Where Do We Go From Here?

D Franklin’s post-Women’s-Marches post  (Women’s March: Where Next?) has reminded me that I meant to write my own post about Where We Are and What We Do Now.

I’m Irish, so American authoritarianism and the inauguration of a racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, transphobic, queerphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, hateful, science-denying, world-wrecking bigot as President of the United States of America? That’s not something that I can do much about, practically speaking. (Neither is the UK’s determination on self-immolation through Brexit.)

But it’s a hell of a wake-up call for local civic engagement.

So, What Do We Do Now, from an Irish perspective?

First, take a deep breath

Twitter is a firehose of information, most of it from the USA, much of it accompanied by anxious commentary, catastrophising, and urgency that frequently approaches — and sometimes spills over into — panic. Panic is exhausting, and will leave you with very little energy for meaningful action. Ration your exposure to things that inspire you to anxiety and panic, rather than inspiring you to act.

For information, sign up for mailing lists from organisations like some of these:

Friends of the Earth Ireland is one reliable place to get information and action items for environmental matters, while the Irish Wildlife Trust has a quarterly newsletter. For the right to choose, the Abortion Rights Campaign has monthly open meetings and sends regular updates. The Irish Refugee Council sends occasional updates, while the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland updates via its Facebook page. Amnesty International’s Irish branch will update you on local opportunities for activism. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties wants you to print out and post in a form for membership, but it, too, will update you on the issues. TENI, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, will keep you up to date on trans and nonbinary issues.

There are more organisations, but these are the ones I know will actually provide updates and Things For You To Do.

Speaking of Things For You To Do – this is a second piece of advice on What To Do Now. If you aren’t already familiar with your TDs and county councilors, now is the time to get familiar with them: sign up for their newsletters, check out their Facebook feeds, know what their parties are and what they stand for. Email them and ask them which way they’re voting on issues that affect you.

The website for the Houses of the Oireachtas, oireachtas.ie, is a great resource. Not only does it tell you who your TDs are, and their official emails, but you can find the order papers – that is, the published order of business, what the Dáil and the Seanad will actually be doing, for each day in the week – here, on Tuesday every week that the Houses are in session.

You can also find the Weekly Schedule – the timeline of when things will happen – here.

You can find transcripts of the proceedings from the Houses and from the committee meetings here.

And if you want to watch or listen to the proceedings – say you’ve spotted something in the Weekly Schedule and you want to know in real-time whether your TDs are arguing your corner – you can do that from here.

Also, if you want to call and leave a message by TELEPHONY with your local TDs, you can ask for their office through the Oireachtas switchboard, the number for which you can find on the Oireachtas contact page.

Your local county council has a webpage. It lists your local councilors and their official contact details. It should also have a “Service Delivery Plan” or something similarly titled, which tells you what your local council has planned for you and your area. At a local level? This is information that will be useful for you to know, if you want to lobby for change.


This is what I’m doing:

  • I’m volunteering with the Abortion Rights Campaign and going to meetings.
  • There’s a weekly check on my to-do list for “write TDs about $issue,” where the issue changes by week. Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, Anti-Fracking Bill, homelessness, ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accessible public transport, the Moneypoint coal-fueled power plant, water, refugees, ending the Direct Provision system: I don’t want my TDs to get bored.
  • Every so often I ask them to ask a question of the Minister for something: if they do, and tell me about it (which only one has so far, three cheers for Clare Daly TD), I put it aside to think of how to ask more questions from there.
  • I’m getting familiar with what my local county council actually does, and what I might be able to lobby my councilors about with some hope of them acting in useful ways.
  • I’ve started an LGBTQ+ bookclub at my local library, the first meeting of which is to happen this month. Because building community remains important.
  • I’m investigating other avenues for local action, community- and capacity-building: it might be possible to start local monthly “coffee evenings” to bring together people on issues like lobbying for climate action or lobbying for accessibility issues (particularly with regard to public transport), but that will require a bit more knowledge and context than I have right now.
  • I’m keeping an eye out for other opportunities to volunteer in useful ways, and to throw my shoulder behind other people’s wheels.

Small acts. Local connections. Discrete things that you can do. Start small, build capacity. Build connections. Do the thing in front of you. Do what you can with what you’ve got.

(I am terrified about doing some of this, by the way: I’m insecure about my competence to start with, and interacting with humans is terrifying. But, as the great Carrie Fisher said: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.“)

In Ireland, the next local elections for the county councils are scheduled for 2019: we have two years to start building the capacity to make local change.

 

What A Year

Well, people. It’s been a year.

Not a particularly good one for me, even leaving international politics aside. (Although it’s fairly impossible to leave international politics aside right now, between the rump nationalism of Brexit and the regressive fascism-in-prospect of Trumplandia: looking either east or west from Ireland, the immediate view seems gloomy.) You may have noticed a certain lack of my blogging presence on these here tubes. I got a job, you see.

Ordinarily, that’d be good news. Unfortunately, it turns out that the job and I were fairly well unsuited to each other: I’m apparently not made for the kind of government work I found myself doing. In early October, I had my worst bout of suicidal ideation in about ten years. Combined with improbable amounts of fatigue, exhaustion, and continuing anxiety – I tried, I swear, so many prescription drugs. It took two months, but I recovered enough to return to work – long enough to give my notice.

So that was last week.

The events of the past while have made clear to me just how very little time there is to waste. I want to do work I’m good at and that I (at least for the most part) enjoy – and I want to advocate for the causes I believe in, which I could not do in the civil service job, which as a condition of employment forbade anything that could be construed as partisan political activity. So! You’ll probably be hearing a little bit more from me on Irish politics, the importance of green energy, climate change mitigation, #repealthe8th, social housing, ending Direct Provision, welcoming refugees, combating racism, building better public transport, and so on, as I harangue my local TDs (that’s the equivalent of an MP, but in Irish) and try to figure out where I can throw my weight in with political activism locally.

In the next while, I should be reactivating (under somewhat different terms) my Patreon page, writing more reviews for Locus and Tor.com, figuring out whether I have a theme for 2017 for the Sleeps With Monsters column, and looking at the practicalities of setting up a freelance biz in editorial consulting/proofreading. (I have mad skillz… but not necessarily in self-promotion.)

That is, I think, all the news that’s fit to print.

Linkpost!

From “The Journal”: “Britain to return 1916 banner seized as war trophy.”

[T]he Na Fianna Eireann banner which was seized from Countess Markievicz’s home by the British army as a war trophy will be returned to the Irish State for the 1916 centenary.

 

From “Fusion”: “Hiring managers are less likely to call an LGBT woman back.”

After sending out 1,600 resumes to apply for more than 800 jobs, the study found that women with an “LGBT indicator” on their resume (represented in the study as work experience at an LGBT advocacy group) were about 30% less likely to receive a call-back than women who didn’t have those indicators.

 

From Al Jazeera English: “Hip Hop Hijabis.”

By inhabiting the intersection between cultures whose values on the surface seem so conflicting, Poetic Pilgrimage challenge a plethora of dearly held convictions from all sides of the cultural spectrum. Many Western feminists believe that promoting women’s rights from within an Islamic framework is a futile exercise, while in the eyes of some Muslims, female musicians are hell-bound.

 

From Foz Meadows: “PSA to people who menstruate.”

If anyone tries to make a dumbass sexist joke about your being more [insert stereotypically negative feminine quality here] while on your period, you can tell them that actually, menstruation raises testosterone levels, not oestrogen. (Telling them to go fuck themselves with an angry cactus can also be therapeutic.)

 

From Max Gladstone at Tor.com: “On Alan Rickman, Loss, and Mourning Our Heroes.”

No one among us exists as a thing in herself, alone and complete as she appears from the outside. We’re all collages of art and memory and friendship and family, struggling and striving together. Places and people we’ve encountered endure within us. And when those places or people pass away in the outside world, within us something changes too. When we mourn, we trace the shape and magnitude of that change. We find, sometimes—often—to our surprise, the depths at which we were formed by others. There’s little logic to the architecture of our souls; we like to think blood matters, and time, but sometimes a glance or a touch, a half smile on a movie screen, a cover song, a piece of lightning bolt makeup, a Christmas card, an afternoon’s conversation, a book read once in childhood, can be a pillar on which the roof of us depends.

 

This article at Buzzfeed will make PERFECT sense to a lot of people I know:

Click on the image for the link to the article, “13 charts that will make perfect sense to people with imposter syndrome.”

 

From the Economist: “Referendum madness.”

ONE dodgy referendum lost Ukraine Crimea. Another threatens to lose it the European Union. On April 6th the Dutch public will vote on the “association agreement” the EU signed with Ukraine in 2014. The deal cements trade and political links with one of the EU’s most important neighbours; the prospect of losing it under Russian pressure triggered Ukraine’s Maidan revolution. But last summer a group of Dutch mischief-makers, hunting for a Eurosceptic cause they could place on the ballot under a new “citizens’ initiative” law, noticed that parliament had just approved the deal. Worse luck for the Ukrainians.

 

And finally, Foz Meadows again, this time on: “UPROOTED: Abuse & Ragequitting.”

Tonight, I started reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It was a novel about which I’d heard only good things from people I trust; a novel I was hoping would break me out of my current reading slump, wherein I’ve started a great many books, but am struggling to finish any of them. To borrow the parlance of memes, cannot tell if too depressed to read or just fed up with exclusionary, derivative bullshit – or, alternatively, if reading so much fanfiction has utterly wrecked my internal yardstick for length, structure and content.

 

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print…

Well, no, it isn’t, but I have to keep some links for next week. *g*

Interesting linky bits

Verso Books, “Judith Butler on Gender and the Trans Experience.”

Harvard Magazine, “The Science of Scarcity: Behaviour and Poverty.”

Irish Times, “Legislation to prevent schools and hospitals discriminating against current or future employees because of their sexuality will be in place by summer.” Good on you, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, but make sure it’s solid and your colleagues don’t gut it, aye?

Averil Power on the lack of support and vision of her former Fianna Fáil colleagues – including for the marriage equality referendum – in the Irish Independent. Power’s resignation from the party leaves Fianna Fáil’s Oireachtas members with a sad case of Smurfette syndrome.

The Times of Malta on Roman columbaria rediscovered during work on Gozo’s Citadella.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, “‘Fake Geek Girl’ and the Review of Australian Fiction.”

Salon, “Rape in Westeros: What ‘Game of Thrones’ could learn from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road'” – solid.

Jeanne the Fangirl, “A Song of Ice and Fire has a rape problem.”

Do you want to cry happy tears? Watch this:

*pets David Norris* A REPUBLIC OF DIGNITY.

Links du jour

From the Guardian: Murdered on the streets of Karachi: my friend who dared to believe in free speech.

From the Guardian, again: Cremated human bones in pot found in Crossrail dig. (I wouldn’t say “gruesome” ritual. Puzzling, maybe.)

From the Irish Times: It’s hard to accept yourself when your country doesn’t. (The one thing I like about the campaigning for this referendum is that it is making me feel as though Ireland is full of queer people, queer women, where before I didn’t… quite… believe that we were normal? – Yes, I’m getting used to using the word “we” when it comes to queer women. Took me a very long while to get comfortable with that.)

From the blog Per Lineam Valli (Along the Line of the Wall), a series all about Hadrian’s Wall. First post here.

Foz Meadows on how to learn to write about female desire. (This is an awesome post and I want to hug it. Because, desire itself aside, yeah, fanfiction? Once I started reading it? Actually gave me models for my own sexuality when I couldn’t really find many examples elsewhere.)

Strange Horizons roundtables “Representing Marginalised Voices in Historical Fiction and Fantasy,” with Joyce Chng, David Anthony Durham, and Kari Sperring, moderated by Vanessa Rose Phin.

Via Max Gladstone, “LIT MISERABLES, Or, Les Écrivains Misérables. Produced by Andrea Phillips, starring: Andrea Phillips [Ensemble], Max Gladstone [Javert, Marius], Fran Wilde [Gavroche], Sarah Pinsker [Eponine], Lynne Thomas [Fantine, Marius, Thenadiers, Eponine], James Sutter [Javert], Mishell Baker [Cosette], Martin Cahill.” This? This is awesome.

Disillusioned and Angry: a post about politics and the economy

What follows is a little different from my usual line.

I used to think it was possible to have ambitions. I used to think the ambition of having a steady job – permanent and pensionable – that paid a living wage and left time over for enjoying life was a modest ambition. Maybe not achievable by everyone,* but for someone with my advantages, my – not to be falsely modest – intelligence, and ability to fake middle-class socialisation, something I shouldn’t worry too much about not achieving.

Today I saw this item in the paper. “Wanted: PhD grad to work for jobseekers’ benefit + E50.”

Two different companies have advertised internships as part of the Government’s JobBridge initiative — but want only highly qualified staff.

A pharmaceutical plant in Cork is seeking applications under the back-to-work scheme and a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry is considered to be a “base requirement”.

A spokesman from Hovione said there “hasn’t been that much interest” in the role.

However, another pharmaceutical plant in west Dublin, Clarochem, had a similar requirement for a PhD intern and has just filled the role for a full 39-hour-week programme for six months.

Clarochem Ireland, a custom manufacturing plant in Mulhuddart, asked that applicants held a minimum of a PhD in synthetic chemistry, and were capable of working on solo projects in a dynamic environment.

The oligarchy has won. There is no future for any of us not born to unmortgaged assets in this country – and maybe not in any other, either. Finance Minister Michael Noonan goes to Brussels to get his plaque with “Best European Finance Minister” engraved on it for licking the boots of unelected European eminences, for selling the poor of the Republic down the river and the middle-class after them, in service to the interests of global capital.

The European project is a humanitarian and democratic – and on any measure other than that of global capital’s, an economic – failure, but we’re still shackled to the corpse of all its fine promises. Our budgets will go to Brussels to be amended and approved by unelected, unaccountable men and women – carrion-feeders who will continue to demand the privatisation of state assets and state bodies (assets and bodies that by right and justice belong to the people of Ireland!) and to whose dictates our spineless, treacherous, two-faced “leaders” will cravenly bow.

The Irish government will not be able to reclaim the assets it has sold at a loss to corporate interests – corporate interests that will use them to make a profit at the expense of Irish residents. Nor will our government easily recover the powers it has so cravenly surrendered.

They call this a recovery. Who has recovered?

Who was responsible for this catastrophe in the first place? Who has benefited from it?

Not the people struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Not the people seeing their real wages – if they’re employed at all – go down, and the cost of food and accommodation go up. Unemployment remains above 13%. Three hundred and thirty thousand people are out of work. (That is at least 7% of our total population, for comparison purposes: 13% of people between age 18 and 65 are signed on for benefits, which approximates to 7% of all the people of any age normally resident in this country.)

And, let’s reiterate: the people who are in work have seen their take-home pay decrease under the burden of wage-cuts and changes in their tax and PRSI assessment. That particular trend isn’t about to reverse itself.

Conclusion? The average person at work, or looking for work, in the country is comprehensively screwed.

Barring a sustained revolutionary change in the relationship between the citizenry and our government, between the nation and the European Union and the IMF – and going forward in an age of ever-increasing automation, in how we conceive of the relationship between people, labour, and capital – we’re permanently screwed.

Because under the conditions presently obtaining and likely to remain in place, there will never be enough actual work to provide full employment at non-poverty-level standards of living. So we need to change how we think about the relationship between labour and money, between people and capital – and that is a change far more revolutionary than demanding democratic accountability from the Oireachtas and the EU.

*Which is another story, and a shame and a half.

Linky moves in surprising ways

The World SF Blog with Editorial: The Hugo Awards:

And the thing is this – this is perhaps the first year in the award’s history (and the Campbell, a “Not a Hugo” award) where we see such a strong representation of international voices. I’m not sure I can highlight this enough. Saladin Ahmed‘s Throne of the Crescent Moon, for instance, is the first novel by a Muslim writer ever to be nominated for a Hugo. The first by an Arab-American, for that matter. (And this is when being Muslim in SF is still cause for a lot of nasty sniping, to put it mildly). Ken Liu, a Chinese-American author doing amazing work, amongst others, in translating Chinese science fiction into English, is nominated for Best Short Story. Aliette de Bodard, a French author of Vietnamese ancestry, is nominated for both Best Novella and Best Short Story, while Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a surprise nominee with a translated story in the Best Novelette category.

Even more exciting, the Campbell Award, recognising emerging writers, has author Zen Cho as a nominee – the first time a Malaysian author is so recognised.

The Hugos are changing, I think. Or SF as a whole is changing. The surprise is not that popular American writers are nominated for a Hugo – but that diversity is increasingly represented on the ballots.

Sam Sykes, who surprised me with his thoughtful contribution to the “grimdark” swings and roundabouts, talks about the weight of violence in the new Tomb Raider:

The violence was horrifying. Like, I say this as an unapologetic fanboy of God of War. It was more shocking than personally gouging out the eyes of someone (whose eyes you happen to be looking through) because the tone was different. This violence was presented as unexpected, horrible, out of the norm. God of War’s violence is…trivial isn’t the right word I’m looking for, but it’s close. It’s more like it’s procedural, it’s how you get from point A to point B, which is fine for the kind of story that God of War is telling. But Tomb Raider’s violence is telling a different story, something about the price of blood, the cost of violence, the measure of a human life and human suffering. Tomb Raider’s violence was different.

It had weight.

…When I talk about the weight of violence, I mean the impact it has on the story, the way it affects the characters, the way it shapes the world and the way it makes the outcomes of each conflict mean something.

(The more I hear from people who’ve played the new Tomb Raider, the move I want to give it a shot myself.)

Jim C. Hines, Bigots, Bullies, and Enablers:

People complained about the Locus piece because it was hurtful. This wasn’t an example of the court jester speaking truth to power. While the author claims he was trying to write satire, what he actually wrote was another in a long line of jabs toward people who are already disproportionately targeted for a broad range of abuse in this culture.

It was bullying.

That’s what people are defending. They’re attacking Locus for not giving this person a platform with which to bully those he doesn’t like, based on an incident that happened several years ago. They’re telling the targets of ongoing bigotry that the best solution is to just ignore it.

That doesn’t work for the target of bullying. It only works for the bystanders who don’t want to deal with it. It’s a cowardly, ineffective, and downright shitty “solution.”

New Statesman: Hungary is no longer a democracy.

And some poetry, for poetry’s sake:

Drinking Alone with the Moon
Li Bo, trans. Vikram Seth

A pot of wine among the flowers.
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.

The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I’ll make merry with them both —
And soon enough it will be Spring.

I sing — the moon moves to and fro.
I dance — my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk — and we’ll go our separate ways.

Let’s pledge — beyond human ties — to be friends,
And meet where the Silver River ends.

Linky has some politics and history and anthropology

Politics: Feminist Ire on why childbirth should be on the feminist agenda in Ireland.

History: La Maupin:

She is said to have been “born with masculine inclinations” as well as having been educated in a very masculine way. Certainly, she often dressed as a man and when she did so could be mistaken for one. She also seemed to have at least as much an eye for members of her own sex as for men. Her skill with the sword, either in exhibition or duels fought in earnest, seems to have been exceptional.

Two audio lectures on ancient medicine from Vivian Nutton and G.E.R. Lloyd respectively.

Easing Into The Past: A Brief History of Being Comfortable:

As this new consumer class was born, philosophers and social commentators vented their frustrations at luxury, claiming it to be an agent of moral corruption. “Soft commerce” (doux commerce), as it was called, softened the men who partook of it, making them weak, effeminate, and more like an increasingly futile aristocracy. “Necessity,” on the other hand, was the realm of poverty and paupers, of peasants who lived on black bread and had little access to niceties. “Comfort,” a term that previously meant “aid” or “consolation” (as when one comforts one’s friend), now came into vogue as a term that inhabited a middle ground between luxury and necessity, connoting a form of consumption that increased the ease of one’s life without casting one into the moral danger posed by its more luxurious counterparts.

Linky wants to start by referring back to realism

Since I just had an interesting discussions on Twitter about it.

Does genre have a tendency to do everything to lurid excess, as Niall Harrison suggested in another branch of that discussion? I’m not surely, personally, for myself. But it’s an interesting question, combined with that of realism.

Marie Brennan is also talking about realism, over at SF Novelists, in Welcome to the Desert of the Real:

That’s the way the world was Back Then, the defenders of grimdark say, and they’re just being honest about it.

(Strange how narrow a view of Back Then those defenders usually have. I want to see them applaud a grimdark fantasy in which the manly tradition of warriors includes institutionalized age-structured homosexuality, with the older members buggering the trainees. Oh, sorry, did I get realism in their “realism”? My bad.)

This trend came up at Fourth Street Fantasy last year, and I found myself vehemently rejecting the notion that only the ugly parts of the world are real. Men’s respect for women is just as true and meaningful as their disrespect. If the unbreakable trust of an ally is not inevitable, neither is betrayal; the world is made out of both. There really are people of breathtaking virtue and decency, as well as complete scum. You can focus on the latter if you want to, but don’t tell me it’s better — morally or factually — than focusing on the former.

The Border House Blog wants to see more female protagonists in video games:

We’re not just lagging behind as a narrative medium, we’re stubbornly stagnant and we’re risking complete cultural irrelevance as a result. Imagine the absurdity of a novelist saying that it would be “tough to justify” telling a story through the eyes of a female character. And where would film be as a medium if producers never even considered casting female leads? Alien was made in 1979 and went on to earn back ten times its budget at the box office. But, in 2013, video game developers are still trotting out the same tired excuses for failing to change the representational landscape of the medium.

From Dahr Jamail at Al Jazeera comes a report on how the use of depleted uranium munitions during the war on Iraq have led to exponential increases in the rate of cancers and serious birth defects:

Dr Alani has visited Japan where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between one and two per cent. Alani’s log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the effected areas of Japan.

…[N]ever before has such a high rate of neural tube defects (“open back”) been recorded in babies as in Basra, and the rate continues to rise. According to the study, the number of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) cases among new-borns is six times as high in Basra as it is in the United States.

Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of Uranium in Iraq, has been researching the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqis since 1991. He told Al Jazeera he personally measured radiation levels in the city of Kerbala, as well as in Basra, and his geiger counter was “screaming” because “the indicator went beyond the range”.

Dr Savabieasfahani pointed out that childhood leukemia rates in Basra more than doubled between 1993 and 2007.

“Multiple cancers in patients – patients with simultaneous tumours on both kidneys and in the stomach, for example – an extremely rare occurrence, have also been reported there,” she said.

So generous, what the USA has done to Iraq.

As a chaser, here is a link to an amusing cartoon of St. Patrick and Medusa.

Linky is all out of fizzy caffeine

Tom Simon on Creative discomfort and Star Wars:

That creative discomfort can make all the difference between great writing and dreck. One could argue the point endlessly, for there are examples to the contrary — snap decisions that turned out to be brilliant, slowly gestated ideas that still turned out useless. I would maintain that such cases are outliers: so much depends on the talent of the individual writer, and on sheer luck. What we want here is a controlled experiment. We could learn a great deal by taking the same writer and putting him through a series of similar projects. In half of them, he would have all the time he wanted to brainstorm, to throw away ideas when he came up with better ones, to tear up drafts, to indulge his creative discomfort. In the other half, whenever he had to make a decision, he would simply take the first workable idea that came to mind. Unfortunately, we can’t hire a writer to go through such an experiment. Fortunately, the experiment has already been made. The writer’s name was George Lucas.

Martin Lewis reviews Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels, 1985-2010 at Strange Horizons:

Broderick and Di Filippo turn on the fire hydrant of reference, retire to a safe distance, and let the pressure hose of words flail wildly about, bashing the reader’s brains in… We could charitably say that Broderick and Di Filippo have their hearts in the right place but they are obviously utterly unaware of the manifold traps of words like “indoctrinated” and “exotic.” Unfortunately, such cluelessness recurs, amplified…

…[M]y abiding impression of The 101 Best Novels is of being constantly blindsided; I ended the book not informed or entertained but baffled by these sentence-sized bolts from the blue. I’m sure if Broderick and Di Filippo had a couple of thousand words to write about any of these individual novels or any of the themes they touch on then they would acquit themselves admirably—they obviously know their onions. But their task was something else and, thankless though it was, they were not equal to it. Compression has crushed the life out of their wit and intelligence, leaving the reader with a mangled corpse of a book, punctured by broken bones and leaking shit.

Michelle Sagara, A Question About Male Gaze:

I’ve been thinking about books, written by men, in which women are handled well. Or, to be more specific, in which I think women are handled well. It’s a question I used to be asked while working at the bookstore, and therefore a question I’ve turned over on the inside of my head, time and again.

And this morning, because I am writing and my creative writer brain has slowed, I have returned to this, having spent an evening reading about male gaze.

All of the male authors I’ve recommended or cleared as “writing women well” (Sean Stewart for example) are entirely absent male gaze.

Cora Buhlert has things to say about Grimdark Fantasy:

There is a time in the life of otherwise privileged young western people where they become disillusioned with the world around them, once they figure out that parents and teachers are fallible and may even be jerks, that revolutions don’t necessarily lead to freedom, that voting for the right guy doesn’t necessarily mean that the wrong guy won’t win. And the young people going through those realisations tend to develop a taste for dark and gritty entertainment, because hey, the world is bad and western democracy does not work as advertised and now they want entertainment that tells it like it is. For most people, this phase starts sometime in their mid to late teens, which is also why the teen version of grimdark fantasy, dystopian YA, works so well. By their mid twenties to early thirties at the latest, they usually grow out of it. You can actually see this development in the work of several writers and artists. Alan Moore is a good example of this. His earlier work – Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Marvelman, his run on Captain Britain (all written in his late twenties to mid thirties) – is much darker than later works such as Promethea, Tom Strong or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all written when he was in his late forties to early fifties.

With a follow-up here.

The King of Elfland’s 2nd Cousin on conservatism and epic:

Here are the aspects I’m curious about:

– Aesthetics. Does our current conception of epic fantasy preclude certain imagery, metaphors, sentence construction, etc.?
– Structure. How do trends in epic fantasy constrain the narrative structures viable within the sub-genre?
– Themes. Are there thematic areas which epic fantasy cannot explore? Moral, ethical, political, sociological models it cannot dramatize?

Max Gladstone talks about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Victoria Brittain: England’s War on Terror is also a War on Women.