Tim and I spent some time yesterday thinking up strange yet plausible things to say to be excused from the jury box. From the simple ("this whole thing's a charade--I can already see the guy has a purple aura") to the somewhat more involved ("I refuse to render service to a judicial system that does not acknowledge the existence of gnomes"). I wouldn't mind jury duty so much if I wasn't going to be a complete zombie in the waiting room. Normally I'd be perfectly happy to have an excuse to read for four hours, but I'll be so sleep deprived, even after forcing myself on a diurnal schedule, I'm not going to be able to concentrate on a book.
I haven't had time to read in more than a week. I'm still reading Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron. I'm around halfway through, and it's pretty good. Very clearly written by a woman, which I don't consider to be a bad thing. But I think, any guy out there who might wonder why his girlfriend thinks the Spider-Man movies were very clearly made by men might get some idea by reading Blood and Iron. Movie Mary Jane's not an illegitimate character--she's just not quite realised with the same fullness as Peter Parker. It's more obvious in the original comics, of course, but the movies are somewhat more closely analogous to the dynamic in Blood and Iron. It's not exactly that the women seem generally superior to the men, though they do. There's a certain distance from the male characters, even in the sections written from the point of view of male characters. Matthew and Keith have a sort of cuteness about them and they never seem to be quite as up to speed as the female characters, while Seeker, the female lead, tends to learn things as we do, making her the Spider-Man of the story and grounding us with her a bit better. There's a Kelpie who seems to have an upper hand on her, knowledge-wise, but this is offset by his apparent moral inferiority.
Again, I don't find the female-centric thing to be at all a bad thing, I'm only remarking on it because I'm so much more accustomed to fantasy fiction written from more obviously male perspectives, or by authors who've managed avoid painting either gender as superior.
Another thing I've been conscious of as I read Blood and Iron is how remarkably concerned it seems to be with politics and career manoeuvres. The main plot concerns a character discovering a powerful destiny within the world of faerie, and afterwards every scene seems to be conversations with courtesies on the surface and unspoken ploys for social or political power, with death being the vaguely sensed fate for the losers. It reminds me a bit of college or careers dependant on networking.
It's not bad. Hopefully I'll have time to read more of it soon.