dolorosa_12: (matilda)
Not much to report this week, just two novels read - Runemarks and Runelight by Joanne Harris. These were solidly written, with nothing obviously wrong with them, and yet both failed to grab me, and I read the second more out of a sense of duty than interest.

I think I'm going to have to say that Harris' interpretations of Norse myth simply don't work for me. I read her Gospel of Loki last year, and it, like these two books (which imagine a Europe shaped primarily by Norse, not Roman influence, in which Ragnarök has already happened), failed to resonate. I think part of the problem is that in books about gods (whatever the mythology), I'm wanting something very specific which most authors either fail to deliver, or aren't interested in writing. I touch on it in this review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which does what I want in terms of supernatural-human interactions. Basically, what I want is a reflection on humanity, intense, complicated relationships between humans and deities, and, if possible, some kind of tense readjustment of human characters' moral landscapes once the beings they worship as fairly distant, abstract ideas become part of their world as physical realities. (If this happens in reverse - if gods and supernatural beings are forced to adjust their understanding of human beings once they spend time in close proximity to humans - then so much the better.)

I realise this a very specific requirement, and that I'm basically taking Harris to task for failing write the story I wanted to read, so if post-apocalyptic retellings of Norse myth are your thing, I advise you to read other reviews rather than taking my word as an accurate evaluation of the qualities of these books. For me personally, however, they were a disappointment.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I read a lot of fabulous books this (northern) summer, and I've written reviews of three, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.

You can read them over at Wordpress.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Ambelin Kwaymullina talks about diversity in Australian YA literature.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 'Fear of causing offense becomes a fetish'.

Here's Daniel José Older on diversity, power and publishing.

Laura Mixon talks about building bridges and healing divisions.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz talks about self-care and 'staying in touch with the child-self'.

Aidan Moher discusses writing military SF without combat.

Astrid Lindgren's Second World War diaries have been published in Sweden.

Ana of Things Mean A Lot reviews Pride in the light of the recent UK elections.

I love this review by Electra Pritchett of Stranger and Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith:

If I had to pick a post-apocalyptic YA society in which to live, I'd pick the community of Las Anclas hands down, warts and all: rather than a hierarchical dystopian society where something random is outlawed and the government controls something else crucial to society, Las Anclas represents a kinder, gentler post-apocalypse. It's not quite a utopia, except in the sense that everywhere in fiction is, but that's precisely what makes it a believable and desirable place to live: its busybodies and jerks are notable because they're not the only kind of people in the town, and dealing with them would be a small price to pay in order to live in such a supportive and inclusive place.

The upcoming publishing schedule at The Book Smugglers makes me so happy.

I am really looking forward to the publication of Tell The Wind And Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan's latest book.

Via Sherwood Smith, listen to the oldest (recorded) song in the world.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Welcome to what I hope will become a regular feature here: weekly posts of links to wonderful things. There are no criteria for inclusion: the links will just be things that have caught my eye in any given week, but I'm trying to focus on positive and/or thought-provoking material from a diverse range of perspectives. This is all part of my goal of collaborative and community-building writing for this year.

It was a great week for SFF podcasts. I particularly enjoyed Amal El-Mohtar and Natalie Luhrs on Rocket Talk with Justin Landon, talking about all things blogging and reviewing.

Fangirl Happy Hour is a new project by Ana of The Book Smugglers and Renay of Ladybusiness. Their second podcast is on sex and romance in science fiction, nominations for the Hugo Awards and The Very Best of Kate Elliott (which has rocketed to the top of my wishlist).

Renay also wrote a fabulous, heartfelt post about being betrayed by stories that the rest of your community has universally praised. Read the comments too.

A. Merc Rustad's short story 'How To Become A Robot In 12 Easy Steps' is something I didn't realise I'd been wanting until now. Almost anything I could say here will be a spoiler, but I feel I should provide a content warning for depictions of depression.

Amal El-Mohtar's short story 'The Truth About Owls' hurt my heart in the best possible way.

No Award is not a new blog, but it is new to me, and is a breath of fresh air. I'm often frustrated by the US-centrism of the online conversation on media and social justice, so I'm thrilled to find a blog by a pair of Australians tackling these issues from an Australian perspective.

Finally, I really appreciated Foz Meadows' epic blog post on Teen Wolf. I don't agree with all her conclusions, but I am particularly happy about her comments on Scott McCall, whose gentleness, kindness and adoration of powerful women goes against all the usual stereotypes about boys raised by single mothers.

I hope you all have fabulous weekends. Since Eurovision is officially upon us, why not generate your own Eurovision song title?

This is a mirror of a post on my Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.
dolorosa_12: (ship)
Day Twenty-Nine: A female-centric fic rec

Most of the fic I like is female-centric (the same goes for original fiction), so it was quite hard to make a choice here. I've narrowed it down to three fics.

The first is 'Rabbit' by [ profile] sanguinity. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, with a focus on Jesse Flores. It's such a melancholy, emotional piece of writing, and captures a lot of the tone of the show itself, with its focus on destiny, free will, and the unbearable weight of history and time-travel.

'Mother Tongue' by [ profile] elle_dritch is Earthsea fic focusing on the different women of the series, and on the notion of quiet, unnoticed 'women's work' that Ursula Le Guin explores in the Earthsea books.

Finally, have my favourite piece of fic ever: 'Words In The Margins' by [ profile] Jenwryn. It's a character study of Orihime from Bleach (and I think is fairly canon-divergent), and it's hard for me to explain exactly why it appeals so much. I never watched or read Bleach, but I went through a phase of reading a lot of fic for it about five years ago, and something about this fic really caught my attention. I love that Orihime doesn't apologise for her choices, that she admits privately that she can't explain them even to herself, and that that's okay. I love that it's about monsters and humans, about monsters falling in love with humanity, and humans made monstrous. It's wonderful.

The final day )
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
Day Twenty-Two: Favourite female character you love but everyone else hates

Katrina Crane (Sleepy Hollow)

I've been waiting for this day to come around almost since I started this meme. I have so many feelings about Katrina, and have always been utterly infuriated at how she is received by Sleepy Hollow fandom.

It's sort of understandable, since she's very inconsistently written, and in the first season in particular she wasn't given all that much to do, but the amount of vitriol leveled at her is still, to my mind, disproportionate and unjustified. Unfortunately, I fear poor Katrina has found herself on the wrong corner of a fandom love triangle. In other words, she's the victim of shipping preferences.

One of the elements of fannish culture that I find most frustrating is the way it always seems to sell female characters short. If they're not being ignored altogether, there seems to be an oddly Highlander-esque attitude to female characters. In other words, there can be only one. Only one 'well-written, strong female character', only one object of the male lead's affections and so on. This is both inconsistent and extremely transparent. Female characters who aren't interested in the male leads or likely to be shipped with them (siblings, lesbians, older women) never come in for this treatment.

Katrina has the misfortune to be married to the male lead of Sleepy Hollow, but the majority of the fandom would prefer to see him with Abbie Mills, the brilliant young policewoman who is, like him, a Witness to the end times. As a result, fandom's hatred of her is intense. If they're not complaining about her uselessness they're loudly wishing for her to turn evil. (The transparent motives for fandom's hatred are immediately obvious given that Abbie's sister Jenny, who has no interest in Ichabod, is never discussed in such terms.)

I resent this fannish tendency to make everything a zero sum game. I resent the implication that if one woman is strong and beautiful and clever all others must by extension be weak, useless and ugly. I want no part of a feminism that needs to tear one woman down in order to build another up. There is room enough in Sleepy Hollow, in all fandoms, in life itself, for more than one woman to be amazing. There is love enough for Abbie Mills and for Katrina Crane.

ETA: It has been pointed out to me (with a great deal of aggression, and somewhat proving my point) that I spend this whole post whining about the fandom and don't really talk about why I like Katrina. I will concede that I probably should have done that.

So. I like Katrina because she's an example of a particular character and plot trope that I really enjoy. Namely, a woman working on the side of good, undercover in the bad guys' camp, feeding information back to the good guys. But it goes further than that. What I like in particular is how this kind of female character plays on the arrogance and delusions of the bad guys and highlights the depths of their self-deception. If they stopped to think for a single second they would realise that these women have no possible reason to love or respect them, and are disgusted and appalled at having to hang around with them. But they're so deluded and overwhelmed by their own power that they can't see this. (Other characters of this type: Marion in the BBC Robin Hood series, Noriko and Marala in Romanitas, Sansa Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire/A Game of Thrones, Nina in The Americans. Sally Lockhart has a moment like this at the end of The Shadow in the North. I'm hoping Kore in Spartacus is this type of character, but I suspect not. As you can see, they don't always a have particularly happy time of it.)

Often these types of characters — Katrina included — have very little choice about the situations in which they find themselves. I really enjoy watching the way she finds little pieces of power, small spaces that she can carve out and exist in, in defiance of the forces arrayed against her. Sometimes indirectness, circumlocution and a kind of slantwise assertion of control can be a powerful complement to direct confrontation, and I like that Sleepy Hollow has characters who embody both types of defiance.

But I must admit that the real draw of characters like Katrina is the moment in which they throw off the mask, choose their battle and declare themselves to the villains. 'How could you possibly think I could love you?'/'For what other reason do you think I was hanging around?'/'I have always been working against you!' and so on. It's a moment of cathartic justice, although unfortunately in most stories it never ends well for the woman revealing her loyalties.

Katrina is a particularly unsubtle example of this character type — after all, Sleepy Hollow is not exactly subtle itself — and her ruse is so clumsy that her captors look particularly stupid. I do think the writers made an error when they had Katrina escape and join Abbie and Ichabod — why spend an entire episode grappling with how the three of them work out how to work as a team, only to send Katrina away again once they'd solved this problem? — and the less said of the mystical pregnancy trope the better. Ultimately I think Sleepy Hollow would work better as an ensemble show with Abbie and Ichabod as clear leads and Jenny, Irving and Katrina as their sidekicks (i.e. more along the lines of Buffy than The X Files). But if we can't have that, I would like Katrina to continue to run rings around her captors (well, at least around Headless; Henry seems to know her game), and to save up her wrath for that one moment when direct confrontation becomes unavoidable.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
Day Twenty-One: Favourite female character screwed over by canon

Kendra (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

The thing that frustrates me most about Kendra is that of all the show's wonderful recurring tertiary characters, she's the only one who feels as if she was just written to give Buffy character development and feelings. Buffy is generally excellent in terms of recurring characters - even if they only appear in three or four episodes, they feel fully human, with understandable motives, fears and developed personalities.

But Kendra is something of a blank slate. She has only two obvious personality traits: her fondness for the rules, and her lack of social ties. In other words, she is only remarkable in the ways in which she differs from rule-bending, social butterfly Buffy, and she serves to illustrate that Buffy is right in her choices. Kendra's rule-following makes Buffy look intelligently flexible and adaptable, while Kendra's apparent disconnection from other human beings makes Buffy look warm and protected by the support of her friends and boyfriend.

Now, Buffy is the protagonist, so other characters are always going to be used to move her plot forward and help her develop as a character, but Kendra is the only character who gives the impression that that's her sole purpose. And there's no reason why she had to be written in this way. Faith, the slayer who follows Kendra, is also written as a foil to Buffy, but the show also manages to show us why she is the way she is, and why she makes the choices she does.

As it is, Kendra shows up for a couple of episodes, makes Buffy feel inadequate before reinforcing the rightness of Buffy's choices, and then dies in order to illustrate the seriousness of what Buffy faces in the season finale. It's a profoundly unsatisfactory character arc - if arc is even the right word - and I can't help but feel that the character was a wasted opportunity.

The other days )

Also, I have been thoroughly enjoying the late autumn weather here in Cambridge, so have a few photos of yesterday's frost.

Photos behind the cut )
dolorosa_12: (buffy)
Day Ten: Favorite female character in a scifi/supernatural show

Tara Maclay (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

I know, I know, another Buffy answer. I have tried to write about a broad range of shows, but it's hard to avoid doubling up for some of these. It took me a long time to warm to Tara, and I think the first time I watched Buffy I didn't think much about her one way or the other, but over the years (and after many rewatches) she became my favourite. In a show where most of the other female characters are loud, dynamic and assertive, it takes a while to notice Tara's quiet strength, but in many ways she's the strongest and most stable character in the whole show.

Three Tara moments really stand out to me. The first is when she confronts her abusive family, who have shown up in Sunnydale to try and take her away, claiming she's going to turn into a demon and needs to be in their care for her own protection. Surrounded by her friends, secure in the knowledge they will protect her, Tara finds the courage to turn her back on her family. The second is in Season 6, which took many narrative missteps, but which came through in this particular instance. Tara has drawn certain lines in the sand with regard to her relationship with Willow, and once Willow crosses one such line, Tara emphatically walks away. I've always loved that her central moments of strength involve asserting herself towards loved ones, rather than enemies, as I think this requires a very specific type of courage.

The final thing that really solidified Tara as my favourite was that Buffy — who is not particularly close to Tara at all — comes to her to open up about her depression, her relationship with Spike, and her self-destructive feelings. Buffy is a character who always thinks her emotions are a burden to other people and finds it increasingly difficult as the series progresses to share her fears with others, so it's always spoken very highly of Tara to me that Tara is the one Buffy trusts to share this information. And Tara's response is full of understanding and compassion, giving Buffy what she so desperately needs at that moment: a non-judgemental listener.

I'll be forever bitter about how Tara's story ultimately went down. I sometimes feel like the writers never really had a complete handle on her, and always thought of her as Willow's girlfriend alone, rather than a character in her own right (as opposed to Anya, who never seemed defined solely through her relationship with Xander), and so only sought to use her story as a tool to make Willow feel various emotions. The three moments I've outlined above offer frustratingly brief flashes of the hidden depths of Tara's character that could have been explored further.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
Day Three: A female character you hated but grew to love

I thought about my answer to this question for ages and ages, and in some ways, it's the most difficult for me of all the questions in the meme. I tend to either love female characters instantly, or feel indifferent or neutral towards them, and my opinion very rarely changes. But then I remembered the circumstances under which I watched Buffy, and my answer became clear.

Back when I was in high school, all the girls in my friendship group watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it aired. I was late to jump on this particular bandwagon, and only started watching around Season 3, catching up by binge-watching VCR recordings of the previous two seasons at my then best friend's house over one weekend. So when I first encountered Buffy, Faith was just being introduced as a character, and I couldn't stand her. She just seemed so ungrateful. She'd rolled into Sunnydale and instantly become part of an amazing group of friends, and unlike every other Slayer before her, was able to share the load. Buffy's mother adored her, Buffy relished patrolling and fighting the forces of evil as part of a Slayer duo, and everyone seemed to welcome Faith into the Scooby Gang fold. And she repayed them by murdering a human, resenting Buffy for just about everything, trying to steal her boyfriend, and joining that season's Big Bad as he attempted to bring on yet another apocalypse in Sunnydale. I couldn't understand why Faith had made the choices she had, and the fact that Buffy and the Scoobies seemed so admirable to me simply underscored Faith's betrayal even further. My opinion of Faith remained low as I watched the rest of Buffy and then Angel as they aired.

And then, about four years later, I impulse bought the Buffy and Angel boxed sets, and I suddenly had an entirely new perspective on Faith. The thing that did it for me was the body-switching double episode in Season 4. Buffy had put Faith in a coma at the end of Season 3, and she had subsequently woken up and returned to wreak havoc. The body-switching allowed her to torment and traumatise Buffy, and she did some truly horrendous things to her, but what really opened my eyes was the final fight scene. The two are still in each others' bodies, and Faith, in the guise of Buffy, is absolutely pummelling Buffy, screaming abuse at her — but of course what she is actually doing is beating her own body and face to a bloody pulp. It was like a lightbulb going on in my brain: Faith's actions are all motivated by a kind of self-hatred. Suddenly she became a lot more sympathetic, and her 'ungrateful' behaviour in Season 3 made sense: here she was, a beautiful, strong, demon-slaying teenage heroine, and all people did was tell her to be more like Buffy and try to mould her into a more accommodating, less abrasive, and frankly, more middle-class version of herself. But why should she have to be like Buffy? Why should she have to be second choice, and second best?

Her subsequent redemption arc on Angel and Season 7 of Buffy is brilliantly done, but the most credit should go to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku for absolutely killing it in the body-swap episodes. They made transformed Faith for me from a character I considered unsympathetic, ungrateful and unlikeable into one of my favourite characters on the show, and someone whose poignant story was tragic, believable and worth telling.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
The 'Aims Project' is a multifandom vid album, in which each participant has made a fanvid using the music of one song from Vienna Teng's Aims album. Each vid is astoundingly lovely.

I was recently alerted to the existence of 'We Are Sansa Stark', an old essay on Pornokitsch. I don't agree with every one of its conclusions - particularly that Sansa is definitely going to end up a major political player in the series - nor do I think it's helpful to criticise fandom for pitting Sansa and Arya against each other and the same. But I love Sansa and characters like her, and sometimes it's just nice to see them get a bit of love.

This post by [ profile] anneursu takes all the sneering critics of YA literature to task, and does so excellently. Read the whole thing.

'When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami' is a short story by Kendare Blake published on It's set in the world of her Goddess Wars series (which I hadn't heard of but then promptly reserved at the library), and is set in a mid-'90s Miami crawling with gods and goddesses, and Lost Boys-inspired vampire wannabes.

I'm a massive fan of this animated credits to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Stephen Byrne.

While we wait impatiently for Ancillary Sword, Orbit has put an excerpt from the first chapter up on its website.

This Massive Attack retrospective sums up all my overwhelming feelings of love for this band:

British trip hop pioneers Massive Attack are one of the most celebrated acts in the history of electronic music. Their atmospheric take on hip hop and R&B, with elements of soul, funk, jazz and electronica, was an exciting new sound in the late ’80s and early ’90s. They pioneered the genre now known as trip hop and quickly became hugely influential all around the world. Few electronic acts are held in such high regard as the Bristol-bred outfit. If they had never released their five studio albums, some of today’s great artists may never have gone down the musical paths they chose. Massive Attack are more than a band, they made us rethink how music can be created, and redefined what a band could be.

I still haven't got my copy of Unmade by [ profile] sarahtales (Sarah Rees Brennan) and thus can't participate in all the revelry, but she has some great fanart up on her blog, as well as the schedule for her blog tour. I'll be checking out all those posts once I've got around to reading the book.

'I Don't Know How But I Know I Will' is an 8tracks mix by angrygirlsquad 'for those days where you see no way through. you haven’t failed. you are alive. everything else is bonus'.

I hope you are all feeling loved by the people you love, flist.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Recs behind the cut )

For the history lovers out there, I've also got a couple of fascinating videos. The first is archival footage of my Cambridge college (and the wider university) during the 1940s.

The second is something I encountered just today, and is truly amazing. It's a virtual map that traces the growth of London from Roman times to today, and is the best thing I've seen on the internet for a long time. I'm getting a very Troy Game vibe from it!

Finally, I've noticed some people have been complaining about the latest changes to Livejournal. As far as I can tell, I've managed to avoid them because I never chose to have the 'new' friends page (if I wanted have to endure endless scrolling, I'll go to Tumblr), and I'm only seeing differences on the login page, and if I comment on other people's posts. However, I think there's a possible way to avoid them if you go to Display section of the Settings page, and select 'View all journals and communities in my own style' and 'View comment pages from my Friends page in my own style'. That may make things slightly better. The only other thing I can advise is to keep your friends page in the 'old style' as long as possible. I'm not going to change until it's forced on me.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

Anyway, after they left, Matthias went to Aberystwyth for four days. He's just started doing an MA in library and information studies there (via distance learning), and you need to attend a week-long course there every year. The rest of the coursework is done by distance. I really, really dislike being home alone. I find it almost impossible to sleep and generally feel unsafe at night. I can cope with it when I live in an apartment building, or at least on the upper floor of a house, but our house is single-storey, which is just about the worst for me. But Matthias had a good time on his course, and met all the other people in his cohort, who all seem a very interesting bunch. They're mostly in their 20s or 30s, and tend to have done at least a BA (and in some cases an MA and PhD) in some kind of humanities field and come to librarianship indirectly, like him. I'm interested to see how he goes with the course, as I'm keen to do it myself in a few years' time (once I've recovered from the exhaustion of doing a PhD!).

On Friday, I went to London to hear Samantha Shannon (author of The Bone Season, the first of a series of novels about a dystopian London where people have supernatural abilities) in conversation with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, whose film company has the rights to adapt the first book. I did a write-up on Tumblr. The event was mostly awesome, although there was one sour note. One of the main characters in The Bone Season is an otherworldly being called Warden. He's not described in much detail in the book, aside from mention of him having 'dark, honey-gold'-coloured skin. People in the audience were asked to suggest actors who fit their mental image of him. Those suggested were Tom Hiddleston and Cillian Murphy. I think you can figure out why those are appalling suggestions, but in any case, I was heartened to see that most of the fandom seems to support me in perceiving Warden as just about anyone other than a white actor. What was even more encouraging is that Samantha Shannon herself agreed with me and said she was committed to fighting against whitewashing in any adaptation of The Bone Season. I will be very disappointed if a white actor is cast as Warden, and will not see any film in which this is the case.

Yesterday, our department hosted the annual colloquium which we share with Oxford. It's for students of Celtic Studies at both universities to present papers on aspects of their research, and alternates between Cambridge and Oxford as a location. I found it interesting to note that when we went around introducing ourselves at the beginning, all the Oxford students said their individual college affiliations, whereas the Cambridge people all said the name of our department rather than our colleges. It's a subtle indication of how we perceive ourselves, I guess.

The conference was good fun, particularly as I didn't have to give a paper this year. I just relaxed and hung out with all my friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a month. My supervisor was there, and we were talking about my decision to leave academia and work in libraries. She asked me if I missed research, and I realised that I didn't miss it at all. Most people I know who work in academia have this drive, this single-minded obsession with whatever they research (in much the same way as authors have this drive to tell stories). I've never had it, and I guess that's another indication that I was never cut out to be an academic.

I finally succumbed to the lure of 8tracks. I'm ridiculous enough about music as it is, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I joined. If you're on there, you should add me. I've already made one playlist.

We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.

In other musical news, the new Seven Lions EP, Worlds Apart, is simply glorious.

dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I've been really busy lately, which is why I haven't posted for ages and ages. I have two very good excuses, however:

1. My PhD viva is in just a week. I'm actually feeling quite calm about it, which surprises me, but I seem to have given myself the attitude that there is nothing I can do now to change how the viva goes - as the examiners already have my thesis and I can't alter it - so I might as well not worry. I imagine I'll be a nervous wreck next Monday, though.

2. I have a new job! It's only temporary and part-time, but it is in another academic library in Cambridge, it's a step up from my current library job* (I'm learning how to catalogue, and my job title is library assistant rather than library invigilator) and it's come along at a really good time, as I don't get money from my PhD scholarship funding body any more and was really worried about what I was going to do for money. So far I'm really liking it, although it's very different to my other library job, and I've had to cut back my hours there, which is sad as I really love working there.

I have a bunch of links, although I must admit that some of them are very old and you're likely to have encountered them already. These are more for personal reference so that I can find them again, and close some tabs on my laptop and iPad. The first, however, is a link to my latest post on my review blog. It's mainly a review of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but also talks more broadly about the (published and unpublished) wish-fulfillment fantasies of teenage girls and whether such things are valuable or dangerous (or both, or neither).

As someone who wrote a story about her book boyfriend being in love with her idealised character, I have a lot of sympathy for teenage (and not-so-teenage) wish-fulfillment fantasies depicting their protagonists being pursued by a multitude of love interests. It’s a powerful trope for girls who may be feeling unlovable or simply baffled at how to have romantic relationships. However, this desire to be desired should not be portrayed at the expense of functional friendships among teenage girls. Portraying all female relationships as inherently competitive and antagonistic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the real world whereby girls and women view all other girls and women with suspicion, undermining one another instead of supporting each other.

The Dreamwidth community [community profile] ladybusiness is not new, but it is new to me, and I point it out here to those of you who are interested in reading (or participating in) thoughtful discussion about female characters in a variety of media. There are podcasts, linkspams and lengthy meta posts. At some point when I have more time, I'm going to read through all the archives. I recommend it highly.

Speaking of podcasts, this speech by Maciej Cegłowsk, the creator of Pinboard, about fandom is thoughtful and well worth a listen. It's an old link, and I can't remember where I saw it first, but if you haven't heard it yet I would encourage you to do so.

This link is more for my own future reference, and I haven't actually read through all its content yet. It's a series of posts on Making Light about dysfunctional families, and looks as if it will be really interesting. I'm saving it for after the viva.

On a related note, this post about so-called 'Ask Culture and Guess Culture' had me nodding my head a lot. I don't know if there's any data to back up its assertions, but I can certainly recognise elements of this phenomenon in my own life.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.

I am definitely from a Guess Culture family (you were never supposed to ask for things unless they were the right things, the things that people would say yes to, and there were so many subtle ways to hint at what you wanted to ask, figure out whether the answer would be yes or not, or, from the other side, hint at whether or not you were going to say yes; it was considered indescribably selfish and rude to state preferences for e.g. food or drink options at other people's houses (the only acceptable answers were 'whatever everyone else is having' or 'whatever is already open'); and so on). My partner is very much of the Ask Culture school. It's easier now that we've been together for years, but at the beginning of our relationship (and indeed, in many other of my romantic and friendship relationships) I used to work myself up into a hysterical level of anxiety whenever I was required to ask for anything directly or given options to state a preference (because the asker wasn't hinting properly about what answer they wanted from me!). I'm told that this has the potential to come across as being very passive-aggressive, and if it's true that it is some sort of culture clash, a lot of things about my interactions with other people make a whole lot more sense!

Tumblr user thefrenemy posted this great defence of the selfie.

I hate with a boiling passion 99% of all of these photos, all of these memories of my life documented on film. Every time I get a notification on my Facebook saying that somebody added a picture of me, I get an actual nervous feeling in my stomach. Like, oh great, let me take some time out of my day to analyze my body and feel like shit about myself! I check the picture. I get taken out of the wonderful moment it was taken in to nitpick my flaws. Ew, I hate my face. Ew, I hate my tummy. Ew, my arms. Ew, ew, ew.


I think I look like a goddess in my selfies. I think I look like Dolly Parton, a witch, and pretty much every street blogger rolled into one. They make me feel absolutely fabulous and alive and gorgeous. I rarely feel this way and when I do, it’s because it’s exactly how I want to look for me. It’s exactly the way I’ve always wanted to look and felt I could look without all that loud noise about how I should look better. It is the evidence, the proof positive, that there are moments we can feel and look fan-fucking-tastic in our own eyes. That alone is worth its weight in gold.

I have nothing to add.

As a final link, have John Scalzi's predictions for the Oscars. He's not always right, but his reasoning is always pretty solid and I appreciate that he predicts what he thinks what will win as well as stating what he thinks should win.

*Although it actually pays less, which is a pain.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
Every so often, a book comes around that is just so perfectly written to engage with my own particular narrative tastes that it's as if it had been written just for me. The most recent such book is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Not only is it as if Shannon sat down with me and made a list of all the things I most wanted to read - and then wrote a book to those specifications - but her playlist for the book is packed full of songs by my favourite artists. And if that's not enough, the song she describes as her protagonist's 'theme' is a song that I've long considered a sort of personal mantra.

Anyway, if you like urban fantasy, alternative versions of London, post-apocalyptic settings that offer hope rather than bleakness, young female protagonists who actually have support networks and female friends, underground networks of criminals operating as a sort of grey market for the dispossessed - in short, if you like all the things I like, you should check it out.

If you need more convincing, my review is here.

And if anyone else has read The Bone Season, I'd love to talk to you, because otherwise I fear this is going to go the way it normally does: namely, me being a lonely Fandom of One.

In other news, today is Matthias' birthday (and my sister Kitty's birthday too) and our anniversary. Yes, we got together three years ago on his birthday. He's currently at a librarian training event in Bury St Edmunds, and when I've finished my shift at work we're meeting up there to have an early dinner before heading back to town for another friend's birthday party. November is such a birthday month. This week alone held my sister Mim's birthday (which she shares with five other friends of mine), my dad's birthday (which he shares with the other friend whose party we're attending tonight) and Kitty's birthday. It seems a bit excessive!
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I've had about a million tabs open on both my laptop and iPad for ages, so I felt I should make a linkpost in order to get rid of them. The result will probably be fairly incoherent.

First up, What We Talk About When We Talk About Hating Garden State by Jesse David Fox. I can't quite work out what I think about this. My thoughts about Garden State are so confused and muddy. When I watched it (the first and only time), it spoke to me profoundly. This was before I really thought about issues of representation, had heard of (or noticed) Manic Pixie Dream Girls or had any understanding of mental illness.* And I've heard all the criticisms of the film, and they are extremely valid. And yet...

There are a lot of movies, much worse movies, that are as emo, as self-aggrandizing, and that feature an even more manic manic pixie dream girl, but Garden State is the one we talk about. Have you seen the well-soundtracked garbage that was Elizabethtown (the movie that first inspired the term "manic pixie dream girl")? And that's the difference — Garden State was good enough to define the things that we come to hate in certain movies (and certain characters and people). It's become a symbol for its blend of quirky, twee, morose, earnest, precious, hipsterness, and it's resented for it. We've confused its influence for cliché.

This is true. Everything Fox says in that article is true. But it doesn't really excuse Garden State (or Girls, or any of the other texts criticised in the article) its flaws. But I think it's a valid point to keep in mind.

This next post by the DIY Couturier, 'Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed' is like a thunderclap of awesome. Obviously I should warn you that the post deals with issues of depression, so stay away if that's something you don't want to read. But it was the first time that I saw someone deal with the day-to-day struggle of depression in such a compassionate and empathetic way. It made me cry.

This piece of art is simply extraordinary. Read the information at the bottom, as it explains the minor controversy surrounding attribution for the art and quote it contains.

My awesome friend [ profile] lucubratae has a profile up on the National Young Writers' Month website, because he is amazing.

I signed up on Deviant Art simply so I could follow this fabulous webcomic by Pika-la-Cynique. It's called Girls Next Door, and it's a rather hilarious scenario in which Sarah from Labyrinth and Christine from The Phantom of the Opera are housemates who live in the same building as (among others) Jareth and Erik and thus have to confront their stalkers on a daily basis. The whole thing takes a very light-hearted approach to stalking and harassment, which ordinarily would irritate me a lot, but the concept is so cleverly executed that I overlook that particular issue.

Yesterday's A Softer World hurts my heart. Read it. Read the alt-text especially. Weep.

*I remember in high school getting into a screaming row with a friend about medication for mental illness and just generally Not Getting It. I wish I could take those thoughts and words back.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
These are all happy links! I've been feeling really down recently, so I think it's best under the circumstances to focus on the things that have been making me feel better for now.

First up, I was thrilled to discover that [ profile] upupa_epops is hosting a meta comment-a-thon over on LJ.

(click on the picture)

You can get there by clicking on the icon.

On a much smaller scale, [community profile] fem_thoughts is hosting a comment meta about female characters, with some really interesting posts already up and running.

Those first two links are thanks to [personal profile] goodbyebird. The next link I encountered through [community profile] metanews, and is a really excellent analysis of Buffy Season Six by [ profile] gillo. You can find it here. For a taste:

The point here, I feel is that nice guys do turn into nasty people. Nobody starts out life thinking of themselves as a jerk, but some people turn into jerks even so. And we see, step by step, how that happens – the losers are not losers when they are together. They can rejoice in their technical skills and arcane knowledge of films and TV which matter to them but not, as far as they know, to anyone else. Loners, they want to forge a sense of being part of something bigger. They need to feel adequate in the areas of life which peer pressure has marked out as important – making money, achieving targets, finding partners of the opposite sex. That need to feel adequate subtly shifts into a need to feel they excel. Warren goes the furthest down this dark path, and pays accordingly, but all three of them share that need to be not just good enough but actually important. When you are a child you assume all grown-ups are important – and when you get to be one it can be a shock to find out the truth. In this, as in so much else, the Trio echoes Willow - who also started off as nerdy in a sweet sort of way. You could draw a lot of parallels between Jonathon's increasing need for acceptance from Earshot to Superstar and Willow's need to be in control from advising Cordelia to hit the Deliver key through to riding that big truck.

It's brilliant stuff.

Still on the Buffy theme, Foz Meadows has been doing a rewatch, and has come to some interesting conclusions. I would recommend all her posts on Buffy, but in particular this one about the romantic relationships. I'm not quite sold on her interpretation of Angel, but she's spot on in every other regard, in my opinion.

This gif set on Tumblr is kind of adorable. Be warned, it contains massive spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

Finally, have a link to the Soundcloud page of Seven Lions, just because it is fabulous, fabulous music.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
When I was a child and teenager, I consumed stories with an urgent, hungry intensity. I reread favourite books again and again until I could quote them verbatim,* I wandered around the garden pretending to be Snow White or Ariel from The Little Mermaid or Jessica Rabbit.** I had a pretty constant narrative running through my head the whole time I was awake, for the most part consisting of me being the character of a favourite story doing whatever activity I, Ronni, happened to be doing at the time. (No wonder I was a such a vague child: every activity required an extra layer of concentration in order for me to figure out why, say, the dinosaurs from The Land Before Time would be learning multiplication at a Canberra primary school.) The more I learnt about literary scholarship, the more insufferable I became, because I would talk at people about how 'URSULA LE GUIN WROTE A STORY WHERE EVERYTHING HAS A TRUE, SECRET NAME AND THEN ANOTHER USE-NAME AND ISN'T THAT AMAZING IN WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT IDENTITY?!?!' For the most part, I don't inhabit stories to the same extent, and they don't inhabit me to the same degree, although there are rare exceptions to this.

The rare exceptions tend to be things that sort of satisfy my soul in some deep and slightly subconscious way.*** And the funny thing is that although I can write lengthy essays explaining why something both appeals to me on this hungry, emotional level and is a good work of literature (indeed, I have been known to dedicate a whole blog to this), I can also remember a specific moment when reading/watching these texts and they suddenly became THE BEST THING EVER. I can remember exactly what it was for all of them.

The following is somewhat spoilerish for Romanitas, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, The Demon's Lexicon, The King's Peace by Jo Walton, Parkland by Victor Kelleher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Robin Hood: Men in Tights,
Ten Things I Hate About You, Cirque du Soleil, Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

Probably a closer look at my subconscious than is comfortable )

Do you have moments like that?
*Which led to a very awkward moment in Year 5 when our teacher was reading Hating Alison Ashley out loud to the class, but would skip bits from time to time - whereupon I would correct her.
**(whose appeal was less that she wasn't 'bad, just drawn that way' and more due to the fact that she wore an awesome dress)
***I've seen people describe fanfic like this as 'idfic', but for me this tends to be a phenomenon of professionally published fiction.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
I'm pretty obsessed with vampire narratives, and I was sure I'd seen everything. I've seen vampires used as a metaphor for being gay, for the ennui of the twentieth century and the fall from grace of the Age of Enlightenment, outbreaks of disease, Victorian attitudes about sex, contemporary Russian politics, those left dispossessed by the Scandinavian welfare state and the terrors of adolescence. I've seen them used used with varying degrees of success to explore issues of racial discrimination and homophobia (I dislike this trope and think it doesn't work). I've seen them used as metaphors for drug addiction and alienation. Of course, I've seen them used as a metaphor for sex a million times. But I don't think I'd ever seen them employed as a metaphor for rapacious, exploitative capitalism before.

Until Daybreakers.

Nothing particularly spoilerish, but cut just in case )


dolorosa_12: (Default)
rushes into my heart and my skull

September 2017



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