A month of comic exploration

When I was a kid, I regularly read Whizzer & Chips and Buster and occasionally read of the Disney comics, but I never got into the DC/Marvel worlds – probably because they were too expensive and I was quite happy with books.  Over the years I occasionally flicked through a comic, and I was vaguely aware of the major storylines, but never a regular comic reader.  Over the last month, I’ve tried out the comic world.

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The Last Question

Jeff Atwood, one of the founders of the StackExchange network, chose to mark his last (day-to-day) day at the company with a post disparaging identification questions.  As Jeff pointed out in his post, the [tag]story-identification[/tag] tag is the second most common on our site right now, so I’d like to point out why our community feels that these are a valuable part of the site, where we disagree with Jeff’s viewpoint, and hopefully give you a bit better understanding of how decisions about what’s on-topic are made (and then re-made, and re-made, and …).

The community consensus gets hashed out on “meta” – there have been quite a few discussions about story identification questions (starting way back at the launch of the site, up to and including during the recent moderation elections), so you should head over there if you’d like to make your opinion heard, or read in more depth (good places to start are here and here) – what’s below is heavily based on the content from there (I’ve borrowed some sentences verbatim).

This is my personal opinion as a user of the site, not an official statement.

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Moderator Elections

The first moderator elections for scifi.stackoverflow.com are now underway!  Back in February 2011 we gained “pro tempore” moderators, whose task was to guide the site through the beta phase (before then the Stack Exchange staff filled this role).  Now that the site is fully launched, the community gets to elect its own moderators.

Moderators are the patient, respectful, and fair folk that lead the site and get access to the most powerful moderation tools and a few special resources.  There’s not much in the way of reward, but there’s plenty of work, so we should be thankful to all of those that have put their name forward, and especially those that end up with the job.

Once elected, the moderators hold their office permanently, so you need to make sure that you get the mods that you want. Likewise, if you want to be a moderator, then this will be your last chance for likely a long time.

The election process is composed of two stages (or three if we get more than 10 nominees, which looks unlikely).  The first, which ends in three days, is nominations.  Any community member with at least 300 reputation may nominate themselves (you cannot nominate someone else – encourage them to nominate themselves instead).  Each nominee writes a brief outline explaining why they are a good candidate, and anyone can comment on these – indeed you are encouraged to do so: ask the candidates anything that will help you make up your mind as to where your votes go.

We’re about to enter the election phase, when all members with at least 150 reputation can cast three votes: 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice. All votes are private until the election is complete, at which point the election data file (the vote totals for all the candidates; no identification of who voted for whom) will be freely and permanently downloadable by anyone. The winners are determined using the Meek STV method.

There’s going to be a chat event where you can ask the candidates questions to better inform your vote.  See this meta post for details about when it’s scheduled, or just keep an eye on the chat room calendar.  You can also post questions on meta, if you find that better than chat.

Democracy is a highly imperfect process, but it is a participatory imperfect process. Please participate in our community elections. Your vote is your voice, so use it!

The Dark Mirror / Blade of Fortriu

The Dark Mirror and Blade of Fortriu are the first two books in Juliet Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles.  In The Dark Mirror we see the rise to kingship of Bridei, a 6th Century Pict as well as his relationship with Tuala, his half-human foster-sister, and in Blade of Fortriu two of the minor characters from Mirror, Ana and Faolan take center stage  in a story that mostly develops their own backgrounds and futures, with one of Bridei’s significant battles forming a secondary backdrop story.

These stories are based on real historical characters (e.g. Bridei I of the Picts), with more overt magic than stories like Stewarts’s Merlin stories, but still maintaining a generally realistic feel.  This is a form of historical fiction that I particularly enjoy, although not knowing much about the history of the Picts the relationship to real history mostly passed me by.

The central characters of The Dark Mirror are compelling enough that I enjoyed the novel, although the outcome is never really in doubt to the reader, and of little doubt to most of the characters too.  The story never truly captivated me, however, and felt slightly rushed at times, moving quickly from age to age.  The quirky cast of characters that educate Bridei as a child were all interesting, but none very fleshed out (I got the impression that they might be recognisable characters from Pictish history, but I wasn’t able to verify this).

I expected more of Bridei (especially given the name of the series) and Tuala in Blade of Fortriu, although Marillier’s sequels often leave behind the central characters of the previous stories.  Bridei and Tuala do feature, but are decidedly minor characters.  I found the story of Ana and Faolan less interesting, with Ana’s development particularly dull (although the characters note how much she has changed, I didn’t see much change at all), and Faolan’s background less interesting than Mirror suggested it might be.

A love triangle features strongly in Blade; I don’t have any objection to this trope in general, but it wasn’t well done here.  Other than his magical nature and exceptional good looks, there was nothing appealing about Ana’s other beau, even though it was obvious throughout that she would end up with him, rather than Faolan.  Perhaps there’s some sort of redemption and superior love waiting for Faolan in a later book (the end of the story suggests that he might feature centrally in a later novel in the series), but I was rather unsatisfied that he came out of the triangle so poorly.

I’d recommend reading The Dark Mirror, at least – it works well as a standalone novel – and would recommend Blade of Fortriu to anyone that enjoyed Mirror.  However, if you’re new to Marillier, I’d suggest starting with the superior Wolfskin/Foxmask or the Sevenwaters novels.


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