Sep. 11th, 2014

starlady: David 8 holding the holographic Earth in wonderment. (when there is nothing in the desert)
Hurley, Kameron. The Mirror Empire. New York: Orbit Books, 2014.

The Mirror Empire is the fantasy novel that everyone is talking about this year, and right at the beginning, let me say that it will almost certainly be on my Hugo ballot, and that I think it deserves to be there. But as much as I enjoyed the book (and I did), I didn't love it, and even more so than usual, I have Thoughts.

It's gotten to the point where I feel like I've seen the plot of The Mirror Empire described a million times, or maybe I've just been obsessively reading other people's reviews to crystallize my own thoughts. At any rate, the book is set in a world--one of many--in which magic is linked to the ascent and descent of various satellites in the sky; those who can channel these wanderers can do so only in accordance with the altitude of their relevant moon. Most of these satellites are predictable, but one, Oma, only appears every 2000 years or so, and when it does it brings chaos, because those who can channel it can do just about anything, from unmaking the world to opening gates between worlds to raising the dead. Even more alarmingly, it becomes clear over the course of the novel that forces are massing in at least one other world with the unmistakable intention of killing everyone who remains in the world of most of the protagonists, so that the invaders themselves can inhabit that world--you can only cross over if your double on the other side is already dead, or never existed. If this sounds like genocide to you, it does to Hurley and her characters too.

I haven't yet read Hurley's God's War trilogy, but I'm willing to bet that the brutality of the world and the people in this book, as well as the sheer weirdness of some of the elements (mobile plants! who knew they could be so terrifying?), are shared by her previous novels. The Mirror Empire is an excellent epic fantasy, and I enjoyed the fact that so many of its protagonists are female, or of genders other than male, and that the novel depicts a host of matriarchal cultures, as well as the oppression that comes along with unchecked power. The book is fast-paced and interesting, although at times, as other people have said, it did get a bit challenging to keep who was doing what, and who knew what when, straight, which is not helped by doubles often having the same names. But there's no mistaking that it's a truly epic fantasy, whatever that means (wide scope? lots of worldbuilding? multiple POV characters?) and that Hurley is swinging for the fences here. Based on this book, it looks like she's going to clear them.

I liked it, but I didn't love it: POV characters and genocide )

I bought this book from Barnes & Noble because I wanted to support Hurley, who deservedly won two Hugos in London this year, and because I wanted to support the reinvigoration of epic fantasy via the promotion of new and existing voices within it. I don't regret my purchase at all, but as much as I'm curious to see how it's all resolved, some of the author's artistic choices have definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the sequels.
starlady: David 8 holding the holographic Earth in wonderment. (when there is nothing in the desert)
[personal profile] juniperphoenix asked, Which vid was the hardest to make?

Part of me wants to answer, "The last one," but realistically…I've had a pretty easy time of it in general, and none of them stand out to me as especially difficult. Most of the AMVs I made were technically pretty easy, partly because a) I was using Windows Movie Maker and b) I had no idea what I was doing. I got slightly better when I switched to iMovie, but I had no idea what I was doing still, which is why so many of them are teeny tiny file and picture size, because I was using the files I'd converted to play on my iPod because they converted to mp4. Oh, self.

In some ways one of the hardest to make was actually my very first one, "Yuna's Vertigo," which I am still very proud of, partly because it was the first time I'd done it and partly because I was working with FMV clips that I'd downloaded from web sites after they'd been ripped by other people. This was back in the dark ages when getting cut scenes off a PS2 involved black magic and about $100 worth of cables and only a few people actually did it (so if you did, your AMV automatically stood out). One of the unique clips I downloaded had some kind of progressive file corruption in it where it froze at the point I tried to cut it, and kept freezing no matter where I cut it. I wound up solving it with a diamond transition, which worked pretty well if I do say so myself. In many ways that AMV is the epitome of beginner's luck; I still like it a lot.

"Starman" was also kind of a pain in the ass, partly because that was when I started using After Effects for the titles, and After Effects is its own kind of special hell (I spent five hours trying to make an effects preset work before googling and finding out that preset didn't work for anyone), and also because the vid fell pretty far short of what I wanted. It was my first time working with cam rips, and I kind of wish I'd waited, but also, irony is kind of hard to get across in a vid unless it's pretty heavy-handed. I was trying for eviscerating sarcasm, and I didn't get there. If I did it over again, I'd definitely go for longer/more obvious intro titles, not to mention recutting the whole second half of the vid. Oh well.

Getting source for my last vid nearly did drive me to tears over trying to demux an MKV Blue-Ray rip that allegedly didn't have hardcoded subtitles. I wound up cutting my losses and just using the DVD rip, partly because I'd wasted nearly a month downloading the Blue Ray rip and then trying to demux it for clipping. MKVs are Satan's file type of choice, IJS.

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