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|Sunday, October 20th, 2013|
|Hyperion to a satyr
In recent years I've been working on knocking some classics off my to-be-read list, and finally got around to Dan Simmons's Hyperion
. Overall I was underwhelmed, but what really got me was the entire chapter that's basically Neuromancer
/Sprawl fanfic. I'm down with the Canterbury Tales in Space thing; I thought that was a neat concept. But Simmons is just borrowing the structure, not the content - it's not like 'and here is the Miller's Tale set in the future
' (although, I mean, that'd be kind of funny). So if Simmons just wanted to put in a nod to the world of the Sprawl, pay a bit of homage to Gibson, I'd be cool with that. The book is filled with literary allusions. Instead we get wholesale lifting of setting along with tons of references to plot, characters, and themes of Neuromancer
with some "Johnny Mnemonic" and Count Zero
thrown in. That goes well beyond homage and gets at my basic objection to fanfic: play in your own world. I'm not trying to set up a false idol of 'pure originality' - I'd be fine if that world resembled
Gibson's. There's nothing inherently wrong with pastiche. But word for word the same, obviously deliberate? Simmons goes out of his way to mention Gibson by name a few times in the chapter, just to make sure you get it. Yes, there are plot and thematic elements in the chapter that don't correspond with Sprawl stories. But there are too many that do, far too specifically. I like Neuromancer
too. I'm sure there's well-done fanfic of it out there that I'm not going to read. But I don't want to find a piece of it inserted into a Hugo-winning novel. Sorry, I cry foul.
(There's another chapter that has a Heart of Darkness
vibe, which left at that is fine, but now I'm wondering if it's more - I've never actually read Conrad, skipped that one way back.)
(Why yes, it's a novel called Hyperion
featuring a planet called Hyperion and there's a thing involving a satyr. I forgive the 'wink wink nudge nudge' nature of that because I never dock anyone for referencing Hamlet
(I did dock the book points early on because it featured a literal vagina dentata. Seriously??)
|Wednesday, September 18th, 2013|
|oh dear God
My housemate just found a Jezebel article about a straight girl at Smith who wants to start a sorority because she feels marginalized. So that happened. (I don't like giving Jezebel the page clicks but you can find the link if you want.) In addition to all the obvious things wrong with this, Smith doesn't allow sororities. Like, not even the prestigious national ones based on academics (which Maria was otherwise going to join). Still, this is better than the last internet flare-up I saw over my alma mater - when the college itself denied admission to a trans woman.
Since some of the sorority activities this girl proposed included wearing pink and enjoying cupcakes, I feel like I should bake a cupcake version of those pink triangle cookies one of my high school teachers used to make us every year on National Coming Out Day. I hope I won't hurt my queer cred by making them a little before 10/12 - I'm going to be a little busy that day this year.
|Monday, June 10th, 2013|
|the curse of heteronormativity
I recently finished Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue
and one of the things I liked was that it's quite queer-friendly. As in, it contains queer characters, who are not demonized, and several are in happy long-term relationships. This novel improves on Graceling
in that a (obvious to me) same-sex pairing in that book is openly acknowledged textually in this one. There's even a prominent bi character! (I'm actually trying to decide whether he falls into the problematically-promiscuous category. I'm leaning towards no because the charming rogue trope almost always appears as a straight dude, making this guy just an equal-opportunity heart-breaker.) I decided to dip my toes into on-line discussion of the book, and yanked them right back out again. Apparently there are people complaining that the author has a "liberal agenda" she's hitting readers over the head with because of the multiple queer characters and relationships. Hard to find a more blatant expression of privilege. I'm so sorry I offend your sensibilities with my existence.
I somehow expected better from people choosing to read explicitly feminist YA fantasy (like, did they read Graceling
before starting its sequel?), but instead it's the same old tired argument. And it does make me very, very tired. Current Mood: seething
|Tuesday, March 12th, 2013|
|time for a rant regarding literary sibling pairs
I remember as a teenager coming across Tanya Huff's Quarters
books. I found them refreshing in several aspects (a non-heteronormative world, with complete equality of gender and sexual orientation! But that is a post for another time), but one I particularly liked was that the first three books start off making the reader think they're about romantic relationships but in the end you realize they were really about sibling relationships all along. (A note: when I discuss what a book is "about," I mean theme. Not plot. This drives my sister nuts.) I'm certainly in favour of well-written romantic pairings, but I think other types of love, such as family or friendship, too often are not given the same attention by authors or readers.
Also, I have the culturally-ingrained vomit reaction to the concept of incest. I am aware that sometimes stories feature incest in a believable fashion, but in those cases I want some acknowledgement that it's unhealthy and a reaction to emotional damage. I resent the implication that all 'important' relationships must in some way be sexual. I like knowing there are people in my life with whom I have an easy familiarity and anything remotely relating to sex is simply not a factor, and I like seeing that reflected in literature.
So just off the top of my head, a discussion of several sibling pairs in fiction. Will include spoilers for Huff's Quarters
quartet, C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen
, Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant's Newsflesh
trilogy, and Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon
trilogy. ( You've been warned.Collapse )
|Tuesday, January 1st, 2013|
|Tuesday, December 11th, 2012|
|last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again (or in this case, Aurimere)
In the past year or so I've followed links to a number of excellent blog posts from author Sarah Rees Brennan, so I thought I'd finally get to trying her books. Picked up Unspoken
, hoping to love it, and actually did. It's possibly the only Gothic novel I've read that I liked, and only because she tackles head-on many of my problems with the genre and interacts with the tropes in new ways. I've read several glowing reviews across the web, but so far all of them have failed to mention one thing I particularly liked, and I find the omission telling.
The main character, Kami Glass, is biracial (white and Japanese). Unlike the idiots who missed the description of the Hunger Games
black characters, Unspoken
fans seem perfectly cognizant of Kami's ethnic background. (Rees Brennan also calls attention to it multiple times throughout the novel.) Yet none of the reviews I've seen have mentioned it. Several of them have commented on the book's excellent handling of gender issues, so it's not as if they're purely focused on plot and technique and blind to these kinds of issues. I love SF/F, but characters of colour are still the exception. Main characters of colour are rarer still. It's well worth celebrating books and authors that don't just default to white. So why is no one mentioning it? Why is gender worth raising but race isn't? How far does this genre, this sub-culture, still have to go? Right now, I'm not feeling optimistic about the answer to that.
Interesting that the cover of the British edition clearly shows an Asian girl, while the US version only has a silhouette. The US cover is beautiful and appropriate to the work, but especially after the Silver Phoenix
cover controversy it's something I notice.
As to why I liked a Gothic novel and the sky didn't fall: The young maiden who just moved to the big creepy house, inhabited by creepy people who may or may not be responsible for acts of gore, and could seriously use a rescue, is a boy. Additionally, much of the staple-hand-to-forehead tone and canned scary music moments have been removed, and humour has been injected instead. The heroine is quite sensible. Northanger Abbey
has no traction on this novel. I eagerly await the next installment. And because no one else is saying it, there will be two more books centered around a woc, and that's awesome. Current Mood: irritated
|Tuesday, November 6th, 2012|
I am sitting here filled with nervous energy, and I know I'm going to open the CNN results tracker at 7:00pm, even though that early it'll be meaningless. I am not far gone enough to look at exit polls, because they are a joke. I know as soon as real results start getting tallied I'm going to get phone calls, texts, and emails from a number of family members, who will be watching as intensely as I am.
That rule about no politics and religion at the dinner table never applied to my family. Politics and current events were and are often the default discussion subject. When I was in pre-school I was singing old union songs, and added '60s protest folk/folk-rock songs a few years later. The only baby or bridal shower I've been to that I enjoyed was a few hours of some of the women in my family eating fancy cheese and talking politics. The first election I could vote in was 2000, my first year at Smith, and I stayed up all night glued to my computer and that tracker. (So I didn't have the experience some did of going to bed with Al Gore president and waking up to Bush.) Four years ago the night Barack Obama won the nomination my dad called me when I was on the bus on the way home from work, because it was so historic. When Obama won the election I started crying, because up to that moment I wasn't sure our country would really do it. This time if he wins, I'll just feel relieved. But right now I'm jittery, and hoping those state polls Nate Silver has been using were accurate and we're not going to get a Bradley effect dose of hidden racism.
Something that hasn't changed for the past few election cycles: I want John King's magic map. (Yes, I know it's called a smart board. But 'magic map' is more fun.) Current Mood: nervous
|Wednesday, August 29th, 2012|
|randomity strikes in the hearts of many
Among the more immortal phrases from my high school days, although I did not originate it.* Things have been rattling around my brain, none of them really related to each other.
Tomorrow morning I'm leeeeeeaving on a jet plane . . . for WorldCon in Chicago. I'll grit my teeth as Dance of Dragons
wins the Hugo, and try not to boo. (I voted for a book I haven't yet read, just to express my displeasure with Martin.) I'll also get to meet some folks irl, as it is, that Chris and I have known though this internet thing for years, and get some books (only three, as I am not an asshole) signed by seanan_mcguire
. I'll try some panels: I'm expecting they'll be more on the order of college con panels (usually good) rather than Arisia panels (ask me sometime), but we'll see. It should be a good time.
One of the only good things about the Todd Akin flap is seeing how quickly other Republicans had to distance themselves from him. Progress?
What is with the trope seen in some authors that orgasm + true love = transformation of the soul
? (Joss Whedon, I am not only looking at you and S2 Buffy
). I mean, I'm cheesy enough to fall for true love = soul transformation if well-written, but the other part of it just leaves me quirking my eyebrows at page or screen and wondering about maturity, and I don't mean 'for mature audiences.' I can't describe examples without veering into various spoiler territories, but am I the only person who feels this way?
I've been thinking about C. more often lately. I wasn't entirely sure why, then K. and I were talking and I know it's because of the wedding planning - I can't look at the guest list and not see that hole, every time. I'm not so foolish as to try to reach out to her; she made her choices seven and a half years ago. She's not the only person I've known who's re-written her personal history to write me out of it. K may try to challenge that altered reality at some point (C only cut her out seven years ago, it was a staggered effort), but I won't initiate anything. But I keep seeing that absence, and unlike her I'm not going to try to make myself believe it isn't there.
*She didn't originate it either, but you know who really liked that phrase? C.
I was talking to Chris and then ladderrat
about wearing a rainbow bracelet in B&A's wedding photos, because I needed to still be me. And it's funny because sometimes I get this internalized biphobia and wonder if maybe I really am straight, like the world sees me because I'm in a heterosexual life partnership. And then something happens to make me realize that's ridiculous. (Sometimes all it takes is imagining claiming I'm straight - I'd be one of those girls
. C'mon, Smithies, you know what I mean.) And the world is again full of sparkles and rainbows.
I did warn you this would be random.
|Thursday, May 10th, 2012|
Unbeknownst to me until last night, a question I stopped asking two or three years ago recently and unexpectedly changed to a different answer.
So, uh, I guess I'm getting married. Current Mood: surreal
|Wednesday, February 15th, 2012|
Mark Sanchez is lazy
An Asian American NBA breakout star is a zoo exhibit. (See: just about every mention of Jeremy Lin.)
WTF, sports world? Did I miss when 2012 was designated super-special racism year? Current Mood: angry
|Sunday, December 4th, 2011|
|a somewhat uncomfortable introspective
Sometimes what I miss the most about my friendship with C. was a specific flavour of squee. Being silly, fan-girly
, indulgent, doting on romantic relationships we really liked - and the minutiae thereof - in books we had read (or that I'd read and directed her to read, in part so that I'd have someone to do this with). But only when it was just the two of us hanging out.
Uncomfortable because I found myself getting very irritated earlier today reading reviews by female posters that engaged in some of those behaviours and language, and it made me wonder if I've got some misogyny, or specifically femme-phobia, going on. I feel like that kind of writing is inappropriate, especially as publically as that, and as if these women are letting the rest of us down for confirming stereotypes about female readers (or viewers). But these are not, to my knowledge, serious-minded review blogs; we're not talking The Hathor Legacy
or Film Crit Hulk
here. So my reaction was out of line. But why did I have it in the first place?
I mean, I am the person who, with Katie, literally bounced up and down before our first Maiden concert. But never in my writing.
Then again, maybe I just have a knee-jerk reaction to anything using wording from the Twilight
phenomenon. But I'm not sure I can say that's all of it.
|Wednesday, October 12th, 2011|
For anyone interested in genre fiction, discussions about fiction, and feminist discussions about fiction and fandom, there are some great recent posts from authors calling out reviewers on using the term Mary Sue.
Starting with this terrific breakdown from Zoe Marriott: You Can Stuff Your Mary-Sue Where the Sun Don't Shine
Additional comments by Holly Black: Ladies Ladies Ladies
And the always-excellent Seanan McGuire: I know a little girl and her name is Mary Mac: The Misuse of Mary Sue.
A related post that briefly mentions the Mary Sue issue from Sarah Rees Brennan: Ladies, Don't Let Anyone Tell You You're Not Awesome
At this point I have to add Brennan to my next trip to the BPL: I have no idea whether I will like her books but this is the second completely awesome
blog post of hers I've read (I bookmarked the other one back when I was linked to it, must get info off other computer) and I think that deserves giving at least the first novel a chance.
Sorry this is kind of link-spam-y, but I never get tired of talking about writing and critiquing female characters. I've only rarely used Mary Sue/Gary Stu, but after this I think I will retire the words from my vocabulary entirely.
|Tuesday, April 26th, 2011|
I was remarking to saitou
earlier that one never appreciates having opposable thumbs as much as when a) taunting the cat, or b) temporarily losing the use of one. On my dominant hand. And, just for good measure, the index finger of my other
hand as well. I'd somehow never managed to injure both hands simultaneously before, and I'm quite hoping never to do it again. Another precedent: this is the first time in 28 years of stupid injuries that I've needed stitches. Not being able to grip anything is driving me nuts. That aside, the general situation is slowly improving - I'm able to type, if I'm quite slow and very careful, which, since it's me, I don't always remember to be.
There's actually a downside to the stitches being small enough to be covered with band-aids - when I had huge gauze puffs before going to the doctor I got a lot of concerned questions from strangers, which wasn't terrific, but now that it doesn't look
like my hands aren't really working, when I'm awkwardly fumbling trying to do basic things those same strangers stare at me like I'm developmentally disabled. Oh, my dignity.
Here's hoping I can type normally by the time of my final exam. I'm going to class tomorrow even though I won't be able to take notes - the lectures are recorded so I'll just watch the video later with my laptop. Current Mood: grumpy
|Wednesday, April 6th, 2011|
Feeling creatively stymied right now on this paper, so an interlude of musings on art. Music, poetry.
Art is not always literal. Not even often literal. Figurative language seems to be the easiest concept for people, even if there's an awful lot of confusion over the differences between similes, metaphors, and symbols. (We won't even touch the difference between synecdoche and metonymy - although, truth be told, sometimes I have trouble with that one.) Irony, on the other hand, often seems to go by the wayside. Or double meanings, shaded meanings, meanings that depend on context, on a work being taken as a whole.
Once I figure out the proper way to get there, I'm going to touch in this paper on the Eminem/Rihanna collaboration "Love the Way You Lie." I've read an awful lot of blog posts about that song in the past few days, and I'm bothered by the people who take Rihanna's refrain, which includes the title, literally. Saying it glorifies, romanticizes, and condones abuse - or the people who are even saying that the song is really talking about a BDSM relationship. Did they miss that the key word is lie
? The lies we tell each other, the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we want to believe and the lies we tell ourselves we do believe. Especially when it concerns love. And none of them are actually "all right." If they were they wouldn't be lies. I've never been in an abusive relationship like that and I won't presume to speak for the experiences of people who have. But I spent two years on-and-off involved with someone who lied to me so often I don't know if anything he ever said to me was true. Some of it may have been, I just feel I have no basis on which to judge. And I lied to myself that it didn't hurt as much as it did, that there were sometimes reasons to excuse it, that it wouldn't happen again, that he'd change, that he had changed. I don't want to think about whether I could have done the same thing in a relationship like that song describes. I'm glad I've never had to find out. And even without an experience like that, I wouldn't take those lines literally.
Reminds me of reading a Maiden message board a few years back and seeing the comments on "Afraid to Shoot Strangers." There was even one guy who said he stopped listening to Maiden for ten years after that song came out because it was jingoistic and supported the Gulf War. Ok, maybe you could think that if you stopped listening to the song halfway through. Sure, the narrator (a soldier) starts off conflicted about whether the war is justified and the verses end with the resolution that it is. The only lyric in the entire rest of the song - which is when it takes off instrumentally as well in that incredible guitar line - is "Afraid to shoot strangers." If the narrator is so settled that going off and killing these people is the right and necessary thing to do, why is he so viscerally unhappy about doing it? That reluctance shows that the speaker wasn't successful in convincing himself, even if he thinks he has. Context matters. Order matters. Anthemic electric guitars matter and irony exists.
A famous playwright once quipped that if you wanted to send a message use Western Union. That's not entirely fair, you can certainly send a message through art - but don't sacrifice the art to do it. And as the audience don't demand that every message, every theme and subtext be literal, direct, and spelled out. Usually by that point you might as well have used Western Union.
|Monday, April 4th, 2011|
My latest paper assignment is about the ethical questions involved in covering celebrity "news." Which means for the first time ever I've gone on websites like TMZ and Perez Hilton, so I can actually know what I'm talking about before I start writing. I feel like I need to scrub my brain. With lye.
|Monday, March 7th, 2011|
My computer has a new background. For those of you who know some of my quirks this is a fairly big deal - my wallpapers are all things that mean a lot to me and also stay parked on my screen for several years. Previously I've had Waterhouse, Trigun
, Maiden, and the anomoly of the background my current laptop came with just because it was pretty and very green
, but now it's Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye. I just discovered this series, and I couldn't love it more.
I'm still getting started on my foray into urban fantasy and so far it's a mixed bag, but this is a treasure. Gritty-ish detective drama and the world of Faerie - think A Midsummer Night's Dream
and other works and folktales from the British Isles as a starting point. There's some lyricism mixed with the grit, more than I've found elsewhere in the genre. The plot is fast-paced with appropriate tension, and I couldn't put the books down.
Each novel passes the Bechdel Test
with flying colours, and I love the heroine. Toby (short for October) is smart, funny, sarcastic, and believable. She's capable without being either 'too good at everything' or unwilling to accept help. She gets literally carried several times, but I never felt her agency was reduced. She has maternal aspects without that being the source of her strength or relegating her to a caretaker role. She can sometimes be a jerk, and sometimes seems almost deliberately obtuse about personal matters, and she's extremely stubborn. The books are first-person narration so Toby carries all the action, and she doesn't disappoint.
The main love interest is also a fantastic character, and a brief glance around the Web confirms this is the prevailing opinion. This is a large part of why I love this series so much - it's one of the best literary romances I've read in a very long time, the pages light like fire when the characters interact. I am hoping for an actual, stable relationship, I am not one of those readers who prefer UST, love triangles, and drama (had enough of that in my own life, very glad it's long over and I just don't need to live any of it vicariously), but I'll just have to see how the next few books go. On the other hand, the under-emphasized love triangle does not
include competition between the men or treating Toby like a prize.
Who knew two of the most endearing characters would be teenage boys? That
is a mark of a good writer :) (Really, it's just teenagers in general, I was no great joy either when I was 15.)
The villains are evenly split between males and females, and in the fourth book we even see a (f/f!) queer couple. Here's hoping for more authors joining Tanya Huff in portraying actual bisexual characters. (Lynn Flewelling now is a qualified mention, since she has referred to Seregil as "gay" and also has not corrected readers who've done the same. Melanie Rawn has one bi character I can think of, if I'm missing anyone remind me.)
The foreshadowing is well-done: subtle but clear, giving some information in advance if you think about it but not all, and the revelations have been well-timed. Overall the books are a bit more adventure than whodunnits, and Toby more of a hero than a P.I. I whole-heartedly recommend them: Rosemary and Rue
, A Local Habitation
, An Artificial Night
, and Late Eclipses
I believe the author once played in an old WoD Changeling
game, and the world does sort of have that feel, but done right.
Talking about books involving this world and Faerie reminds me of Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood
, which I try to pretend didn't happen even though it's sitting in hardcover on my bookshelf. It would have been fine if it weren't a sequel to Winter Rose
, but as such I have a hard time accepting it.
Up soon is the most recent Donaldson, which I never got to read when it came out. Because I really do want to do the equivalent of putting my soul
through an industrial car wash. I'm just kind of like that.
|Wednesday, January 12th, 2011|
I am soooooooooo tired of people not understanding the English language. As in native speakers who don't know what certain words mean, as evidenced by their use of said words.
Like the people a few years back who thought the word "pivotal" is equivalent to "important" - instead of "something on which something else PIVOTS." Seriously.
Or someone I saw posting earlier today (on a fairly respectable site, Politico, not a random blog somewhere) who seemed to think "polarizing" means "inspiring extreme dislike." The person was calling Obama a "polarizing" figure but saying that unlike other presidents who were also polarizing yet still great, Obama is deeply hated but not deeply loved. Now, I suppose you could argue that "polarizing" only needs to include one extreme, but if so I don't think I have ever heard it used in that fashion. So if you go by the normal (only?) meaning of the word someone can't be polarizing if public opinion doesn't gravitate towards TWO OPPOSITE POLES. If A then B does not equal if B then A. If a president is polarizing in terms of public opinion then s/he is hated, but if a president is hated that does not make him/her polarizing. Just, y'know, fyi.
I think this phenomenon is basically people thinking, "I want to make a strong, attention-grabbing statement! Therefore, I will use a strong word. It does not actually matter whether that word means what I'm trying to state!" So either they're inexcusably careless - both of the above words are literal, for God's sake - or way too many people in this country are passing grade school. Current Mood: grumpy
Grades from my fall semester class just went up: A.
The class was titled Courts and Social Change, focusing mostly on Brown v. Board
and its aftermath, and I told the instructor after the final he was lucky I didn't have time at the end because otherwise I would have been quoting Phil Ochs all over it. (And thanks to ladderrat
for pointing out to me the recent documentary.)
|Saturday, January 8th, 2011|
To all of you and to 2011 - I realized tonight that I hadn't actually read LJ in over a week, which is unusual for me (I haven't touched Facebook, other than to confirm a request, in over two months), and probably indicative and whatnot, but here I am, I suppose. Here's something else I haven't done in quite some time:( 2010 in reviewCollapse )
|Monday, December 13th, 2010|
So, a pick-your-brains question that occurred to me as I am studying for this final:
Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall - who else, if any, would you say are the really famous and respected lawyers in US history?
(Of course, only Marshall is relevant to me right now, but idle curiosity must have its place.)
(I guess you could put John Adams in there because of the Boston Massacre trial, but you could also say that was overshadowed by the becoming president thing. Granted Marshall also went on to bigger and better by becoming the first black Supreme Court justice, but I think for good or ill he's still more remembered for Brown v. Board
- feel free to disagree with me, though.)
Also, sorry to everyone I haven't responded to in the last few weeks - class has been eating my brain, but after the final tomorrow I am done until next semester.
Oh yeah - I had to tell Word to add "Thurgood" to its dictionary. Seriously, Microsoft? Current Mood: studious