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September 23, 2016

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:08 PM * 304 comments

Summer, child,
Come on with me to Orcus
Leave your mother
And her worries behind.
Your dearest wish
Will lead to adventure
So come, little Summer,
It’s leaving time.

When you’re in Orcus
Birds going to speak like people
Women will shape-change
And frogs grow on trees.
But what’s that behind you?
It’s the Queen-in-Chains’ servant.
The Houndbreaker’s hunting;
Time to fly.

This is a thread to discuss, speculate about, and squee over Ursula Vernon’s new web serial Summer in Orcus, without worrying about spoiling it for people who aren’t caught up.

Note that the introductory lyrics are entirely drawn from the blurb and the first episode; I don’t know any more about what’s going to happen than anyone else. Except Ursula, I suspect.

(Also, it’s free on the web, but your attention is of course drawn to the Patreon and Paypal links on the front page.)

Comments on SPOILERS in Orcus:
#1 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 02:54 PM:

My comment in the open thread was, "As soon as Summer saw the walking house over the garden fence I thought, "Ooh, this is going to be bad."

I followed a link from MetaFilter to the Introduction page, so I hadn't seen the mention of Baba Yaga in the first sentence on the main page. But I recognized the walking house and knew who it belonged to.

I read Chapter 2 last night. I sympathize with Summer's inability to identify her heart's desire. I'm 62, not 11, and I still don't have a firm grasp on my heart's desire.

One of my top 5 favorite Bujold quotes is from Miles in Memory: "You can trade anything for your heart's desire except your heart."

#2 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 03:45 PM:

Indeed, but the Bujold quote favoured by this moose is Aral's advice to Miles in A Civil Campaign.

Cadbury (stoutly[1] resisting the temptation to post to DFD threads.)

[1] Yes, I do need to lose weight, the ITLAPD phrase that best sums it up is: "Avast Behind!".

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 04:45 PM:

Obvious overlap with DF is obvious. Though Summer is clearly taking an interesting and innovative way out of the situation.

#4 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 04:46 PM:

I'm wondering if the house is truly independent. It seems to be, and Baba Yaga is acting as if it is, but if she wants a particular type of target, she could be making the house lure Summer in...

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 05:02 PM:

Reading and enjoying. No comments yet. Karen's supporting it on Patreon (one per household seems sufficient to me).

#6 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 05:19 PM:

There's a Chapter 2 now? I'll be back later....

#7 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 06:35 PM:

Quill #4: It looks to me like the house is a "good servant" -- that is, it knows what its boss's long-term goals are, and serves them regardless of her moment-to-moment persnickityness. And I notice that Baba Yaga makes an assortment of threats, but hasn't actually punished the house that we can see (and she was willing to admit that it was right!). That, combined with the door-knocker's attitude, makes me suspect that BY is surely a rough character, but not blatantly evil or insane (despite milking her reputation).

That said, offering someone their heart's desire, when they don't actually know what that is... that's not particularly good, either. Possibly she is "fey" -- unconstrained by our notions of morality, but perhaps bound by her own strictures.

#9 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 09:37 PM:

Dave Harmon, I think "fey" is the right word for Baba Yaga, assuming that the knocker can be trusted. Always keeps her word but can teach the Devil about loopholes...

(CAN the knocker be trusted....?)

#10 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 09:41 PM:

And I'm reminded of the saying about someone who is painfully naive: "Oh, you sweet summer child"...

(I thought it was an old saying, but googling tells me that it's from Game of Thrones. It just SOUNDS like an old saying....)

Is the child Summer a summer child, in that sense? And will she be, by the end of the story....?

#11 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 09:42 PM:

Oh, and belated <applause> to Abi for the riff on "Summertime and the Livin' is Easy".

#12 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 10:42 PM:

@David Harmon on fey. Two of the sources in the Wikipedia article describe Baba Yaga as "may be altogether ambiguous" and "often exhibits striking ambiguity". My previous encounter, in OSC's Enchantment, shows her as unambiguously evil.

@Nancy Lebovitz: Thank you for the MetaFilter link.

#13 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2016, 11:22 PM:

Can't help but think of one of my other favorite riffs on Baba Yaga, the witch Brume from McKillip's In the Forests of Serre. Another character who turns out to be much concerned with the heart's desire and the pitfalls that inhere.

#14 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 12:13 PM:

IJWTS that it pleases me immensely that Baba Yaga is fat. So am I.

I wonder whether part of the "ambiguity" of Baba Yaga is that the cultures that produced the folklore (and for that matter, our current mainstream culture too!) are unsettled by the idea of a woman with power. A king who might kill you if you displease him isn't "ambiguous"; he's just powerful.

#15 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2016, 07:13 PM:

Lila: It's not that BY is ambiguous, it's that culture is ambivalent? :-)

#16 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 07:24 AM:

There's also the "power leads to ignorance" thing: In general, women understand men better than men understand women, because they need to -- for personal safety, let alone social position. Men can dismiss women as "those mysterious creatures", because they can afford not to learn about them. Mutatis mutandis for blacks vs. whites, gays vs. straights, employees vs. bosses, and so on.

#17 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 08:04 AM:

Nicole @ #13:

Through forest's dark and midnight's deep,
I seek the bird of fire
that none can tame and none may keep,
that sings of heart's desire.

A feather glowing warm with flame
I keep as proof of one unseen
who hides from sight, however keen,
and, out of shadow, calls my name.

Through forest's dark and midnight's deep,
I seek the bird of fire
that none can tame and none may keep,
that sings of heart's desire,

and glimpsed afar, whose burning wings
haunt all my sleep, fill all my dreams,
who is far more than what she seems,
who knows more than she sings.

And to behold her eyes of gold
is to be nevermore the same,
to leave behind your life, your name,
and to forget all other things.

Through forest's dark and midnight's deep,
I seek the bird of fire
that none can tame and none may keep,
that sings of heart's desire.

#18 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 08:29 AM:

Jacque, Dave Harmon: those are both really good points.

From my POV in late middle age it occurs to me that "if you don't know what your heart desires, you'd better find out before it's too late" is one possible direction this might be going.

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 12:18 PM:

Lovely, Don. Thank you.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 01:21 PM:

On catlike paw the manse will tread
Through woods that smother autumn light,
Not caring that the warm days' sped
Or that we're facing the long night.

On chicken feet, the lesser house
Prowls through suburban cul-de-sac;
Observed by only child and mouse,
The paved road is just one more track.

We ask you, as you take your ease,
To give us solely what we're due:
That if our words your spirits please
You give us gold and silver true.

#21 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2016, 03:13 PM:

Wow. Three poems in a row that I can actually parse and enjoy—!

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 04:46 AM:

Bruce, H., #1: I've always been rather fond of one from Zenna Henderson: "She never quite managed to forget that glimpse of what heart's desire looks like when it comes at the cost of another's heart."

(It's from one of her non-People stories, "The Anything Box" in the collection of the same name. I'm quoting from memory, so it may be inexact.)

Don, #17: Nice! Is that yours, and is there music for it?

#23 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 04:35 PM:

Just because I'm lazy and I want handy access:

Chapter One
Chapter Two

#24 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2016, 08:28 PM:

The first two chapters are reminding me strongly of the call-to-adventure from “A Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland…”

Fragano Ledgister @20: I thought you were going a particular way from that first line, but you didn’t, so I had to.

On birdlike claw, to Summer’s heart they steal;
In alleys tread, and vacant lots they kneel.
No sound at all! Her mother’s hold deferred.
Her heart’s desire soon to be conferred …

There ought be a verse for each chapter, but that’s all the muse has bitten me with tonight.

#25 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 12:27 AM:

Don Simpson @ 17 - *wild applause* - lovely, and true to its source. Thank you!

All the poetry so far has been fantastic. Looking forward to the inevitable more.

#26 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 03:45 AM:

Lee @ 22 - Yes, it's mine, and it has music. Well... I've been known to sing it, but that is not necessarily a guarantee of musicality.

#27 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 08:39 AM:

Random thoughts:

I *loved* the stained glass "flipbook". With the triumphant saint (and angel! Was the angel only chasing the saint to make Summer pay attention?) at the end, that we get to see but Summer does not.

Interesting that she picked a frog over a unicorn. Unicorns are fantastical and unreal and powerful and vulnerable. Frogs are about as down-to-earth.... erm, pond... as you get. But frogs... have transformed. They've become very different than the tadpole they hatched as. They're free to leave the pond. Is Summer's heart's desire growth, change, and freedom?

And a weasel companion. Weasels are vicious predators... but they're also small and vulnerable. Not the worst mentor for a girl on her own. Weasels know when to fight and when to hide.

#28 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 10:17 AM:

I also loved the stained glass "flipbook." And I hope Ursula's muse will suggest some companion art. I'd especially like to see the saint and the joyous angel dancing a jig at the end (where Summer didn't see).

Yes, the frog suggests a much more pragmatic orientation than the unicorn. I hadn't thought about the transformation aspect, but that's interesting.

#30 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 04:55 PM:

Weasels are also tricksters.

#31 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2016, 10:32 PM:

Jacque, this time I'm bookmarking "weasel help"; I went to show it to someone and my google-fu let me down....

My cat Dante is not QUITE as helpful as a pair of weasels, but apparently every project from hemming a pair of slacks to fixing the inlet pump of the dishwasher is improved by a feline nose. Right in the middle of things. At all times.

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 11:16 AM:

Dante is clearly a weasel in a cat suit. These are far more common than you'd expect. (Also weasels in human suits, but that's another discussion. :D )

#33 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2016, 01:37 PM:

Re unicorns: Summer has been well trained not to ask for what she really wants.

Re weasels: Clearly this story was written especially for Jacque.

#34 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 11:08 AM:

I was getting a How Many Miles to Babylon vibe out of Baba Yaga lighting the candle and then telling her to get a move on and get "out" before (the candle burned down? Strongly implied).

This pair of paragraphs rung particularly true for me:

And at that point, Summer said to herself, I shall be in so much trouble that it will not actually be possible for me to get in any more trouble, so it doesn’t really matter how long it takes.

There is something very freeing about knowing that you are in the worst possible trouble that you can be in. No matter what you do, it cannot possibly get any worse. Summer would get home and be grounded until she was eighteen, and even if she dyed her hair pink and got her ears pierced while in Fairyland (somehow she didn’t think they did that sort of thing in Narnia) she couldn’t be grounded any longer than that.

#35 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 12:05 PM:

Elliott Mason #34: Also known as "might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb".

#36 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 12:17 PM:

For Jacque: Chapter Four.

I loved the first part when I saw it on Ursula's LJ years ago, and I'm enjoying it even more now. I'm already champing at the bit for more to read, and we're barely into it yet.

Bruce H. @ 33:

Summer has been trained very well not to ask for what she wants, yes. Setting that (and the author's own love of frogs) aside, there are some other interesting things about the choice, too. If she'd picked the unicorn because that really was the best choice for her, she wouldn't need to go on this journey, although maybe another one would be indicated. If she'd picked the unicorn because she thought she was super special (but wasn't), her bones might make for a charming towel rack. A frog is, on the one hand, very down-to-earth and ordinary. On the other hand, frogs are a symbol of change and transformation. This might well be reinforced with the frog tree and the tadpole acorn. We'll see!

Elliott Mason @ 34:

I giggled at the line about pink hair and pierced ears not being done in Narnia. I'm not sure if that would get you kicked out with Susan, but it would probably put you somewhere similar.

#37 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 01:18 PM:

One of the things I read sf for is the dream images, and those trees work very well that way.

#38 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 05:41 PM:

The thing I wondered in Chapter 4 was that Summer is going from tree to tree, and then off with Bearskin and Boarskin, without paying much attention to her starting point so that she can find her way back.

Perhaps she assumes that, by the usual nature of portal stories, she'll end up going home by a different route anyway?

#39 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 05:49 PM:

OtterB, this is a child who has never wandered alone without supervision. Certainly never gone to a camp, and most likely not even to a park by herself. Getting lost in the woods is a purely theoretical thing to her; while if she stopped to think about it the possibility might occur to her, right now she's caught up in the novelty of it all.

And, anyway, Baba Yaga's house had vanished, so knowing where the hallway was isn't likely to help her get home.

#40 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 06:00 PM:

Good point that "lost in the woods" is theoretical to her. She was so sensible earlier that I thought it might occur to her.

It just gave me a reaction like wanting to yell at the character in the horror movie, "No! Don't go in the basement!"

#41 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 07:57 PM:

I thought about that too, but I agree with Cassy B. that since Baba Yaga's house used to let out into the alley, and then let out into the hallway, going back through the hallway is unlikely to bring her home. (Might bring her back to Baba Yaga's, which seems like a good way to become a snack.) So she has to go elsewhere, and with no familiar landmarks, one way is as good as another. Of course, this could become a problem later if she needs to go back to the Frog Tree...

#42 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2016, 08:59 PM:

I wonder if Summer's weasel is this kind of weasel?

Keith S. @36: Thank you!

#43 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2016, 09:27 AM:

If she needs to get back to the Frog Tree, she can ask someone for directions -- clearly there are a lot of "someones" wandering around. But given her latest gift, I rather suspect that she will eventually plant the new Frog Tree.

A friendly lock, a talking weasel, a magic acorn... "what have you got in your pocketses", indeed?

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2016, 01:18 PM:

This is developing into one hell of a charming story.

#45 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 11:41 AM:

Chapter 5 is up, and the sand stars are the kind of perfect lasting image that make me wish I'd thought of them myself. Gosh.

#46 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 12:42 PM:

I think she's doing a wonderful job of cementing her position as the new Daniel Pinkwater.

#48 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 02:32 PM:

I don't know the stories of Bearskin or of Boarskin, but Donkeyskin's tale is quite dark indeed. And Ursula's description of her inclines me to think that she's referring to the same tale of incestuous rape that I know of.

They cleaned the supper dishes but Summer only has had tea? Or is this "tea" in the British sense, which can include food?

#49 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 03:10 PM:

Cassy B.: Are you inferring the details of Donkeyskin's tale? Or did I miss something?

#50 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 03:40 PM:

Jacque, there's a traditional fairy tale called "Donkeyskin" in which a king's wife dies, so he decides to marry his daughter. His daughter puts on a donkeyskin to escape from him.

It's not one of the stories that are usually told to kids, and I doubt Disney will be making a movie about her, princess or not... <wry>

#51 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 03:40 PM:

I'm kind of interested by how not timid Summer is. She's managed to not internalize her mother's anxiety--she knows all the rules, but she thinks of them from the outside.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 04:53 PM:

Robin McKinley did an excellent version of the story called Deerskin, which I don't tend to recommend to people without a ton of content warnings, but which I've needed more than once to scour my own heart clean of old business that haunts me.

#53 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 05:12 PM:

Ah. Thank you.

#54 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 05:55 PM:

Deerskin is one hell of a book - in different senses depending on where the reader is at. There are times I couldn't read it, certainly.

"I was a chieftain's daughter" subtly suggests to me that Bearskin, Boarskin, and Donkeyskin come from different versions of the story told in different ages or places, sort of the way in _Mythago Wood_ and its related books the same archetype appears in multiple forms.

And it also strikes me how delicately their stories are suggested with:
"Apparently it could have been a great deal worse, if these women had to put on animal skins and flee into the desert."
Younger readers who don't need to understand that will likely go right on past. Adult readers and others who need to can take something away from those words.

#55 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 07:46 PM:

Two thoughts occurred to me about this chapter.

One was about Donkeyskin, and has been covered already.

The other, on an entirely different note, was to wonder if the Waystation is by the sea. Because if it is, and for some reason its staff or its usual clientele are cetaceans, it would be a Whale Waystation.

#56 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 07:51 PM:

Clifton's idea about the relationship between Donkeyskin, Bearskin, and Boarskin makes sense to me (and explains why, if they're from different fathers and places and times, they might call each other "sister").

I'd been wondering about Bearskin, because I know a Bearskin fairy tale as well, but it's about a dude who makes a bet with the devil, and doesn't fit this Bearskin.

(It's an interesting example of the "bet with the devil" genre, because the dude wins the bet and gets worldly success without losing his soul, but the devil still comes out ahead of the game.)

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2016, 10:48 PM:

Cassy, #50: I looked up Donkeyskin (which is available to read online here), and was rather struck by the elements it has in common with Cinderella -- the assistance of the fairy godmother, the virtuous maiden forced to do the most menial of work, the ring* which was too small for any other woman in the kingdom. It's common enough for folk songs and folk tales to borrow bits from each other, and I suspect that's what happened here.

* It doesn't say so, but you will not convince me that it wasn't a magic ring -- nor that Cinderella's shoe wasn't magic either. There's just not that much variation in the human phenotype; without some sort of magic involved, there would certainly have been at least one other woman who the ring/shoe would have fit.

#58 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 12:13 AM:

Among many beautiful images and lines, I also have to particularly admire this pair of sentences.
"The notion of these three women — who were sort of interesting, but sort of frightening — owing her anything was a little scary. She wouldn’t mind help, but she didn’t want them to get resentful, the way that her mother did about the credit card companies."

#59 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 08:54 AM:

Lee @ #57:

And the Grimms' version, linked at the bottom of that page, has the heroine going incognito to a ball at the palace.

Incidentally, the tale was adapted for television as part of Jim Henson's The Storyteller, under the title "Sapsorrow". (Sapsorrow is the name given to the princess.) As I recall, it moves swiftly over Sapsorrow's reasons for leaving home and concentrates on what happened to her afterward.

#60 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 08:59 AM:

Lee @ #57:

And the Grimms' version, linked at the bottom of that page, has the heroine going incognito to a ball at the palace.

Incidentally, the tale was adapted for television as part of Jim Henson's The Storyteller, under the title "Sapsorrow". (Sapsorrow is the name given to the princess.) As I recall, it moves swiftly over Sapsorrow's reasons for leaving home and concentrates on what happened to her afterward.

#61 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 09:01 AM:

(Sorry. I should know better by now than to hit reload when submitting a comment produces a server error.)

#62 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 11:42 AM:

The line in Chapter 5 that I keep coming back to is Bearskin's farewell to Summer:

“Go quickly or slowly, near or far, in fear or courage—but come back to us.”

That has a touch of the numinous for me. It reminds me of The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf sends Bill the pony home before the Fellowship enters Moria, saying "Go with words of guard and guiding on you."

#63 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 12:32 PM:

OtterB, that's the thing about summer--it goes away, but it comes back.

#64 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 05:57 PM:

Lilah @63, I hadn't thought of it that way.

#65 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2016, 11:59 PM:

Lee @ 57: Thanks for that link! I also found, following links from there to related stories, an Italian variant in which she becomes a she-bear, which could befit Bearskin.

Lilah @63: What a lovely observation.

#66 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 07:54 AM:

OtterB, Clifton, thanks. Before it sticks, I'd like to point out that an extraneous 'h' seems to have crept into my name.

#67 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:09 AM:

Oops, looks like my initial typo. Sorry, Lila.

#68 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:14 AM:

I'm still on Chapter Five as I post this, but my heart squeezed and jumped at this line:

I’m being stupid. It was beautiful when I didn’t know what it was.

That is a piece of amazing truth, and I want to hold its jewel in my palm and think about it a while.

#69 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:17 AM:

Tom Whitmore @46: Interesting. I'd never heard of Pinkwater till you mentioned him, and I've read the children's and young-adult sections of several different libraries back-to-front-and-back-again, and my whole life is within his writing career.

He's not even British (not that that stopped me; used bookstores meant my Grandfather could source me hand-me-down copies of Canadian editions of Penguin kid novels).

#70 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:27 AM:

(Chapter 6)

I adore the ambition of the weasel. :->

Also, since I seem to have beaten everyone else to it,

Chapter 6

#71 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 11:11 AM:

I too admire the ambition of the weasel! And share, in a quiet sort of way, not so much Summer's scorn at the puns as relief at the, ah, waystation not quite being Made Of Puns as it originally appeared.

I cannot help but thinking of the witch from Brave, and her shop full of bear-themed wood carvings. If you're not doing magic anymore, might as well do a strongly themed shop!

#72 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 12:36 PM:

Yay! It's Thursday! *click*

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 01:25 PM:

Elliott @69 -- I don't know how I missed recommending him to you at the various conventions where I was selling books to you. Iconoclastic, idiosyncratic and able to turn a trope on its head in just a few words so that the world never looks quite the same again. Try The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death for a sample -- there are a lot more if you like that. That kind of changing of how I see the world is what Vernon seems to be doing in this story.

#74 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 03:01 PM:

My favorite Pinkwater book remains Alan Mendelsohn, Boy From Mars, but the Snarkout Boys books, Lizard Music, and Borgel all have strong claims too. Actually, they're all pretty great.

#75 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 03:11 PM:

1. Apologies for the error, Lila. When I saw your comment I was thinking "I know better than that" but then I looked and there it was. I must indeed have copy-and-pasted it without looking closely.

2. Thirded and agreed on weasel ambitions.

3. What a place to end Chapter 6.

#76 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 05:50 PM:

Definitely Borgel, Lizard Musice, Yobgorgle.... but The Big Orange Splot is the one that changed my point of view about arguing politics. It probably works better to connect to people by way of their dreams (what they love, not so much night dreams*) rather than talking about best rules.

On the other hand, I don't know how to connect with people through their dreams, but it might be worth working on.

*that might be a really cool premise for a story

#77 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 07:15 PM:

Clifton @75: It's almost like she's read Dickens' techniques for getting people to tune in next time. :->

#78 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:09 PM:

OT rave: I don't usually buy hardcovers, especially new. But based on Hope Jahren's blog writing, I made an exception for her memoir, Lab Girl. And indeed, this book is holy-cow good. Once I've finished it, I'll almost surely be passing it on to my niece and nephews.

#79 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 08:31 PM:

Ooh, yes, this is good stuff indeed. Is it next Tuesday yet?

#80 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2016, 11:55 PM:

Me @#78: Oops, wrong browser tab/thread. I'll repost on the Open Thread, our Gnome Queen should feel free to delete the mispost if she desire. (Hmm, gnomes in Orcus would be amusing.)

#81 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 01:28 AM:

I have to say, while I might second reading Daniel Pinkwater in general, the reasons I read him and the reasons I read Vernon/Kingfisher bear approximately no resemblance whatever to one another beyond "clever enjoyable work, often YA, makes me laugh (when it's intended to)".

Just a caveat for anyone off to look for his stuff expecting to see more work that's like Summer in Orcus.

#82 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 04:20 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @76: connect to people by way of their dreams (... night dreams*) *that might be a really cool premise for a story

Or science experiments.

#83 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 04:30 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 81: True, true. I don't actually get a Pinkwater vibe so much from T. Kingfisher books. I was just responding to Elliot's not having read any Pinkwater yet, which seemed to demand immediate first aid treatment.

(Although Digger maybe has a touch of resemblance to Pinkwater, what with the oracular slugs and all. Hmmm.)

When I was binging on T. Kingfisher's other books last week, I was actually thinking that something about them strongly reminded me of Peter Beagle, particularly Bryony and Roses. Summer in Orcus, not so much, at least thus far. Probably I should just appreciate them as Kingfisher.

#84 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 10:10 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @76 connect to people by way of their dreams
As it happens, I've just been reading MCA Hogarth's Dreamhealers series, in which a pair of budding esper xenopsychologists develop a technique for this, among other things.

#85 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 10:46 PM:

And, of course, performing therapy on people in their dreams was the basis of Zelazny's The Dream Master.

#86 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2016, 11:41 PM:

And theft via dreams in Inception.

#87 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2016, 04:08 PM:

Chapter Seven

There's something interesting going on here that I can't quite put my finger on. I want to say it's a reflection on the different forms abuse can take.

Summer hasn't had any physical abuse to deal with, but she's been emotionally manipulated by her mother for her entire life. The Wheymaster, on the other hand, has to deal with physical threats. Even Grub seems somewhere on that spectrum. He's clearly a bully, but I'm also reading (possibly imaginary) hints that he gets it from above.

For all that he acts cowed for Grub, it's clear from the last chapter that the Wheymaster really is downtrodden and just trying to make do. Summer and the Wheymaster, in their own ways, help each other to start the journey of their own healing.

On an unrelated note, brief mention of clockwork bees!

#88 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2016, 07:44 PM:

Magic cheese for the win! :-) And another hint that this isn't going to be your ordinary hero-tale; most heros depend on luck. It should be interesting how Summer's choice plays out. Interestingly, WP notes that turquoise has an ancient association with luck and protection, so she might be covered there anyway.

#89 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2016, 07:51 PM:

I think she made the right choice. Her options were Luck or Grace. And there was no promise it would be good luck.

#91 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2016, 07:45 PM:

A number of interesting hints about this world, and fascinating to have them all unseen and half-heard both by Summer and the reader's perspective.

In this story, Ursula's keeping the perspective very tightly bound to Summer's thoughts and perceptions.

#92 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 08:13 AM:

Speaking of the story being tightly bound to Summer's perceptions, and thus possibly not mentioning things that seem obvious to Summer, is anybody else getting the impression that Summer is a person of colour?

#93 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 08:34 AM:

Clifton #91: Yes, and I think we're already seeing hints of that grace.

#94 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 08:59 AM:

Paul A, her hair made me consider the possibility, yes. But it's artfully mentioned in a throw-away line focused on the weasel, that makes it easy to miss. Clever, clever Ursula.

And HOW is she going to get out of the cave? Lunge for the rings? And if she manages to do that, it's harder to go up than down over a cliffside. Is she going to climb down somehow? The cave is deep enough to sit in, but there's no hint that it's got a tunnel to leave through....

#95 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 11:18 AM:

Cassy @94:

I expect there will be a flash of a blue something that will lead her in the right direction.

As for "grace", the more I think about it, the more intrigued I am to see how that comes out in the story. Does it mean "grace" as in "graceful", smooth in movement and word, not clumsy, or does it mean "grace" as in "get to heaven by works or by grace"? Or other?

#96 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 12:13 PM:

There's another definition of grace: I think of it as... well, kindness. Care. Mindfulness. Generosity. Helpfulness.

My own personal guess is, rather than the overtly physical meaning of grace, or the overtly spiritual meaning of grace, it's this third grace that will become important in the story. I could, of course, be entirely wrong.

#97 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 12:16 PM:

And I hit "post" too soon.

I don't necessarily think Ursula will shy away from the spiritual meaning; she had an angel giving hints to Summer earlier, after all. And swinging on those rings to get to the cave might take a certain amount of physical grace.

But the Wheymaster/Waymaster helped her from kindness and care. And that, I think, will become the theme of the book.

#98 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 04:40 PM:

Paul A. @ 92, Cassy B @ 94:
Starting from the beginning again, to see if there are other hints of that, if one reads with that in mind - suddenly her mother's over-protectiveness made more sense in context. This year I've read a number of black parents opening up about how terrifying it is to raise a child knowing they could be shot suddenly with no cause, physically attacked by an authority figure, arrested for something completely trivial (like getting a milk carton at the school cafeteria) and so on and so on. Maybe a part of her mother's restrictiveness is her struggle to cope with that.

Independently, noting Baba Yaga's comment in chapter 1, which I forgot to call out before: “Besides, it’s not strangers you need to worry about—it’s the ones you know that get you.” All too often.

#99 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 07:41 PM:

Who on earth milks manticores?

#100 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2016, 07:52 PM:

Fragano @99 -- that's why the cheese is so rare.

#101 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 07:27 AM:

Fragano @99

I hope we find out who milkes mantichores-- Vernon's take on the subject should be reasonable, peculiar, and not obvious.

#102 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 11:31 AM:

Probably because of the Narnia callbacks, and specifically remembering The Silver Chair, I was ready for something dreadful to happen when Summer stood on the edge of the cliff and thought about what her mother would say if she saw her standing there.

This is not that book, and a very different something happened, but I feel like maybe the resonance with the other scene it superficially resembles is not entirely accidental. This book is very much in conversation with Narnia.

Speaking of which, rereading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... and its sequels while having Summer in Orcus in my head made me delightfully aware of parallels and echoes and resonances. (It seems that upon first arriving in the otherworld, it is common to meet with a Mythic Threesome who will point out your initial direction and/or mission.)

#103 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 12:05 PM:

Tom Whitmore/Nancy Leibovitz: I hope it's a unionised job. The pay had better be better than decent.

#104 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 02:58 PM:

#103 ::: Fragano Ledgister

Unions are very rare in fantasy-- a large topic in itself. I don't think it's (just?) anti-union sentiment because a lot of modern large-scale organization is rare.

I'm imagining the work being done by something/someone which can control a mantichore and/or domesticated mantichores. Or maybe trade with mantichores in exchange for milking.

#105 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 03:25 PM:

Most fantasy books that do labor organization do guilds.

#106 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 04:06 PM:

I like the idea of a guild of mantichore handlers.

#107 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2016, 07:42 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ #102:

See also Tomjon's encounters with the three humble old ladies gathering firewood in Wyrd Sisters.

#108 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2016, 10:00 AM:

I don't need to see who's milking manticore a -- there's showing your work, and then there's showing the struts.

Nicole #102: yes, there's nods to the pattern, but then we have Summer's own genre-savviness, contrasted with the locals' sardonicism about prophecies.

#109 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2016, 12:05 PM:

Cassy B and Buddha Buck,
Why not all the definitions of grace? That would be interesting and play to what I've seen of Vernon's sense of humor.

#110 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2016, 01:55 PM:

Because Summer had paid attention in class, she knew that the rock was the type called sedimentary, which lays down in long bands at the bottom of prehistoric lakebeds. But something odd had clearly happened here, because the bands were not flat but diagonal, as if some enormous force had picked the rock up and dropped it down off-kilter.


#111 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 08:59 AM:

Oh-my-gosh, the Hoopoe! And flock-mind! But mostly Hoopoe...

Is it just me (because of our discussion upthread), or with Reginald is Ursula playing a bit with the concept of grace? He dances... and he offers help, unconditionally. Two types of grace, there.

(Hoopoes dancing doesn't seem to be a natural history thing; just a Reginald thing. I looked for videos to see if they (like many birds) did a courtship dance, but all I find are males feeding females. Which I think we can disregard, because Summer isn't a hoopoe...)

#112 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 10:18 AM:

Echoes of Wodehouse. Wodehouse world is clearly an alternative reality, but I had never thought of it as a portal fantasy. Maybe there are characters who go there and come back again and I have just never encountered any of them?

#113 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 12:41 PM:

Regency Hoopoe FTW!

Reginald reminds me more of Georgette Heyer than of Wodehouse, though of course there's no reason he couldn't partake of both.

#114 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 01:05 PM:

Lila (113): Same here; the slang is definitely Heyer-esque.

#115 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 05:12 PM:

Is this where I confess I've never read any Heyer? :)

What caught my eye was the valet finches disapproving of the wrong color waistcoat, which I've seen more than a few times in the Jeeves stories.

#116 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 06:03 PM:

Wasn't she writing a Regency romance with ninjas or something at some point? The Hoopoe struck me as Heyeresque, too. And some Regency romance novels have disapproving valets.

#117 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2016, 06:45 PM:

Naomi Parkhurst (116): She wrote at least one* extract of a Regency Ninja novel, but denies that she is writing the full thing.

*I could have sworn I'd seen a second one, but I can't find it just now.

#118 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2016, 02:57 AM:

Mary Aileen, just continue to the next couple entries from the link you gave - there are several more extracts. (I had not previously heard of this...)

#119 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2016, 07:56 AM:

Just read them all myself. Thanks for the link, Mary Aileen.

And hey, there's a disapproving valet mentioned in one of the excerpts.

#120 ::: D. Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2016, 04:19 PM:

I doubt it is, but I was hoping the unicorn was a call-out to _The Secret Country_. And Summer's choice between grace and luck reminded me a little of Ted's between glory and length of days.

#121 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2016, 08:44 AM:

Chapter 10!

Summer is showing wisdom beyond her years: Although Reginald clearly wasn’t a child, he also wasn’t quite a grown-up as Summer understood it. Summer was pretty sure that real grown-ups weren’t supposed to run away into the country to hide instead of paying their bills.

#122 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2016, 08:51 AM:

Dave Harmon, but she's still child enough to believe that Adults Can Fix Things. Which actually says something positive about her mother, now I come to think of it. Her mother may have been overprotective and paranoid.... but her mother didn't destroy her faith in adults.

#123 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2016, 08:21 PM:

D. Eppstein #120: "...between glory and length of days" is simply Achilles' Choice, in its original form. I find "grace vs. luck" to be much more interesting.

Cassy B. #122: Indeed -- also, she is still eleven years old.

Hmm. Just noticed that Ursula is actually doing SiO under her alias of T. Kingfisher.

#124 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2016, 10:21 PM:

Dave Harmon: Ursula is actually doing SiO under her alias of T. Kingfisher.

Yes. I take that as another sign that this story is going to get considerably darker before it's over, as the introduction warned. The blighted and corrupted wheat seems to be the latest pointer in that direction.

#125 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2016, 12:39 PM:

How weird. I don't see a link for Chapter Nine. Am I blind?

#126 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2016, 01:23 PM:

The blighted wheat also feels like an echo of Tolkien's desolation of the Shire.

#127 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 06:47 AM:

And here we have Chapter Eleven

A rather entertaining character, this one. But I have to wonder, what happens if the travellers are still inside at dawn?

#128 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 07:13 AM:

Indeed, an interesting character. Also, a whiff of horror in that things that are innocuous in our world (house hunters) are menacing in Orcus.

The question of what happens if they are still inside at dawn had not occurred to me.

#129 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 07:16 AM:

Shall we start a betting pool on how many companions this company will comprise in the end? I'll be surprised if it's not nine.

#130 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 09:08 AM:

Bruce H, we're already past nine. Summer, the weasel, Reginald, the were-house.... and a dozen valet-birds.

#131 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 10:16 AM:

Cassy B., I'd assume the valet-birds count as one.

Nine would already be unwieldy (see: ideal team sizes), but it would be even more interesting if the group grew to thirteen.

#132 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 10:35 AM:

The part of me that gets picky about etymology wants to point out that a wolf who turns into a house wouldn't be a were-anything, because "were" is the part that comes from an old word meaning "man". He ought to be an ern-wolf, or something of that sort.

But the part of me that's read a lot of trashy fantasy is aware that that boat's well and truly sailed.

#133 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 10:37 AM:

One of the things I love about Ursula's writing is that, while it makes good use of the expected tropes, there are always things one simply doesn't see coming.

Now, though, I'm reminded of the houses in Kaye Bellot's Green Year Dragonfly, which involves a different kind of househunter.

#134 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 11:51 AM:

Well, that is not a creature I would have expected. Would anyone but Ursula have come up with this one?

#135 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 02:15 PM:

I'm liking the warm-dry-full as she wakes up, gets warm, and gets fed. I can so feel that transition. (It's amazing how much physical misery cuts into one's ability enjoy one's adventure.) My only quibble is: if you want to get warm, you keep the fire small. ('Least, that's what my-brother-the-boy-scout told me.)

I can't help but wonder if the house-hunter idea came from a child's overhearing adults without the usual context and imagining a, well, hunter of houses (scary music).

#136 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 03:30 PM:

Paul A. @132 If Old English for a man who turns into a wolf is "wer-wulf", I'm going to say that a wolf who turns into a house should be a "wulf-hus". Gotta keep the "from" and "to" in the same order!

I wonder if animal houses are going to be a thing in this story? Baba Yaga's hut has chicken feet and can lay eggs, after all.

#137 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 03:32 PM:

Dave @131: You're being more inclusive than I. I was thinking only of speaking characters and wasn't counting the valet-birds at all.

#138 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 03:54 PM:

Jacque @135: The way I heard that (when I was a Boy Scout, actually) was, "[person of natural, integrated ethnicity] build small fire. Keep warm by sitting close. [person of heedless, exploitive ethnicity] build large fire. Keep warm by carrying wood."

shadowsong @136: Good question! Maybe BY's house was a chicken that turned into a house at night (or some other magically significant time) and got trapped in a silver cage. Maybe that's why the wolves are acquainted with her. If BY's house retains some features of chickenness while it's a house, maybe the wolf will also. If Summer could turn into a house at night, she might suffer less from the cold and the dew.

#139 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 06:01 PM:

I burst into tears when I hit this:

—and then she stopped as if she had run into an iron bar herself, because it was exactly what her mother would have done.

Perhaps because "not turning into my mother" has long been a feature of my heart's desire.

Or perhaps I am just weepy and vulnerable; I quit my job today because I could not keep it and also live with myself.

"You can trade anything for your heart's desire, except your heart." (Bujold)

#140 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 06:10 PM:

Lila, #139: Yeah, that line hit me pretty hard too. One of the things I do have to monitor myself for is the tendency to treat my partner as my mother treated my father.

Take care of yourself. Doing the right thing is sometimes very hard.

#141 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 06:26 PM:

Bruce H. @138: The way I heard that (when I was a Boy Scout, actually) was, "[person of natural, integrated ethnicity] build small fire. Keep warm by sitting close. [person of heedless, exploitive ethnicity] build large fire. Keep warm by carrying wood.

Yup. That was it exactly. 'Cept my brother left off the "carrying wood" part.

#142 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 09:12 PM:

Lila and Lee, me too.

And Lila, hugs (if wanted) and sympathies.

#143 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2016, 09:20 PM:

Gratefully accepted, Nancy.

I'm giving myself this evening to wallow in misery and then I start applying for fellowships and getting the novel in shape to submit (NaNoEditMo?). My student loans, alas, have no sympathy with my ethical scrupulosity.

#144 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2016, 01:13 AM:

Good luck and best wishes, Lila.

The treatise on dew felt much in the spirit of Pratchett, especially when writing from the POV of Susan Sto Helitt.

The line "There’s too little courage in the world to go eating it up" hit me hard and made me linger over its loveliness.

#145 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2016, 06:22 AM:

Lila #139: Or perhaps I am just weepy and vulnerable; I quit my job today because I could not keep it and also live with myself.

I offer virtual hugs, and also both condolences and congratulations. It can be hard and painful to do right in this world, but I hope that in time you will also receive the rewards thereof.

#146 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2016, 11:32 AM:

Best wishes, Lila. Your choice is brave and difficult. I hope it leads you into more joyous ground.

#147 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2016, 11:43 AM:

Usually I find puns a little tedious in fantasy; but Summer's grim response to every pun she encounters makes those puns a delight to me in response. Which is a very neat writing trick, right there.

#148 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 02:18 AM:

OK, this is going in my book of sayings, "Wolves are prone to metamorphic instability." And no one had to translate the hard words for Summer, unlike Reginald's slang.

#149 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 08:30 AM:

Chapter Twelve

And the author answers my #127 with a figurative "You're overthinking this". ;-) There was actually a hint back when the wulf-hus was introduced, and told us that even transforming within the cage would have damaged, but presumably not destroyed, him.

#150 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 09:14 AM:

I just want to pull out this line and look at it again: "It is a great relief, when one has thrown away normal life in search of their heart’s desire, to know that one is doing it right and isn’t going to get yelled at for going the wrong way."

(Also, when Glorious suddenly leaps off to hide from the (presumably) hunters), it's really nice that Summer wasn't prepared and nearly fell off. Scratching one's nose is not something that one normally sees in novels... and it's such an ORDINARY thing.)

#151 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 10:37 AM:

My favorite line in this installment was the description of Reginald flying very fast, like a streak of lightning in a tastefully pinstriped waistcoat.

#152 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 12:34 PM:

Cassy B. #150: I noted that she probably should have tumbled off behind the log -- it'd be a lot harder for the wolf to hide with a girl on his back.

#153 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 06:06 PM:

Lee, Nancy, Fade, Clifton, Dave: an administrator requested a meeting with me today to discuss my departure. It went rather well, and gives me hope that I have not shot off both my feet.

#154 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2016, 06:11 PM:

Meanwhile, on topic: I love Glorious, in both forms. The line I wanted to wear around my neck till Tuesday was this one:
But [the wolf's howl] was also very beautiful. It made her heart ache with its wildness and its sorrow and she loved Glorious for being exactly what he was.

#155 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2016, 02:40 AM:

Now *I* want a Glorious were-house. Or wulf-hus. Or whatever; one of *those*.

#156 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2016, 01:00 PM:

This is an amusing Tumblr post about theoretical school houses to be sorted into--which I post in this thread simply because I was delighted and surprised to see that the eighth house listed would fit Glorious perfectly, should the wolf decide to pursue a formal plan of education.

#157 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 07:24 AM:

Chapter Thirteen

I'm not going to shake the mental image of the Sleipnirians for a while ...

#158 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 05:45 PM:

Hmm. So, Reginald has redeemed Summer's (and perhaps the readers') worries about his reliability, and the flock likewise in his wake.

Grub is seen and confirmed as monstrous, but there's something odd about that other leader, who might be the Houndbreaker. He seems to be keeping Grub's rougher behavior in check....

#159 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 06:12 PM:

re: Grub and Houndbreaker (?):

Maybe not keeping Grub's behavior in check as much as exerting his own authority?

Then Grub would be not only as vicious when released (or more) but grateful?

#160 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 07:19 PM:

And Ursula isn't afraid to introduce death-by-violence into what might superficially look like a children's story....

#161 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 09:19 PM:

The original Sleipnir's parentage was a little WTF itself, even though no spiders were involved. But I imagine these were a lot worse.

#162 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2016, 11:53 PM:

Is it just me, or is Reginald a little like the Scarecrow, and Glorious a little like the Cowardly Lion? If their next companion is made of metal, or chops wood....

#163 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 01:41 AM:

Orcus has disappeared? I'm getting redirected to the main Red Wombat page both for chapter 13 and for Summer in Orcus in general.

#164 ::: SunflowerP ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 02:17 AM:

Lenora Rose @ 163 - I got the same thing earlier (on two different computers/browsers), as did a friend with whom I was chatting. On further examination now, it seems to be the whole of the 'Writings' section, though other sections appear to be fine.

#165 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 02:41 AM:

I saw the same thing. I left a note about it for Ursula via the "Contact" section of the site.

#166 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 10:23 AM:

It's fixed now, yay!

#167 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 10:30 AM:

She noted that there was a website issue that has been fixed; the site's back now and the new chapter is available (and fantastic).

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 11:43 AM:

Those of us who follow Ursula on LJ will recognize that killdeer. :-)

#169 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2016, 08:28 PM:

All the talk about geography and the sea with nothing on the other side reminds me of other fantasy lands you couldn't leave or get to by normal means. Oz, for instance, with its deadly desert surrounding it, or Fantastica that, by definition, had no borders.

On another note, I am always grateful for characters who say a well deserved "bullshit!" to the idea that, if the villain hurts someone, it's your fault because you didn't do what they wanted you do (submit, surrender, stop fighting, stop protecting others from them, stop existing). I'm revisiting Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (via the videos at, and there's a part towards the end of High Wizardry that hits that particular sweet spot for me too.

#170 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2016, 09:36 PM:

This chapter, besides the point others have called out, I was struck by:

“Our sun doesn’t have a shadow,” said Summer.

“Everything has a shadow,” said Glorious. “Perhaps your sun simply keeps it somewhere else.”

(I have been thinking lately about my own shadow; to be less oblique, thinking about what aspects of myself and my own behavior I may be blind to, as well as those I know I keep hidden from others.)

#171 ::: SunflowerP ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2016, 03:51 AM:

Hmm, I see no one has linked Chapter Fourteen yet.

#172 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2016, 08:38 AM:

Nicole @ #169, amen to that. I was thinking about that very issue after reading the chapter, and it occurred to me that the test of that belief is this: would the villain stop being a villain if you died, surrendered, etc.? Or would s/he just continue on to the next victim?

#174 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 08:02 AM:

And it's a whipsaw between amusement... who knew that the Department of Motor Vehicles imparted such important life lessons?... and despair.

The Queen In Chains. Is it the Queen that is the problem.... or the chains? (Or, of course, it could be something else, but we are up to chapter 15 now; a little late to introduce a new antagonist....)

#175 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 09:42 AM:

I adored the bureaucracy sequence so much. It's an excellent chapter all around, but oh, the lessons of the DMV, those are ones I can take right home with me.

#176 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 12:25 PM:

Not to mention that dealing with her mother's histrionics gives Summer an edge in dealing with the clerk's. She knows what tactics are likely to settle someone down who's just pitching a fit because they can.

#177 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 01:17 PM:

Several years ago I had a walk with three women who had entered the U.S. as refugees; as we got comfortable together they began telling war stories. They spoke of how difficult it was when social workers tried to convince them that they needed to ease up on their children; that their kids were safe here.

They all said, from the heart, that they knew, knew, that NOTHING would ever keep their kids safe. In sight, and even better, physically touching was the only thing that eased off their anxiety.

We can infer that Summer's mother is learning to cope with an overwhelming trauma. That she's eased up enough to let Summer out of her sight has to be seen as a major step.

Summer is doing the best she can with hugs and reassurance.

If this were the mother's story, Summer's heart's desire might be getting her mom past that pain.

#178 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2016, 02:08 PM:

As a bonus, Ursula posted three new chapters today, even though it's not even Thursday. Chapter Sixteen

#179 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2016, 06:55 PM:

Thank you for that update, Mary Aileen!

I particularly liked this bit from Chapter 17:

“Now,” said the Forester. “Saving a single wondrous thing is better than saving the world. For one thing, it’s more achievable. The world is never content to stay saved.”

I needed to hear that today.

#180 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2016, 07:49 PM:

I clicked "next" too many times and ended up on her front page, where I discovered that Elizabeth Bear had provided a great blurb: "Vernon is the right thing to read in times of woe, in times of joy, and when you are considering planting an invasive non-native and know you probably need a stern talking to."

#181 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 02:15 AM:

Teresa, so good to hear about it from the horse's no longer abscessed mouth, so to speak. And that you're solidly on the mend.

(Apparently I cannot spell "abscess" without outside intervention. Is this one in your demonic spelling test? Or maybe I'm not as good a speller as I think I am.)

I managed not to sit around watching the results come in last night mainly because I was at my roller derby league's board of directors meeting, being the secretary and getting utterly exhausted at the gumbo ya-ya multithreaded style of discussion going on there. Then I came home and found my husband had the scotch out on the table and clearly not just because he likes scotch. It was that bad. I took a look at the latest on Five Thirty Eight, then went back out into the living room, said, "I need a hug," and spent the next five minutes just weeping into his T-shirt.

Then I thought something along the lines of, "Damn this, I'm going to do good work now, they can't take that away from me," and spent the next couple hours getting my meeting notes presentable.

I didn't want to get up and see the official announcement this morning. Have been crying off and on. But have also been spending the day in that same spirit of "they can't take this away from me" protest: Doing the good work of daily writing, doing dinner-anna-movie with my husband, focusing really hard on how the weather's still beautiful and the leaves are still doing the autumn thing and the sun indeed rose upon the world despite everything.

A dear friend and teammate posted to our league's facebook group that she's so glad she spent election night at practice, doing ridiculous and scary and bad-ass things on skates, and how nothing about how the election turned out can take the joy of that away.

I really appreciate all the hopeful and determined things people are posting, about being kind to each other, about the quiet importance of telling stories and doing good work, about fighting every step of the way against those who would do harm.

So. Onward, I guess.

#182 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 02:16 AM:

And lo, "oops, wrong thread" errors do still occur in this post-apocalyptic Earth 2. Off to repost in the correct thread. My apologies to all!

#183 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 02:44 AM:

Posting in the correct thread for once, I just wanted to pull out this bit from Chapter 17 and admire it:

"Tell me about your journey, and start a little before the beginning, because we are usually wrong about where things begin."
#184 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 09:43 AM:

Nicole @183:

I read that line, and wanted to steal it for the intro page to a story.

#185 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2016, 06:46 PM:

Buddha Buck @184 - Terry Pratchett was fond of the idea, too. One of his Discworld books, possibly "Witches Abroad", began with the acknowledgement that we can never be sure about "the beginning"; all we can tell is "the story so far."

#186 ::: Joana ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2016, 09:23 AM:

Delurking because I love Summer in Orcus and the speculation here...
Does anyone else get the sense that the Queen in chains is(a stand-in for) Summer's mother? Sending out wasps to destroy wondrous things - like forbidding Summer learning to ride or doing other "dangerous", wondrous things? And her heart's desire to save the wondrous things - to experience them back in her world, and how she needs to convince the queen/mom to let her. Maybe take the queen out of her chains and her motjer out of her fears. SOmehow the forrester seemed to point me in that diection.

#187 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2016, 09:39 AM:

#186 Joana re: Queen in Chains / Summer's mother

Very much so. See my post at #177.

#188 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2016, 02:22 PM:

Joana @186 and related.

That was one of two thoughts I had.

The other is that perhaps the Queen must be freed from her Chains to heal Orcus. The meeting with Glorious might foreshadow that.

Of course, both ideas could be true.

J Homes.

#189 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2016, 03:19 PM:

I was wondering if the Queen in Chains is the girl who became a dragon, but didn't have a dragon's heart to go with it. In chains because of being a dragon's body, uncontrolled by that heart...

But I'm not as sure about the Queen being a stand-in for Summer's mother, because that implies a much more, mm, destructive sort of abuse than the problem her mother has. The active murder and casual violence doled out by the Houndbreaker, the wasps of the Queen, all seem the opposite of Summer's mother, who wants to protect and swaddle and keep things locked in safely.

If anything, the stand-in for Summer's mother is, well, Summer. Who has to learn to not become her mother in turn to her friends, even when the dangers are REAL and IMMINENT, not just imaginary or potential.

#190 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2016, 09:27 AM:

So, I guess we're going to have to wait until all of last week's burst should have been posted before we get some more.


#191 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2016, 09:58 AM:

I was listening to Richard Thompson's Calvary Cross while I was reading Ch. 15 and got a powerful emotional rush when I got to this line: '"This is why she sent you, Summer-cub," [Glorious] said.' I'm not sure what the emotion was, perhaps related to the the longing for home that CS Lewis discusses in The Weight of Glory, but I felt it as an affirmation. "This is why she sent you."

Then a few lines down Glorious says, "But I smell her [Baba Yaga] even under this. Like clean stone under rotten meat." Well, OK, this is not the Baba Yaga I'm acquainted with.

#192 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2016, 01:57 PM:

Bruce H. @ 190:

Chapter 19!

I must say, I really like the Hoopoe's house from the standpoint of thinking through the consequences of worldbuilding. When you can fly and perch, it opens up far different options for house layout.

#193 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2016, 03:28 PM:

Bruce H. #191: Well, OK, this is not the Baba Yaga I'm acquainted with.

No, this is Baba Yaga as seen by a moderately-powerful native and quite magical native of the world... definitely a hint that there is more to her than her appearance.

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 02:28 AM:

Chapter Twenty.

The Birds' Ball is utterly fascinating. And I think the goose guards like Summer.

#195 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 05:54 AM:

And of course the Matron's name is Sophia. As it ought to be.

#196 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 09:30 AM:

I liked this line: "It didn’t matter if she didn’t like Merope, Reginald did, and that was the important thing."

And Matron Sophia is wonderful.

#197 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 09:54 AM:

Singing Wren, I feel like there's something on the tip of my brain about the name Sophia. Is it just that it means "wisdom"? Or is it something from a Heyers novel I read thirty years ago?

#198 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 10:14 AM:

Cassy B., The Grand Sophy?

Also: the trouble with being an artist and a writer is that when you write something like this:

"A band played in one corner, consisting of an enormous quantity of guineafowl, sometimes two or three to an instrument."

...people like me are seized with a desperate desire to have it illustrated.

(Particularly since we kept guineafowl for a while in my youth.)

#199 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 10:19 AM:

(One ohnosecond later: or Sophie Aubrey, perhaps?)

#200 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 11:11 AM:

I love the bird ball and Matron Sophia also. And it's an interesting twist on the whole Regency courtship vibe for everyone to understand that you are courting for this season, not forever.

But my favorite line out of Chapter 20 is “Are the cheeses very fierce in your world?”

#201 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 03:22 PM:

Going back to the Baba Yaga question, I'd be hard put to chase it down, but if I'm remembering right, not all the folklore about her has her as an unmitigated monster. Most of her legendary behavior is monstrous, but I think some folk stories have her tricked into granting favors, or even capriciously favoring some supplicants if they complete tasks or chores for her.


(And with a little bit of Googling, I discover some references to the story of Vasilissa the Beautiful, a kind of cross between Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, where after Vasilissa completes Baba Yaga's tasks, she saves Vasilissa by giving her a magic skull lantern which burns up the evil stepmother and the stepsisters - simultaneously helpful and vicious.)

#202 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 03:42 PM:

Clifton @ 201

Kindness is sometimes cruel. Justice is sometimes mean. There's a phrase I've read that goes something like "an old testament man/sense of justice". My memory indicates it's in Westerns and was equated with Frontier Justice equated with lynch mobs, posses and other forms of DIY law keeping. See also: "tough, but fair" and "rough justice."

So far, "Summer in Orcas" has put Baba Yaga firmly in the "tough, but fair" category.

#203 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2016, 06:37 PM:

Cassy B.: I was referring to the "wisdom" meaning myself. Having never read any Heyer*, I can't say if it's also a reference to anything else.

Lila: I, too, would like to see an illustration of the guinea fowl orchestra.

*I should probably remedy that at some point.

#206 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2016, 06:38 AM:

(should have refreshed the page before duplicating Paul A.'s link)

#207 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2016, 10:37 AM:

Huh. The discussion at the end of this chapter puts Zultan and the Queen-in-Chains in a different relationship.

I had thought of her as a distant evil ruler, like the White Witch, and him as her evil henchman, but if he's in control and she's his weapon, that's a very different story, and maybe calls for a different kind of resolution.

#208 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2016, 12:23 PM:

I really like the direction this discussion of Zoltan is going with the setting. We've seen a lot of Evil Overlords get overthrown from their reign of terror, but not nearly so many...roving bands of terrorists with long-term destructive effects, as it were. It's different, and it makes me chew over some of the various ways in which evil can manifest. I like.

#210 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 06:52 AM:

Chapter 23

#211 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 07:04 AM:

Chapter 23: And, perhaps, Summer's descent to Hell begins. (I think it was TNH who commented here that the Epic Journey may or may not reach Heaven, but it always passes through Hell.)

#212 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 10:01 AM:

From the description, it sounds like Summer has a concussion.

How long will her friends wait outside before they realize she's been betrayed?

#213 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2016, 07:28 PM:

That chapter whipsawed me pretty thoroughly.

I had been somewhat suspicious of the Priestess in the last chapter, then went to thinking she must be OK, as Summer did, and then...

It occurs to me that it's pretty rare for the experience of a concussion to be accurately described in a book. Even a mild bang on the head can be, well, like that. Lots of books, like nearly all movies and TV shows, indulge the conceit that people can be hit hard on the head without consequence other than a plot-convenient length of unconsciousness. The reality is that most people hit hard enough to experience more than a few seconds of unconsciousness would take weeks or months to make a recovery, some of them would be permanently impaired, and some of them would die.

(Let's not even get into the scale of PTSD which most fantasy heroes and heroines should have from their travails.)

#214 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 11:44 AM:

Chapter 24

Clifton @ 213:

I think that's a pretty fair assessment of what chapter 23 did to me too. But if chapter 23 was a shock to me, chapter 24 is the one that rearranged the world. We finally get to meet Zultan, who is not what I would have expected. And we find out a bit more about Grub, who I now exceedingly strongly suspect is a parasitized actual grub.

Also, mysterious antelope woman.

I also think that it might be interesting and worthwhile to compare and contrast elements of Summer in Orcus and Black Dogs once we get a bit farther in. I heartily recommend the latter by the way, too.

#215 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 01:54 PM:

Seconding the recommendation for Black Dogs. It's a duology and a fairly fast read, but (as usual with Ursula) it plays merry hob with plot tropes and your own expectations.

#216 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 08:53 PM:

I've been meaning to get Black Dogs for a while, on the principle that anything Ursula writes seems to be well worth reading.

And yes, totally what KeithS said: this chapter seriously rearranges things.

#217 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2016, 11:42 PM:

>> ... strongly suspect is a parasitized actual grub.

By a wasp, perhaps?

#218 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 07:44 AM:

I'm also seeing some parallels to the webcomic "Kill 6 Billion Demons", where the first of the Big Bads turned out to be... seriously neurotic, and half-defeated already by their own weakness.

#219 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2016, 06:08 PM:

And more germane to the story: I was thinking, mightn't Zultan himself be the first victim of the "wasps"? And then it hit me: Wasps and larvae. Grub is the key to the whole thing.

#220 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2016, 05:41 AM:

Re the antelope woman, in case anyone else couldn't remember what had been said about them, the book the stained glass saint was carrying in chapter 3 had this advice:

1. Don’t worry about things that you cannot fix.
2. Antelope women are not to be trusted.
3. You cannot change essential nature with magic.

#221 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2016, 10:53 AM:

OtterB, I took that message to mean "don't trust antelope women", but it's Zultan who shouldn't have trusted her, at least so far. Will she also prove untrustworthy to Summer?

#222 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2016, 12:09 PM:

OtterB: I had forgotten about that. Thanks.

#223 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2016, 12:09 PM:

OtterB, Cassy B., I noticed that phrasing too. "Antelope women are not to be trusted ", but by whom?

We've also seen the third piece of advice, too. Glorious is still very much a wolf, and the Forester is very much a dragon.

#224 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2016, 05:06 AM:

On why Zultan killed all the dogs: "Because they would have forgiven me. Unbearable thought, isn't it?"

That line made me flinch, both for all the times I've felt like that, and the times I've seen others unable to stomach any hint of forgiveness or mercy. This is the chapter that's hit me the hardest so far.

#225 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 06:16 AM:

Chapter Twenty-five

The antelope woman's telling of the Orcus foundation myth is a stupendous piece of writing.

#226 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2016, 09:39 AM:

Craft (Alchemy) #225: Yah. Also, I was flashing on the Jackalope Wives.

#227 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 12:46 AM:

Chapter Twenty-six, up a little early.

More exploration of Antelope Woman.

#228 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 01:26 AM:

This chapter answers one of the questions I had at the end of ch. 25; the antelope women did somehow manage to reproduce, despite starting out in Orcus with only three women. I had wondered if the one who met Summer was one of the original three, which she still may be, but not necessarily. I'm still wondering how they managed to reproduce. Parthenogenesis, perhaps?

I also note that the ((temporarily?) divided) company now numbers seven; Summer, the weasel, Reginald, Glorious, Ankh, Ounk, and the unnamed antelope woman. Two more to go?

#229 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 02:23 AM:

Bruce H. @228: Do the valet-birds count as a companion, en masse? In this episode one of them shows up separately, so they might.

#230 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 03:06 AM:

Tom Whitmore @229: See previous discussion at 129 - 137. I'm counting only speaking characters, but there are other plausible opinions. If the valet finches all together count as one (seeing as how they are a group mind), then we're at eight.

#231 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 07:59 AM:

Is the antelope-woman a companion, or just a helper-along-the-way? Like the Wheymaster?

I've lost track of the weasel. Is he still in Summer's pocket?

#232 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 11:05 AM:

Cassy B. @ 231

The weasel is still at the pipes with Reginald and Glorious. He was allergic to the incense and left before the priestess betrayed Summer.

#233 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 11:07 AM:

The weasel had to leave her back at the Great Pipes because he was choking on the incense smoke. Otherwise she might have had some help with escaping earlier. (I got confused about this too and had to go back and see where they got separated.)

#234 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2016, 11:44 AM:

Ah; right. Now I remember. (A weasel would have been very useful... if Zoltan hadn't sniffed it out right away. Which he probably would have -- he's a Dog, after all -- even if the Antelope Woman "overlooked" it like she did Summer's other pocket contents.)

#235 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2016, 08:43 PM:

Pendrift #224: And then there's Summer's response: She did not understand, but she wasn’t sure if it was a grown-up thing, and she would understand when she was older, or if it was an evil thing, and she would never be able to wrap her head around it.

Or something even more complicated than that....

#237 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2016, 11:17 AM:

"it is easier to fight swords than courtesy sometimes"

Yes, it is.
Also, Ursula mentioned else-web (I think in her LJ) that she is planning to double up the chapter-posting the end of December so that she can finish it this year instead of the first week of January.

#238 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2016, 05:18 PM:

Yes. Which means that it will be eligible for the Hugos in 2017.

#239 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2016, 12:36 PM:

And it also means we're close enough to the end that she's not likely to introduce any more major characters to travel along with Summer.

#240 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2016, 02:17 PM:

It doesn't feel like we could be that close to the end of the story; I'm not quite sure why.

#241 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2016, 06:32 PM:

Maybe it's the first book of a series?

#242 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2016, 10:54 PM:

Clifton #240: I had the same feeling, but Chapter 27 has eased that a fair bit. They'd already identified the threat, collected allies, learned who the major players are, and met some of them. Now they've got their wasp, and they have a basic idea of what to do with it. Doubling up on the installments to finish in December suggests there will be a dozen-odd more chapters, and given the pace of the plot so far I can believe we'll get a decent resolution.

SiO still seems to be a textually short work; I haven't been keeping track of wordcount, but I suspect it might end up about novella size.

#243 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2016, 11:13 PM:

Musings on the plot: I find it striking that the wasp capture not only happened offscreen, but was apparently accomplished by the "is that a character?" valet birds. I'm also wondering whether the antelope woman will eventually "pull a Gollum" and be key to the resolution.

And, of course, the author has been distinctly cagey about exactly what the Queen-In-Chains is; Chekhov's Gun would suggest the "girl who became a dragon" (which could be a story in itself), but I can't see how those wasps fit into that.

The wasps of our world don't have queens, but of course Orcus isn't our world... and on the gripping hand, why are the wasps doing what they are doing? Does some benefit accrue to their controller, or for that matter to the wasps? If they're doing it to reproduce, are they actually being controlled by anyone, or just another species that's wandered into Orcus? I still suspect that Grub is a big piece of that puzzle, but don't yet know what he connects to.

#244 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 06:40 AM:

Not only do we need to see the resolution in Orcus, we need to see Summer return to our world and deal with her mother.

Re the antelope woman, Ursula tweeted a cover design yesterday that implies an important role.

#245 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 07:41 AM:

And here comes Chapter 28

#246 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 08:08 AM:

I love the theme in this story of Summer taking note of "magic words" used by adults in particular situations, and applying them appropriately. This is definitely a life skill that will be applicable after she gets home. (A factor often missing from portal fantasies!)

#247 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 10:04 AM:

OtterB @ 244

Well, they have a direction to go to find the queen-in-chains. That makes me think the road trip will end soon. We have about eight installments left and Summer just found her inner power when rescuing Glorious.

I suspect it's time for the final confrontation.

#248 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 10:15 AM:

And I am now seriously impressed with Summer. Not that I wasn't before, you understand, but her confidence has clearly grown by leaps and bounds already.

Knowing Ursula's writing in general, I expect the climax will be suitably impressive even if we know it's not that far away now. On a meta, and purely speculative level, since Summer in Orcus is response to a lot of other portal fantasies, I wonder if Summer will manage to accomplish anything massively politically changing for Orcus or not. I'll be quite interested to see how it turns out.

And, despite what Ursula has said on the matter, this is definitely Hugo-worthy already.

#249 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2016, 10:11 PM:

KeithS #248: Accomplishing something significant for Orcus seems likely, given she's already directly involved with their Big Problem.

It occurs to me that we still don't know what Summer's "heart's desire" actually is... or if she's already receved it! If it was to be strong enough to stand up to her mother, or just to see outside the walls her mother has put around her....

#250 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 08:10 AM:

To be able to Do Things? (I.e., agency, and effective agency at that!)

#251 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 10:10 AM:

Dave Harmon @240 & Lila @250

I suspect Summer's heart's desire is to be able to stand up to her mother or manage her mother or get breathing space from her mother. Or just some level of independence/adulthood/authority - which involves standing up to her mother and managing the fall out from it. This is based on the fact that Summer used good business practices and the Antelope Woman's demeanor to thwart the house hunters.

Which brings me to something else. I suspect Summer's mother is an Antelope Woman, too, (or some mix of Antelope Woman and Hound Breaker) but Summer is not. Which is where the ice in her heart came from when she realized the Antelope Woman had betrayed them. Summer had thought Antelope Woman might act better/less chaotic if she'd been treated better/been included more.

#252 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 10:17 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 249:

I expressed myself badly. Let's see if I can tease out my thoughts.

In a stereotypical portal fantasy, the child protagonist winds up in a fantasy world, gets caught up in The Biggest Socio-Political Problem of the World, and, with the support of the locals, learns and trains and saves the world. Becoming royalty is optional. Summer in Orcus has a bit of that, certainly, but also subverts that.

Yes, she is, essentially, the head of a small band of local Orcusians, however she's not looking to Save the World, so much as she is to help her new friends and help the Frog Tree. In another story, she would have been the one to orchestrate the capture of the wasp, even if she didn't personally accomplish it. In this story, it was the valet birds, off screen. While the wasp capture was going on, she escaped from the clutches of Zultan. In another story, she would have found a way to subvert one of the guards, or take advantage of a weakness. In this story, she escapes with the help of the antelope woman, who has her own reasons.

However the story ends, I know I'll be happy with it. But, because of all this, I wonder if the end result will be that only a part of the regime is changed. Even if it's the case that the big bad is defeated, castles don't immediately come crashing down, and life doesn't instantly change for everyone. There are others who are positioned to move into a power vacuum. And, even if she facilitates a massive change, she may not, personally, accomplish it. (Although she might. One of the joys of serialized storytelling is suspense. Suspense and speculation. Two of the joys of serialized storytelling are suspense and speculation. I'll come in again.)

What she can and almost certainly will do, though, is at least make the world a little better — hopefully better enough for the Frog Tree's tadpole — and gain her heart's desire, which, like Lila, I think is effective personal agency.

#253 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Oh! Summer's power seems to be that she empowers others to do what they could have done and fix what they could have fixed but didn't realize.

And I think perhaps her Heart's Desire is to see her mother recovering and able to better care for herself and better do for herself.

#254 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 02:19 PM:

First noting that a comment in the OT by Nancy Lebovitz offers some interesting insights into Summer's relationship with Glorious.

KeithS #252: I think a lot of that is down to her not being a Big Damn Hero or even a Magical Prodigy. Re: Clifton #253, she is certainly, a disruptive element intruding from outside Orcus, which was likely part of Baba Yaga's intention (and a couple of in-world characters have said as much). Even if she's not saving the world single-handedly, she's still driving the plot, and this wasp thing actually does seem to be a major threat to Orcus, so dealing with that would reasonably qualify as "saving the world" for the moment. As for Zoltan -- Summer's just told the people of Orcus exactly what he is -- he might well be dealt with by someone else, or the wasps might be necessary to his survival.

If she succeeds, indeed castles won't automatically come down, and neither will the City of Dogs be easily rebuilt.¹ Some of the marvels will be lost forever... but others will recover or be remade, and new marvels will arise in time. But comments from the natives makes clear that Orcus has seen empires rise and fall before. And that there are plenty of species (and powerful individuals) around, who'd be happy to start hunting spider-horse riders if they didn't have to worry about Zoltan bringing the QiC in for large-scale destruction. And then they'd start rebuilding things, once the current crop of marauders has been neutralized.

Re Chapter 28: Well, it didn't take long at all for the antelope woman's other shoe to drop. Of course, she may yet come back and stir things up again.

¹ That said, I can believe there might be refugee Dogs that the Houndbreaker missed. I find myself wondering what would happen to dogs of our world who were brought to Orcus.

#255 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2016, 04:29 PM:

It may be worth noting that the Antelope Woman's action was aimed specifically towards Glorious, and she has good reason for animosity thereof. If Summer had been unable to prevent the house-hunters taking him, the rest of the party could have carried on the quest without him.

Of course, Glorious likely has a major role to play at the climax, so as well Summer did save him. It also seems likely that the Antelope Woman still has a part to play, and possibly the fact that she did not betray the party in general will be important in enabling her to play it.

J Homes

#256 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2016, 01:26 AM:

Chapter 29. Rough.

#257 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2016, 11:34 AM:

Oh. Oh man. This chapter. And now I'm braced for the next chapter, too.

#258 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2016, 08:55 PM:

Clifton #256: Yeah, but they actually won against a bunch of the spider-horses and riders plus Grub. With only one-and-a-fraction casualties, and the one was a professional guard. Of course, they're now facing Zoltan; the question is what he can do by himself; does he actually have the QiC handy, or can he summon her? And if he does... will it do him any good?

Also, it seems Grub wasn't directly linked to the wasps after all, but to a separate abomination entirely.

#259 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2016, 01:47 AM:

I was wondering last week if Summer would get a chance to use her cheese knife, and was so glad to see that she did, and to good effect.

#261 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 04:37 AM:

I liked the parallel between the weasel, "... groom[ing] himself over and over, which only made his fur look worse ..." and Summer "...wip[ing] at her face and arms over and over, until Ounk took it away from her and said, 'Enough.'"

I also had a moment of recognition.

“Do you wish us to fight?” asked Ounk, as calmly as if she were asking the time of day, and not do you wish us to die?

The geese are Marines.

#262 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 08:24 AM:

My favorite line, I think: His weight made her pocket a tiny bit heavier, but Summer felt a very, very little bit lighter.

I think perhaps that this chapter is missing its italics; in several places we hear Summer's thoughts but they're not marked out in any way.

And I really like the thought that the geese are Marines.

#263 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 10:20 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 254:

You're right. I think I was taking the idea of non-traditional hero and ending a little too far in my thoughts.

And now we know what Grub is. I'm not sure how that managed to be worse than I was thinking, but it was. Neat!

Cassy B. @ 262:

Looks like all the formatting of the second half of the chapter is borked (paragraph spacing, too, not just italics). So many good bits of insight from Summer tucked away in there, though.

#264 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 11:20 AM:

A thought:

She was told to come alone, and the wasps made clear that the geese, Glorious, Reginald, and the valet flock were not welcome.

But the weasel came, and the wasps accepted that.

The weasel is a part of Summer, she only thinks it came from Baba Yaga.

#265 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 11:26 AM:

Buddha Buck: interesting theory, especially in light of what happened when the weasel WASN'T with her (e.g., in her dealings with Cereus and later, with the antelope woman).

#266 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 03:37 PM:

Summer watched the realization spread over the goose-guard’s face, and then Ounk dropped her head an inch and said, quietly, "I will go with you to the end."


What that reminded me of was how, after my cat Genevieve died, it took me nearly a year to stop looking for her in her favorite spot by the foot of the bed, where she'd spent her last few years. She was badly arthritic, and we got her a nice soft pad to lay on, and she pretty much stayed there except for eating, drinking, and using the litterbox. And every time I looked and she wasn't there, it hurt all over again.

That line gave me exactly the same feeling. Poor Ounk.

#267 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 08:54 PM:

>> The weasel is a part of Summer ...

So, was the weasel's ambition vis a vis the egg just part of the cover story, or is the outsized ambition also part of Summer?

#268 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2016, 09:05 PM:

Oh, the outsized ambition is definitely a part of Summer! It's part of what her mother is trying to suppress/repress -- because outsize ambition is dangerous, and leads one into dangerous situations.

#269 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2016, 07:10 AM:

Today's xkcd reminded me of this ...

#270 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2016, 09:36 AM:

Craft (Alchemy)@ 269

You beat me to it. I wonder if Randall is a fan of Ursula.

#271 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2016, 04:16 PM:

Bruce H #261: Thebans, surely?

#272 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2016, 04:21 PM:

I was thinking about how Grub's wight fly got defeated so quickly that it hardly seemed to have served a role in the story, and then I remembered what Ounk said: that the decisive action was clipping its wings, because it would have been unstoppable once it took to the air.

This might be foreshadowing something about the Queen-in-Chains.

It might also be saying something about Summer's relationship with her mother.

#273 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2016, 05:19 PM:

Paul A. #272: thinking about how Grub's wight fly got defeated so quickly that it hardly seemed to have served a role in the story

The thing is, most things in this story happen quickly, with significant points or character developments found in nearly every scene. Here we have Ankh's death -- but even before that, consider this: Summer was in position to slash its wings, because she was already attacking the molting Grub -- not just reacting to incoming attacks. No, not a Big Damn Hero, but still taking initiative in the fight.

Ursula's handling of the episodic format is giving me serious lessons in pacing and "moving the story".

#274 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 03:33 AM:

Chapter 31 is up.

#275 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 07:55 AM:

OH!!!! Oh oh oh oh oh. Ohhhhhhhh.

#276 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 11:52 AM:

Oh. Oh man. I was right, but I was right in a very shallow and basic "Ah, I see this twist coming, I look forward to it," and then it's like a rollercoaster where even if you can see the turn, it still makes your stomach drop and takes you so much further than you expected.

#277 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 01:37 PM:

Nothing in this story is going as expected. And yet, somehow everything is inevitable. Ursula is very good at asking the question, "Why would this be happening? What might explain it?" and coming up with out-of-the-box, utterly plausible answers.

#278 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 03:49 PM:

Links for Chapter 31 and Chapter 32. She is doubling up. And it's not done yet! But it really is getting close to the end, and I'm looking forward to the resolution. Roller coaster indeed, Fade.

#279 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 07:23 PM:

Wow. (Thanks, Tom Whitmore, for the link to chapter 32; I saw chapter 31 was up earlier and I didn't realize she'd followed it with the next.)

I do hope that was Reginald she saw. And that a hoopoe is strong enough to slow her fall...

#280 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 08:08 PM:

And I find it interesting that Summer's great gift is... she can comfort people in distress.

You know, that's actually a pretty powerful ability. And easily overlooked.

I wonder if it was her heart's desire to really understand and believe that she was very good at something...?

#281 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 08:11 PM:

Or that Zultan is too weak....

#282 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2016, 10:07 PM:

Poor Summer is not trope-aware enough. :-)

#283 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 11:08 AM:

It occurs to me that falling into the chasm might be the way home for Summer. I don't really think so--it would be too easy--but it's possible.

Also, Ursula posted on LiveJournal that she's posting the next chapter today. It wasn't up yet when I checked a few minutes ago.

#284 ::: Pendrift sees Chapter 33 ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 12:50 PM:

And it's up!

#285 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 01:30 PM:

Very satisfying, too. The coda of how she'll deal with being back home could almost be left for the reader. But I don't think it will be.

#286 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 05:50 PM:

Chapter 33: Aawww!

#287 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 08:53 PM:

Yes, satisfying without being too tidy. She didn't fix the world forever, but she improved it substantially.

And I'm relieved; in the hiatus before Chapter 33 was posted I had remembered that the weasel was with Summer, and thought he might attach Zultan, and feared he would be lost.

#288 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2016, 10:12 PM:

Cassy B. #280: And I find it interesting that Summer's great gift is... she can comfort people in distress.

Rereading the thread, I note this prior comment of yours:

Cassy B. #96: There's another definition of grace: I think of it as... well, kindness. Care. Mindfulness. Generosity. Helpfulness.

By now we have seen the Grace in action, and it was the key to the very climax of the story. I suspect that this may also be the heart's desire that Summer was promised: The power to comfort her mother, to ease the distress that drives her.

Hmm. She started the tale by picking up three things: First the lock, which proved key to the tale's climax. Lastly the tadpole seed, which fulfilled her first goal within Orcus. The weasel saved her life afterwards, but it was not lost; I wonder what will happen to it (did we ever learn the weasel's gender?) as Summer returns to her world.

#289 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 12:24 AM:

Chapter 34

"It would be a good day for the world if I could not find a child who knew terrible adult things."

"Hearts are complicated. Hardly anybody wants just one thing."

#290 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 12:42 AM:

I'm sad that Summer had to start her new life by lying to her mother.

I'm not sad for the textbook salesman. I think more pushy salesmen ought to be eaten.

#291 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 01:08 AM:

And I'm not sure at this point whether the button indicating that there'll be a "next" chapter is just an artifact of the website. This is a good endpoint.

#292 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 01:10 AM:

I guess I wasn't that far wrong in 280. And I see Baba Yaga is also trope-aware. Not a monkey's paw, indeed....

What a satisfying end to a very satisfying story. Ursula, if you read this... thank you. (And is this a novel or a novella? Why? Oh, no reason. Just wondering....) <gazing speculatively at Hugo ballot>

#293 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 02:12 AM:

I do indeed read this, though I have refrained from commenting because--err--fan space, author space, all that, but I've very much appreciated the kind reception from you all!

The NEXT button was meant to lead to the Author's Note, which is now live.

And while I think you are very optimistic (though I am enormously flattered!) it runs almost exactly 90K.

#294 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 03:20 AM:

I think the lock is about coping mechanisms and how you can't judge a tool without considering how it is used - it was maladapted to Summer's situation, and imposed on her without her consent, but for the Queen-in-Chains it was appropriate and helpful, accepted willingly.

#295 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 04:15 AM:

Bruce, #290: If Summer hadn't lied to her mother, she'd have been locked up in inpatient therapy until she (1) turned 18 and (2) managed to lie convincingly enough to the shrink. I had the same kind of hovering, overprotective, "lock her up in a golden cage to keep her SAFE" parents that Summer's mother is. And many's the time I lied to them when I knew their response to the truth would be the kind of massive overreaction that Summer's mother has been shown capable of having.

I guess what I'm saying is that no matter how much Summer was changed by her quest, the world she has to live in did not change at all and she still has to live there. At least for a few more years.

#296 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 06:57 AM:

I also was a bit sorry that Summer had to come back and immediately lie to her mother. But - Summer has changed from the beginning of the book, when she hesitated about what she should and shouldn't say. On her return, she recognized the necessity and acted decisively. There's no internal narrative so we can't be sure, but I'd like to think she lied not so much from fear of her mother's reaction, as because the truth would make her mother very unhappy and do her no good.

#297 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 08:39 AM:

Am I reading too much into this to see a parallel between the Queen-in-Chains' situation and the decision Summer and her mother may someday have to make, if her mother's mental illness continues to progress?

#298 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 10:12 AM:

Lila #297: We don't actually know that much about Summer's mother, but I'd be damn wary of dismissing her fears as "mental illness". As pointed out above, many parents have entirely rational reasons to be terrified for their children's welfare. It's not paranoia if someone's really are out to get you, or even if they were.

#299 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 10:13 AM:

Editing fail, but you get the idea..

#300 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 11:00 AM:

Excellent. Just excellent. The twists and turns of the entire story constantly kept me surprised. Pleasantly surprised from the standpoint of a reader, even if sometimes unpleasantly from the standpoint of "oh no, poor Summer!"

I don't mind Summer lying to her mother at all, because it was the right thing to do.

The climax being quiet dialog and compassion, rather than being a big action scene worked very well for me. Compassion and humanity are far more important, in the end, than waving a sword around. Tolkien would be proud.

The ending was a very good ending, and a very right ending to the story. Summer's confidence has grown, which has honed the tools she uses to cope with her mother and the world in general.

#301 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 01:02 PM:

OtterB, #296: Perhaps more to the point, here are the questions Summer's mother asked:
- Why is the gate open?
- You didn't see anyone, did you?
- You didn't go anywhere, did you?

I don't see any answer she could give to any of these that isn't a lie, which would not have immediately gotten her accused of lying or worse. It's like in Every Heart a Doorway -- when children go thru a portal and come back and try to tell anyone what happened to them, they are not believed.

Lila, #297: I agree with Dave about this, although for a different reason. Irrationality on a single topic is not the same thing as mental illness. We all have things about which we are irrational; sometimes we recognize it, sometimes we don't, but outside of that we're perfectly functional. The problem comes in when one's irrationality is affecting someone else's life in a negative way.

#302 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 01:29 PM:

It is pretty clear that Summer's mother's irrationality is affecting Summer's life in a negative way, Lee -- at least from Summer's perspective. That doesn't mean it rises to the level of "mental illness."

#303 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 03:45 PM:

All: you're correct. I expect I'm jumping to "mental illness" because Summer's mother's behavior feels to me like my own mental illness (depression and anxiety disorder with a side of PTSD).

#304 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2016, 08:27 PM:

Tom, #302: That was my point. It's a problem, and not just from Summer's perspective either; her mother is crippling her ability to develop mature judgment and valuable life skills. But it's not a mental illness. It's much closer to the attitude my own parents had, which boiled down to a complete lack of perspective about probabilities. If something bad could happen, they would talk themselves into believing it would happen, and then nothing could shake them out of it. Example: I was forbidden to go anywhere near a squirrel because OMG IT MIGHT BE RABID!!! Never mind that there hadn't been a case of squirrel-borne rabies in our area in half a century or more, it was always their first thought about any squirrel.

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