og hun skal kjøpe piggdekk på sykkelen og gå og sykle mer enn å ta annen transport til jobb.

Marie (på telefon) skal lese 5 bøker blant dem Camilla OG/ELLER Tor ...
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The Default She: Power Inversion in Feminist Science Fiction


This is a public talk I gave at Litteraturhuset in Trondheim in connection with the Starmus Festival, on the 20th of June.

Science fiction, to some extent, is about the future and the far away, but the future and how we think about the future and the far away is generally informed by the here and now. And how we think about the future and the far away can also impact how we are able to think about the here and now. That is the basic premise of this talk.

In 1905, in what would later become Bangladesh, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein, often called Begum Rokeya, wrote “Sultana’s Dream”, where the narrator is transported to a land where humanity controls the elements. Water is gathered directly from the sky, so there are no floods or storms, but plenty of water should you want it. The sun’s heat is stored and used for all your energy needs, so there is no smoke or pollution. All travel is done by walking through streets filled with flowers rather than paving stones, or by riding in flying cars which fly by having large hydrogen balls attached to either end of it.

Oh, and all the men have been locked up in men-only spaces inside each house – while women rule the land.

The narrator, much like Begum Rokeya herself, has grown up in the seclusion of the women’s space, the zenana, which means that she does not leave the house uncovered or unchaperoned ...
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Playful allusion and undiscerning critics

Mark Gatiss started the year with a lovely bit of Sherlockian snark. Faced with criticism that the show was getting rather too action packed, he answered with a poem titled "To An Undiscerning Critic". It was not so much the argument of the poem which got me, but the title had me musing weakly on the delights of reference and appropriation as I lay dying on the sofa after unwittingly having contracted a vicious bug over the holidays. I am better now.

The first thing I did when I got to the NLS this afternoon was call up Vincent Starret's 1937 publication of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 poem. Starret, the originator of the lines
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
published the reprint as just one folded sheet of paper (quality paper, though) because he had come across it in Lincoln Springfield's "Some Picquant People" (1924), could not find it anywhere else1, and did not think the world should be deprived of it.
To An Undiscerning Critic

Sure there are times when one cries with acidity,
'Where are the limits of human stupidity?'
Here is a critic who says as a platitude
That I am guilty because 'in ingratitude
Sherlock, the sleuth-hound, with motives ulterior,
Sneers at Poe's Dupin as very "inferior."'
Have you not learned, my esteemed commentator,
That the created is not the creator?
As the creator I've praised to satiety
Poe's Monsieur ...
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Liveblogg nyttårsaften 2016

GODT NYTT ÅR!

01.01: Nå har Silje dratt, og da føler vi ikke egentlig at livet er verd å leve lenger. Karoline vil legge seg, og selv om vi andre frister med cocktails og Ticket to Ride utsetter vi det hele (minus cocktails) til frokost.

Det er helt greit, for mamma har tydeligvis gledet seg et år til å bli med.

Vi håper veldig hardt at 2017 blir et bedre år for verden enn 2016. Den som lever får se.

00.45: Vi har tatt en gjennomgang av fjorårets nyttårsforsetter, og med unntak av Marie og Karoline (og mamma) er det stort sett deprimerende greier. Vi går derfor straks igang med årets:

Tor skal igjen forsøke å trene aikido ti ganger i løpet av året, men denne gangen skal han også forsøke å unngå å jobbe 130%, så denne gangen går det kanskje. Han skal også bestille Hobbiten på tysk. Men det viktigste er egentlig at han skal jogge en gang i uken eller mer, og han skal blogge en gang i uken! Han skal også bygge de fordømte bokhyllene. Han skal bli flinkere til å ikke ta på seg flere ting enn det er mulig å gjøre innenfor et tidsrom. Han skal også oppdatere Calcuttagutta til nyeste django.

Marie erklærer at 2017 er det året da hun skal kjøpe nye briller. Og hun skal også velge farger på Le Creuset-kjelen og kjøpe en. Og bruke opp alle gavekortene fra 2014, som går ut i april. Hun skal også ...
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Reading in dark times

I am starting to fear the news.

Europe is scrambling rightwards. The Middle East is caught between the fire of Daesh and the hot place of tyrants and their supporters. Russia is gleefully making the most of it. The world is overheating, and people seem intent on stoking the flames. I went to bed confident that Brexit would never happen, and had an unpleasant morning trying to drink enough coffee to wake me up enough to make the whole thing go away. I was innocently drinking a cocktail when my phone informed me that not only had Theresa May become Prime Minister in the UK, she had appointed Boris Johnson as her Foreign Secretary. A man whose main achievement is a colour no orange would dream of aspiring to is moments from getting his fingers on the big red button that signals a global Apocalypse. And a vicious rhetoric of hate has become mainstream: Bashing foreigners or anyone who might conceivably be foreign, homosexuals and women as somehow subhuman, or just plain shooting black men, seems to be about to become elevated to the national sport of several self-proclaimed liberal democracies. I have been rooting for a woman who is so far to the right of my politics I can barely see her. And that failed. If things deteriorate in France, the heads of state behind the UN Security Council are likely to be Donald Trump, Theresa May, Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

There are consequently three ...
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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

I love this book.
I have a weakness for Victorians, footnotes full of fascinating facts, a particular style of drawing, geeky in-jokes, and mathematical genius. When I first came across Ada Lovelace -- the Origin I was smitten. And so I have remained.

The opening story of the book;
an early version available here.
It is the perfect marriage of science and literature, academic irreverence, odd asides, style, verve, panache, erudition and cats.

Ideally I would just show you page after page of the comic, say "isn't it wonderful" and then send you off with one of my copies and don't come back until you've read it (this is generally my strategy offline), but I suspect I might get in trouble if I were to simply reproduce the entire book here. And so I am left trying to spell it all out in words.1

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, creator of the first computer program and originator of the idea that you can use an analytical engine for something other than numbers, mathematical daughter of Lord Byron, eccentric gambler, and generally cool cookie, makes a stellar protagonist. If she has somehow escaped your notice, you are not alone, but you should still remedy that immediately. Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine (but not quite builder of either), enemy of street music, friend of all the cool Victorians and yet somehow still weirdly socially tone deaf when sciencing, likewise. I will confess, however, that ...
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Tolkien reading day

Today is Tolkien reading day.

"What?" I can hear you ask, "Isn't every day Tolkien reading day?" and I concede that you may have a point. But it is the way of our people to set aside some days of the year for things of great importance.

Tolkien reading day has been celebrated for over a decade (ah, the murky depths of time), with the date of 25th of March chosen because it is the date of the Fall of Barad-Dûr and the downfall of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, which seems as good a date to celebrate as any. All the more so this year, perhaps, as the Tolkien Society's theme for this year's reading day is "Life, Death and Immortality", in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, where Tolkien fought and (unlike many others) lived.

It is hard to escape Tolkien's connection to war writing. Gandalf's "You shall not pass!" aside, the creation of the world started during the First World War, and the trilogy was published shortly after the end of the Second. And when Tolkien writes that
as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.1
it becomes all the harder to discount the Great War as ...
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Umberto Eco & why he is wonderful

And on the advice of Marsilius, who had taken a liking to me, they decided to place me under the direction of a learned Franciscan, Brother William of Baskerville, about to undertake a mission that would lead him to famous cities and ancient abbeys.
This is where Umberto Eco caught me. I was 11 or 12 and had struggled through the introduction and the beginning of Adso's story, but Baskerville was a name which resonated.

In some ways, I was far too young when I first encountered Eco. The library in my home town had just moved, and the grown-up section was no longer separated from the children's section with an impassable barrier (or a terrifying staircase, as the case may be). I had seized the opportunity to read Sherlock Holmes (and Wodehouse and Dickens). And then, The Name of the Rose.

But much as I was awash in a sea of references that I could not hope to catch, the description of Brother William gave me one of my first conscious experiences of literary allusion (tall, thin, with penetrating eyes and a beaky nose!), and once it was pointed out that the man could solve mysteries, I was safely on firm ground. With that as my guideline, I could observe (and absorb) references to people and places I had never heard of (yet), and with them a feeling of complexity and depth that I think I've been looking for in books ever since. The plethora of ...
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The Abominable Bride

Being at heart a Holmesian, and by education a Victorianist, I was looking forward to the Sherlock special with trepidation and delight. Here be SPOILERS GALORE but in short: I am generally happy with "The Abominable Bride". It is not a purist's Holmes; for that Gatiss and Moffat are too fond of the plethora of other adaptations. But that is one of its strengths.
I read on the internet that people are confused. I find this claim somewhat baffling, as to me it seemed perfectly straight-forward: It seemed to begin as a retelling of Gatiss/Moffat Sherlock set back in the Victorian period. Throughout the first part, however, there were numerous indications that that was not the case, increasing in frequency as the episode progresses. The first, and probably least immediately obvious, is the beautiful Chekov's gun of Holmes' conversation with Watson early on,
Holmes: "The stage is set. The curtain rises. We are ready to begin. Sometimes, to solve a new case, one must first solve another."
Watson: "We have a case then? A new one?"
Holmes: "An old case. Very old. I shall have to go deep."
Watson: "Into what?"
Holmes: "Myself.",
which neatly summarises the basic structure of the episode: Everything but the scenes on the plane take place in Sherlock's drug-fuelled imagination, which draws on elements from the universe constructed by Gatiss & Moffat in order to construct an imaginary Victorian setting in which he can try to work out how Moriarty might ...
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Liveblogg nyttårsaften 2015

GODT NYTT ÅR!

02.30 Camilla vant (mwahahah) og Tor er bitter fordi hans poengsum knapt kom opp i 2 siffer.

Vi har dessverre ingen pepperkakehus å knuse i år, men vi erklærer kvelden en stor suksess. Men nå går vi og legger oss! God natt.

01.45: Karoline varsler veldig, veldig, veldig, så innmari dårlig stemning rundt bordet. Man antar det har noe å gjøre med valget av kort.

Det hører med til historien at Karoline må REISE SEG hver gang hun skal trekke kort/sette tog.

Hun erklærer på at ingen må kaste seg på neon sverd for hennes skyld.
Marie legger umiddelbart tog i sentral-Europa.

Vi ler.

01.00: Silje har forlatt oss. Vi er triste og leie, selvsagt. Men trøster oss med brettspill og cocktails. Marie påpeker at det er et strategispill og lurer på om en del av strategien er det å skjenke nye deltagere. Hun får ingen svar.

00.50: Fyrverkeri er FORTSATT noe herk. Himmel og hav. Har ikke folk noe bedre å ta seg til.

Vi forbereder samtidig kveldens tredje brettspill: Ticket to Ride, mens Silje har begynt å mumle noe om å dra hjem. Av hensyn til sjåføren.

00.20: Vi har sendt Karoline og Marie for å lage mer white ladies. 1 del sitronsaft, 1 del gin og 1 del cointreau. Burde gå greit. Håper de ikke mister tellingen.


00.15: Silje løper bort fra smellene som en skvetten gaselle (delvis fordi Karoline i tillegg ropte "bø!" opptil flere ganger ...
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