Nonfiction Reviews In Brief: bell hooks, African queens, and ivory Vikings

bell hooks, Outlaw Culture. Routledge Classics, 2006. (Originally published 1994.)

I’d never really grasped the ways in which bell hooks is a foundational thinker for intersectional feminism before picking up this collection of essays. It is an uneven essay collection, and its referents are now nearly a quarter-century out of date, but much of what she has to say doesn’t seem radical to me – in part because over those two and a half decades, they became part of the approaches to feminism that predominate among the people from whom I learned about feminist theory and praxis. (They are still radical, mind you.)

Reading this collection has made me want to read more of bell hooks’ work, which is an excellent thing for any collection.

 

 Linda M. Heywood, Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen. Harvard University Press, 2017.

I want to write more about this biography of a 17th-century African queen who just did not quit and seems to have been immensely astute as a war-leader, as a diplomat, and as a politician overall (except possibly in arranging the inheritance of her kingdom, but one cannot blame someone for not keeping things in order after they’re dead). But in brief, it is a fascinating examination of a woman who the Portuguese colonisers saw as a “devil queen,” and of her context.

 

Nancy Marie Brown, Ivory Vikings. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016. (Originally published 2015.)

Brown uses the Lewis chessmen, famous pieces found on the island of Lewis in Scotland in the early 19th century, as a lens through which to examine the late medieval Scandinavian world, its trade connections, and its culture. Brown is interested in the origins of the Lewis chessmen, and sets forth the arguments for where they might have been made, although it is clear her sympathies lie with the theory which ascribes them to Iceland in the late 12th or very early 13th century. (Brown makes a persuasive stab at ascribing them to the hand of an individual ivory-carver, a women named as Margaret the Adroit in the Saga of Bishop Pall – not a saga that has been translated into English.)

Brown is a careful historian, nuanced in her treatment of the evidence, and cautiously qualifying any sweeping claims. But she is also an imaginative historian, and an evocative one. Her knowledge of the Scandinavian world and the Icelandic sagas shines through, and her ability to write both clearly and entertainingly about matters of which yr. humble correspondent knows very little is a rare gift among historians. This is fun history. I approve of it.

Tor.com bonanza day!

I have two, count ’em, two whole posts over at Tor.com today!

First up, an essay I’m pretty proud of, on “The Politics of Justice: Identity and Empire in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy.”

 

From a certain angle, the Ancillary trilogy—and certainly Ancillary Mercy—is about the permeability of categories taken to be separate, and about the mutability, and yes the permeability too, of identities. Mercy of Kalr has no ancillaries anymore, but it (she) begins to use her human crew to speak through as though they were ancillaries—but not against their will. Breq is both AI and Fleet Captain, Radchaai and not, simultaneously a colonised body and a colonising one. Tisarwat—whose identity was literally remade during AncillarySword, both times without her consent—uses what that remaking has done to her to give Athoek Station and a number of ships a choice in what orders they follow: she allows them to be more than tools with feelings. Seivarden—learning how to live with who she is now—is wrestling with her own demons; Lieutenant Ekalu—a soldier promoted from the ranks to officer, a previously-uncrossable barrier crossed—with hers. Athoek Station and Mercy of Kalr and Sphene make laughable the Radchaai linguistic distinction between it-the-AI and she-the-person. (And numerous characters draw attention to the Radchaai linguistic quirk that makes the word Radch the same as the word for civilisation, while quite thoroughly demonstrating that Radchaai and civilised are only the same thing from a certain point of view.)

 

And my Sleeps With Monsters column this week is on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Hollywood’s Problem With Really Low Bars”:

 

[M]uch as I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens—much as I was thrilled to see background characters who were women, women in the crowd scenes and in the cockpits of the X-Wings, women making up part of the world of people who do things—I have some serious problems with the portrayal of every narratively significant female character who isn’t Rey in The Force Awakens. (Quite aside from how hard it is to find Rey or General Organa in the merchandise for said film, which is a problem for another day.)

 

I can’t recommend the comments, though. (I may owe the moderation team the good beer.)

Books in brief: Alexander, Hunter, Stark

There is nothing I can do about the news. So I may as well talk about books.

Mardi Alexander, Spirits of the Dance. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian romance. Better than many of its ilk. Set in Australia, on a cattle ranch/in a small town, starring a leg-amputee ex-military officer and a young local with an abusive father. Lots of horses. Extended description of attempted (hetero) rape. (And when the barn goes on fire, I asked myself – homophobic foul play, or just Australian summer?) Somewhat off-balance in terms of pacing and structure, but nonetheless rather satisfying.

Cari Hunter, Cold to the Touch. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Crime novel set somewhere around about Sheffield, as best I can tell. Starring lesbians, because Bold Strokes Books. It’s a pretty solid crime novel: with this and her last novel, Hunter has taken a step up in terms of structure, pacing and tension. There is murder, winter, relationship drama, and occasionally kissing. It is a very enjoyable novel.

Nell Stark, The Princess and the Prix. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian princess romance is apparently a subgenre of its own now? Formula 1 driver meets Monagasque princess! Hijinks ensue! Batshit, and yet a ridiculous amount of (ridiculous) fun.

Gender and Genderqueerness

If you’re here for the talking about books, this post is going to bore you. Fair warning.

I spent part of the weekend at Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention. (It was supposed to be the whole weekend, but I got home on Saturday night, slept 15 hours straight, and woke up still unsure which way was down. I think no one would have got any sense out of me on Sunday.) I participated in four panels, and had an immense amount of fun with all of them – even the last, “Genderqueerness as a Marker of the Other,” about which I was perhaps excessively anxious.

That panel was very interesting. It also brought me to a realisation about my own attitude to gender, my own relationship to gender identity. It is really weird talking about gender, and gender identities, because I can’t escape the feeling that other people experience gender-as-a-property very differently than I do.

Because for me, gender is not an inherent property of selfhood. It doesn’t inhere in the body, but neither does it attach to any other part of being. It’s a social construct, not an objective entity; a performance whose rules change over time and from context to context. When I think of myself, I only think of gendering myself when it involves interacting with a social context that requires a kind of performance, that genders bodies. Gender is play. Gender is roleplay. (Performing femininity – now that’s a role whose rules I’ve never been able to figure out.)

I speak of myself as a woman because the social context is unlikely to ever open up to me the role of man. (I don’t particularly want to perform manhood, either.) And it’s still easier to chafe at the confines of woman-as-role than to define myself as different to either. I don’t want to have to define myself in gendered terms – even if those gendered terms are “I reject your categories entirely!” – in order to live as myself.

(Let us do away with all the fraught baggage attached to gendered roles! Be rid of it completely! Let us tear down the patriarchy and default to singular-they.)

I don’t know how common this view of gender is, or selfhood. I don’t know how odd this makes me, or if it’s more ordinary than I know. It’s something the panel brought me to articulate to myself about how I see the world and my place in it, though.

Queer Romances I Have Read

…while being too sick to think. I may have forgotten one or two.

Erin Dutton, Officer Down. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

A perfectly cromulent contemporary lesbian romance between a cop and an emergency dispatcher. It has nothing in particular to recommend it, and nothing in particular to disrecommend it, either.

Tanai Walker, Rise of the Gorgon. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian romance/spy thriller – with a plot that belongs in a comic-book, rather than a serious thriller. A journalist, a drug that turns people into zombies, mind control, and an assassin whose memory gets erased and reprogrammed in a manner reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s awful Dollhouse. Shaken, not stirred. It’s… well, laughably entertaining is a good way to describe it?

Amy Dunne, The Renegade. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

Post-viral-apocalypse lesbian romance. This? This is bad, structurally, logically, in terms of characterisation, in terms of worldbuilding, and the prose isn’t great either. Some rapetastic stuff about a post-apoc religious culty community, and a resolution that’s pulled out of thin air and makes the whole rest of the novel make no sense. (If religious culty community’s #2 guy is Sekritly On The Side Of Angels, why didn’t he poison/shoot/otherwise dispose of rapetastic murderous religious cult leader guy and take over long before? Or leave.)

Ann Aptaker, Tarnished Gold. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

At last. This is solidly decent work – the second book in a series about art smuggler Cantor Gold, where I haven’t read the first. It works on its own. Set in 1950s New York, it has a very noir tone: in fact, I’d say it is noir: murder, trouble from the law and the mob, a missing art masterpiece, a lot of beautiful women, some of them heartless. What makes it interesting – I’m not usually interested in American noir – is the fact that Gold is a lesbian.

Barbara Ann Wright, Thrall. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. eARC courtesy of the author.

A couple of years ago, I read Wright’s first novel, Pyramid Waltz, and I think I said it had promise. It definitely appealed to me. But she hasn’t lived up to that promise since. This is particularly noticeable with Thrall, a standalone novel in a new fantasy setting.

The prose is rough but serviceable, and the characterisation is appealing, but the worldbuilding lacks depth and detail – the world doesn’t feel properly lived in, doesn’t have the grit of telling detail – and structurally, the narrative feels weak and rushed. There are the bones of a good novel here, in a scattered, disassembled fashion, but they don’t hang together. And it doesn’t have enough meat.

Still, it does have normalised queer female relationships and interesting violence.

FURY ROAD Feminism

Anita Sarkeesian was critiquing Mad Max: Fury Road on Twitter. Me and a friend had ourselves a conversation on the ways in which we disagreed.

Be warned: SPOILERS ON THE LOOSE.


Liz: I think Anita Sarkeesian is being wrongheaded about Fury Road on Twitter

Jenny: I have to agree with you
completely and totally agree with you
and I think that
the lack of options for women who want to see movies that treat women as people is contributing to the problem

Liz: It draws so much of its arc from 1970s/early 80s feminist science fiction
I mean it sort of IS Suzy McKee Charnas. Its arc is a compressed version of the narrative arc of her Motherlines series (REALLY HORRIFIC DYSTOPIA) done as an action film with extra added DEATH CAR STUNTS.

Jenny:
and I think people are confusing the fact that YOUR HEART DOES NOT STOP WANTING TO ESCAPE YOUR CHEST throughout the whole movie
for gore
bc really
not all that gory
the camera moves away when the gore happens
that’s so very rare these days

Liz:
Nope. Not particularly violent, either.

Jenny:
right?

Liz:
I mean FIERY DEATH
but it’s an aesthetic
(Eighties aesthetic).

Jenny:
THERE’S LOTS OF FAST. VERY VERY FAST. AND PEOPLE DIE AND THINGS EXPLODE
yes
I also think she’s maybe confusing viewers being all THAT WAS FUN AND AWESOME
with the movie showing it [violence] as fun and awesome
but fuck
there is nothing about that world that makes me want to live there
EXCEPT Furiosa and the wives.

Liz:
The movie didn’t show it as fun and awesome.
The movie is all, “Out here, everything hurts.”
It’s pretty explicit.
And the arc of redemption isn’t killing things.
It’s liberating the means of production.

Jenny:
YES
I feel like she’s confusing criticism of patriarchy with criticism of sexism
sexism in real life is not cartoonish, it’s often subtle (and sometimes cartoonish)
patriarchy is often very cartoonish
that’s how it survives
in part bc everyone’s like, “No, that can’t be the truth. that can’t be what the system really does.”
But yes, that’s really what the system does.

Liz:
It’s not film that deals with sexism.
It is a film that deals with PATRIARCHY as a system.
It reifies its metaphors
because that’s what SFF does

Jenny:
I mean, I go into schools that have leaking roofs and carpets so warped they are trip hazards
and then there’s a capitalist mogul that just had his sixth? heart transplant
patriarchy is depressingly cartoonish

Liz:
Immortan Joe is the Patriarchy.
The warboys are his footsoldiers, men who the patriarchy hurts too. Furiosa is the woman who bought into the system, UNSEXED herself, and then rejected it.

Jenny:
yup yup yup

Liz:
the wives and the – it’s obviously a LESBIAN SEPARATIST COMMUNE COME ON. The Vuvalini.
They represent two different perspectives on women vs. the patriarchy. The women who have fought to cast off their chains and discover that maintaining their liberation is a constant struggle and the women who have chosen to live apart but in choosing to live apart, they are… abandoning a different and just as important struggle.

Jenny:
yes
as I was just saying on twitter
it’s actually really important thematically that they return back to the Citadel

Liz:
I think it’s significant that there are no children and young women among the Vuvalini.
The fight for liberation involves a return to the place of enslavement.
They don’t run away.
They take their liberation and decide to spread it.

Jenny:
and that’s why it’s about patriarchy and not sexism

Liz:
They decide to fight for a better world.

Jenny:
about systems
because they need to go back to the Citadel in order to destroy the patriarchy
the plot could have had them killing Immortan Joe in the process of escaping
but thematically he needs to be killed in the process of returning

Liz:
Yes.
But not to destroy the patriarchy so much as to… overthrow the local expression of it, I think. There’s no suggestion that you can destroy the patriarchy
because I think the barren world represents the systems of oppression, at some level.
I realise this is a very arguable reading
but it is significant that WHO BROKE THE WORLD is a refrain.

Jenny:
oh no
I think you are right
yup
all three of those quotes
it’s not…
despite the detail, it’s not exactly a subtle movie?
like, he gives us the themes right there
and they all three work together

Liz:
So the idea of the green place – the whole nurturement of seeds, the fact that they go back to the site of enslavement – the green place of many mothers is the feminist revolution. In a sense?
But seeds need to be planted. Seeds need to be tended.
“The soil’s too sour,” the Seed Keeper says
when the Dag (I think) asks her if any of them have grown.

Jenny:
and WHO BROKE THE WORLD?
not just who started this all
but who is still breaking it, even now?

Liz:
Oh, it’s a very subtle movie.
But it achieves subtlety by hitting you over the head with its themes and then distracting you with explosions – the three thematic statements are shown, but briefly, and for all the attention Immortan Joe pays to them they may as well not be there.
And because the viewer is so used to parsing what’s on the screen through the gaze of a man, through the reactions of men, it half-tricks you into OVERLOOKING their importance
and because the frames, the set design, the costume design, the world design, they’re all filled up with detail…

Jenny:
yes
yes
it’s CLEVER is what it is
obvious and detailed and subtle and pared down all at the same time

Liz:
…it does mental judo.
It uses your expectations against you – not just narratively,
it uses how it expects you to pay attention and makes a statement of that.

Jenny:
it does a fantastic job of getting you to focus on what it wants you to focus on

Liz:
WE ARE NOT THINGS
WHO BROKE THE WORLD
OUR BABIES WILL NOT BE WARLORDS
If you overlook these things – because Immortan Joe does – if you dismiss them as unimportant, the film puts you effectively in Immortan Joe’s place.

Jenny:
YES
OH
OH
which means it does what Code Name Verity does
no wonder why I love it
ok so obviously people react to that book in different ways?
but I get the impression (based mostly on my uncle reading, which to be fair is not the largest sample size)
that part of how much of a twist the twist is, that how much you identify with Verity versus being judgy of her
is directly tied to one’s expectations about young women and what they are capable of
if you think they are capable of being Verity, as we know her to be at the ebd
end
you know her account is full of shit
if you don’t
well, then you read about her being a coward and traitor and take her word for it
because LIKE THE NAZIS that’s what you expect her to be
a silly girl in over her head who doesn’t know what she’s doing and ends up betraying everyone because of it

Liz:
…Fuck
that’s it
that’s – if you see the women primarily as sexual objects
you’re being IMMORTAN JOE.

Jenny:
that’s how you are going to see them
it’s a litmus test

Liz:
And when Max is staring at the women bathing
we’re set up to think it’s the WOMEN he’s staring at
but fuck me, he’s lusting after the water.

Jenny:
RIGHT
and to a certain extent the decadence of it all
SO MUCH WATER and people that look happy and healthy
but yeah
the dude was just covered BY A SANDSTORM THAT LOOKED TO BE MAYBE A MILE HIGH
dude is not thinking about sexy times.
I would also like to add, regarding the scene when Max wakes up and sees the wives
that what you hear, very loudly, is the sound of water hitting the ground
loud enough, and at the right frequency that this is clearly A LOT of water hitting the ground

Liz:
Right.
It’s all about water. And life – Fade was mentioning how the camera lingers not on breasts or buttocks but on Splendid Angharad’s pregnant belly.
This is a vision of life among death. Life out of death, out of the sandstorm, out of the dead lands.
It’s a profoundly life-affirming film, for a post-apocalyptic action movie.


Further reading:

Kameron Hurley, Wives, Warlords, and Refugees: the People Economy of MAD MAX

The Toast, Movie Yelling With Shrill And Mallory

Alix E. Harrow

NPR

Jenny.

Links du jour

From the Guardian: Murdered on the streets of Karachi: my friend who dared to believe in free speech.

From the Guardian, again: Cremated human bones in pot found in Crossrail dig. (I wouldn’t say “gruesome” ritual. Puzzling, maybe.)

From the Irish Times: It’s hard to accept yourself when your country doesn’t. (The one thing I like about the campaigning for this referendum is that it is making me feel as though Ireland is full of queer people, queer women, where before I didn’t… quite… believe that we were normal? – Yes, I’m getting used to using the word “we” when it comes to queer women. Took me a very long while to get comfortable with that.)

From the blog Per Lineam Valli (Along the Line of the Wall), a series all about Hadrian’s Wall. First post here.

Foz Meadows on how to learn to write about female desire. (This is an awesome post and I want to hug it. Because, desire itself aside, yeah, fanfiction? Once I started reading it? Actually gave me models for my own sexuality when I couldn’t really find many examples elsewhere.)

Strange Horizons roundtables “Representing Marginalised Voices in Historical Fiction and Fantasy,” with Joyce Chng, David Anthony Durham, and Kari Sperring, moderated by Vanessa Rose Phin.

Via Max Gladstone, “LIT MISERABLES, Or, Les Écrivains Misérables. Produced by Andrea Phillips, starring: Andrea Phillips [Ensemble], Max Gladstone [Javert, Marius], Fran Wilde [Gavroche], Sarah Pinsker [Eponine], Lynne Thomas [Fantine, Marius, Thenadiers, Eponine], James Sutter [Javert], Mishell Baker [Cosette], Martin Cahill.” This? This is awesome.

Truth. Reconciliation?

This isn’t about me. This isn’t about you.

And it is about me. And it is about you. And it is about all of us.


I’m one of the people who thought Requires Hate’s reviews sometimes had a point. Her rhetoric rode the barest edge of arguably acceptable, and crossed over that line as often as not, but anger is a powerful tool. And often, a useful force for change.

I didn’t know, then, the history of her trolling, or the extent of her abusive behaviour.

Anger is a tool, but it is also a trap.

Even advocacy in good faith cannot justify abusive behaviour.


It may surprise you, but I don’t want to believe the worst of anyone. Except, maybe, at this stage Benjanun Sriduangkaew (and perhaps Nick Mamatas). It is very tempting to believe the worst. It’s easy.

I distrust easy things. But what appears from the public evidence* is that the person presently published under the name of Benjanun Sriduangkaew has engaged in trolling, abusive, damaging behaviour online under a variety of handles for a long stretch of time, and has manipulated the narrative to deflect blame and avoid taking responsibility for doing much, if not all, of that harm.

Some of that harm was done in the guise of advocating for social justice.

*Informational note: Comments at link contain language ascribing RH’s behaviour to mental illness and occasional dehumanising language, which the moderators attempt to shut down.


In some ways, life was easier before I had friends.

I consider Alex Dally MacFarlane a friend.

She has hurt people whom I respect.

These statements exist together. Both are true. I cannot reconcile them.


It is our responsibility, as human beings, to act to minimise harm.

This is one reason why social justice advocacy is difficult, because harm happens across multiple axes and is often invisible to people who aren’t affected directly. (And often, addressing those harms causes perceived loss – of status, of benefits, of self-image – to people who benefit from the existence of said harms.)

Abusive behaviour is often invisible to people who aren’t its targets.

As human beings, we ought not let abusive behaviour go unmarked and unchecked.

As human beings, we ought not let ourselves become complacent in addressing systemic abuses.


The language of social justice advocacy has been used to harm and to manipulate.

It isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. In some form, in some measure, it happens every day. Whenever advocacy fails to acknowledge and address the intersectional nature of harm and prejudice, for example; or when someone uses past behaviour as a shield for present wrongs, or holds out present behaviour as a reason to forgive past sins.

Good acts and ill ones don’t cancel each other out. It’s not a matter of addition and subtraction. The scales don’t balance that way, if they balance at all. People can learn and people can change. People do good things and bad things. People are complicated.

This does not prevent us, as human beings, from carrying on in working for more justice. Building better and more welcoming communities. Deconstructing our assumptions. Acknowledging abuses wherever they happen. Looking beyond ourselves.

Trying to be kinder, better people.


I want to add my voice to Elizabeth Bear, when she says:

What I would like is for our community to take this opportunity for positive action. I believe that the people Bee/RH has harmed should be given as much support and aid in healing as practicable. I believe that potential future victims should be warned. I believe those who may feel trapped by her should be protected. I believe those whom she has abused should be helped to connect with one another as they desire.

I believe their voices should be listened to, if and when they choose to come forward. I believe that the people who have been silenced by this campaign of bullying should be given as much space to speak as they would like.

I believe that, on an ongoing basis and pursuant to our dawning understanding as a community of the need for harassment policies and a pro-active stance against bullying, we–the established members of the science fiction and fantasy community–need to make safe spaces where people who have been bullied and harassed can come forward and find strength and solace, as well as safety.

I believe we need to respond to this series of events in our community by making more space for marginalized voices, and promoting young writers, women writers, and writers of color.

… Moreover, we owe it to our emergent writers to create a space where bullies cannot silence them, police their writing and their identity, and make them feel unsafe. I’m not just talking about the RH/Bees of the world here, but the Jim Frenkels as well.

We need those safe spaces. And we need that space for marginalised voices. And we need to build communities that refuse to participate in systemic abuses, and that do not welcome people who engage in abusive behaviour.

That’s hard work.

But we need to do it.

Acknowledge the past. Live with the present. Work for the future.

Juliet McKenna on “Waterstones and Gender Equality: the good, the bad, and the business case for doing better.”

Juliet E. McKenna has a hell of point to make regarding the amount of business sense it makes for book retailers to increase the diversity of their promotion tables:

So setting aside issues of natural justice between the genders, the significant thing here from a business point of view is surely the disconnect between what people actually choose to read and what they’re being offered. So where is the possible downside in offering readers a more balanced choice – and with women writers being more visible at the top of these emails rather than being relegated to the bottom?

…Yes, gender equality is a feminist issue. When it comes to bookselling it is also a commercial issue. If Waterstones wants to offer customers the discoverability which they’re not going find elsewhere, surely extending the range and rotation of books promoted in their genre sections, by male and female authors alike, to equal the choices they already offer in general fiction, is simply good business?

It is well worth reading the whole thing.

Snark? Crank? Maybe just a few thoughts on a minor phenomenon

You folks all know I write Sleeps With Monsters over at Tor.com right now. I don’t spend a lot of time in the comments, mostly because my life lately is OH GOD SO MUCH WORK, and when I do, I try to to restrain the occasional urge to snark and crank.

With only moderate success, it must be noted.

Anyway, at the end of June I wrote a post rounding up books by women forthcoming in the second half of 2014. It’s not a comprehensive list, because there’s only one of me and there isn’t one central database for forthcoming information, but I did my best.

Now, maybe it’s not obvious that Sleeps With Monsters is a column dedicated to talking about books that aren’t by men. Maybe it’s not obvious at all. But, you know, it stirs all my snarky impulses when three out of the sixteen comments that followed the post? They want to talk about books by men. (Rothfuss, Weeks, Khanna, and Erikson.)

This happens regularly. On book recommendation posts and forthcoming book posts, often, someone just has to bring up some book by a bloke.

Books by men are reviewed and discussed disproportionately often, as Strange Horizons’ yearly ongoing SF Count demonstrates. And apparently it’s not possible to discuss books by women without someone bringing up “What about the men?”

Snark. Crank. *points to phenomenon*

There’s no fix for the reviews issue except trying to push back on discrimination and be inclusive with as much intersectionality as one can manage to be mindful of. (And to shut up and listen when other people who experience discrimination along other axes are talking.)

I have to say, though, the “What about the men?” phenomenon is a thing that irks.

Gender Parity and Things In Lists, Jan-June 2014

In response to Rocket Talk: Gender Parity in the SFF Community.

Reviews actually published so far this year:

Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey, The House of War and Witness, June 2014, Strange Horizons
Greg van Eekhout, California Bones, June 2014, Tor.com
Will McIntosh, Defenders, June 2014, Ideomancer
Stephanie Saulter, Binary, May 2014, Strange Horizons
Jaime Lee Moyer, Delia’s Shadow, May 2014, Tor.com
Karen Healey, While We Run, May 2014, Tor.com
Jane Lindskold, Artemis Awakening, May 2014, Tor.com
Douglas Hulick, Sworn in Steel, May 2014, Tor.com
Kelley Armstrong, Sea of Shadows, April 2014, Tor.com
Seanan McGuire, Sparrow Hill Road, April 2014, Tor.com
Patrick Weekes, Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, April 2014, Tor.com
Brian Staveley, The Emperor’s Blades, March 2014, Intellectus Speculativus
Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki, March 2014, Strange Horizons
Peter Higgins, Truth and Fear, March 2014, Ideomancer
Rjurik Davidson, Unwrapped Sky, February 2014, Tor.com
Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Curse, February 2014, with Stefan Raets, Tor.com
Mythic Delirium #30, February 2014, Strange Horizons
Anna Kashina, Blades of the Old Empire, February 2014, Tor.com
David Drake, The Sea Without A Shore, February 2014, Tor.com
Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor, February 2014, Tor.com
Eric Flint and David Weber, Cauldron of Ghosts, February 2014, Tor.com
Martha Wells, Emilie and the Sky World, February 2014, Tor.com
Patricia Briggs, Night Broken, January 2014, Tor.com
Marie Brennan, The Tropic of Serpents, January 2014, Tor.com
Michelle Sagara, Touch, January 2014, Tor.com
David Weber, Like A Mighty Army, January 2014, Tor.com
Amalie Howard, The Almost Girl, January 2014, Tor.com
Barbara Hambly, The Kindred of Darkness, January 2014, Tor.com
Sharon Lee, Carousel Sun, January 2014, Tor.com

Ratio authors F:M = 16.6666:11.3333, not counting the reviewed magazine.

I don’t receive copies of Vector, to which I have also submitted reviews, so I don’t know what has actually appeared this year or not.

Books discussed at length but not technically paid reviews:

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni, Tor.com
Malinda Lo, Adaptation and Inheritance, Tor.com
Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky, Tor.com

Ratio F:M = 3:1

Books discussed in brief:
Hodgell, Britain, Sebold, Larke, Garcia, Moon, Saulter
Okorafor, McDougall, Elliott, Huang
Bear, Ross, Wright, Wells
Addison, Coates, Vaughn, Jones, McGuire

Ratio F:M = 20:0 – which, since these were for Sleeps With Monsters, is Deeply Unsurprising.

Books read in 2014.

I’m not going back and counting individual instances for a ratio of F:M:Publicly Nonbinary, since this is to mainly satisfy my own curiosity.

Review copies received this year can be found by searching the pictures tag here. Again, not counting.

I fairly suck at reading works in translation, or by authors from outside US/CAN/UK/IRE/AUS/NZ backgrounds. Also suck at reading works by people of colour, although I think I’m doing a little better on that count this year than last. Something to keep track of.

Exhume the #Tuam bodies…

…interview the surviving nuns and inmates of the Tuam “Mother and Baby Home,” and let’s have the truth of where the dead children are buried – and why they were denied the dignity of proper remembrance.

Catherine Corless uncovered the fact that 796 children died over a period of 30 years while their care was the responsibility of the Tuam “Mother and Baby Home” run by the Bons Secours order of nursing nuns. There are no burial records for any of these children, nor did Corless find any indication that they’d been interred in local cemeteries.

That their bodies were interred in a septic tank is speculation.

This takes nothing away from the horror of the mortality statistics and the picture they paint of the neglect and indeed the evil committed by the Catholic Church while it masqueraded in the guise of moral righteousness. The Tuam “Mother and Baby Home” is only one of dozens, if not hundreds, that operated in Ireland during the 20th century. Corless’ research is a drop in the bucket.

An immense bucket, filled the the bodies of the dead.






Further reading:

Tuam: What Lies Beneath
No country for young women: honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland
Midwife’s memoir reveals the horror of Mother and Baby Home in Bessborough, Cork
Amnesty International calls for urgent investigation

ETA: Many of these links via @nwbrux

So, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST?

So, X-Men: Days of Future Past?

It’s sexist crap. I mean, sexist even by your ordinary Hollywood blockbuster standard, which is pretty sexist already. There are some female characters in the brave band of heroes at the end of the world (and why couldn’t we have the film about the band of heroes at the end of the world?)…

…and then there’s Mystique. Who is a fucking awesome, active, badass character –

– that the film treats as a combination of Macguffin/prize for the boys with their sad manpain.

C.C. Finlay says it best:

So the world is a better place because Mystique grows and changes as a person. And when we snap back to the future, we’ll get to see a glimpse of her and how she’s changed.

Hahaha! Sorry.

Just like Mystique only functions earlier in the story as a foil for Charles’ man-pain vs. Magneto’s man-pain, she’s completely absent from the denouement. Because her growth as a character is irrelevant to the rewards that the men-folks get for a job well done.


To make up for that, here’s Trudi Canavan talking about women and epic fantasy in Australia and New Zealand.

Kameron Hurley on context and pin-up calendars

Kameron Hurley, “Die Hard, Hetaera, and Problematic Pin-Ups: A Rant:”

Context is important when we choose to make a piece of art. Knowing and understanding how our piece of art will be read or viewed within the historical context of other pieces of art is vital to both understanding how others will read it and formulating the defense of our choice despite that context. As someone who wrote a very violent series of novels featuring a cast of characters who use Arabic words on occasion, I’m pretty familiar with the importance of this process.

Context, or lack, thereof, was one of the reasons I found the notion of the literary pin-up calendars the last few years really noxious and depressing. Because despite the many posts I would see from folks defending them (folks hopping in and feeling there was a need to defend them, before they’d even been made, spoke volumes right off the bat), and the fact that the latest one was, in fact, in support of Clarion, the project wasn’t going to escape being seen within the history of the pin-up. No matter how much everyone wished it.

And that’s what I saw. How those images have been used, by whom, and for what purpose.