Links of interest!

BBC Radio 4 on “Ursula Le Guin at 85”: Naomi Alderman talks to leading novelist Ursula Le Guin about her life and work and hears from literary fans including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. (And Karen Joy Fowler, too.)

It is a bloody awesome radio programme, I want to say. Le Guin is amazing. Also BBC Radio 4 will soon be broadcasting radio adaptations of The Left Hand of Darkness and the first three Earthsea books. This is BRILLIANT news.

Max Gladstone writes about action scenes and writing in “Fighting Words: Thoughts On Prose Style Prompted By John Wick.” (Why does Max Gladstone keep writing smart things? It makes a body jealous.)

Maureen Kincaid Speller writes a very interesting piece on “We Need To Talk About Dragons – John Mullan, George RR Martin, Game of Thrones and the triumph of fantasy fiction.”

Linky brings a fine selection for your delectation

Maureen Kincaid Speller on Beasts of the Southern Wild:

Several days later, it’s still weird, I still like it in some ways, but having had time to think about it, there are things about it that make me uneasy. In many ways it defies categorisation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not sure whether that’s because it is actually sui generis or simply because it doesn’t really know what it is all about.

On reflection, my unease really began with the aurochs.

John Scalzi, Big Idea Gender Breakdown:

I see that Strange Horizons has done a gender breakdown of reviews in SF publications, and learns that more sf/f by men is reviewed than sf/f by women. This made me curious as to how my Big Idea feature here at Whatever has been doing, gender-wise, in terms of authors/editors featured.

So I tallied up the gender of writers who contributed Big Idea pieces between 4/23/12 and 4/24/13 (I’m counting tomorrow’s Big Idea piece, as I already have it in hand). Here’s how it turned out:

44 men wrote or co-wrote Big Idea pieces during that span of time;

48 women wrote or co-wrote Big Idea pieces.

Natalie at Radish Reviews has some data (and commentary) on the SFF reviews in RT Book Reviews:

The question really is this–why is RT consistently ignored when it comes to these annual surveys, both by VIDA and within the speculative fiction community?

I suspect that it actually has to do with the fact that RT‘s primary audience is women and that the bulk of what they review is romance novels. In the past, I’ve had to clarify repeatedly that there is absolutely no romantic requirement for the science fiction and fantasy section, often while there was snickering happening.

Grittiness and Sexuality in Fantasy

Foz Meadows has a very interesting post, On Grittiness and Grimdark:

[E]liding the genre’s political dimensions is especially problematic: grittiness is only a selective view of reality, not the whole picture. Yes, there’s pain and despair and suffering, but not exclusively, and when you make grit a synonym for realism – when you make an active, narrative decision to privilege specific, familiar types of grimness as universals – then you’re not just denying the fullness of reality; you’re promoting a version of it that’s inherently hostile to the personhood and interests of the majority of people on the planet. (And in that sense, it doesn’t seem irrelevant that the bulk of gritty, grimdark writers, especially those who self-identify as such, are straight, white men.)

If your idea of ‘grittiness’ includes misogyny (for instance), it’s more or less inevitable that your female characters will not only encounter systematic sexism, but necessarily be scarred by it, because if it were possible for them to remain unscathed by such an integral aspect of your preordained notion of grittiness, then by the rubric of gritty = honest, they would be unrealistic characters. Which means that, with the best will in the world, you’ve committed from the outset to writing women whose lives and selves are damaged by men – and while, as a female reader, I don’t object to encountering such characters, I do object to the assumption that these are the only female characters you can realistically write.

Grittiness has its place in fiction; as do representations of existing inequalities. But when we forget to examine why we think certain abuses are inevitable, or assume their universality – when we write about a particular prejudice, not to question, subvert or redefine it, but to confirm it as an inevitable, even integral aspect of human nature – then we’re not being realistic, but selective in our portrayal and understanding of reality.

Read it all. Read the comments. Then go read Kate Elliott on What Is Your Consensual Sex and Love Doing In My Epic Fantasy? (Livejournal.)

To my mind, we lessen the story we are telling about human experience if we do not include and see as worthy all of human experience, especially including positive depictions of sex and love. What kind of world do we vision if we only tell the ugly stories about such intimate matters?

(I believe it’s laziness and a puritan cultural streak that sees – consciously or subconsciously – sexual intimacy as something punishable that drives the ubiquity of the portrayal of sexual violence in fiction. But I’m a rabid man-hating hairy-legged feminist, so what do I know, y’know?)

A couple of other links:

Maureen Kincaid Speller takes Ghost Planet – of which I couldn’t get past the first page – apart:

Ghost Planet is novel as frightfully efficient storytelling machine, with all its plot points lined up neatly, its characters popped out of their moulds and trimmed, its language oiled and functional, the whole thing so overworked as to be stripped totally of absolutely anything that might make it interesting. It’s not terribly good science fiction, and it’s definitely a dull and predictable romance.

Meanwhile, the latest Shadow Unit is excellent. With poisonous spiders. Maybe I’ll get paid soon (*eyes Strange Horizons*) and have enough to donate.