A new column over at Tor.com:
Elizabeth Bear’s “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” is another truly excellent story, originally published in the anthology Old Venus, and now available online at Lightspeed.
Reviewed over at Tor.com. I loved this book.
The gist of an old joke—it has a dozen local iterations—is that the Loeb Classical Library translations are so baffling that you have to consult the original Greek or Latin on the left-hand page to decipher the English translation on the right.
Now you can see the madness for yourself with the first official trailer. Directed by Park Chan-Wook, the film centers around two women in the 1930s — a secluded and wealthy Japanese heiress, and her newly hired, young Korean handmaiden — as the latter attempts to defraud the former out of her large inheritance with the help of a con man. However, things take an unexpected and sinister turn when the two ladies begin to fall in love.
One of the more common arguments raised by anti-diversity advocates is the futility of tokenism – the idea that giving a single show a black female lead for the sake of filling a quota is both insulting and unnecessary. And I quite agree: tokenism isn’t the answer. What we want is to reach a point where there are so many black female protagonists – and queer protagonists, and protagonists of every other type and variation listed above and a great many more besides, in every permutation – that none of them could ever again be reasonably viewed as a token anything. Because, in this scenario, when writers are considering who could be the protagonist, they’re giving equal consideration to every type of person, and not just forcing themselves to look, however briefly, beyond the narrow, familiar confines of an historical default.
Arguing that a story isn’t “feminine enough” to warrant a female protagonist when you’re simultaneously concerned that women makes stories unnecessarily gendered is… kind of breathtakingly hypocritical, really.
A new post over at Tor.com.
Reviewed over at Tor.com. Spoiler: I loved the fuck out of it.
From “The Journal”: “Britain to return 1916 banner seized as war trophy.”
[T]he Na Fianna Eireann banner which was seized from Countess Markievicz’s home by the British army as a war trophy will be returned to the Irish State for the 1916 centenary.
After sending out 1,600 resumes to apply for more than 800 jobs, the study found that women with an “LGBT indicator” on their resume (represented in the study as work experience at an LGBT advocacy group) were about 30% less likely to receive a call-back than women who didn’t have those indicators.
From Al Jazeera English: “Hip Hop Hijabis.”
By inhabiting the intersection between cultures whose values on the surface seem so conflicting, Poetic Pilgrimage challenge a plethora of dearly held convictions from all sides of the cultural spectrum. Many Western feminists believe that promoting women’s rights from within an Islamic framework is a futile exercise, while in the eyes of some Muslims, female musicians are hell-bound.
From Foz Meadows: “PSA to people who menstruate.”
If anyone tries to make a dumbass sexist joke about your being more [insert stereotypically negative feminine quality here] while on your period, you can tell them that actually, menstruation raises testosterone levels, not oestrogen. (Telling them to go fuck themselves with an angry cactus can also be therapeutic.)
From Max Gladstone at Tor.com: “On Alan Rickman, Loss, and Mourning Our Heroes.”
No one among us exists as a thing in herself, alone and complete as she appears from the outside. We’re all collages of art and memory and friendship and family, struggling and striving together. Places and people we’ve encountered endure within us. And when those places or people pass away in the outside world, within us something changes too. When we mourn, we trace the shape and magnitude of that change. We find, sometimes—often—to our surprise, the depths at which we were formed by others. There’s little logic to the architecture of our souls; we like to think blood matters, and time, but sometimes a glance or a touch, a half smile on a movie screen, a cover song, a piece of lightning bolt makeup, a Christmas card, an afternoon’s conversation, a book read once in childhood, can be a pillar on which the roof of us depends.
This article at Buzzfeed will make PERFECT sense to a lot of people I know:
From the Economist: “Referendum madness.”
ONE dodgy referendum lost Ukraine Crimea. Another threatens to lose it the European Union. On April 6th the Dutch public will vote on the “association agreement” the EU signed with Ukraine in 2014. The deal cements trade and political links with one of the EU’s most important neighbours; the prospect of losing it under Russian pressure triggered Ukraine’s Maidan revolution. But last summer a group of Dutch mischief-makers, hunting for a Eurosceptic cause they could place on the ballot under a new “citizens’ initiative” law, noticed that parliament had just approved the deal. Worse luck for the Ukrainians.
And finally, Foz Meadows again, this time on: “UPROOTED: Abuse & Ragequitting.”
Tonight, I started reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It was a novel about which I’d heard only good things from people I trust; a novel I was hoping would break me out of my current reading slump, wherein I’ve started a great many books, but am struggling to finish any of them. To borrow the parlance of memes, cannot tell if too depressed to read or just fed up with exclusionary, derivative bullshit – or, alternatively, if reading so much fanfiction has utterly wrecked my internal yardstick for length, structure and content.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print…
Well, no, it isn’t, but I have to keep some links for next week. *g*
Some local commentary on Ireland’s problem with Rape and the Criminal Justice System.
The Wetsuitman. Immigration policy is killing people. Although I have to say, mad props to the Norwegian journalists who did the legwork on this to identify one of the dead people.
Foz Meadows has some preliminary thoughts on Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant.
Max Gladstone talks about Bees and Diversity.
Kickstarter: Things-Could-Be-Worse Mugs. How much do I want these? Very much.
Because I can, and because I care:
Foz Meadows, On Sex In Sense8:
…it’s not just the unprecedented primacy this show affords to queer sexuality, sensuality, love and romance as a narrative prerogative: it’s the fact that, instead of making that scene an excuse to have Sun and Riley and Kala join in, which is something we’ve seen a billionty times before in narrative – that is, (ostensibly) straight women being sexualised, whether in queer contexts or not, for the pleasure of a (presumably) straight male audience – we had a scenario where the (ostensibly) straight guys were all either experiencing (Capheus) or participating in (Will and Wolfgang) queer desire, in such a way as to make straight desire the subtext of a dominant queer sexuality in a way that I’ve literally never seen done before
Fade Manley, Things I Like: Sense8:
The trick is that this is a television series paced like a book. One of those brick fantasy novels with a cast of thousands, where it’s going to take half of the first book just to get people talking to each other. This doesn’t mean it’s slow! But it means you need to set your expectations differently. The episodes have some emotional arc, and often a big scene near the end, but they don’t have a big central plot per episode. The focus shifts as all these people deal with their individual problems and lives… and eventually, with each other’s problems and lives.
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.
Sonya Taaffe has a brilliant story in the most recent installment of Ideomancer, “ζῆ καὶ βασιλεύει.” Absolutely magnificent.
Arkady Martine has an excellent story in Strange Horizons, “City of Salt.”
Beth Bernobich is Kickstarting a novelette, Nocturnall.
Foz Meadows has an amazing essay on GIFsets and the changing face of criticism.
Speaking of Foz, she encouraged me into watching the first season of The 100, out of which – among other things – came this exchange. Which amused me.
The Washington Post has an article on an early medieval Viking female burial that included a ring with “For Allah” inscribed on it in Kufic script.
I binge-watched all four seasons of Legend of Korra and should probably stop looking at art of Korra and/or Asami like these prints at some point. (But not yet.)
I want to go to this production of the Bakkhai. It is unlikely I will be able to afford it, especially since it is in London. But NEW ANNE CARSON TRANSLATION.
My brain is slowly growing back into something akin to the ability to focus. I can read books this week. It is a welcome development.
…is now the official name for people yelling about progress and censorship dammit.
I’m not weighing in on the SFWA kerfuffle: I’m not an author, I’m not an American, it’s none of my beeswax when the SFWA Bulletin hosts a pack of asshats whose outdated chauvinism is no longer in the least amusing. Foz Meadows, however, has a lovely takedown of the ridiculous stuff.
(Some evil person linked me to Sarah Hoyt’s take on the mess. Nasty gender essentialism and wrongheadedness there.)
Meanwhile, Tansy Rayner Roberts has interesting things to say about gender in A Song of Ice and Fire:
What intrigued me most, to tell you the truth, is that whenever the big discussion about female characters in epic fantasy fiction starts up again, ASOIAF (Game of Thrones is SUCH a better series title, just saying) is frequently cited on both sides of the argument – that is, as an example of a male writer writing a variety of female characters in a rich, nuanced and substantial way, AND a male author writing female characters in an extremely problematic way.
Looking at the books from the other side, I have to say – well, yep. Both those things are true.
At A Dribble of Ink, Kate Elliott and Aidan Moher are Reading Katherine Kerr. Go! Look!
And in more Game of Thrones news: It’s a nice day for THE RED WEDDING. Billy Idol, meet the King in the North. LITTLE SISTER CROSSBOW. It’s a nice day GET REVENGE.
I promise, I’ll try to be original again soon.
Malinda Lo, On Space Opera: Why so many brothels in space?
So what’s with all the brothels? Because whenever I think of brothels, I think of one question: Who are the women working there? There was no indication in Leviathan Wakes that there were male prostitutes, even though one of the (male) main characters worked as a cop and seemed to have a lot (a lot!) of contact on the job with prostitutes. I’m gonna guess that sure, there might be male prostitutes, but the majority are probably female.
So who are these prostitutes? What kind of a future world is it that permits so much prostitution? Are the prostitutes regulated? Do they have health insurance? Are they part of worker-owned collectives so they don’t have to deal with pimps?
Foz Meadows, A Rule of Thumb for Escapism:
All of which is a way of saying that the big schism in SFF no more between leftwingers and rightwingers than it is between realists and escapists: rather, it’s between those for whom escapism is an extension of privilege, and those for whom escapism is a means of furthering representation. But even then, that’s far from being a binary position: there are many different kinds of privilege, after all, and in accordance with the principles of intersectionality, possessing one type of privilege doesn’t prevent one from lacking another. It’s simply a question of escapism: from what, into what, and above all, why.
Foz Meadows (is on fire lately), Sexism At Fantasy Book Café:
Let me get this straight: the way to get rid of sexism is to stop talking about gender? That’s like saying that the way to prevent STDs is to stop talking about sex: in both instances, the latter concept is integral to any meaningful discussion of the former problem, such that omitting it would render the entire exercise moot. And don’t even get me started on the pervasive cissexism of constantly defining gender in terms of plumbing and underwear: the issue at hand is concerns brains, not bodies, and trying to boil it all down to descriptions of bits is both childish and incredibly problematic.
Natalie at Radish Reviews, Over the Borderline: More on Genre, Gender, and Reviews:
This conversation about review coverage and gender parity isn’t about discrimination against specific authors–it’s about systemic discrimination. In short: the game is rigged and it needs to be un-rigged.
Foz Meadows has a very interesting post, On Grittiness and Grimdark:
[E]liding the genre’s political dimensions is especially problematic: grittiness is only a selective view of reality, not the whole picture. Yes, there’s pain and despair and suffering, but not exclusively, and when you make grit a synonym for realism – when you make an active, narrative decision to privilege specific, familiar types of grimness as universals – then you’re not just denying the fullness of reality; you’re promoting a version of it that’s inherently hostile to the personhood and interests of the majority of people on the planet. (And in that sense, it doesn’t seem irrelevant that the bulk of gritty, grimdark writers, especially those who self-identify as such, are straight, white men.)
If your idea of ‘grittiness’ includes misogyny (for instance), it’s more or less inevitable that your female characters will not only encounter systematic sexism, but necessarily be scarred by it, because if it were possible for them to remain unscathed by such an integral aspect of your preordained notion of grittiness, then by the rubric of gritty = honest, they would be unrealistic characters. Which means that, with the best will in the world, you’ve committed from the outset to writing women whose lives and selves are damaged by men – and while, as a female reader, I don’t object to encountering such characters, I do object to the assumption that these are the only female characters you can realistically write.
Grittiness has its place in fiction; as do representations of existing inequalities. But when we forget to examine why we think certain abuses are inevitable, or assume their universality – when we write about a particular prejudice, not to question, subvert or redefine it, but to confirm it as an inevitable, even integral aspect of human nature – then we’re not being realistic, but selective in our portrayal and understanding of reality.
Read it all. Read the comments. Then go read Kate Elliott on What Is Your Consensual Sex and Love Doing In My Epic Fantasy? (Livejournal.)
To my mind, we lessen the story we are telling about human experience if we do not include and see as worthy all of human experience, especially including positive depictions of sex and love. What kind of world do we vision if we only tell the ugly stories about such intimate matters?
(I believe it’s laziness and a puritan cultural streak that sees – consciously or subconsciously – sexual intimacy as something punishable that drives the ubiquity of the portrayal of sexual violence in fiction. But I’m a rabid man-hating hairy-legged feminist, so what do I know, y’know?)
A couple of other links:
Maureen Kincaid Speller takes Ghost Planet – of which I couldn’t get past the first page – apart:
Ghost Planet is novel as frightfully efficient storytelling machine, with all its plot points lined up neatly, its characters popped out of their moulds and trimmed, its language oiled and functional, the whole thing so overworked as to be stripped totally of absolutely anything that might make it interesting. It’s not terribly good science fiction, and it’s definitely a dull and predictable romance.
Meanwhile, the latest Shadow Unit is excellent. With poisonous spiders. Maybe I’ll get paid soon (*eyes Strange Horizons*) and have enough to donate.