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The Occult Mind: Magic in Theory and Practice (Christopher I. Lehrich, 2018/#25): The concept of analyzing magic/"the Occult" in its own terms is an interesting one — I think of it as akin to fannish meta in its Watsonian mode — but the author spends most of his time dissing contemporary authors in ways that, to the degree that I can evaluate it, oscillate between the intriguing observation and the malicious misreading. The book contains a number of nice turns of phrase and striking conceptual images, but... I guess a way to put it is that, while I'm interested in, although not swayed by, "magical" conceptual constructs, I'm neither interested in nor swayed by the more Derrrida-esque structuralist/post-structuralist theoretical arguments and battles. But then, as an undeconstructed positivist with a weakness for Borgesian aesthetics, I'm more a subject of the author's analysis than part of his intended audience.

Familiar Quotations (1905 ed.) (ed. John Bartlett, 2018/#26): It's sobering to see how much that was found memorably felicitious but a few generations ago is now almost unreadable in feeling and composition, if not language itself. But the right editor can do much, both in selection and commentary; I love Bergen Evans' Dictionary of Quotations, even if many of its quotations are as old as Bartlett's.

News Networks in Early Modern Europe (Ed. Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham, 2018/#27): There's quite a bit of space dedicated to methodological issues I'm not very interested in, and to detailed quantitative descriptions that (perhaps ironically) feel fishy to me, but nonetheless it's a large book full of goodies about avvisi, newsletters, newsbooks, the fine line between grateful travelers informing patrons and paid crown spies, and a lot of ceteras. While reading it I was frequently swept by the desire to launch a newspaper of some sort — so dynamic, scrappy, and full of potential were the networks and textual, technological, and commercial practices they were coming up with at the time — which is of course insane; we're living on the other side of that threshold now, and empathy and sympathy aside, what was a fascinating plunge *then* would be a manneristic affectation *now* (nothing wrong with manneristic affectations — under atheist conditions, a lot of life (excepting of course interpersonal ethics at both micro and macro-scale) is an act of style — but, if nothing else, it's convenient not to be delusional about what you're doing and why).

Hybrid Knowledge in the Early East India Company World (Anna Winterbottom, 2018/#28): A look at how the knowledge development initiatives of the (early, pre-territorial) East India Company (and very closely associated organizations, like the Royal Society) actually played out on the ground through the specific activities and interactions of (poorly supervised) agents with multiple overlapping agendas, natives with different sets of goals and degrees of autonomy (from the kings and officials on whom the very survival, not to mention profits, of the EIC settlements depended, specially during the XVIth/XVIIth century before the military balance of power shifted, to slaves, going through ex-captives, phonies, and other individuals with multiple, hybrid cultural identities). Issues of official and unofficial patronage, the balance between commercially valuable secrets and reputationally necessary publicity, collaborative networks of doctors, traders, seafarers, scholars (and most people were at least two of those) sharing local know-how and samples, the practice of "medical diplomacy", etc. — paraphrasing a bit, it's Latour knowledge-building under conditions of *serious* power asymmetry. A note of interest is how racism is, at that stage, more geographical than physiological; it's less "how you look" than "where you live" and a bit of "how you live," with climate and geography assumed to have insidious, cumulative effects on the old moral fiber. It's only slightly later and partially as a reaction to the ambiguous, shifting contact and interaction between "races" that more "scientific" concepts of races as biological categories developed.

The Mughal Empire (John F. Richards, 2018/#29): Quite a revelatory book to me. The Mughal empire was the second (if not the) largest and richest empire in the world, giving the XVIth-XVIIth century Ming a run for their money. The book makes clear the astounding wealth of the Indian subcontinent, and the effectiveness and sophistication of the Mughal's fiscal and political arrangements... that is, while they worked. It was only in long range/military seamanship and, eventually, the most concentrated gunpowder-based forms of violence that they (and China) fell behind Western societies — before the Industrial/Scientific revolution, that is — and there's a point to be made that the various East India companies took advantage of the deep self-inflicted wound of the Decaan wars' quagmire. It was a world of multiple overlapping religions, ethnicities, and cultures (the way Islam fostered violent and non-violent long-term relationships is interesting; conquest was of course the main way, but there was also pilgrimage and the way reputation and religious authority was contested and diffused; Iranian/Persian culture and governing methods — including very document-intensive patterns — had a huge influence); the Mughals could teach the Habsburg a thing or thirty about building and ruling that kind of empire (that said, the Deccan Wars...). Of note, the Central Asian/Mughal/Ottoman inheritance-by-deathmatch protocols were as spectacularly destructive as you'd imagine, and I'd argue that having a civil war every generation might not be the best way to build an empire over the long term; sooner or later you get a relatively evenly matched set of candidates, and then it gets really bad. Recommended; non-teleologically speaking, that's where the action was during those centuries.

Echopraxia (Peter Watts, 2018/#30): A reread.

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Currently reading Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, which is a pretty straightforward, if at times darkly comical, description of how the Europeans were essentially socially- and geographically-ignorant thugs crashing into an enormously wealthy market that encompassed most of the world's wealth, with nothing to trade with except technically superior weaponry and ships (almost the only area of knowledge the West was at the forefront of, although that was about to change), and a vicious combination of commercial greed and aggressive religious fundamentalism that was quite beyond what the multi-ethnic, not tolerant by our standards but all in all generally more practiced at collaboration, societies of the area had been used to.

Barbarians, indeed. It wasn't the only thing they had going for them — once you start developing more efficient research processes and then come up with industrial methods, then societies without them pretty cannot compete regardless of their sophistication in other areas — but the existence, discovery, and exploitation of the Potosi silver mines is one of the great historical contingencies of the last few centuries; violence and American silver (extracted with violence, but from a much sparser and weaker population) where the only way Europeans could interface with the civilized core of the world.

Nobody with an empire is innocent in any sense, that's not what I'm saying, and if, say, American societies of the era were fucked up from 1492 on, the Ming and Quin Empires, the Tokugawa, or the Mughals, could have imported, over-developed, and exploited scientific and technical advances before European empires were comparatively powerful enough to block their attempts, or ahead enough to make the catch-up a long and fraught effort. Europeans were thugs with better weapons slightly before they were thugs with scientific-industrial complexes and much better weapons; you could tell quite an interesting story in a sci-fi-ish key about this event from the point of view of Indian Sea societies (the "violent and ignorant aliens with better weapons" is, after all, a trope), and maybe an AU outcome if you felt like.

Anyway, the original point of this post was the childish observation that the apparently the Arabs called these awful Frankish traders ferengi, and now I understand that The Next Generation reference (and a daring one indeed: making the Ferengi the series' philosophical counterpart of the Federation would have aligned the latter with the South Asian meta-society of XVIth century, not the European one) if only thirty years late.
But I digress.

One of my favorite things about The Avengers (Peel's, not Romanova's) is how pretty much the entire fabric of British life and culture is basically the blueprint for one form of another of murderous conspiracy. At no point, I think, do Peel or Steed find what their lives reflect about the reality of the world as unsettling as it should be; in a country practically wrapped in probably overlapping well-connected conspiracies of the gifted and pathologically unstable, they are a two-person extremely well-connected conspiracy of the gifted and almost pathologically stable, Steed because it's his job and those are often his co-workers (and what could be weirder than that, in their world), Peel because, well, I think it's basically that she does whatever she wants and she's usually very good at it, and it turns out this is such an entertaining hobby (besides, they are both kind loners).

I'm reminded of a couple of comments of wellntruly about Hannibal: how in their world basically most everybody is trying to kill you in gruesome ways, and how, for a while (and in ultimately legendarily unhealthy ways) Hannibal and Will connect because they are alone together (identically different, in Jack's phrase). Steed and Peel share a similar situation, with a some large, fundamental differences in their mental health.

Also: it was 1971, and we had a series where the male and female leads were both single and charismatic and/or hot, kept saving each other's life, spent a lot of time doing things together like going to the theater or just having a quiet read in each other's apartment, constantly looked at each other in various forms of fond and/or exasperated amazement, flirted shamelessly (although, to be fair, their flirted with pretty much everybody for tactical reasons, and with most of the rest for practice) and yet, if memory serves, never slept together. And neither seemed particularly troubled about it, one way or another, which is a fantastically mature approach.

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Well, of course.

Paradise Lost, Book ii, line 666 (where else?). Behold Death.


[...] The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joynt, or limb,
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful Dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a Kingly Crown had on.


Appropriately Lovecraftian, I'd say. But note that Satan (so call him now, his former name is heard no more in Heav'n) was, to say the least, unimpressed.

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Books! (War, Money, and Reading Edition)

China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Peter C. Perdue, 2018/#19): A very explicitly and consistently non-teleological description of how the Quin did and didn't take over Central Eurasia, told, as much as the sources allow, from the point of view of everybody involved (non-homogeneous as each group, by itself, was): the Quin (also/and/as Manchus, the Russians, the multiple Mongol loosely defined and always-shifting alliances and individuals, the Tibetan kingdom and their factions. The author makes a good point of how dealing with Central Eurasia was part of the impetus behind what we now call State formation for both Russia and China, and that the Zunghars (eventually the best-structured, and more nearly proto-state of the post-Chinggis Mongolian groups) were also attempting to do so; it's just that the others had better resources, and their treaties (anachronistic retro-nationalist readings aside), did much to curtail the geographical and strategic mobility that was so useful for them). Understanding a bit the historical roots contemporary China's obsession with Tibet, if nothing else, made reading the book worth it; Tibetan Buddhism was a pretty important lever of influence on the Mongolian tribes, and when eventually the Quin took over it, it became an structural part of their "gathering" of Mongolian tribes into the civilized world. The northwest was a dangerous, traumatic place for non-Yuan dynasties, so finally conquering it (insofar as they did) was re-framed post facto as the epochal closure of a preordained "natural" domain. (Frankly, I'm so used to "see" Tibet from the Western-centric-at-one-remove point of view of India, that the fact that it was in many ways even more strongly connected to the Mongols required a bit of an obvious-in-retrospect reorientation). A funny tidbit: When the fifth Dalai Lama died, his secular-right-hand-sort-of-person didn't tell the Kangxi emperor, and kept up the diplomatic-religious correspondence, for nine years. They claimed it was under the not-late-just-about-to-reincarnate-Lama's orders, but Kangxi was furious, and it was in fact one of the reasons/excuses/justifications for the later, more direct takeover; I semi-seriously semi-believe Chinese rulers have kept up an specific grudge about that ever since. Also, the Treaty of Nerchinsk between the Tsar and the Quin (which, by setting up a relatively well-defined frontier, the reciprocal return of deserters, and, most importantly, kept the Russians from helping any Mongols making a funnny move towards or away from the Quin if they wanted to keep access to the fur trade (basically, the Russians went to Central Eurasia purely for the money; Orthodox Christianity was a retcon. the Chinese cared about security), was so lethal a move against the Mongols) was discussed in Latin, because neither side wanted to use the others' native tongue(s) (or maybe trusted whatever translators they had gotten), but there was a couple of Jesuits there, and I think a Pole working with the Russians who knew Latin, so Latin it was. The Jesuits worked hard to keep everybody from talking directly to anybody else, and got some sweet concessions from the Chinese along the side (not that it helped them over the long term, but kudos on an spirited and very Bene Gesserit attempt; actually they were there because the Kangxi emperor took weekly geometry classes from them, and had them do an state-of-the-art map of China (Beijing is at longitude zero, of course), something that every other empire and would-be empirewas into at the time, by the way; the book spends quite a bit of time on things like cartography, historiography, and even currency systems — all part and parcel not just of how the Quin took over Central Eurasia, but of how they attempted and/or succeeded to make it mean what they wanted it to). I guess the point of this awfully structured paragraph is that it's an interesting book, long but worth the read.

Minotauro 10 (Spanish SF magazine sourced off The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2018/#20): Not really good, but you can't fault their creative ambition.

The Medieval Super-Companies: A Study of the Peruzzi Company of Florence (Edwin S. Hunt, 2018/#21): A relatively but not overly detailed study of the creation (not quite rise) and fall of the Peruzzi Company, one of the Big Three huge, geographically dispersed, multi-line companies in Medieval Florence (not as large as uncritical historians would have them be, but certainly large enough; the later Medici Bank had better press and a higher profile, but less size — not being engaged in commodity trading, it didn't need to). The author criticizes the usual narrative about their fall due to Edward III's debt delinquency (loans to the English Crown having been a late, and rather last-ditch, move by the Peruzzi Company), and adscribes it to price controls on grain at both supply (Naples) and demand (Florence); this low-margin, high-volume, politically sensitive business was the core of their economic growth, and the justification of their size (the other one being wool and cloth, although at a lower volume and with lower total profits), but as monarchies became better at extracting revenue themselves and managing their expenditures slightly better, the grain-monopolies-in-exchange-for-lax-personal-credit model was no longer necessary for them (that said, companies were close to, but not identical with, their founding families, so even if in theory there was unlimited liability, in practice Florentine businesspeople were shrewd enough, and the family was diversified enough politically and economically, for the Peruzzi to remain wealthy and politically important even after the company closed). I think this shows a large degree of continuity between Medieval and typically Early Modern concerns — urban logistics and finding money for increasingly expensive wars was less a typically modern issue than a continuously deepening problem, each solution just raising the bar for the next round (this increasingly efficient conversion of economic resources into sophisticated, lethal warfare might be part of the mechanisms behind the competitive advantage/troubling preponderance of Western traders to resort to organized violence noted in The Political Economy of Merchant Empires).


The Preserving Machine (Philip K. Dick, 2018/#22): A collection of short and slightly-less-short stories, all quite good (within the constraints of his linguistic and cosmological beats). PKD is pretty much unsurpassed at having unsettling things happen to unsympathetic characters as their cosmos unravels in non unrelated ways. That worming feeling of ontological ugliness sapping into everything, the Ubik feeling, is a signature move. By the way: I don't follow the academic work on him, but, at least in popular consciousness, I suspect he's highly underrated as an anti-capitalistic, anti-totalitarian writer (his concerns with work and the economy have to do with the way they structure the universe almost in an objective way, whatever that might mean, in sanity-sapping, soul-destroying ways; also, let's not forget that he had Nixon literally be the Demiurge or at least a manifestation of; what he would have made of the human walking simulacrum of a president thinly stretched over a raging void of emotional emptiness that is Trump is probably best not thought of).


Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England (David Allan, 2018/#23): Despite what other historiography says, the XVII-th to mid-XVIIIth centuries in England seem to have been something of a high watershed for the activity of commonplacing; even as tastes shifted from the Greco-Latin classics to the newly dominant vernacular poets and periodicals (and the retrospective canonization of Shakespeare), the practice of writing down significant fragments in some sort of indexed structure (fun fact: Locke came up with an alphabetic index system that, of course, had no a priori categories; this mostly replaced the old High Renaissance categories) continued, related both to old practices of oral culture — rhetoric being, ever since the Greeks, the very pragmatic root of the common-place, and common-placing — and newer forms of text-driven self-analysis and self-fashioning a la Montaigne, although leveraging strong threads of private Protestant piety (and regular preaching as requiring a constant stream of quotable materials and ideas, a la blogging). The author postulates that it was only when paper and printing technologies collapsed the price of the printed page enough to make book sharing no longer mandatory, and with the rise of the novel — a longer, not really commonplaceable form that encouraged impressionistic immersion rather than reworking and reuse — that commonplace really want away. This isn't part of the book, but I found the hypertextual practices of quotation, re-work, reuse, and commentary pretty similar to modern practices; LiveJournal can sometimes be a commonplace book of course, but also social networks, even if the commonplace was in principle assumed to be private (although in practice it was often shared).


A Europe of Courts, a Europe of Factions, Political Groups at Early Modern Centres of Power (1550-1700) (Ed. Rubén González Cuerva and Alexander Koller, 2018/#24): In short, faction was a form of invective ("you're a faction!", "no, *you* are!") and analytical framework deployed by relative outsiders (e.g. ambassadors, historians, or losers in political battles), rather than long-lasting, ideologically coherent groupings with clear agendas and strategies; in practice, all alliances were contingent, personal, and shifting, established across multiple, not always compatible fronts of material and social interest, dynastic loyalties, nascent forms of "national" (or rather territorial) identities, religion, and a long etc (as you can imagine, the Hapsburg tentacles added a lot of complexity to this; the issue of the Twelve Years' Truce with the Dutch involved multiple courts, treasuries, religious priorities and what not, never mind the fact that after a generation of war, and given the way large-scale war could be so damn profitable within the loose accounting mechanisms of the era, there was a lot of present and future money to be thought of). The closest you get in the period to the traditional parties are the Albaist and Ebolists in Philip II's Spain, which did have conflicting views about the empire (with the former emphasizing a more Spain-led, homogeneous, militantly catholic counterpart to the rather more composite-ish idea of the latter; but of course everything was also personal and cultural and whatnot).

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AO3 just routed a gift from Petra: And whence do they rise, the cycles of changes, a 2006 short fic, part of an AU-ish DCU series from Petra and Te around... Well, if you know the authors you know enough, and if you don't, who am I to spoil you?

Spoiler alert: POV'd and masterminded by the Barbara Gordon that's not just the Barbara Gordon in my mind and heart, but also an archetype for something that I can only describe by reference to her.

This has been the best surprise ever.

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Comics! (Shadowy Conspiracies Edition)

The Shadow / Batman #6: The end of a not uninteresting mini about a deeeeeep mega-conspiracy. It's a nice one, and I'm psychologically unable to not like the ending, but it only works as an Elseworld, in the sense that it's too big to leave much space in the Batman universe for anything else. That's a common issue in universes with long continuities; the accumulation of Events and Conspiracies escalates where, you know, Bruce's life isn't the target of a centuries-long conspiracy that's the retrochronal side effect of having been Omega beam'd by Darkseid Himself, but rather it's the target of a millennia-long conspiracy by the followers of a freaking capital-g god from a different universe. It gets ridiculous. Rather than continuity and reboots, I'd prefer a continuous stream of singles and minis, overlapping in arbitrary and not always well-defined ways; that way the world can change.

The Wild Storm #12: An example of the above, I think. Ellis is able to tell a cohesive variant of the Wildstorm universe, basically because he can start from scratch and keep the bits he wants (also, because he's good at that kind of thing, mind you). A point of interest is that, because you have multiple shadowy deep conspiracies of ultra-competent people (and a couple of semi-independent groups in the middle), nobody quite knows what's going on, butterflies get stepped on, etc. The slowly unfolding chaos adds to the sense of tension.

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The Political Economy of Merchant Empires: State Power and World Trade, 1350-1750 (Ed. James D. Tracy, 2018/#13): Some of the essays are conceptually old-fashioned and not really enlightening, but others are quite fascinating. The main analytical surprise for me (and, as second-order observation, a note on not really post-colonial aspects of some of my historical understanding) is to how large a degree merchant empires were based not on any advantage in sailing, financial, or commercial technology, but rather on military technology (better guns), and above all on more savage military practices. Battles in which the objective was to kill enemy forces, as opposed to slave them or just drive them away so you can take booty, were relatively rare in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, specially when unrelated to outright invasion. The quantum duality between trade and organized violence, at that scale and with that level of intensity, was something new in, say, the Indian Ocean (apparently, it was something new also in the Mediterranean a bit before, when traders from the North-Western countries of Europe began to appear in force, pun intended). At least in areas where their sparse forces could make good their often over-grandiose claims, European traders were quite happy to bully their way wherever they couldn't compete or entice markets (the later Opium Wars were just a continuation of previous practices in that sense). True technological and organizational superiority wouldn't come until Industrial Revolution. Another completely new to me, and, I understand, somewhat controversial observation is that Tokugawa Japan was probably the second-largest exporter of silver of its age, all of which eventually went, also, to China. So we have a world market in silver in which increased Chinese demand (caused in part by the collapse of previous developments in paper money) affected, because of China's size and prosperity, the economy and long-range trading patterns of both Tokugawa Japan and Hapsburg Spain. The author of that essay notes that control of the silver mines probably helped or even made possible the unification of Japan by the faction that did, as well as its economic progress, and noted how it fueled and extended the global and somewhat anti-capitalistic (or, rather, anti-secular (or rather, specifically and intensely Catholic, let's keep anachronisms to a minimum)) Hapsburg wars, with almost fatal consequences for the Northern Atlantic economies (that's a very fair point, although I would qualify it by saying that, because warfare/trade/empire at the time was, ideologies aside, always "outsourced" — Hapsburg Spain actually involved, enriched, and developed everything from Genoese bankers and (handwavingly) Italian engineers to (even more handwavingly) German "military entrepreneurs" — so, while not harmless to, say, the Netherlands and England, and of course horrifyingly destructive in Germany itself, the Hapsburg wars were as "modern" in practice as they weren't in ideological intent).

Le Fanu's Gothic: The Rhetoric of Darkness (Victor Sage, 2018/#14): A critical look at the Gothic narrative techniques (in addition to the Gothic narrative elements) in Le Fanu's fiction. The author makes a very interesting analysis of how Le Fanu plays with narrative authority — the voices in his stories don't always know what's going on, and they might or might not be aware of this fact, or warn the reader. His stories are Gothic not just in plots and settings, but in how they work one of Gothic's central meta-plots, the revenant or unholy resurrection of a vengeful, repressed past, into the very mechanism of the story — they are (through multiple, not always well-justified evidenciary layers) themselves past events or even past narrations, which the act of reading (by ourselves) bring back to life, in the sense that it often activates readings that are at odds with what the surrounding frame would have them be and do. To be more concrete: when an skeptic writes down semi-clinically a superstitious oral tradition about a ghost, the oral tradition is in some sense dead, and the text is supposed to be a museum exhibit or painting of a passive and manipulable thing, but if Le Fanu (as opposed to the skeptic supposedly writing it) does things right, then we read the story as potentially (Watsonianly) true, and hence "alive"; that story is as much of a resurrected spirit as a ghost. Le Fanu does this a lot, and sometimes through multiple layers of indirection. An interesting side analysis is how this relates to the Protestant Ascendancy in both its (bloody) origin and end; after such traumatic societal events, is it surprising that Ireland felt haunted in and by itself?

Ciencia Ficción Selección 26 (2018/#15): A handful of SF shorts stories from 1957 to 1975. Indifferently written and not better translated, but something of a guilty pleasure; after all, I pretty much grew up reading collections like this one.

Earthworks (Brian Aldiss, 2018/#16): Everybody is broken in this world physically, mentally, and emotionally, including the world itself — almost total loss of agricultural fertility, together with sustained high reproductive rates, will do that; this is a world of chronic, massive, hunger when working ruthlessly and inhumanly at peak efficiency. A bleak and very specific if not uninteresting scenario, and, as usual in Aldiss' novels, reality isn't always solid, nor agency is necessarily a thing. An interesting point is that African countries are the world leaders (not through a Wakanda of sorts, but rather as they are the last countries still capable of feeding their populations relatively well). Perhaps not a classic, but a good one.

Nightfall and Other Stories (Isaac Asimov, 2018/#17): The usual Asimov disclaimers apply: neither an stylist nor a subtle weaver of plots (his stories are, mostly, wrappers for an intellectual puzzle, even the book-length ones), he's — if you'll pardon the overuse of the vernacular with its outdated (but in this case chronologically appropriate) and often exclusionist implications — a nerdy nerd writing very nerdy things for a readership of nerds, and the latter is, even after he's no longer the force he was (his was the first famous person's death I felt that touched me; I remember thinking when I read the news that I would eventually read all of his books, which given his legendarily prolific nature, felt like something was lost to the, or my, world (I never got around to that anyway, and I doubt I will; let's be honest, a lot of his books are at best serviceable, and the science popularization ones — which he himself claimed he wrote just after learning about things, and then forgot everything about right away — were enjoyable, but are already of at most completist value)) what makes him enjoyable (plus or maybe mostly a lot of nostalgia). I apologize for the awful syntax of the previous phrase.

Ghostly Tales Vol. 1 (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 2018/#18): Just a couple of stories. Atmospheric, I guess, but rather bland (although that's of course contextual, and after all Gothic is more about atmosphere than event, more or less, sort of, in a way).

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Spock does know his Kirk

In Discovery, Starfleet was fooled so well and so long by mirror!Lorca that they gave him command of one of the most important ships in the fleet. In TOS, it took Spock about ten minutes tops to figure out Mirror!Kirk was a very fascinating little piece of crap (who, by the way, did not know his Spock, as he kept trying to bribe him with things I don't think mirror!Spock wanted; maybe an ethical point from the TOS episode is that being kind gives you practice into paying attention to what others want and need, which comes handy whenever you aren't the one with the Tantalus Field)[1].

(An alternate reading, of course, is that prime!Lorca was already quite shifty, so his counterpart was a bit different but not that much in absolute terms, while the ethical opposite of a prime!Kirk is quite different indeed; that said, mirror!Spock wasn't a monster — although, given a commitment to logic as a shared constraint, the Vulcan ethical range is narrower, and in those coordinates he was.)(Also, in Mirror, Mirror switched people were thrown right into the thick of it, so to speak, while perhaps mirror!Lorca had more time to figure it out.)

[1] In my headcanon reading of Mirror, Mirror, mirror!Spock had some idea about the Tantalus Field, if not its mechanisms or parameters, and warning Kirk about his orders from Starfleet was an extremely bold but perhaps logically necessary gambit to exploit Kirk's currently abnormal behavior pattern. He knows Kirk has some sort of special resource, past observations practically demand the inference, and with a Kirk that seems uncharasteristically disinclined to violence is the perfect moment of opportunity to not just kill him (he could've done it in the Transporter Room), but rather attempt to gain information about that. Of course, he didn't expect all the other transdimensional stuff, and getting back the Kirk he knows how to handle (but who know has less of an ace up his sleeve than he thinks he does) is a very nice outcome all around.

Also, gods, but can Kirk logic the shit out of something when he wants to.


SPOCK: You must return to your universe. I must have my captain back. I shall operate the transporter. You have two minutes and ten seconds.
KIRK: In that time I have something to say. How long before the Halkan prediction of galactic revolt is realized?
SPOCK: Approximately two hundred and forty years.
KIRK: The inevitable outcome?
SPOCK: The Empire shall be overthrown, of course.
KIRK: The illogic of waste, Mister Spock. The waste of lives, potential, resources, time. I submit to you that your Empire is illogical because it cannot endure. I submit that you are illogical to be a willing part of it. [me: *wordless expression of Oh God*]
SPOCK: You have one minute and twenty three seconds.
KIRK: If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial, doesn't logic demand that you be a part of it?


and of course he follows up with the vision suckerpunch


SPOCK: One man cannot summon the future.
KIRK: But one man can change the present. Be the captain of this Enterprise, Mister Spock. Find a logical reason for sparing the Halkans and make it stick. Push till it gives. You can defend yourself better than any man in the fleet.
SCOTT: Captain, get in the chamber!
KIRK: What about it, Spock?
SPOCK: A man must also have the power.
KIRK: In my cabin is a device that will make you invincible.
SPOCK: Indeed?
KIRK: What will it be? Past or future? Tyranny or freedom? It's up to you.
SPOCK: It is time.
KIRK: In every revolution, there's one man with a vision.
SPOCK: Captain Kirk, I shall consider it.


It's canon (and obvious) how Vulcan Picard is, even in Spock's eyes, but Kirk could deploy ruthless logic with the best of them (heck, how many computers, superhumanly powerful beings, etc, did he literally reasoned to death and/or surrender and/or giving up their plans?), which is no small part of why he was who and what he was to Spock.

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The Good Place S1&2

Yesterday I forked my sleep schedule by bingeing all of The Good Place. It's a really enjoyable show; more so if you haven't been spoiled, but even then the humor shines. It's immensely funny, but less a comedy than a locked-room mechanism epic, one that eschews metaphorical allegory and goes for surprisingly enjoyable hyper-explicitness. Recommended.

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