Game of Nice and Fire: Time for a New Sansa Chapter!

Oh my god, you guys, there’s a new Song of Ice and Fire scene out! Which means that I have to work out my sick obsession for midgrade fantasy writing all over it. This time it’s a Alayne viewpoint scene, which is… oh man. I like the Sansa/Alayne character. Maybe I’m the only one, but I do I like that she’s not overpowered (Arya) or a dimbulb (Arianne) or a once-interesting character turned into a boring evil-queen stereotype (Cersei–why did the Cersei viewpoint have to happen at all? Why?) There are still some cool things that can happen with Sansa/Alayne, as long as the character is allowed to grow. Which… well, it’s George R.R. Martin. So yeah.

Warning: There are a lot of Petyr Baelish-related digressions up ahead. If you can’t handle the Baelish and his smoove moves, you might want to skip this one. Continue reading →

“Illness doesn’t need to be like that”

After writing my previous post, the good folks behind Gert Loveday asked if I had heard about another Australian health blogger, Belle Gibson. Yes, I had… Gibson was famous for having terminal brain cancer (not true) and running a wellness site (true). Her app, The Whole Pantry, was included on the Apple Watch, and it seems like Gibson was just about to hit the big time when it turned out that the money from her charity fundraisers was going to the charity of Belle Gibson. Then it turned out that Gibson didn’t really have cancer, just an appointment with “Dr Phil.” (He didn’t have a last name. No, it wasn’t that Dr. Phil.)

Understandably, the shit has hit the fan. Gibson has failed to make her promised explanation, the app has been pulled from the Apple store, and Gibson’s book has been pulled from sale in Australia and a planned American release cancelled. It’s sweet justice for those who’ve been used by Gibson–but why were people conned in the first place?

Continue reading →

Random thoughts on an article on feminism, part 2

“Feminist writers are so beseiged by online abuse that some have begun to retire”

One of the concepts that I wanted to explore from this article is the concept of victimhood—these women are losing themselves, losing their voices. They are suffering because of somebody else’s actions. None of the women are explicitly described as victims, of course. Why would anybody admit to being a victim? “Victim” is a dirty word; even people who get sick, who suddenly fall ill with horrible diseases, are “survivors,” because calling them “victims” means that they’re losers. Even if they only survive a week! Calling them victims means that the disease is more important.

Being a survivor implies strength, that somehow being acted upon by illness or evil made you a better, stronger person. Although does that mean that women have to be sick or raped to be “their best selves”? I would rather be my shitty self. Although why do I think that I’m a shitty person because I haven’t, say, come through a brutal rape or been riddled with cancer? Why does bodily and emotional pain blot out any of my own freely chosen actions? If I got cancer and died, would that mean I was a terrible person, as opposed to all those times I was cool about people being in jail forever? Are my morals contained entirely in my vagina and breasts and what other people do to them?

And maybe that’s not so bad? Continue reading →

Random thoughts on an article on feminism

“Feminist writers are so beseiged by online abuse that some have begun to retire”

1. Why would anyone do this in the first place?

What really strikes me about this article is that none of these women actually have any issues that they are interested in—they’re just “feminists.” They are in the media and they are ladies and they do lady stuff. They are famous. Do they want to end female genital mutilation? Are they campaigning for paid maternity leave? Are they running those clinics that try to get women to adopt out their babies because abortions are evil (and yes, I am stretching the usual definition of “feminist” here to include “any social cause that has to do with women in any way, shape, or form”)? Hell, do they have strong opinions on female pubic hair (thanks, third-wave feminism)? Well, I don’t know! But they sure as hell are being harassed on the Internet. That’s the important thing to know about feminists. They get beat up on a lot on the most important space on earth—the Internet.

OK, some of the women mentioned actually have causes, but the article is careful to obscure their work with their victimhood. Joanna Munson is a pro-choice activist who is giving up blogging to go to law school. That may not seem like the world’s worst trade-off. If you want to help support abortion clinic operations, being a lawyer is probably a hell of a lot more useful than being a blogger. However, Munson’s entry into law school is depicted as a defeat—her Twitter account is more important than her professional participation in the public sphere. (Although if you don’t want to deal with a high-pressure environment with the potential for personal abuse, why law school?) Munson is a victim, first and foremost.

Or here’s abortion rights activist Lauren Rankin:

Last year, [Rankin] pulled back from writing online and, for the most part, from Twitter because the threats and insults were becoming so wearying. She continues to serve on the board of the reproductive rights nonprofit A Is For and faces off against antiabortion protesters as a volunteer clinic escort, but she no longer engages publicly.

Wait a second, so she’s serving on an abortion rights nonprofit board and she escorts women to abortion clinics, but she’s not engaged publicly because she’s not fucking around on Twitter. On one hand, this definition of public engagement makes zero sense, but on the other hand it does make me more engaged than Rankin because I published something on the Internet, so I like this definition even though it’s complete mad bullshit.

Rankin makes feminist causes a part of her professional life and volunteers with women in dangerous spaces, but she’s still a victim. Like every other women out there. Why would anyone do something where they were just going to end up a victim, no matter what they did?

2. How does a woman become a victim?

These women receive all sorts of threats. Rape threats, death threats, various threats to various orifices. They also receive a lot of rough criticism in general.

[Jill] Filipovic, the former editor of the blog Feministe, says that, although her skin has thickened over the years, the daily need to brace against the online onslaught has changed her. “I doubt myself a lot more. You read enough times that you’re a terrible person and an idiot, and it’s very hard not to start believing that maybe they see something that you don’t. 

Huh. That’s not really the way somebody with a cause would react… unless the cause is fundamentally yourself.

Anyway, Filipovic is a former blog editor because:

I have not figured out how to spend all day steeling against criticism — not just criticism, but really awful things people say to you and about you — and then go home and 30 minutes later you’re an emotionally available, normal person.

Over and over again, emotions come up.

“In order to work, have a nice family and feel like I was emotionally whole, I could not have one foot planted in a toxic stew.”

“Some young writers have told her, only half-jokingly, that they feel like they have PTSD.”

“It was just becoming really emotionally overwhelming to be on the front lines all the time,” she says.”

I’m not saying that the Internet isn’t a horrible hellhole for women (dudes, too, I don’t forget you). But it is interesting that the main fear that these women have isn’t that their abusers are going to make good on their threats—or at least that’s not the fear that the article focuses on. These women are afraid that the Internet is emotionally warping them out of their roles as human beings. The underlying assumption is that they are to be emotional providers and should present a “normal” face to the world at all times—even after years and years of feminism of varying kinds and strengths, that still holds true. A woman is a victim if she’s out of humor—if she can’t keep that essential balance intact.

Let’s Read Queen of the Tearling: Chapter Five

A bit of a Thanksgiving break from various classes, and a new chapter!

Before we begin, I’ll revisit Chapter Four, as I missed a bit of the action that will probably play a part in the rest of the plot, but more importantly shows the heroine’s attitude. Kelsea is in camp with the stunningly awful Fetch. He’s about to let her go, but then tells her that he wants to keep one of her magic gewgaw necklaces.

“This necklace is yours; I don’t claim it for myself. But I’m going to hold onto it.”

“Until when?”

“Until you earn it back with your deeds.”

Kelsea opened her mouth to argue, thought better, and shut it. Here was a man who did almost nothing spontaneously; everything was deliberate, so the chances of changing his mind with words were slim. Continue reading →

Let’s Read Queen of the Tearling: Introduction

Finally, it’s happened! I’ve finally found a book that I want to share with everybody, chapter by chapter. Because I want you to suffer like I suffered, er, I mean I love you all so much. That’s right. Come, Internet friends and strangers, let’s read The Queen of the Tearling.

To set the stage: The Queen of the Tearling is a fantasy novel. It has all the elements of your traditional, YA-ish fantasy novel—a young heroine, a kingdom, a concrete enemy, etc. The Queen of the Tearling is also kind of a big deal. Of course, Queen of the Tearling is the first book of a trilogy, but in addition the movie rights have already been sold and Famous Harry Potter Actress Emma Watson will portray the titular queen. (The movie deal plays heavily into the marketing of the book.) The author, Erika Johansen, earned a seven-figure advance for the series despite publishing being in the worst of its seemingly eternal monetary death throes. Johansen has given many interviews about how her book is unique because of its plain heroine and lack of romance—this sort-of feminist angle, like the movie, is a conspicuous part of the book’s publicity. Johansen is also a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so she should know the basics, like how to construct a plot and how to construct a sentence.

I didn’t know most of this information when I picked up Queen of the Tearling. I was facing a long flight and wanted something engaging to pass the time. The parts of the book jacket that aren’t devoted to the movie deal promise “thrilling adventure and action, dark magic, mystery and romance.” So I expected certain elements: intrigue, swordplay, daring women, mysterious men, perhaps some spiffy magic and everything tied up with a kiss or maybe a really awesome fight. Or both at the same time! Something along the lines of The Privilege of the Sword or the fantasy version of a Vorkosigan novel. Even if it wasn’t up to those books’ standard—and not much is, frankly—I expected it to be at least competently told and not stupidly offensive.

You failed, Queen of the Tearling, oh, how you failed. Continue reading →

Having Thoughts on Arianne

Somebody very important has gone missing! Specifically, it’s Arianne Martell. She’s missing from the Game of Thrones season 5 casting list, and people are angry. Some of the complaints are because Arianne is a strong female character.

Reaaaaally? Is it possible that George R.R. Martin really created a strong female character?

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Like, a real one? Or one who can twist her butt in line with her boobs? Cause that doesn’t count. Continue reading →