Or at least a few of them.
I’ve been holding on to Gemma Files’ write-up of “The Bletchley Circle” until I could watch my own DVDs. But I’ve been forced to concede that won’t happen for quite a while yet – and this is too good a write-up (and, it sounds like, too good a series) to sit on.
[T]he thing that sets The Bletchley Circle apart is its investment in the spectacle of unapologetic female intelligence. Susan has doubt about a lot of things, but not in her own capacities as a patternist; her confidence is intoxicating, especially to the other women, waking them from a sort of mutual torpor. There’s a lot of examination of the way “women’s work” is undervalued generally, even with the context of war–their sacrifices laughed off, their urge to service and impulse to put themselves in danger in order to save others pain seen as not as valuable as the same impulse when displayed on the front-lines. All of the Circle, one assumes, have taken a certain amount of crap for not being helpmeet-compliant, for not being content to simply play wife, mother, girlfriend, support-system, etc. None of them want to be Angel of the House, and all of them feel at least a bit bad for it–unnatural, asexual, “left out.” When they’re together again things become organic, and there’s a sense of beauty, of fulfillment, almost vocational/spiritual: The Fibonacci spiral laid overtop the murder-map, at one point literally.
N.K. Jemisin talks about The Unbearable Baggage of Orcing:
Orcs are human beings who can be slaughtered without conscience or apology.
Think about that. Creatures that look like people, but aren’t really. Kinda-sorta-people, who aren’t worthy of even the most basic moral considerations, like the right to exist. Only way to deal with them is to control them utterly a la slavery, or wipe them all out.
Huh. Sounds familiar.
I have my own thoughts about the problem of orcs and the problem of evil in general in fantasy. The problem of evil in epic fantasy – the traditional kind – is that, usually, it is reified evil. Evil made concrete, taken out of the grey context and compromises of human existence. Good and evil are obviously, easily defined, visible. Marked. The orc – aside from it being Fear of the Other made flesh – is just another example of this demarcation of boundaries and refusal of ethical arguments. Why does evil exist? Because it does. Why is it evil? Because it is. (Because it’s not like us.)
The reaction to traditional epic fantasy in the grimdark forms of deconstruction – well, that tends also to refuse ethical arguments. Evil exists, human beings are shit, let’s roll around in blood and nastiness. I think a lot of the problems I find with “grimdark” as a deconstruction of the epic fantasy have to do with the fact that these deconstructions imbibe (narrowly) a philosophical view of human potential that owes entirely to much to Nietzche: the will-to-power, the dialectic of the master-slave morality (but one that valorises “master” morality), and a marriage of perspectivism to nihilism. Power is, if not the only virtue and only truth, the greatest one. (And individual power, at that: there are no functional communities within the grimdark subgenre, or where they are, they’re deluded, or corrupt, or doomed to betrayal and destruction.)
…But I ramble. I was collecting links.
Nerds of a Feather has an interesting review of Leviathan Wakes:
So what’s the libertarianism doing in Leviathan Wakes and why is it problematic? To answer the first question, I’d guess it’s a product of the attempt to write “old school solar Space Opera,” and the fact that the classics of the genre are positively swimming in the stuff. And–to be fair–since Leviathan Wakes is the first installment in a multi-volume series, this could be a setup for subversion or deconstruction later on. That’s pretty much what Scalzi did to Heinlein in the Old Man’s War books, so I won’t discount the possibility here.
Nevertheless, its deployment in Leviathan Wakes leaves much to be desired. Earth and Mars are highly centralized and bureaucratized states where large corporations dependent on public funds shape policy to their sociopathic will. The Belt, by contrast, is a loose conglomeration of scrappy, independent-minded pioneers sick of being overtaxed and overregulated. Though there are some early attempts at moral grayscaling (the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), for example, first appears to us as an ideologically-blinded radical group), these are abandoned midway for a more Bova/Niven-esque dynamic where Belters appear as archetypal “rugged individualist of the American West” to be contrasted with the nefarious “East Coast Warshington insiders” of the inner planets. These ideal types are deeply problematic in their real world historical-cultural context, but in Leviathan Wakes there’s never much doubt as to who we should root for, especially when every single sympathetic Earther or Martian is just a freedom-lovin’ Belter at heart.
Any more interesting news lately?