dolorosa_12: (Default)
This week's linkpost is up a bit early, and contains many fabulous things.

I'm a huge fan of Sophia McDougall's review of Birdman: over at Strange Horizons. In it, she compares the film to Boris Johnson. It's an apt comparison.

Here's a great interview with Samantha Shannon. 'Cities are made of narrative' indeed.

Aliette de Bodard's description of her subconscious as a library is a fabulous metaphor, and one that I might steal myself!

There's a great set of guest posts over at Ladybusiness on 'What books are on your auto-recommend list?' (For the record, mine are the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, Space Demons, Skymaze, Shinkei and Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, Parkland, Earthsong, Fire Dancer and The Beast of Heaven by Victor Kelleher, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall and the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott.)

Episode 4 of Fangirl Happy Hour is up. This week Ana and Renay are talking Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Jupiter Ascending and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I'm not quite as critical of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they are, while I think there's room for difference of opinion about the feminism of Jupiter Ascending, but as always, I appreciate their thoughts.

The first few guest posts about representation and diversity are up on Jim C. Hines' blog.

Shannon Hale talks about gender segregation at readings she's done at schools. It's heartbreaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article by Robert Macfarlane about language and landscape. Beautiful stuff.

I really liked the recent BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. This interview by Julia Raeside of Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn, goes a long way towards explaining why.

For reasons that will soon become apparent, although I can't provide a link to it, the #readingAuthorName hashtag on Twitter has been a powerful and positive movement. It works like this: think of an author whose works moved you and shaped you into the person you are. Tweet about it. Add the hashtag #readingAuthorName (obviously replacing AuthorName for the author's actual name). Feel happy.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
This week's linkpost is up a bit early, and contains many fabulous things.

I'm a huge fan of Sophia McDougall's review of Birdman: over at Strange Horizons. In it, she compares the film to Boris Johnson. It's an apt comparison.

Here's a great interview with Samantha Shannon. 'Cities are made of narrative' indeed.

Aliette de Bodard's description of her subconscious as a library is a fabulous metaphor, and one that I might steal myself!

There's a great set of guest posts over at Ladybusiness on 'What books are on your auto-recommend list?' (For the record, mine are the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, Space Demons, Skymaze, Shinkei and Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, Parkland, Earthsong, Fire Dancer and The Beast of Heaven by Victor Kelleher, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall and the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott.)

Episode 4 of Fangirl Happy Hour is up. This week Ana and Renay are talking Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Jupiter Ascending and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I'm not quite as critical of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they are, while I think there's room for difference of opinion about the feminism of Jupiter Ascending, but as always, I appreciate their thoughts.

The first few guest posts about representation and diversity are up on Jim C. Hines' blog.

Shannon Hale talks about gender segregation at readings she's done at schools. It's heartbreaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article by Robert Macfarlane about language and landscape. Beautiful stuff.

I really liked the recent BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. This interview by Julia Raeside of Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn, goes a long way towards explaining why.

For reasons that will soon become apparent, although I can't provide a link to it, the #readingAuthorName hashtag on Twitter has been a powerful and positive movement. It works like this: think of an author whose works moved you and shaped you into the person you are. Tweet about it. Add the hashtag #readingAuthorName (obviously replacing AuthorName for the author's actual name). Feel happy.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm not sure if you know this already, but my absolute favourite, favourite kind of story involves angels and demons, over-the-top battles between them, and theologically-tinged interactions between angels, demons and humans. Discussions of free will, the value of flawed humanity, and the incomprehensibility of angelic/demonic nature to ordinary individuals are all desirable bonuses. Unfortunately, very few authors get the tone or narrative right - or rather, very few tell the kind of story I want to read. (I should also clarify that I'm not a religious person, and the kinds of stories of this type that I enjoy normally bear little resemblance to any recognisable depiction of angels or demons within any religion.) I can only think of about five stories that did what I wanted, and they all have their flaws: Paradise Lost (which only works for me if I read it against Milton's intentions), His Dark Materials, Supernatural (which has other, massive problems that a lot of people find extremely off-putting, with reason, and also comes saddled with one of the worst fandoms I have ever encountered), Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books (in which the angels are extremely peripheral to the main story of a masochistic holy prostitute and her adventures as a spy), and Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice (shut up! that book is WONDERFUL). Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy is fabulous, but its demons don't come from any recognisable theology and aren't really the point of the narrative.

In order to get the stories I want, I've waded through a lot of rubbish, from Sharon Shinn's Angels of Samaria series, with its anaemic love stories and irritating plot twist, to some truly dreadful YA paranormal romances (anyone ever read Fallen by Lauren Kate?), in which angelic nature is simply a convenient way to engineer EPIC, IMMORTAL SOULBONDS. I expect very little when picking up a story about angels and demons, which is why Estelle Ana Baca's Cherubim and Seraphim, the first in her Ministers of Grace trilogy, doesn't bother me as much as it could have. But it's so full of typical weaknesses of characterisation and plot that I feel exasperated. Why is it that almost no one can write angels and demons right?

Spoilery dot-points behind the cut )

In spite of all those complaints, I'll keep reading the trilogy, because, as I've already established, beggars can't be choosers. I guess I should get on with writing my own 'war of angels, demons and humans' book that I've been writing for years. After the PhD, maybe.

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*Although one is orphaned in a really terrible way.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I seem to be on fire with blogging at the moment. It's probably partly procrastination, but I do genuinely have stuff to say! Today, it's an A to Z book/reading meme.

Answers behind the cut )
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm sorry I've been so quiet recently. I'm trying to get a full draft of my thesis in to my supervisor by the end of the week (eek!) and, as you can imagine, pretty much every waking moment is spent writing, writing, writing, and editing, editing, editing. But I read a recent post by Foz Meadows about her struggles with the SFF canon (and with notions of canonicity in general) that so closely mirrors my own thoughts and describes my own experiences as a reader that I had to post a link.

'If I’ve never read the Classics, then how did I get into SFF in the first place?

That last question is one I really have been asked – sometimes overtly, and sometimes only by implication, but always in a tone of genuine surprise, and always by men, as though my interlocutor couldn’t conceive of a journey into SFF fandom that didn’t involve neatly-spaced stopovers at Herbert, Lem, Dick, Matheson, Eddings, Feist, and Goodkind, preferably in that order.

By the same token, it’s also a question that tends to be linked to a lot of anxiety about SFF being forced away from its roots, and whether or not this constitutes progress or perversion. In some respects, this is an understandable question: whatever the genre, the stories that first draw us in are often the ones for which we feel the greatest personal affinity, and which, as a consequence, we not only want to emulate, but whose tropes and themes (we believe) aren’t just common to the genre, but actively necessary to it.'


Apart from Dune, my experience of the 'classics' is similarly limited. And, Redwall aside, my childhood and adolescent reading list was remarkably similar to Meadows'. (This is, perhaps, unsurprising, given the fact that we were both bookish Australians who grew up in the '90s.) She notes as formative the works of Jackie French, Victor Kelleher, Isobelle Carmody, Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, Whedonverse shows and Daria.

And Catherine Jinks.

Oh, my heart.
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: (sister finland)


This week has been hard. It's been filled with fun stuff, including one of our department's annual lectures, which was followed up with a long night in the pub. Surprisingly, I did not wake up the next morning with a hangover, having been very restrained. On Friday afternoon, we hiked out to Grantchester, which was lovely in the crisp, cold weather. Matthias stayed at the pub there with our friends, but I had to go straight back in to the faculty in order to do a shift at the library, but when I got home, I was informed they were waiting for me in another pub, and our friend L had already bought me a glass of wine. So that was a nice surprise.

On Saturday, we had our friends P and V around for dinner. They had invited us over when they moved into their own new place earlier in the year, so it was high time we returned the favour. I'm loving living in our own place because it means you can do stuff like this without having to worry if the kitchen will be free or if housemates are going to want to watch DVDs in the living room.

TV-wise, I'm getting very into The Killing. I missed the previous two seasons because they aired when I happened to be out of the UK, but luckily each season is self-contained. It's so tense and twisty and just when I think I've got things figured out, some new complication appears.

I've also been very well-served with books this week. I finished The Lions of Al-Rassan on Wednesday. The ending made me cry, but I also felt a deep sense of satisfaction because it was such a perfect story. I'll probably write about it at length on my Wordpress blog in a few days, if I have time. Today at work I picked up two collections of essays by Marina Warner, and that's looking very good too. I love her writing - it's always so good, and it's always about subjects that interest me.

The theme of this week has been 'weight'.* Not physical weight, but the things that hold me under and weigh me down. The weight around my neck that is my PhD and the other things I need to do and finish. The weight of expectations - those of other people and those of myself. The weight of all the things that keep me from dancing.

With that in mind, the song for this week can be nothing but 'Shake It Out' by Florence + The Machine.



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* I'm borrowing something from my old yoga teacher, who always started each class with a theme such as 'beauty', 'kindness', 'power' or whatever.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
I will write a post about life soon, but in the meantime, have some links and meme answers.

I've done a meme about books and reading habits over on my Wordpress blog, after being tagged by [profile] isigfethera. If you want to hear what I have to say about books that changed my life, the one book I would recommend to everyone, where I like to read, my preferred genres, the first book I remember reading, reading outside my comfort zone, and what book I would save in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, head over there.

The meme requires that I tag seven people to answer seven questions of my own, but rather than do that, I thought I'd simply post my questions and leave it up to you if you want to answer them or not. So consider yourselves all tagged.

The questions are on the Wordpress post, but I'll repost them here:

1. How have your reading tastes changed in the past ten years? In the past five?
2. Do you read book reviews? Do you think they influence your reading habits?
3. What is your opinion of sites such as Goodreads and reviews on Amazon?
4. Do you note down quotes from books or poetry? What is a quote that means a lot to you?
5. Which fictional character did you identify with as a child or teenager? Looking back, do you think that identification was accurate?
6. What is the most important thing you learnt from a work of fiction?
7. And I’d also like an answer to the same question I was asked: in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, which book would you save?

And here is the next installment of the massive, 365-day meme.

day 2: something that’s illegal but you think it should be legal
I feel, for the most part, very unqualified to answer this. There are many things I think should be illegal that are currently legal - I think it should be illegal to hit a child, for example. I certainly believe that far more needs to be done in terms of marriage equality (and the rights of same-sex couples more generally) and equality for trans* people, but that goes beyond any single law in any single country, and I think a lot of people act as if making same-sex marriage legal, we will magically wipe out homophobia. Same-sex marriage should be legal (or rather, to be more precise, same-sex couples should have exactly the same range of options in all areas of life as heterosexual couples), but I think it needs to go along with a lot of changes in attitude towards, and treatment of, people who fall outside the straight, monogamous 'norm'.

the other days )
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
Today is, for some reason, the birthday of about 10 people I know, but most importantly, it's the birthday of my wonderful sister Mim. Word on the street is that she's celebrating by going to a Radiohead concert, and I'm as sorry as ever to be on the opposite side of the world as her. She's had the most amazing year - getting a summer cadetship at a public service department, a cadetship that turned into a permanent, full-time job in Canberra, and finishing her Master's degree (she handed in her thesis a week or so ago). While we stay in touch as best we can, it's no substitute for being in the same country, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her in December. But anyway, happy birthday, Mim! You are wonderful!

Life and mini-reviews behind the cut )
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
One of the benefits of growing up basically lacking any interest in watching TV* is that the primary exposure to stories that my sister and I gained was through books. And one thing that my mother did really well was pick books - both picture books that she read aloud to us, and novel-length books that we read to ourselves - that were very diverse in terms of the racial and ethnic identities of the characters therein. Part of this was simply because books aimed at younger children tend to be more diverse in this regard than books aimed at adults or even teenagers (which I think is actually pretty insulting towards adults. So a child is perfectly capable of identifying with someone of a different race and finding that person's story engaging, but an adult isn't? What a depressing thought), but part of it was, I think, deliberate.

My mother chose books that reflected my sister's and my interests, and what I was interested in as a child from a very early age was history and folk- and fairytales. I was fascinated in particular with how people lived in other times and places, and I was intrigued by patterns, tropes and recognisable archetypes in folk- and fairtales (although I didn't know the technical terms for these things at the time). I found it absolutely amazing that versions of the story most commonly known in the English-speaking West as Cinderella existed in China, Egypt and elsewhere. I adored seeing history through the eyes of children who were, I thought, just like me.

One of my fondest memories is the fact that whenever we went on a long holiday (anything lasting more than a weekend), we would borrow different books of folktales from the library and my mother would read her way through them over the course of the holiday. We read Russian folktales, Middle Eastern folktales, Celtic folktales, Japanese folktales, and, on one particularly awesome holiday, Fearless Girls, a collection of folktales from around the world where girls and women are the focus. (One of the best things about this book is that its stories represent a diverse range of female experiences. There are girls who fight monsters, there are girls who go on journeys, but there are also, in one Chinese story, a mother- and daughter-in-law who politely pretend not to have noticed that they inadvertently insulted one another when thinking they were alone. That is, the book represents more than one kind of heroism.)

I also remember beautiful picture books retelling Native American folktales and Indigenous Australian stories of the Dreamtime.

All of this is very well and good, but I'm not sure if all this was an entirely positive thing. The Indigenous stories are very telling. If all the stories about PoC that you are reading are set in the past, or at least in some indeterminate (but seemingly historical) folktale time, you run the risk (if you are white) of thinking that PoC being heroic and central to their own stories only in the past. At least in terms of the books I read, this problem was especially prevalent in terms of representation of Indigenous characters (most of the books I read that had a 'modern Australian' setting had a fairly representative range of characters in terms of the major immigrant (and I include white Australians in that) groups that lived in Australia at the time).

There was one picture book that I think did a good job of addressing this problem. Not coincidentally, it has been my favourite picture book for over twenty years. The book is My Place by Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Donna Rawlins. It was published in 1988 to mark the bicentenary of white settlement in Australia - which could have been a problematic subject in terms of commemoration, but for the fact that Wheatley's writing an extremely pointed, subversive message.

The book begins in 1988. Each set of three pages represents one year in the life of a single house (and later, farm, and later still, area) in suburban Sydney. After a particular child (who lives in the house) describes his or her life, family and the house and surrounds (and background historical events: eg the character in 1918 talks about WWI, the character in 1938 talks about the Depression), you skip back 10 years and the whole process begins again with a different child. Sometimes a child will be the aunt or parent or grandparent of a previous child, and sometimes he or she will be the child of an entirely new family. The house's changing owners reflect the diversity of post-settlement Australia; there is a Greek family, an Irish family, a German family (who have to change their name from Müller to Miller during the First World War), a Chinese family who arrive at the time of the Gold Rush, a family whose members were convicts and so on.

Most importantly, the story is bookended with two Indigenous families. That is, it opens with an Indigenous family in 1988, and it closes with an Indigenous family in 1788 (who were nomadic, but whose narrator says, 'I belong to this place'). This is a powerful and important point to make in a book that would, if these people's stories were absent, be commemorating the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous people. By emphasising that Indigenous people were there before white settlement, and are still there now, the book totally reframes the discussion of place, identity and belonging. And it closes with an image of a yellow setting sun between a red sky and a black land in a deliberate echo of the Australian Aboriginal flag, with the words (a discussion between the final narrator and her (I think, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly) father): 'How long will we belong to this place?' 'Forever and ever.'

I am not saying that reading these stories as a child made me magically free of racism (in many other ways, my education about issues of race was severely lacking, and I have messed up in this regard before and may do so again in the future). But I think having a diverse and representative** range of experiences depicted in literature and read by everyone is an important piece in the Educating Clueless White People puzzle. And because this piece is basically me remembering my childhood, and because I am white, I haven't talked about these things from the perspective of a PoC, but if these kinds of stories are important for Clueless White People, then I can only imagine that they are even more so for PoC. Because you can only see yourself doing brave and clever and amazing things, you can only see yourself as part of the story, if people write and publish and read your stories, and, most importantly, if you yourself are able to do so.



______________
*We did watch some TV, mainly shows on ABC Kids, but it was very restricted and for the most part, my sister and I preferred to play games or read books.
** I'm talking about race here, but this goes for representation in terms of sexuality, gender identity, disability etc as well.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
So, if you've been reading this blog at any point in the last, oh, nine years, you probably know that there are certain series of books that I adore and rave about constantly. And if I had to narrow the list down to 'the most life-changing books I have ever read', to the books I would take with me on a desert island, to the books I would carry around in order to keep myself sane in a post-apocalyptic scenario, I would name three series: the Pagan Chronicles by Catherine Jinks, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Romanitas by [profile] sophiamcdougall. These series all came into my life at precisely the right time, and have affected, influenced and transformed me in various ways. I could read them again and again and again and still discover something new.

But what struck me this morning is how close I came to not reading any of them at all. The sheer crazy random happenstance that caused me to read all these series is completely ridiculous.

memory lane is full of strange twists and turns )
dolorosa_12: (Default)
When I was younger, I used to thrust certain books upon people with urgency. I thought that if they read that book, they would understand everything there was to know about me, all I was and all I felt and thought and dreamed. I handed out copies of Pagan's Crusade, His Dark Materials, the Earthsea and Obernewtyn series, Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye,* the cringeworthy Cecilia Dart-Thornton books. I sat people down in front of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, clips of the Banquine act from Cirque du Soleil's Quidam, with tears in my eyes because they moved me so much, they articulated me so much. And of course, it didn't work. Maybe these people (my friends, my mother) liked some of the books, but they were never me, and they could never see exactly what it was that I saw there. No two people read the same book, and no person is able to crawl inside another's mind.

But I still do it. I still have a list of texts that I feel if a person just read, watched, listened to them with the proper mindset, they would know me completely. And they are:

The Girls in the Velvet Frame by Adele Geras
The second chapter of Romanitas and the final two chapters of Savage City by [profile] sophiamcdougall
The entirety of the Pagan Chronicles series, including (unusually for most fans of the series) the fifth book
The first line of The King's Peace by Jo Walton
The song 'Blinding' by Florence + The Machine
The song 'Kino' by The Knife
The song 'Mezzanine' by Massive Attack
The episode 'Earshot' from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
[personal profile] catvalente's blog post My dinner with Persephone
Victor Kelleher's books Parkland, Earthsong and Fire Dancer

Not particularly complicated, really. Realistically, I know that it will never work for another person. No one else has my particular set of experiences or my particular personality. And if I have to explain why the combination of these things=me, I've failed. I just know that they are. I am.
___________________
*A line of this book, 'Home was an age, not a place', has remained with me forever. It's been at least 13 years since I first read that book.
dolorosa_12: (ship)
I've written a review of Traitors' Gate, the third book in Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. It's very spoiler-heavy, so if you haven't read the book, I would advise you to do so as soon as possible! Because who doesn't love epic fantasy set in a world inflected by China, Persia, India, the Mongols and the Silk Road, where 'women's work' is made heroic, and which explores the nature of power?

What Elliott is actually doing in this series is interrogating the hackneyed old epic fantasy plot of ‘dispossessed man saves world and is thus its rightful ruler’. [...] She tells us the stories that people tell themselves to avoid seeing the truth of the powers that control their lives.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I've been wanting to do a sort of 'social justice by the numbers' post, where I wrote about how well the things about which I am fannish handle matters of representation. For those of you who think that representation isn't important, I would urge you to educate yourselves, and in particular listen to people who aren't often well-represented in the media when they talk about how it matters to them that they are represented adequately.

A quick word on my methodology. I've included a fandom/text in this post if it:
a) makes me behave in a fannish manner (that is, that I want to respond to it in some way, be it with fic or meta or discussing it with other fans); and
b) makes me want to revisit it again and again in order to find new things out about it.

For this reason, only books and television shows are included, since for some reason films seem to have less of a fannish effect on me. I've suspected this is because I mostly become fannish due to characters, and although many films have excellent characterisation, I usually find that two hours or so is not long enough for me to become truly attached to their characters.

I'm giving each fandom a Representation Score (for great social justice!). The way points are allocated is thus:
A text gets one point for simply including a character from an underrepresented group (eg, a female primary or secondary character, a queer character etc).
A text gets two points if such characters pass certain other tests (eg, if it passes the Bechdel Test, if a disabled character isn't there merely to teach the non-disabled characters a lesson about tolerance, etc - basically if they're not defined by their minority-ness).
A text gets five points if said characters occupy an equal amount of screen-time as those of comparable importance (for example, if there is a show with three main leads, one of whom is straight, two of whom are queer, all three must get roughly equal amounts of the story).
A text loses five points it has such characters, but resorts to stereotypes or handles their stories poorly (for example, if a character is Othered, if women are fridged).

Obviously, my interpretation of these things is going to be subjective, and if I mess up, tell me. I am female, but in every other aspect I have privilege: I am white, I am middle class, I am straight, I am cis, I am able-bodied and I am neurotypical. I won't change what I've written (as I believe if you screw up in things like this, you should own your mistakes and allow people to see them) but I will emend my post and include people's criticism. So, let's get to it!

(Note: there are spoilers for The Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall, Galax-Arena and the Space Demons trilogy by Gillian Rubinstein, the His Dark Materials trilogy and Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Philip Pullman, The Pagan Chronicles by Catherine Jinks, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.)

Spoilers abound )

I wasn't surprised that The Demon's Lexicon and Romanitas scored so highly. Their authors are very conscious of representation. In the case of Sarah Rees Brennan, her series' main focus is on identity and perception, while McDougall is concerned in Romanitas with power and dispossession. This is what McDougall had to say (in an interview with me) about representation:
If you want a future where fiction doesn’t routinely perpetuate harmful stereotypes and ignore everyone except the white people, (especially if you are white yourself) you probably cannot assume your unexamined muse and your good intentions are going to do all the work for you..

And this is what Rees Brennan said:
Here’s a problem: the role Nick, Mr. Tall Dark &c, plays in the series is a role played by a white guy with a bunch of issues: that’s a main role we get to see every day, a role that gets forgiven a lot of things, a role that if I didn’t get right a bunch of other people would. Let’s face it, “White Dude With Some Issues” could be the title of seventy per cent of movies and books out there. (We switch it to “White Dude With Some Issues (Who Is My Boyfriend)” I think we could make it to eighty per cent.)

I’m a girl, not a guy, and I’m white, not black, so in both cases I was writing from the point of view of someone I wasn’t. But there’s a lot more hurt to be inflicted if I got Sin wrong. And with writing, the chances of getting something wrong are high indeed. But it was something I felt I had to do. And it is something I feel like writers should do: write what they want and feel called to write, and write about the world the way it is. Writers should give every story in them a voice and a time to speak.


I think more authors and writers need to be conscious of these things. I believe representation is extremely important, and I think even those texts that I've singled out for praise or scored highly here have further to go. Why do the texts aimed at children have no queer characters? Why are there no trans* characters at all? These are questions that need to be asked, and we need to keep on asking them until things change.

_________________________________
*Note: in some of these texts, the category of 'working class' makes little sense. I'll categorise them differently when the need arises.
**Note: that's an in-show perception, and not a view I hold myself. There's no 'right' way to be sexual.
dolorosa_12: (travis)
I've been meaning to write this post for ages, but I lacked inspiration to do so until today. What are Ronni Tropes, you ask? Well, in the spirit of that black hole of the internet, TV Tropes, I've put together a list of the stories, themes and, yes, tropes that will never fail to grip me. Normally I'd do so with a huge amount of introspection, wondering why said trope speaks to me, but I'll leave that up to the rest of you if you are so inclined.

All my stories )

I think that's enough to be going on with. What are your favourite storytelling tropes, the things that will hook you in no matter what the media, no matter how uninteresting you find all other aspects of the text? And what are your least-favourite tropes?

______________________
*It seems the Romanitas trilogy ticks pretty much every single one of my boxes. No wonder I'm always praising it so much.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I haven't had internet at home for a while, so I'm just now catching up on all my feeds, There's been a lot of interesting stuff posted recently, so I thought I'd make a linkpost.

Sarah Rees Brennan posted this thought-provoking piece about what it means to be an author and have an internet presence.

And then, for a total change in tone, she wrote a hilarious liveblog of Teen Wolf, making it sound so funny that I might be tempted to check it out.

Catherynne M. Valente posted about how she was fed up with arguing about ebooks.

She also wrote about the misconceptions social conservatives hold about 'women's work', and the supposed golden age of pre-industrial times.

[livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall made a Romanitas playlist. I geeked out.

Here's an article from Rolling Stone about the effects of global warming in Australia. I found myself nodding away to pretty much everything being said.

It's been said before, but it needs to be said again: unpaid internships are exploitative and perpetuate inequality.

Our forum interviewed Philip Pullman.

Finally, I blogged about the start of the semester in Germany.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I haven't had internet at home for a while, so I'm just now catching up on all my feeds, There's been a lot of interesting stuff posted recently, so I thought I'd make a linkpost.

Sarah Rees Brennan posted this thought-provoking piece about what it means to be an author and have an internet presence.

And then, for a total change in tone, she wrote a hilarious liveblog of Teen Wolf, making it sound so funny that I might be tempted to check it out.

Catherynne M. Valente posted about how she was fed up with arguing about ebooks.

She also wrote about the misconceptions social conservatives hold about 'women's work', and the supposed golden age of pre-industrial times.

[livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall made a Romanitas playlist. I geeked out.

Here's an article from Rolling Stone about the effects of global warming in Australia. I found myself nodding away to pretty much everything being said.

It's been said before, but it needs to be said again: unpaid internships are exploitative and perpetuate inequality.

Our forum interviewed Philip Pullman.

Finally, I blogged about the start of the semester in Germany.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
This is an old post, but it's become sadly relevant again because publishers still Aren't Getting It. If you read one thing in relation to the #YesGayYA debate, read this post by [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire.

“Books do not determine a person’s sexual orientation. I was not somehow destined to be straight, and led astray by Annie On My Mind and the Valdemar books. I was born with universal wiring. I have had boyfriends and I have had girlfriends and I have had both at the same time, and none of that—NONE OF THAT—is because I read a book where a girl was in love with a girl and I decided that being bisexual would be a fun way to kill a weekend.

But those books did tell me I didn’t have to hate myself, and they did tell me that there was nothing wrong with me, and they did make it easier on everyone involved, because here was something I could hand to Mom and go “See? It’s not just me, and it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the only thing that defines me.” Supposedly, ten percent of people are gay or bi with a tropism toward their own gender. It stands to reason that there should be positive non-hetero relationships in at least ten percent of YA literature. And they’re not there. And things like this are why."


I'm straight, and when I was growing up the only books I encountered with LGBTQ characters were 'issues books', you know, where the character struggled with coming out. The first book I can remember with a LGBTQ character who just existed as part of the story was The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, which has Balthamos and Baruch, a pair of gay rebel angels. There were gay and lesbian characters on some of the TV shows I watched, but it was the mid-to-late-90s, and things should be better now. I know it's not all about me, but I think this is relevant to everyone. Representation matters. It matters to straight kids like me because we need to see that the world isn't made up entirely of people like us. And it matters to LGBTQ kids because they need to see people like them being brave, being heroic, being clever and kind and compassionate and complex. They need to see themselves as part of the story.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
This is an old post, but it's become sadly relevant again because publishers still Aren't Getting It. If you read one thing in relation to the #YesGayYA debate, read this post by [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire.

“Books do not determine a person’s sexual orientation. I was not somehow destined to be straight, and led astray by Annie On My Mind and the Valdemar books. I was born with universal wiring. I have had boyfriends and I have had girlfriends and I have had both at the same time, and none of that—NONE OF THAT—is because I read a book where a girl was in love with a girl and I decided that being bisexual would be a fun way to kill a weekend.

But those books did tell me I didn’t have to hate myself, and they did tell me that there was nothing wrong with me, and they did make it easier on everyone involved, because here was something I could hand to Mom and go “See? It’s not just me, and it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the only thing that defines me.” Supposedly, ten percent of people are gay or bi with a tropism toward their own gender. It stands to reason that there should be positive non-hetero relationships in at least ten percent of YA literature. And they’re not there. And things like this are why."


I'm straight, and when I was growing up the only books I encountered with LGBTQ characters were 'issues books', you know, where the character struggled with coming out. The first book I can remember with a LGBTQ character who just existed as part of the story was The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, which has Balthamos and Baruch, a pair of gay rebel angels. There were gay and lesbian characters on some of the TV shows I watched, but it was the mid-to-late-90s, and things should be better now. I know it's not all about me, but I think this is relevant to everyone. Representation matters. It matters to straight kids like me because we need to see that the world isn't made up entirely of people like us. And it matters to LGBTQ kids because they need to see people like them being brave, being heroic, being clever and kind and compassionate and complex. They need to see themselves as part of the story.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I could start this anywhere. I could start this with the day my mother first put a book into my hands, some American picture book I can no longer remember. I could start with the day I finally learnt how to read, and how the feeling was so shocking it was like a clap of thunder. Or I could start with how I used to pretend to be Sara Crewe from A Little Princess because her ability to escape her surroundings by imagining herself elsewhere seemed extremely desirable to me.

But really, there are only two places I can start. One day, I was ten, and I read a book where one (illiterate) character said to another, 'People who read are always a little bit like you. You can't just tell them, you have to tell them why', and I leapt up to write this down in the little notebook I always carried around, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I thought, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

And one day, when I was 15, I read a book, the third in a trilogy, a book I'd been yearning to read for three years, and one character urged us all to 'tell them stories', and I, with tears streaming down my face (because this book has one of the saddest endings of any work of literature), nodded, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I believed, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

Tell them stories. People who can read must be told why. These two things are true. And they must be the starting point for any response to yet another odious attack on 'depraved' modern YA literature.

I was lucky enough to have an almost trouble-free childhood and adolescence. I had an engaged, thoughtful and empathetic mother who had been buying me books as presents before I could even read, who always answered any questions I had truthfully and without a shade of embarrassment (I remember her explaining to me 'where babies came from' when I was three. I didn't understand her answer, but I'm really happy she actually bothered to explain). My sister and I were always very comfortable discussing everything with our mother, and enjoyed a relationship of openness and mutual respect which continues to this day.

Like most nerdy children, I suffered the usual bullying in primary school, and had the misfortune to be in a group of friends with whom I was incompatible in the early years of high school, and lacked self-confidence until well into adulthood, and books were an escape and a comfort, but compared to what some other people have gone through, it was nothing. I was lucky enough to have really good friends outside my 'group' (I was in higher classes than my 'group', so I knew a whole other bunch of people from those classes, and I also had good friends outside school from gymnastics, piano, Kumon, family friends and, later, my part-time job), and it was less bullying per se than a kind of bewildered indifference. We had formed our group in early Year 7, when people's personalities were less defined, and then, too late, realised we had very little in common besides a hyper-awareness of (and indeed anxiety about) other people's opinions. In any case, I loved reading and was consoled by it, but I don't want to describe it as an escape as I don't really think I had that much to be escaping from at that point in my life.

To be honest, most of the really awful things that have happened to me happened in adulthood. I was ill-prepared for adulthood in a psychological sense and became increasingly depressed as the years after high school continued. The low point was 2007, when I graduated from uni and moved back to Canberra to work in a job that I hated and dreaded. In that year, it was a YA book that saved me, as it brought me to the internet, to The Republic of Heaven, and to a truly wonderful group of people who, and I wish I could say I was exaggerating, gave me something to live for. They saved me, and they have continued to save me for nearly five years now.

But I digress. I'm happy now, and, in any case, in going into my own personal story of how YA literature saved me, I'm wandering away from the main point I'm trying to argue. Which is that literature gives you words.

If you are lucky like me, and grew up, for the most part, without significant pain or sadness, it gives you the words to articulate your beliefs and feelings, and it gives words to those outside your experience, who did and do suffer. I never had an eating disorder or a problem with body image, I was never a teenage victim of abuse, I did not have a problem with poverty or drugs or alcohol or self-harm, I had no disability, I was not pressured into sex as a teenager, I never had to come out or experience homophobia, I never experienced war or violence, my society did not view me as Other. But in reading stories about people who did, I was given the words of people who had experienced these things, and I like to think, or at least I hope, that in having the words of fictional people who experienced these things, I was better equipped to empathise with, and indeed to recognise the common humanity of real people who had. But the point is that if those words were of benefit to me, how much more must they have helped real people who had experienced all these things? Because those stories give them words - words to articulate their experiences and beliefs and feelings.

(I'm uncomfortable talking any further on behalf of others, as I recognise that I have various privileges: white privilege and straight privilege and cis privilege and so on, and indeed if anyone sees anything that's problematic, feel free to let me know either in the comments or via PM, but I did want to at least try not to make this all about me.)

We need stories. We need words. Because they are an essential starting point for really important conversations. Without words or stories, children and teenagers - and, indeed, adults - won't be able to think more critically about, well, anything. Stories and words are the starting-point. Some people would prefer their children not to think about these things at all - indeed, not to know about these things at all - but these are precisely the things that teenagers should be thinking about. Ignorance helps nobody.

Tell them stories. Always ask why. These are the beginnings of all things. They are not a luxury. They are dangerous and powerful. They are essential.

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