Jul. 18th, 2017

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Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of a school for the recovery of children who've been subject to portal fantasy stuff, specifically people wanted to stay but were cast out for some reason. It's pretty good; I felt it could have embraced the premise *better*, but it still did a pretty good job.

I have lots of different thoughts about this.

Returning from portal fantasy

One of the biggest is probably that, it's written as if people being cast out is a central feature of secondary worlds, whereas originally I think it's more like, the authors didn't think about it much either way, they just tacked on a happy ending even if it didn't really make sense in the book.

But as liv points out, many people found portal fantasies incredibly moving as children because they wanted to escape somewhere else from where they were, and returning was horrible, and this story serves very very well as an emphatic rejection of that trope.

Funnily enough that was never me. Lots of my friends overcame a lot of childhood problems, but though I was nerdy and bad at making friends, my parents were great, and I never wanted to get away from here, even if I was drawn to the idea of going somewhere where my strengths could blossom. I got some of that by going into maths and programming.

Flaws

I enjoyed this more than most of the other Seanan Mcguire I've read, even the Mira Grant. I think the strengths were similar, but the bits where "the characters go where the plot says, completely disregarding logic, common sense, emotion, characterisation, survival, or physical possibility" were much less prominent.

At least to me -- I know some people didn't find that a problem in any of her books, and some people were bothered by it in this one. But there are going to be *some* rants in the spoiler section.

I wasn't bothered by some things that bothered other people. To me, the variety of sexualities etc didn't feel shoehorned in, except occasionally (and I was pleased it was there). I wasn't bothered by shifts in narration from tight third to omniscient (I actually quite like little omniscient asides).

Strengths

The diversity of characters. The description of the secondary worlds: the harsh "high logic" faerielands; the "high nonsense" nonsense worlds; the ones with rhymes, the underworlds, etc etc. It is all very memorable.

Random thoughts

I know I can be too optimistic here, and it can be impossible to stop bullying, but I also just despair at how it's taken for granted in so many situations fictional and real. Here there's a fairly small group of children, with several adults present full time. Can't they at least TRY to prevent at least physical attacks? And ideally violent threats?

Spoilers )
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Quite a long time ago now, I read about the concept of inbox zero. For a long time I struggled with various productivity techniques. I sometimes temporarily achieved inbox zero, and I made big inroads against the habit of having all the urgent emails muddled in with everything else I'd ever received. Although that never quite became permanent.

However, now there maybe has been a permanent sort of shift. I think a combination of receiving less urgent emails, and of having a regular non-email based per-week todo list, and of generally being less stressed by all urgent things, have led to a point where I no longer *need* inbox zero. I generally only have a few emails needing attention, and those are starred. And other recent-ish email sits around in my inbox to a certain extent not doing much harm, but being handy if I need it.

And I'm sufficiently non-stressed that it's not usually something I need to *set aside time for*, but something I can do when I'm checking my email anyway. Any longer time commitments get put in a separate todo.

Non-email email (social network notifications, mailing lists, confirmations, etc, etc) gmail helpfully puts into a separate tab. Social network stuff I star anything I want to reply to, and empty it out every so often. Everything else I just glance at, and if it needs any response move to my main inbox and star it.

This has bad effects as well. Because it *usually* just works, if I get an urgent email and then suddenly go away, it can fall through the cracks. But that's hopefully ok, it's mostly how most people deal with tasks: they usually do it fine but occasionally miss something, instead of needing to be always perfect else they fail forever.