blah blah oh right links

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Hey, this is good.

When you read an x-men book today, you’re not reading it because of what is in the actual book–you’re reading it because it’s the X-men and the feeling it gives you reminds you of positive memories you have of the very best of the x-men stories.
But what I would argue is that that process is inherently destructive to an audience, and culture, and it perpetuates the worst kind of escapism, which is a non-aspirational escapism. These are not comics that take you forward to some fantastic place you could only dream about. They take you back toward the womb, they regress you.

Replace x-mens with “90% of genre media, such as SFF and YA” and same applies. Voila! You’re all fucking infants.

Male Feminists – a spotter’s guide

  • The distinctive squawk, “MISANDRY! MISANDRY!”, which the Male Feminist uses in order to intimidate women into submission during his bizarre mating ritual
  • The belief that he is owed sexual favours, gratitude or praise for basic acts such as choosing not to rape a drunk woman at a party one time, or saying that a woman could totally be President

A review of World of Shell and Bone, a shitty YA.

Ronan Wills goes after the author we all know and love.

We can talk about this book’s iffy thematic content and idiotic grimdark elements all we want, but at the end of the day the book’s biggest flaw is that it’s just dull. Characters sit around endlessly contemplating their navels for chapters at a time, frequently seguing into multi-page flashbacks mid-conversation, most of the time to give information that has already been conveyed or wasn’t necessary to begin with. Our old friend Nothing Fucking Happening rears his head throughout the book, such that by the halfway mark I was working hard to resist the urge to skim. The oppressively adolescent grittiness pushed me over the edge soon after.

Hello Scotty! R Scott Bakker I mean. Actually I’ve no idea wtf the R stands for. Ridiculous? Rapey?

Chiusse on Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist.

Nine signs the journalism on Africa you’ve just encountered is trash.

You may already have accepted that those images of swollen potbellies underneath protruding ribs, those sticky flies sitting on the starving child’s eyebrows and lips, those panoramic views of refugee camps are not the be-all and end-all of Africa. Or those unclear references to Africa which suggest it’s a monolith, or even worse, a country.

link on link on link

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When I first saw this I went “what ass?” As far as I could tell there’s no female character presenting her rear in that picture because the default gaze is hetero male blah blah. After a minute I finally saw which ass. Can’t unsee. Look at the way the light just so happens to fall on it. That’s some ass. Some glowing ass.

By the way, go look for Guren no Yumiya parodies, hilarious yet compelling. Try listening to that stuff while doing ordinary household chores too. I tried it while making a sandwich. Buttering up toast has never been so energizing.

Game of Thrones to reach its climax in 2468

Author George RR Martin, who bought Tolkien’s middle initials for $6.8 million at a literary auction, said: “The peasants who fought in the Hundred Years War never knew how it ended. Nor will the fans of Game of Thrones.

Looks like I induced yet another rock to defend Sookie Stackhouse and Charlaine Harris. No offense. Some of my friends are rocks. I follow rocks on twitter. Probably.

The Sookie Stackhouse novels rank at about a seven on the Bubble Scale. Though the series leaves a lot to be desired with regard to feminism, it at least offers a strong female protagonist, and it scores fairly highly in other categories.

This is pretty funny because she holds feminism as distinct from anti-racism. What’s that? “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit,” as per Flavia Dzodan. (I’ve quoted that without context or attribution before, which is bad, so I’ll make a point of linking that now.) Is this woman White Feminist? That’s a parody account, FYI.

Lafayette, a black gay man with a penchant for eye makeup from the first book and every season of the True Blood show, is much beloved. So much so, in fact, that I doubted Harris’s ability to be authentic to her setting. Because I am from the backwoods in a small rural Southern town,  it was hard to understand the backwoods wait staff at Merlotte’s being very accepting of that degree of otherness… My argument that this is a fairly progressive text with regard to homosexuality hinges on the idea that no lesbian or gay man is treated as an apparition. Gay sex does not haunt heterosexual sex. Gay characters do not flicker at the edge of heterosexual existence. The characters exist in solid, well-developed forms. If the real Terry Castle stood in front of the fictional Pam and called her an apparitional lesbian, Terry Castle would wind up with a really beautiful, high end shoe to the face.  Homosexuality in Harris’s work is not set up to define heterosexuality, it simply is. All on its own.

Wow, okay, the blogger is upfront with disclosing her ethnicity but not her orientation so I dunno about that, but this reads so much like someone who’s only encountered queerness in textbooks–and outdated textbooks. Lafayette? Remember how he gets raped and murdered in the books?

Without thoroughly constructed sets of difference, the patriarchy cannot understand either its role or its superiority. I tend to think it is too literal an interpretation of the factors at work in the books to say they are racist. Rather, I think racism becomes man on monster. Perhaps because I am a pretty white girl with a dab of Choctaw and one Apache grandfather, I do not understand racism the way I think I do. It is learned knowledge, and not earned experience. However, I found interrogations of racism instead of praise for it in these books. No racism is portrayed as a positive value system. No person of color is used to uphold or define the role of the patriarchy.

This joke makes itself. “1/16 Cherokee princess” went out of fashion, I see.

So Professor Feminism Hugo Schy… Swy… Hugo Shitstain had an episode (his own word) where he appears to confess his sins, but it’s in actuality yet another scream for attention and a pity party. For context and history on Shitstain take a look here and here. FYI, Shitstain has–among other things–tried to murder one of his exes, fucked his students, raped at least one person, and talked his way into teaching feminism even though he has jack shit qualifications. Here’s hoping he chokes on his own vomit while giving interviews to MRAs. Yes, he’s doing that now. I’m serious.

Speaking of, Sarah Rees Brennan demonstrates once again that she lacks the ability to grasp nuance. Or, well, simple text. Wonder what she thinks of #solidarityisforwhitewomen? If criticizing YA is automatically misogynistic, then criticizing white women has got to be too. In bizarro dimension, you know.

But… drinking tea and reading books? I mean… what? Nothing wrong with that. Something a lot of book-reading girls can empathise with, and there’s nothing wrong with being able to find yourself between the covers of a book, and being told you’re a hero—*the* hero. Same with not liking clothes. If you don’t like clothes and you feel like the world feels you should, and you find a girl hero in the books who doesn’t and it feels like a hand has come out to take yours—great.

[...]

I do want YA to have more and different female characters, and less dismissal of ‘other girls’. But I don’t like the conflation of those desires with the dismissal of ‘all YA writers’ (all those bad ladies and the bad stupid things they do) and the scorn inherent in that ‘drinking tea, reading books’—the idea of girls wanting to see themselves in books. (Echoes of the way ‘Mary Sue’ is used as an insult, with a Mary Sue being a shameful thing, as if boys haven’t been seeing themselves in fiction, seeing themselves be special, forever and a day.)

Drinking tea and reading books? Serious fucking business, practically makes you an oppressed class really. Perfect white feminism.

Do you need more reasons to call Rothfuss an irredeemable shitstain? Here you go.

The effects of this pheromonal cocktail vary, but with a select section of the female populous it has two profound, complimentary effects.

1. It delivers a message directly to the woman’s hindbrain, saying: THERE IS A MAN NEARBY, AND YOU MUST MATE WITH HIM.

2. It immediately drops the woman’s intelligence anywhere from 10-50 IQ points, which makes it hard for them to realize that mating with me is *obviously* a bad idea, while at the same time rendering them more vulnerable to my not inconsiderable charm.

Is he related to R Scott Bakker or something?

Game Of Thrones: “A bad show disguised as a good one” sez someone. Probably true. I haven’t watched the thing and have no intention to, because zzzzzzzzzzz.

talking horse palate cleanser

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Wow, for a bit I thought this was a parody.

But trust me, one day in your first trimester it’ll hit you that for each of the six billion people on the planet, a mother was pregnant and went through what you’re going through. It’s the most ordinary thing in the world and yet, when it happens to you, it’ll be the most extraordinary experience you’ll have had to date.
[...]
In a way, telling yourself that you’re not ready to become a parent is like saying, “I’m not ready to broaden my horizons.” Or, “I’m not ready to be humbled on a daily basis.” Or, “I’m not ready to feel my heart swell up with admiration and pride.”

I know it seems like a big step. I know it looks like motherhood is giving up yourself. It’s not. It’s just shedding the parts of you that you don’t really need anymore. There’s no guidebook that can prepare you for that; you learn through the experience of it. Motherhood is like boot camp for the soul.

So… motherhood turns you into a zombie? Notice she doesn’t mention fatherhood. This is about her passing judgment on another woman (and by extension, all women who don’t want children) because she’s internalized patriarchal bullshit and wants to harangue every other woman into becoming as fucked up as she is.

The best part is that Kovac was addressing a straw-woman. The “career woman” that she so resents isn’t even real but a caricature she painted to look shallow, silly, and useless (unlike her, the superior all-knowing mommy). Amusingly despite having shat out what she believes is an “open letter” that’ll make people sympathetic to her and contemptuous of the straw career woman, counter-articles instead sympathize with the fictional Doris and tear into Kovac instead. Even other mothers feel Kovac is a self-righteous, condescending piece of shit. Incompetence in action!

Yes, parenting is joyful, ego-shattering (in a good way), and awe-inspiring. But parenting is not the only endorphin-oxytocin-dopamine natural high out there. And it’s certainly not the only way for a woman to reach her highest potential—do you hold the same rite of passage to fatherhood as wholly necessary for a man? People everywhere soar high and engage in meaningful, excellent, and fulfilling lives without children (or dogs for that matter).

Nightmare Mode has an explanation for the gamer mentality.

We throw tantrums, as if our games were holy objects and that a particular gun being available “only at Gamestop” somehow violates our sacred human rights.

It does not. My own insistence that games, their developers, and their critics bend to my will betrays an ugly truth about human nature that is accentuated by videogames: I am fundamentally self-centered and unloving, desperately concerned with my own well-being to a lopsided degree.

Games didn’t train me to be this way, but they provide an outlet for it. They provide constant positive feedback – regular assurance that even if I fail repeatedly, I am still always “leveling up.” They go out of their way to assure me that I am accomplishing goals and unlocking enough to justify the activity. Games fall over themselves to win me over, and to show me that they are worth my time.

Merritt Kopas talks about Oppression and Play.

Because dys4ia requires active participation by the player, it draws them into the logic of a system bigger than the individual. It gives non-trans players a tiny glimpse of the frustrations of living in a society that tells you over and over that you do not exist, and that, when it on occasion deigns to admit that you do, then drops obstacle after obstacle in the path of your desires and goals. Here, one student said that the game helped them to better understand the process of transition and all of the institutional and societal barriers involved. Another told me that the game helped them to better understand the idea of ideology as a force bigger than the individual, something that can structure one’s options and choices in life without one’s knowledge or consent.

Another Nightmare Mode piece takes on Sometimes games want you to think they’re critiquing violence, but instead they legitimize it.

The engineer explains: “We do not know our enemy. How can we hope to stop something we do not understand? If we can capture one of these creatures alive, we may be able to…communicate with it.” The military personnel immediately understands: “…and interrogate it,” he intones.

And I can’t help but feel like this is the exact same conversation that took place before the Executive Branch of the United States started performing extraordinary renditions.

The actions that we take have consequences that aren’t immediately apparent. The scariest part is that those actions don’t have to happen in the “real world” to have serious effects on our day-to-day meatlives. XCOM, in some small way, legitimizes a certain way of acting in and thinking about the world.

Mattie Brice’s Would You Kindly.

This is why the recent public foray about video games and violence is rather laughable. Games are clearly overestimated when it comes to the kinds of topics and play is actually there. American society, at least, has identified guns and violence with boys and men for as long as I’ve been alive, and most likely before the first video game. It reminds me of an anecdote Brendan makes in his book, that cover shooters remind him of playing games of pretend as a child. Video games are currently a translation of that, a reincarnation of stereotypically boys’ activities that do impart cultural values, but do not simulate anything real. We can see this throughout all other media, and can attribute the homogeneity of both the artists and the audiences they target. This is why our Vice President calls a meeting to solve gun violence over the rare attack at a predominately white school and not the frequent, systematic murder of transgender women of color.

I know many developers and players are excited about the avenue of satire. The ‘gotchya!’ is easy to formulate and punctuate an otherwise typical game. But letting business as usual carry on until the final stages serves no one any good- it creates the illusion that these problems are outside of us, easily boxed away when we please. Indeed, challenging the player from the get-go with actual problems might not be fun and require the help of someone who isn’t white, heterosexual, nor a man.

Boo-hoo.

Basically, Nightmare Mode is the best gaming site around. Read it sometime. Related (re: the Dead Island mutilated bikini torso): It Belongs in a Museum.

Ronan Wills read Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim. Trigger warning: pedophilia, of the “she’s really an adult but looks like a twelve-year-old” sort as embraced by Sheri Tepper et al, but with more frills. Kadrey doesn’t really understand gothic lolita, but he doesn’t understand much of anything.

Urban fantasy is well known for being a cess-pit of terrible writing produced by stunted, illiterate racists. It’s possibly the single most worthless genre in all of fiction. So of course when I was offered a copy of Sandman Slim by the proprietor of  Requires Only That You Hate I jumped at the chance. Partially this was due to the front cover blurb describing the book as a “dirty-ass masterpiece” which is quite possibly the least appealing endorsement I’ve ever seen. I feel like I should be wearing gloves every time I pick up my eReader.

Yes, I do go around offering copies of truly horrendous books to people who then read ‘em so I don’t have to. Win-win. (See also this review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. I’m hoping for a similarly thorough review of the sequel. Bread? Well and truly snatched from the author’s mouth! Or his neckbeard, it’s hard to tell.)

Did I say talking horse palate cleanser? Arthur B reviews Waters Rising.

Horses who are rapists: 1.
Rapist cartoonish villains who get some form of comeuppance: All.
Rapist horses who get a pass because they get upset and yell at you if you call them a rapist: 1
Probability that Tepper thinks the horse isn’t actually a rapist: Uncomfortably high.
[...]
“But Arthur,” you may be saying at this point, “you don’t understand! I am a complete moral vacuum who doesn’t care how odious the opinions put forth by a novel on ecology, rape, mass drowning and eugenics are. Surely I can at least enjoy this novel as an ethically reprehensible but competently written science fantasy saga?”

Nope, ‘fraid not. The miserable failure of The Waters Rising as a novel is something which we can all agree on. Come back, Steve Stirling! Take up your axes and ride out with me, oh hordes of Robert E. Howard fans! We can all find something we hate with this novel! Reactionaries will hate the eco-feminism, ecologists and feminists will yell “Get the fuck off my side!”, and all of us can be united in one common experience: the fact that reading this book is an incredibly tedious process.

I think he actually read through the whole thing, too. Could I interest you in Sandman Slim, Arthur? It even has the same pedo schtick.

THE CASUAL VACANCY – JK Rowling still can’t fucking write

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Haha, just kidding. I’m not reviewing that shit–you can’t pay me to read a whole book of petty white middle-class suburban bollocks that matter to no one but other petty white middle-class suburban insects. No fear though, I skimmed through the fucking thing and have collected some quotes to share. For a sample:

Together he and Fats had become connoisseurs of silicone-enhanced breasts, enormous, taut and round.
‘Plastic,’ one of them would point out, matter of factly, as they sat in front of the monitor with the door wedged shut against Fats’ parents. The on-screen blonde’s arms were raised as she sat astride some hairy man, her big brown-nippled breasts hanging off her narrow rib cage like bowling balls, thin, shiny purple lines under each of them showing where the silicone had been inserted. You could almost tell how they would feel, looking at them: firm, as if there were a football underneath the skin. Andrew could imagine nothing more erotic than a natural breast; soft and spongy and perhaps a little springy, and the nipples (he hoped) contrastingly hard.
And all of these images blurred in his mind, late at night, with the possibilities offered by real girls, human girls, and the little you managed to feel through clothes if you managed to move in close enough.

Yes, the book’s full of this creepy male-gaze shit. Also a lot of “cunt” and such, which lets you know this is a Truly Grown-Up Book That’s Not For Kids. I understand there’s rape, pedophilia and the like in it as well, which as R Scott Bakker and assorted purveyors of grimdark have shown us are the true hallmarks of maturity and literary erudition.

The Casual Vacancy – digested read

“Fairbrother’s dead?” roared Howard, but then Howard was as prone to roaring as an angry lion effervescing in the atmosphere since he was the archetypal reactionary Middle Englander, a man as flabbily obese as this prose.

[...]

Simon, Arf, Maureen, Gavin, Gaia and Kay all fluttered like a foetus with fear at the prospect of being minor characters with little development for the next 500 pages. “It’s all right for you lot,” Sukhinder moaned as softly as a not very cruel wind. “You’re only representative of a single issue. I’m Asian and a self-harmer.”

The Casual Vacancy – hoping to work the old magic

JK Rowling’s new book has been out less than 24 hours and some who have read it all have admitted tears at the ending.

And that’s how she wants it: “I don’t think I would have much to say to anyone who did not at least tear up a bit,” she told an audience. “I don’t think I could have any kind of warm feeling towards someone who didn’t feel sad towards the end.”

Madam, people reading this should be breaking out in tears of joy when they reach the end if only because it is the end and there’s no more of this fucking terrible shit they have to read, but expecting self-awareness from Rowling may be like expecting a dead squirrel to do trigonometry. The New York Times may be the only major rag that’s given it a negative review, but I’m not sure the reviewer is entirely a trustworthy reader with gems like:

Many authors, of course, have created portraits of small-town life that capture the texture of ordinary lives with great depth of emotion. This, alas, is not the case here. Whereas the Harry Potter universe was as richly imagined and intricately detailed as Tolkien’s Middle Earth or L. Frank Baum’s Oz, Pagford seems oddly generic — a toy village, in which rooftops pop off to reveal adultery, marital discord and generational conflict among the tiny toy people.

[...]

In some respects “The Casual Vacancy” is grappling with many of the same themes as the Harry Potter books: the losses and burdens of responsibility that come with adulthood, and the stubborn fact of mortality. One of the things that made Harry’s story so affecting was Ms. Rowling’s ability to construct a parallel world enlivened by the supernatural, and yet instantly recognizable to us as a place where death and the precariousness of daily life cannot be avoided, a place where identity is as much a product of deliberate choice as it is of fate. What’s missing here is an emotional depth of field. It’s not just because the stakes in this novel are so much smaller. (In “Harry Potter,” the civil war was literally between good and evil; here, it is between petty, gossip-minded liberals and conservatives.) It’s that the characters in “The Casual Vacancy” feel so much less fully imagined than the ones in the Harry Potter epic.

Though I guess next to The Casual Vacancy even the HP books, mindless subliterate dreck that they are, would look pretty good and pretty deep. Having said that, why don’t you go read some better books, dear person? Read the comments by the way, very fun. Of all the tangents!

How on earth can anyone call Tolkien mysogynistic? He had many strong female characters, and one of my favorite feminist-empowering lines is spoken by Eowyn. Examples:
* Galadriel is described as every bit as strong and intelligent as her male relatives, and is clearly the primary ruler of Lorien, although she and Celeborn are technically jointly in charge.
* Luthien takes a large, active part in the story of Luthien and Beren, directly confronting numerous villains (including Sauron and Morgoth, Sauron’s leader). She also saves Beren, who is male.
* Eowyn defeats the lord of the Nazgul. She also gives Aragorn a scathing dressing-down when he tells her she should stay out of the battle, saying: “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. … I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear pain or death.”

Really now. On which note I suppose it could be useful to compare whether Tolkien or JK Rowling is the bigger racist and sexist. Tough contest, man.

the superior and the inferior sorts of reader

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A while back Nick Mamatas talked about the superior sort of reader and the inferior sort of reader, which got me to thinking a bit (and no, not just because he sorted me into the “superior” category, but thanks, mister).

At Astrogator’s Logs Athena Andreadis writes about The Dark Knight Rises and The Bourne LegacyFresh Breezes From Unexpected Quarters.

I detest Christopher Nolan’s ponderous dourness. The only film of his I found remotely intriguing was The Prestige. Auteur pretensions aside, the closest relatives of Nolan’s Batman opus are the abysmal Star Wars prequels. The two trilogies share pretty much everything: the wooden dialogue, the cardboard characters, the manipulative sentimentality, the leaden exposition, the cultural parochialism, the nonsensical plot, the worshipping of messiahs and unaccountable privileged elites, the contempt for “mundanes” and democratic structures, the dislike of women and non-hierarchical relationships. To be sure, Nolan’s second Batman film boasted the unforgettable performance of Heath Ledger’s Joker. But TDKR should have been called Bat Guano or Darth Vader Meets the Transformers.

Abigail Nussbaum also has a thing or two to say about The Dark Knight Rises:

The Dark Knight Rises extends Batman’s authority past crime, into technological progress, and even into social welfare–when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Officer Blake, a Batman believer who is one of the first to uncover signs of the film’s villain, starts his investigation by following up the murder of a homeless teen, he learns that the boy was kicked out of his group home because the cash-strapped Wayne Foundation has stopped funding it.  In other words, it’s not just the police that needs to be augmented by a caped crusader, but every level of government that must be replaced by private enterprise and private philanthropy.  And when that private benefactor is mocked, derided, hobbled in his efforts to keep his community safe and even hunted down for those efforts–why, then he will retreat from his obligations, and the result will be disaster.

Fine pieces of criticism. Now I would like to take a look at some reviews for a bunch of assorted things.

Continue reading

line up the links and bring the firing squad

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Marsomething Kaye (who I’ve never heard of before except in the context of “what a racist fuck”) has stepped up toe defend Save the Whites: A Thoroughly Non-Racist Book. Keep in mind that Martin Kaye thinks HP Lovecraft is awesome.

Weird Tales seldom prints SF, but this story is a compelling view of a world that didn’t listen to the warnings of ecologists, and a world that has developed a reverse racism: blacks dominating and detesting not just whites, but latinos and albinos, the few that still survive of the latter are hunted down and slaughtered.

He’ll publish the first chapter in WT’s next issue. Considering that even if you set aside the offensiveness the book’s still shit, what more needs to be said of either Weird Tales or Kaye?

Brent Weeks, who writes some barely-readable, forgettable dribble featuring cover art that looks like recolored Assassin’s Creed boxes, made a whiny tweet to the tune of “how dare mere mortals–like, readers!–complain ebooks are overpriced?”

What stuns me is that it takes him more than two years to churn out such barely-readable dribble. Mr Weeks, most hacks of your caliber need just one year per novel, if that. Step up your game! You’re writing dreck that’s barely a step above tie-in fiction, dude, not creating great art through blood and tears (unless the tears are for the knowledge you’ll never be anything more than mediocre). You should be grateful anyone’d even pay $4 for one of those things. I can direct anyone curious to pirated copies of his books, by the way.

I was hoping critics and writers in litfic were less entitled and testerical than the ones in genre. J Robert Lennon, whoever he is, decided to prove me wrong.

Second, have a little humility about your opinion. Even if you don’t like the writer you’re reviewing, not even a little bit, acknowledge, at least to yourself, that some people do, and that this fact is not meaningless. In your review, let your reader know what it is other people like about this writer. If you disagree, say so, in a non-condescending manner. The goal is to explain and persuade, not to hurt. Though I thought Ben Marcus’s last novel was largely unsuccessful, I understood why some people might like it. Marcus is well-regarded and has clear strengths — he does things in his work that I can’t, and many people I respect, respect him. Thus, I respect him too. The first half of my review acknowledged and characterized that respect before I presented my case.

What is this claptrap? Nobody owes anyone shit, boyo. He did however link to a wonderfully entertaining review (while whining of course that it’s too mean).

Ohlin’s language betrays an appalling lack of register — language that limps onto the page proudly indifferent to pitch or vigor. Mitch’s “heart sang” and then Mitch’s “heart sank”; poor Mitch “felt his heart cracking like ice cubes in warm water.” Annie “had touched Grace’s heart” but had also “gotten under her skin.” Grace feels “marooned on her own private island” and then “her nerves were singing.” In just 13 pages you will be asked to endure eyes “fluttering,” then “shining,” then “fluttering” again. Mitch’s girlfriend is “brilliantly smart” — imagine for a second the special brand of languor required to connect those two terms — and also blows her nose “goose-honkingly hard.” Ohlin’s preferred simile is some variation of the lazy “like a child,” and she has a baffling fondness for the most worthless word in English: “weird.”

fight! fight!

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Caitlin Kiernan is angry with me because I said “lol,” which she perhaps feels was unsuitable to the gravity of our discourse, twitter being a sacred symposium. My bad, Ms Kiernan, I do so apologize that I never capitalized my tweets to you either. Next time I promise I’ll speak real serious. Kari Sperring notes

And I am uncomfortable that so many of [requireshate's] attacks are aimed at women, rather than men.

This is in response to a post that’s in turn a sequel to a previous post where Kiernan repeatedly singles out this demographic as the cause of all things intolerable on the Intertubes–

There is an ever growing contingency of people online (and, presumably, offline) – largely, it seems, young, college-educated white women/girls in the Echo Boomer/Homeland Generation age bracket* – who are so astoundingly, viciously, humorlessly hyper-politicized that they are incapable of approaching a given work of fiction as a work of fiction.

I’m not sure how Sperring squares “she attacks women rather than men and that makes me uncomfortable” with what amounts to a blanket dismissal of humorless feminists in almost as many words (and an automatic conflation of caring about politics with naivete) to go along with the rather gendered “shrill screeds.” At a guess it would be because I said something to Sperring and she said something about me making her an example “imperialist bitch.” The “bitch” is hers in assumption (or hyperbole), not mine. You can see parts of that exchange here.

There’s a bunch of fun straw men in Kiernan’s post, so enjoy!

I will also point out that the individual who considers Silk racist also made statements like “goddamn 99% of white people should break their keyboards and their hands period unless they promise only to write about whites.” No, truly. I’m not making this up. “jesus white people really can’t write China for shit. or Thailand either.” And “white people writing fantasy China give me the creeps.” Okay, so. If I am of whichever many, many Caucasian lineages (many of which readily qualify as people of color), I should never, ever write Thai or Chinese characters, unless I want my hands and keyboard broken. Because, by this person’s estimation, in so doing, I shall inevitably commit “racefail.” Does this mean they advocate torture and censorship? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be an outlandish conclusion to draw, based on their comments. Should Caucasian Americans never write about any other people in any other country? Or an American member of a race other than one’s own?**** Is that forbidden?

Plus a lot of infants shitting themselves in joy in the comments that someone–AT LONG LAST!!!–steps up to protest those dreadful PC police. But seriously, that’s waaaaay too many fucking words just to say what amounts to “stand and fight against POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD, BRAVE WARRIORS! DEFEND YOUR ART. ART, MAN, ART.” I’ll note here that when the first word you reach for to describe an East Asian girl is “exotic,” that’s lazy shorthand, not art. Unless your idea of art is lazy shorthands, in which case what more is there to say? The best part is that I don’t think Kiernan actually read my rather mild review of her book, though even if she does she may not be happy that I ultimately declared Silk an unreadable clusterfuck of flat plot, unscary horror, and uncompelling characters. Yes, that’s a dreamcatcher on the cover art that features a white girl, why did you ask? Yes, it appears in the novel. She makes one to protect her friends against her demons, if I recall correctly. Madam, let us say that your committing racefail is not a thing in potentia, y’know what I mean? Even if we ignore that Silk is a pretty awful novel for reasons having nothing to do with its politics.

While defending herself from clearly spurious charges of racefail (MADE BY DUMB, NAIVE, HUMORLESS WOMEN WHO MAKE SHRILL SCREEDS ON TWITTER–MOST OF WHOM ARE WHITE AND COLLEGE-EDUCATED… except the third party who called her a troll is, in fact, a woman of color), Kiernan goes on to defend Heart of DarknessAnd Dr Doolittle.

Well…I have, and I would [encourage people to read Dr. Doolittle]. We saw a wonderful exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in the winter of 2008 or 2009, which displayed Hugh Lofting’s original illustrations and manuscripts and letters. The exhibit also discussed the inherent racism (and other issues) within the context of the time when they were written. We cannot toss out all literature before the emergence of more equal and educated Western societies. They exist, many are powerful and important (despite their social weaknesses), and we cannot pretend otherwise.

Could not make up a better caricature if I tried. It’s so amazing that I can’t be offended. It’s just, man, how do you even do that? Is there any piece of western literary canon she won’t defend because it’s “powerful and important”? What does she think of Lovecraft given that she’s a horror writer? She also seems to believe that criticism equals stifling and banning, a bit like how Richard Morgan likes to throw his toddler tantrums about “fatwas” because he writes rapetastic grimdark. When was the last time feminist or postcolonialist readings cast something out of her precious literary canon or resulted in effective public condemnation…? I didn’t realize minorities wielded such fearsome power!

One might be compelled to ask “Powerful and important to whom?” but perhaps that is irrelevant to Ms Kiernan, college-educated white individual (and I emphasize these qualities because it is funny that she jeers at those with the same), who’ll insist simply that it’s ART, MAN, ART and never you say otherwise because fuck you, hater of love, freedom, and all things ARTISTIC. She seems mostly interested in “Western societies” and a “polarized America” anyway, so that’s that. Let us then leave her to her America and her Westernlandia, where–it is to be hoped–she will forever stay. No worries, madam, despite your martyr complex nobody’s out to “brand” you. If Elizabeth Moon’s, Paolo Bacigalupi’s, Jay Lake’s and Dan Simmons’ careers never suffered on account of racism, why would yours for insisting that Dr Doolittle and Heart of Darkness are above criticism?

Click here to read Nick Mamatas’ post about writers and readers, part of which has to do with the Kiernan entry that started it all, and part of which has to do with Samuel Delany’s Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, which everyone has been daring me to read.

EDIT: And this

The problem is that a PoC will say “you know, that dialogue’s a little stereotyped”, and the white author will hear “RACIST! SHUN HER! KILL THE RACIST BITCH!” And everything goes to hell. Seen it repeatedly in discussions on Romance blogs and in fandom.

Plus this:

Telling someone they shouldn’t be hurt by it doesn’t make it not hurt. If it did, this would be a much easier life for all of us.

I can’t help but think you are descending into special pleading here, Victoria, and running a little too close to privileging your ‘hurt’ over the hurt of authors of colour being unable to market their books to white audiences, or people of colour unable to routinely see characters like themselves in romance books or other genre fiction. I appreciate that you are trying to write more CoC, but you are heavily insulated by white privilege from any real consequences from screwing up in doing so, and the imaginary consequences far outweigh any actual problems you will face.

When writing Characters of Colour, white authors have much more to fear from readers when they are lousy at their craft than for simply writing outside their race. It’s more than time to call bullshit on this ‘risk’.

the disease of geek pride – world-building and cultural appropriation

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There’s an obsession over world-building among a certain kind of SFF nerds. There’s a whole subreddit devoted to it. Much of what makes Tolkien so appealing to a certain kind of nerds is “world-building,” which is to say a bunch of useless made-up trivia. Because this, we should keep in perspective, is all it is. It is not culture, because it doesn’t contribute anything to any culture at large and generally relevant not even to all of SFF nerds, but to a select group: the specific fandom of a specific author or franchise. It is not useful, because it’s–well, a bunch of useless made-up trivia. It is not inherently valuable, because it is useless made-up trivia.

Let’s address this breed of nerds: geeks who identify as geeks with a capital G. They are people who make being a geek an essential part of their identities. It’s all they talk about upon meeting strangers. They make it their personalities. They integrate their fandom into themselves, rather than leaving it what it is: a hobby.

There are things that can be said for secondary worlds being useful for speculative experiments (socio-political, alt-historical, and many others), for imagination, for metaphor and allegory, but the obsession these geeks have with world-building is not so much for the imaginative, the speculative, or even the interesting: it is to do with sheer volume. It’s not that this world or that is unusual or exceptional in its imaginative qualities. It’s not even that all the little details cohere and make for a believable secondary world. No, it’s that there is a fucking lot of it. Ask a diehard Tolkien fan about “world-building.” Prepare to drown in a deluge of mindless praise for Tolkien’s Finnish copypasta, the maps, the letters, the unpublishable writing that gets published anyway because the Tolkien Estate is hungry for cash, the minutiae in the appendices and basically, the verbal vomit of his “legendarium” (and this word will crop up a lot: when you see it, run). There’s nothing much of quality in there, but there sure is a lot of quantity. This love of word vomit is the driving force behind nerds’ love of D&D and its many marketing campaigns–sorry, settings–and similar other franchises designed to sell merchandise. A similar admiration exists for one Ed Greenwood, a gross creepy old man and the creator of Forgotten Realms, not because he is a writer of great craft–he is a producer of the worst sort of verbal diarrhea, not that his fans will admit it–but because he’s churned out a vast amount of material related to his intellectual property, a fair portion of them having to do with fap-fodder (ctrl + f for “breasts”; as a bonus, take a minute out of your day to read this review of one of his self-insert books starring fantasy writer Rod Everlar who sells his fantasy out to a company named Hasbr–uhm, Holdencorp).

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