My Favorite Novels Which I First Read in the 2010s

I spent a bit of time thinking about what were my favorite novels which I read for the first time in 2010-2019.

To make this list more interesting, I’m only putting in one novel per writer. I’m also including fanfiction novels and novel-length narrative poetry. I’m not including any novels I which I had read before 2010 and re-read in the 2010s. And I’m not claiming that these are the best novels I read in the decade, just that they are my personal favorites.

Rather than trying to make up my mind with which novel belongs in 5th place, or 7th place, or 9th place, I’m just going to order them by original publication date in the original language. With serial novels, I’m ordering them based on the year that the first installment was first published, though I also know the year the last instalment was published. Continue reading

An Ace Perspective on the Book Revolting Prostitutes

I recently read Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Juno Mac and Molly Smith. First of all, I’d like to say that is a thought-provoking book that I would recommend to anyone who has any interest in feminism and/or workers’ rights, even if they have no particular interest in sex work. Obviously, the book discusses sex and violence, so reader discretion is advised, but it always discusses sex and violence in a very practical way – nothing in the book is meant to titillate.

I’m going to examine the book from an ace perspective, not because that’s the most important perspective (the most important perspective is ‘what is the best policy for society as a whole and vulnerable people in particular?’), but because it is a perspective on the book’s content which a) I can provide and b) is relatively hard to find.

The book never explicitly mentions asexuality, but while reading the book, I realized that sex workers and aces have more in common that I knew before (of course, some sex workers are aces). Sex workers often have sex with people they aren’t sexually attracted to. Saying that aces have sex ‘often’ is misleading, but by definition, when aces do have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. Thus, when sex workers and aces have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. When I write it out here, this seems so bloody obvious, but so many people (including myself) have missed this obvious insight because our culture tells us that sex workers are extreme sluts, and aces are extreme prudes, and the only thing extreme sluts and extreme prudes could have in common is that they are extremists who aren’t ‘normal’. Continue reading

What Is the Difference Between a Yǔ​ and a Wén?

In Mandarin, some languages tend to be described as a ‘-yǔ’. For example, ‘Spanish [language]’ tends to be called ‘Xī​bān​yá​yǔ’ or the abbreviated form ‘Xī​yǔ’. Some languages tend to be described as a ‘-wén’. For example, ‘French [language]’ tends to be called ‘Fǎ​wén​’.

Spanish and French are very similar languages in many regards, so why the heck is Spanish a ‘-yǔ’ and French a ‘-wén​’?

Technically, it is acceptable to refer to Spanish as ‘Xī​bān​yá​wén​’ and French as ‘Fǎ​yǔ​’, and indeed on the Chinese Wikipedia pages for both languages they list their names as both ‘Xī​bān​yá​yǔ’ and ‘Xī​bān​yá​wén’​ / ‘Fǎ​wén’​ and ‘Fǎ​yǔ’. But in practice, I’ve mostly seen ‘Spanish [language]’ referred to as ​’Xī​bān​yá​yǔ/Xī​yǔ’ and ‘French [language]’ referred to as ‘Fǎ​wén​’ (at least in Taiwan where I lived – it may be different in other parts of the Sinophone world).

If you’re wondering what English [language] is, it’s a ‘-wén’ just like French. I have on a few occasions seen English referred to as ‘Yīng​yǔ​’ but at least 95% of the time in Mandarin it is referred to as ‘Yīng​wén​’. Japanese [language] is similar to English in this regard – it is usually referred to as ‘Rì​wén​’ but occasionally as ‘Rì​yǔ​’. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that Japanese described as ‘Rì​yǔ​’ in the very same contexts that English is decribed as ‘Yīng​yǔ​’ – which is a very strong hint that ‘-yǔ’ and ‘-wén​’ aren’t fully interchangeable.

What causes some languages to be ‘-yǔ’ by default (like Spanish) and others to be ‘-wén​’ by default (like French)? Continue reading

Let’s Put KonMari and Way of Choices Together (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

I want to bring up Chen Changsheng’s thousands of swords again, the material item which he has in the most surprising quantity. Those swords are quasi-conscious. They have (very limited) agency. Without someone to wield them, they can, with great difficulty, take a very restricted range of actions independently, which means that on their own they don’t do much but might occasionally do something. When they are being wielded, they can choose whether to assist or resist the wielder, so they are only useful to Chen Changsheng when they are willing to go along with him. They also form memories.

On top of all that, the swords can fly. That is how Chen Changsheng can use 1000+ swords at once in a fight – he is conducting/coordinating them rather than physically moving every single one with his hands. You can see a clip of this in the live-action adaptation and you can also briefly spot in in the 5th season opening of the animated adaptation.

This is far from a new idea in Chinese xia fiction. It’s a trope of wuxia that swords just might have a bit of a life of their own, shaped by how they have been wielded in the past. Being xuanhuan rather than wuxia, Way of Choices gets to push this old trope in a much more fantastical direction.

What does this have to do with Marie Kondo? Continue reading

The Fun of Watching BATS Live on Zoom

One of the more pleasant discoveries I’ve made in recent weeks is that watching BATS on Zoom is fun.

No, I’m not talking about flying mammals. I’m talking about Bay Area TheaterSports – Improv (BATS Improv).

As you probably know, traditional live theatre shows around the world are very cancelled right now. Some theatre companies are planning shows for this summer and fall, but I predict most or all of these will also be cancelled since live performances with audience members travelling potentially far distances to sit next to each other in close proximity while performers project respiratory drops much more than 6 feet / 2 meters so that they can be heard in the back row is one of the last things I expect to open up again. Unless there is an amazing breakthrough in preventing/treating COVID-19, I think traditional theatre shows are too risky. Even without legal restrictions, I expect that there will be so many people who agree with this that there won’t be sufficiently large audiences.

A lot of theatre companies around the world are streaming recordings of old performances.

BATS Improv it taking it one step further. They are doing live performances – on Zoom. Continue reading

Let’s Put KonMari and Way of Choices Together (Part 1)

I read three books close to each other in time which made a strong impression on me Way of Choices by Mao Ni, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and Deep Survival by Gonzales, Laurence. Even though they belong to totally different genres, and are aimed at different audiences – Deep Survival is mix of stories of deadly or almost-deadly experiences mixed with an analysis of the psychological differences between survivors and non-survivors (this is an example of one of the true stories profiled in the book), Way of Choices is a Chinese xuanhuan novel, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is about home organization – there is a surprising amount of overlap in their themes.

I’m going to leave out Deep Survival for now, and just focus on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (KonMari) and Way of Choices.

So you’re going to KonMari Way of Choices, eh?

What does that mean?

It means you’re going to declutter everything in Way of Choices that doesn’t spark joy for you.

No, I’m not going to do that. I don’t like using ‘KonMari’ as a synonym for ‘decluttering’, and I’m also not trying to ‘declutter’ Way of Choices.

C’mon, that novel is over 4000 pages long, there has to something in there that doesn’t spark joy for you.

It is true that there were some things in Way of Choices which did not spark joy for me, but that isn’t the purpose of this post.

So what is the purpose of this post?

Exploring the thematic overlap between the two books. Continue reading