From The Vaults

little-magicpuff  asked:

I knew you met Dianna Gabbadon but not JK Rowling, when was this? Is there a story is it just everyone in the UK meets every famous UK celebrity at some point?

lol, no. The island is not that small. 

I “met” her because I used to work at a bookshop, it was one of my first jobs as a teenager, along with gathering up empty pint glasses in the pub for 2 quid an hour and the occasional bout of babysitting. Presumably when parents were desperate. 

It was the small village bookshop I got my first self bought book from with my pocket money at the tender age of five, and it was fairly inconsequential to the rest of the world but was the absolute hub of community and gossip for our little town second only to the tea house after church.

I’d flit from the cash register to the cafe at the back, learning to make coffee on an expensive Italian machine no one really trusted because using it to boil water for tea always burned the leaves, so the boss was always fuming that she’d spent a fortune on this shiny bit of equipment, and I was still brewing water for tea in the giant copper kettle on the ancient cast iron stove in the back because otherwise no one wanted it.

She was a hobbyist owner that one, meaning she didn’t actually want to run a bookshop but enjoyed saying that she did and was wealthy enough to not care if it failed. I always vowed one day I’d have enough money to buy it back from her and do it right. Except she managed to run it into the ground and now it’s a pawnshop.

Which is a profound shame because not only was it a vital community space, but it was also a beautiful old stone building that had last been refurbished sometime circa the 1920s, if not before then if I remember the plumbing right. It was all dark gleaming woods and shiny brass fixtures inside. It was the kind of bookshop you imagine when you read fairy stories. And now it’s all vinyl plastic and abandoned trinkets. Shame.

Anyway, long before the shop’s eventual demise, Order of the Phoenix was coming out and my boss had an idea in her head that she wanted to do a Thing for it to try and boost sales, and she chattered animatedly to anyone who would listen about how pretty it was going to be and how the newspaper would be there too. Also her “girl friend” was going to stop by to help out during the week, a statement which none of us thought about much because she always had some rich “girl friend” dropping by to inflict something on the shop. Like the one woman going through a midlife crisis who reinvented herself as a positive vibes guru and spent a whole afternoon “cleansing” the negative energy out of the store and managing to start an electrical fire when she flicked water onto the old electric wire heaters. (In her defense we did have to have a rather big clean out after that.)

True to the boss’s incompetence, she vastly under ordered copies of the book (200, she ordered 200, for the only bookshop for miles, while places like Waterstones in the city were ordering by the thousands and selling out in under two hours) and spent all her money on making the shop look the part and having fancy cakes baked by the bakery I would later go on to work for. 

I turned up to work that morning wearing my official “follow me for Harry Potter” t-shirt which was distributed to all official retailers, a purple witches cloak I’d spent a week sewing (and still own) a pointy hat, and my mother’s old heather broom. I spent my morning before opening time running around the local shops picking up food orders (and also delivering books, because when they said they delivered free locally, what they actually meant was I’d hop on my bike and ring the doorbell) and generally standing out like a sore thumb and ending up with a gaggle of children following me back to the shop, their parents dragged behind them.

I dare say my mother still has the newspaper clipping of 16 year old me sitting outside under the old oak tree on my tea break, nose buried in a copy of the book with the headline “Witch Way For Harry Potter” over my head. 

It was my first officially recognized (visual) pun that was ever published. The journalist was delighted when he realized it was intentional on my part and even asked me if he could use it. It’s still something I’m very (not quite so) secretly proud over. 

But right before that moment, when the picture was being taken, the photographer managed to capture my expression of pure surprise when I opened up the book to find that it was signed.*

So yea, about that “girl friend” who was turning up to help. 


Turns out I’ve made tea for both Diana Gabbadon and Rowling and not realized who they were until afterwards, although unlike Gabbadon the most I said to Rowling was “one lump or two?” and didn’t even glance at her. She was just another one of the boss’s blonde friends there to do something pointless like feng shui the audio books then fuck off again.

And they say these kind of things happen in threes, so I’m just quietly dreading which other author I’ve casually dismissed to their face without realizing it. I’ve probably told Stephen King I thought clowns weren’t that scary or something at the airport and Pennywise is just waiting to drag me to hell.

One can only hope.

Also Hagrid used to drive his sports car past my house most days, but that’s another story.

*a copy I didn’t even get to keep because the boss sold any and all copies left lying around in the shop when she realized her ordering mistake and didn’t even tell us until afterwards. I phoned my dad in tears saying someone had stolen my book from behind the desk, so god love him, he drove to Glasgow and waited in the hellish lines outside the still packed Waterstones and got me another copy. And a chocolate bar. Cause that was my dad lol.


On this fine day, Gavin has gifted us with some old school nostalgia 

“Think I was talking recently on Off Topic about how I recorded us doing all the original lets play intros that used to play at the beginning of our videos. I found them in the old vault from 2013. They weren’t all winners.


Soviet Literature

(A guest post by our resident Russia expert hardtobeagod.)

A School For Fools, Sasha Sokolov

The rhododendron, growing every minute somewhere in Alpine meadows, are far happier than we, for they know neither love, nor hate, nor the Perillo slipper system, and they don’t even die, since all nature, excepting man, is one undying, indestructible whole. If one tree somewhere in the forest perishes from old age, before dying, it gives the wind so many seeds, and so many new trees grow up around it on the land, near and far, that the wold tree, especially the rhododendron doesn’t mind dying. […] Only man minds and feels bitter, and burdened as he is with egotistical pity for himself.

Pushin House, Andrei Bitov

Unreality is a condition of life. Everything is shifted and exists a step away, with a purpose other than it was named for. On the level of reality, only God is alive. He is reality. All else is divided, multiplied, canceled out, factored-annihilated.

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak

I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats - any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death - then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself.

The Gulag Archipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

We, Yevgeny Zamyatin

I am aware of myself. And, of course, the only things that are aware of themselves and conscious of their individuality are irritated eyes, cut fingers, sore teeth. A healthy eye, finger, tooth might as well not even be there. Isn’t it clear that individual consciousness is just sickness?

And Quiet Flows The Don, Mikhail Sholokhov

The grass grows over the graves, time overgrows the pain. The wind blew away the traces of those who had departed; time blows away the bloody pain and the memory of those who did not live to see their dear ones again—and will not live, for brief is human life, and not for long is any of us granted to tread the grass.

The Fierce and Beautiful World, Andrei Platonov

He walked around all the useless things in the courtyard and touched them with his hands; for some reason, he wished that these would remember him, and love him. But he didn’t believe they would. From childhood memories he knew how strange and sad it is after a long absence to see a familiar place again, for these unmoving objects have no memory and do not recognize the stirrings of a stranger’s heart.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? After all, shadows are cast by objects and people. There is the shadow of my sword. But there are also shadows of trees and living creatures. Would you like to denude the earth of all the trees and all the living beings in order to satisfy your fantasy of rejoicing in the naked light?

Life and Fate, Vasily Grossmann

…neither fate, nor history, nor the anger of the State, nor the glory or infamy of battle has any power to affect those who call themselves human beings. No, whatever life holds in store —- hard-won glory, poverty and despair, or death in a labor camp —- they will live as human beings and die as human beings, the same as those who have already perished; and in this alone lies man’s eternal and bitter victory over all the grandiose and inhuman forces that ever have been or will be…

Envy, Yury Olesha

Human life is insignificant. What’s ominous is the movement of the spheres. When I settled here, a sun speck sat on the doorjamb at two in the afternoon. Thirty-six days passed. The speck jumped to the next room. The earth had completed another leg of its journey. The little sun speck, a child’s plaything, reminds us of eternity.

jewish-fangirl-life  asked:

Mom mom mom! How is Nathan gonna keep kosher if he's a werewolf? I think I might have missed whether or not he can control himself while he's a wolf, but how does it work?

True blooded werewolves in Hunger Pangs are better able to control what they do as wolves, with full moons being the exception where the human brain takes a backseat and tries not to cringe too hard at the stuff that goes on. It’s sort of accepted mythology that an agreement with the gods was reached, and that in exchange for their powers they have to go through the change once a month without fail as payment for their long lives and supernatural abilities, and as with any culture when new people come into it, certain new traits and beliefs shifted and changed over the years, and at some point the werewolf culture in Nathan’s part of the world, began to include the practice of keeping kosher during human phases of their life, as a means of separating themselves from actual wolves.

And I’ll level with you at this point, this idea is something purely from my childhood. 

My dad was raised by his Jewish grandmother, he grew up keeping kosher and went on to become a kosher butcher and our household was kept kosher purely out of habit and familiarity even though us kids were all baptized Christian. 

He was also a story teller and liked to mix and match his myths, and at the time when I was getting super into the local Celtic mythology and reading everything my grubby little hands could reach in the library, was also when my dad started writing stories for me and telling me about Great Grandma who was Different from my other Grandma and also why we had two kitchen sinks in the house and two fridges and two sets of knives for everything, and why the family sometimes lapsed into Yiddish when arguing, because I dunno if you’ve ever heard angry Scottish people arguing in Yiddish, but it’s a damn fine way to be expressively ticked off.

One of the stories was a werewolf (wulver in Celtic lore) whose angst came from needing to atone for the things he ate as a wolf, not because he was inherently a monster, but because he was Jewish and couldn’t keep kosher on full moons. And my dad made it funny, he made up stories about all the things this wulver would do to try and keep to his faith, about going to see his Rabbi and asking really specific and weirdly obscure questions and the Rabbi was eventually like listen, kid, whatever is going on, take it up with the Big Guy, you’re doing your best and that’s all you ever can do. If He doesn’t like it, that’s His problem for letting it happen, tell him that…in the meantime…make amends however you see fit for…whatever you got going on. Just be a good person, kiddo, or…whatever you are. G-d will understand.

Which was how my dad worked in the Celtic lore part about how wulvers would guard children and feed starving families and give money to charity and just generally be a swell guy who after the end of every full moon had a tendency to brush his teeth really hard while muttering about being chosen for this life. In the end, the man realizes it is not a curse, but a means to help people who need it the most. What is actually a small inconvenience to him (ie not always being able to keep kosher due to circumstances outwith his control), has prompted him to do great wonderful things for those around him, and perhaps without his monthly suffering he would not be the good, kind person he became. Which I suppose was my father’s heavy handed way of trying to tell me—in the way his grandmother told him—you can overcome suffering, and that which you cannot overcome, you persevere with and try to do good anyway.

A little thickly laid on perhaps, but it stayed with me, evidently, as some 20 years later I write about a werewolf who doesn’t quite know if he believes in gods, but still keeps to their in-world-version of kosher out of habit and looks at the suffering in the world around him and decides kindness is the remedy.


The Greatest Female Vaulters of All Time: Elena Produnova, Monica Rosu, Cheng Fei, McKayla Maroney, and Simone Biles


Here is 3/? of my podcast recommendations for the avid listener. These can all be found on iTunes.

If there’s a podcast that hasn’t featured on either of my posts that you think deserves a shout out, let me know what it is and I’ll give it a listen. I’m always looking for new podcasts to listen to, especially fiction.