gaudior: (Default)
So I have been... not exactly enjoying Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, but getting a lot out of it.

One thing that has become clear is that a big chunk of American history looks like this:

White People: *do appalling things to Black people*

Philosophical-Type White People: Oh God, this thing we've done is unforgivable.

Less Philosophical-Type White People: Oh, come on. How can something this profitable be wrong?

Black People: Hey, cut that out.

Philosophical-Type White People: OH NO SEE THEY'RE ANGRY I SAID THEY'D BE ANGRY OH NOES!

Less Philosophical-Type White People: Shit.

White People: *do MORE appalling things to Black people to try to reduce their power and ability to take revenge*

Philosophical-Type White People: Oh God...

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It's not funny, but it is kind of amazing how early this showed up-- both the stereotype of the Angry Black Person and the alternate stereotype of the Supernaturally Loving and Forgiving Black Person-- the White people's fear and hope in the face of White guilt. None of which considers the possibility that Black people might possibly have some priority other than White people, that Black people might be more interested in living their lives, recovering from trauma, and, I don't know, writing books and petting dogs and taking long thoughtful walks on a cloudy day.

White Americans have never been good at not centering ourselves in the narrative. But this particular manifestation is particularly ugly, because real people get hurt for the sake of protection from figments of projected guilt. And... gods damn it.

--R
gaudior: (pink)
(I realize I just did an entry almost exactly like this. It's the weekend!)

In 1971, Joanna Russ wrote an essay entitled "What Can A Heroine Do?: or, Why Women Can't Write." It begins with a list of plots she claims you will never see in fiction:


1. Two strong women battle for supremacy in the early West.
2. A young girl in Minnesota finds her womanhood by killing a bear.
3. An English noblewoman, vacationing in Arcadia, falls in love with a beautiful, modest young shepherd. But duty calls, she must return to the court of Elizabeth I to wage war on Spain. Just in time, the shepherd lad is revealed to be the long-lost son of the Queen of a neighboring country; the lovers are united, and our heroine carries off her husband-to-be to be lad-in-waiting to the King of England.
...
6. Alexandra the Great
7. A young man who unwisely puts his success in business before his personal fulfillment loses his masculinity and ends up a neurotic, lonely eunuch.


Which makes a very good point; we have rely on archetypes and archetypal plots when we make stories, and archetypes and archetypal stories are often gendered. Russ said that when you switch the genders, "these very familiar plots will not work. They are tales for heroes, not heroines, and one of the things that handicaps women writers in our culture... is that there are so few stories in which women can figure as protagonists."

That was almost forty years ago. It is a good essay, and it points to a very real problem (how many action movies have you seen with female protagonists?).

And yet... it made me make the following list:

1. A young warrior, heir to an ancient tradition, battles vampires and demons in order to protect her town... and the whole world.
2. After the near-destruction of her people, a strong and visionary leader takes the survivors on a long and arduous journey, searching for a new home.
3. A young woman pilots a giant robot, the sole protector of her planet against invading aliens. She is supported by the love of a boy, who offers her encouragement and a connection to simple humanity while she deals with these epic issues.
4. A young prince fights duels, and brings about the revolution of the world, to protect her princess.
5. A scientist travels widely, asking questions, fighting bandits, finding and losing love, and all the while trying to understand the magical secrets of her world.
6. A space-faring miner fights the aliens who attack the crew of her ship.
7. A samurai takes vengeance on her master, who betrayed her.
8. A shogun works to rule her country justly, despite the presence of foreign invaders.
9. A girl of spirit gambles all to expand her vocabulary, confront a bouncing boy terror, and save her city-state from a shaky doom (despite being confined to her room). (Added by [livejournal.com profile] sovay)
10. A former resistance fighter turned career officer reluctantly comes to the aid of her former oppressors, where she masterminds their own successful resistance movement, ultimately saving the galaxy from brutal conquest. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] apintrix)
11. A naval officer rises through the ranks, using her courage and cunning to protect her two homeworlds. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] rabidfangurl)
12. A tough-as-nails detective overcomes a brutal past to become one of New York's best police officers. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] rabidfangurl)
13. A (starship) captain, blown (well, warped) far off-course tries to guide her crew through unknown territory and find a way home. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] jeshala)
14. A former war hero(ine) battles through a rebellion to defeat a usurper and rescue the true heir and her son. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] lignota)
15. A princess works to undo an enchantment to save her prince. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] lignotaish and [livejournal.com profile] weirdquark)
16. The true heir to the planet's ruling king, fleeing the usurper's assassins, journeys to find and defeat in single combat the all-powerful evil which for thousands of years has controlled the fate of the world. Along the way, she receives love, support and simple home-spun wisdom from a beautiful escaped slave boy. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] occultatio)
17. A bodyguard, trying to make up for her bloody past, works to safeguard a child whose curse may hold the salvation of the kingdom. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] navrins)
18. A thirteen-year-old girl remakes the universe and invents astronomy. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] sovay)
19. A student in search of adventure stows away to join her father on a mission to an alien planet, and ends up joining forces with a young native warrior to deter a more advanced colonizing force. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] navrins)
20. A starship captain fights against an invading force. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] navrins)
21. An aristocrat goes incognito to search for an imprisoned spouse. Assisted by a jailor's daughter who falls in love with her, the aristocrat rescues her husband and takes down a powerful corrupt nobleman. At the end, she is publicly honored for her courage and loyalty. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] lignota)
22. An aristocrat with a discreditable past joins the royal guards, where she enjoys friendship with her comrades, drinking, gambling, dueling, and the admiration of the opposite sex. She is instrumental in thwarting a conspiracy against her country and redeems her family's honor. Later, she defends the long-lost heir and helps bring her to the throne. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] lignota)
23. A starship trader captain gets involved in complications involving other species and comes to think that her husband might be good for more than leaving at home to tend the house and garden. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] papersky)
24. A girl risen from slavery proves to be a princess and sorceress, and helps cast down the ruling power who has been draining the land of life and water, in order to save the man she loves. She then leaves him and her new-found family behind, and goes into seclusion to study and to learn how to save the world permanently. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] incandescens)
25. A mysterious accident leaves a young engineer stranded far from her homeland. After trying in vain to find a way home, she reluctantly joins a monk and a warrior [both female] on a quest to kill a god. One of the first major plot threads is her attempts to advocate on behalf of a victim of domestic abuse to his people. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] fiddledragon)
26. -A young woman captains a dragon in her nation's desperate fight against Napoleon. At one point she becomes pregnant, but is reluctant to marry the father (who is desperate to get married) for fear that it will interfere with her military career. Also: A woman is promoted from captain to admiral and has to fight the stupidity and intransigence of the other high-ranking officers in order to protect her country from Napoleon (and his female dragon). (Added by [livejournal.com profile] matt_rah)
27. The heir of a slain warlord fights and schemes to protect her people, their honor, and her position as their leader. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] navrins)
28. The most renowned bounty hunter in the galaxy infiltrates and destroys a nigh-invulnerable space pirate fortress in order to save the galaxy and avenge the destruction of her homeworld. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] orawnzva)
29. A young princess slays the dragon threatening her capital city. A few years later, she embarks on a successful solo quest to save her country from an invading sorcerous army. She lives with her mortal love until he dies, then joins her other love (a fey being who occasionally aided her in her journeys) in immortality, becoming her people's legendary hero. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] silkspinner.)
30. A librarian invents computers and radio communications so that she can signal to an ancient, intelligent weapon and weather control device and convince it not to plunge her planet into permanent winter. (Added by [livejournal.com profile] ab3nd.)


This makes me really happy.

It also strikes me as a good meme. If anyone else wants to, feel free to add more synopses to the end of the list! I have eight because Russ had eight, but there could be more.

Many, many more.

--R

Here are the sources:
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. Shingu
4. Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena)
5. Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books. Also Girl Genius.
6. Alien
7. Kill Bill
8. Ooku, an awesome new manga by Fumi Yoshinaga
9. Flora's Dare (sequel to Flora Segunda) by Ysabeau Wilce
10. Star Trek: DS9
11. the Honor Harrington series, by David Weber*
12. the In Death series, by J.D. Robb*
13. Star Trek: Voyager
14. Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold
15. Princess Tutu. Also a variety of other fairy tales, including Tam Lin, the [number][birds] (e.g., Seven Swans, Three Ravens, etc.)
16. Wyrms, by Orson Scott Card*
17. Seirei no Moribito
18. Cloud and Ashes, by Greer Gilman (grin!)
19. Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl*
20. Kris Longknife: Defiant by Mike Shepard*
21. Fidelio (Beethoven), written in 1805*
22. The Phoenix Guards series, by Steven Brust*
23. Pride of Chanur, by C.J. Cherryh*
24. The Darkangel books, by Meredith Ann Pierce
25. Digger, by Ursula Vernon*
26. Temeraire, by Naomi Novik*
27. the Daughter of the Empire series by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurtz*
28. Metroid (video game)*
29. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
30. Souls in the Great Machine, by Sean McMullen

*I have not read these, so am trusting other people's analyses of them.
gaudior: (pink)
I like this meme. I feel less defensive than some about my love for female characters, but I've been reading Joanna Russ, who talks a lot about how (at the time she's writing, mostly 70s and 80s, as well as historically) you don't find women who do things in fiction. She has this list in her essay "What Can A Heroine Do?: Or, Why Women Can't Write" in her book To Write Like A Woman, of stories you never see, including such plots as:

1. Two strong women battle for supremacy in the early West.
2. A young girl in Minnesota finds her womanhood by killing a bear.
...


and other things which, in 1971 when the essay was written, women just weren't allowed to do in fiction.

I like this meme as a celebration of how things have changed, as well as (FUCK YOU) how far we have to go.

So, yay.


From [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, originally by [livejournal.com profile] dsudis
So I was adding some new interests to my LJ profile and found myself feeling defensive every time I typed a female name, thinking, basically, FUCK YOU, SHE'S AWESOME, because I felt as if someone somewhere was going to be criticizing my love for them.

So, anyway, then I made a list of women who make me want to say FUCK YOU, SHE'S AWESOME. They are far from the only women who are awesome, or the only women people need to be told to step off of, but they are the top ten I feel that way about, right now, off the top of my head.

If you want to argue with me about the awesomeness of any of these women, I am afraid I will simply be referring you to the subject line. THAT IS ALL.

Because here's the thing, I totally accept that not everyone's going to like every character I love, but I'm really tired of feeling like I'm going on the defensive every time I admit to loving a female character.



Starbuck (BSG)
President Roslin (BSG)
Nanny Ogg (Pratchett)
Granny Weatherwax (Pratchett)
Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan (Bujold)
Honda Tohru (Fruits Basket)
Tenjou Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena)
Buttercup (PowerPuff Girls)
Willow Rosenberg (Buffy)
Setsuna Subaru (Also Lady Momoe, and, come to think of it, every single other female character in the anime Shingu, which is a far more awesome anime than most people realize)


I'm also thinking about something Lila and I were discussing recently (also related to Joanna Russ); the fact that, when we were kids, we could find very few kids' books with strong female friendships which weren't girls-books-for-girls (heavy focus on clothes, make-up, and boys, e.g., the Babysitters' Club). Which led me to dig out my first-ten-pages-of-a-terrible-novel (I have a lot of those, from high school and college) which was a kids' book about five girls in, I think, Victorian England, having an adventure. It was godsawful cliched, except that I was clearly trying very hard to write something where there was more than one way of being a girl, and just about succeeding.

Surely other people have done the same, and with better success. Can y'all recommend some kids' books which have strong friendships between girls who do things, not just girls who do girl-things?

--R

Reading: Joanna Russ, On Strike Against God: A Lesbian Love Story. Peter S. Beagle, We Never Talk About My Brother.
gaudior: (utena/anthy)
So, I am deeply fond of Tales of MU, thank you [livejournal.com profile] weirdquark for pointing me at it lo these many months ago. It's a daily-updated serialized online novel about a half-demon and her friends' first semester at college. There's a tremendous amount of queer, kinky, poly sex, which is fun, as well as a pretty well-worked out magical system (the author seems to be having a great deal of fun with making a world almost exactly parallel to ours in most ways, but in which the basic laws of the universe actually make science unrealistic. She doesn't play as much as I might like with second-order consequences, because she's fairly bound by the parallels, but she also puts a good bit of thought into it, and that's fun). Interesting characters, very good character development (the gradual development of the golem's free will and sense of identity is really well done and made of awesome). The plot sprawls a bit, which I think has to do with it being posted as it's written, but overall, I'm hooked. (Also, she uses "non-human sentient species" in many ways as a metaphor for race-- but she also deals with racial differences among humans, and colonialism, and how race-relations among humans interact with the lives of non-human sentient species, and for that, she is made of win.)

The thing I don't like, though, is the comments thread. Because while the text itself strikes me as very awesome in regards to sex, gender, power, etc, the commentors come off, often enough, like frat-boys. And I am really sick of people calling the protagonist a "stupid slut," or hating the trans character or the very poly character while praising the monogamous straight white male to the skies. Because all of the major characters are, in my opinion, interestingly flawed, but also sympathetic. And it kind of sucks to see people reading about these people through lenses that they're not questioning. I mean, maybe they will question them a bit, after a while? But I'm not seeing it there. And it annoys me.

So: read the story. Skip the comments.

OMG my colloquium (dissertation defense) is TOMORROW OMG OMG OMG OMG GAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!

--R
gaudior: (Default)
I like it, tho. And in celebration, I shall do... well, not exactly a meme, but I ganked the idea from [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo: seven things I should like to NEVER SEE IN A WORK OF FICTION AGAIN.

1) Taking an otherwise undeveloped and neglected character and giving him/her a tremendous amount of character development immediately before killing him/her. So that we get to be all sad about a character death, and it gets to be all dramatic, without actually losing any of the main characters. This feels cheap to me. If you're going to develop someone, develop him/her-- and then keep him/her around so we get to see what happens next. If you're going to kill someone, make it real.

2) Obligatory romance. I like a good love story as much as the next rabid shoujo fan (i.e., quite a bit). But that means that I see love as something which is complicated and unpredictable, and each romance is unique. A "love interest" shoehorned into a plot which is really about something else loses all of the power of love, and doesn't really add much. (The converse of this is that I dearly love stories in which (straight) men and women are friends-- or in which queer characters of the same sex are. Love is awesome, as is sex-- but it isn't everything.)

3) A single gay character. Marvel comics are particularly guilty of this one: the story about a whole lot of straight people who have one (1) gay friend/team member/co-worker/etc... who is apparantly the only gay person in the universe. So there are some gay jokes, (which are okay because they have a gay character, doncha know) and maybe the gay character has Angst because s/he falls in love with a straight character... but s/he never does anything actually gay. Because there's no-one to do it with. So these characters do not date, have sex, have kids, or do anything else except give fashion advice and snark.

4) A "smart" character who appears to be a person of average intelligence who has swallowed a thesaurus. These are supposedly genius characters who don't actually do anything intelligent, who don't come up with intelligent plans or profound thoughts or clever jokes, but are "the smart guy." So they spend all their time in labs spouting incomprehensible technobabble, and they never say anything that doesn't have polysyllables. In X-Men, you can always tell that the writer's actually good because all of a sudden Beast becomes capable of using slang. Because, like, smart people do that, too. They just happen to be smart.

5) Monocultures. If you have an alien species, you had better give me a damn good reason for it if they all speak the same language, all have the same religion, all look alike racially, etc. It's like "the jungle planet,"-- planets are big, and they have multiple ecosystems. I would accept the answer that the planet is a hive mind, and so don't have different cultures because they never have enough distance separating them for such things to develop. But otherwise...no. If you don't have time to go into all the cultures, that's fine, but don't pretend they don't exist. (Star Trek, I'm looking at you.)

6) Female characters in historical settings who have modern sensibilities. I am a feminist, and proud to be one. But I know damn well that the way I'm a feminist is a product of my culture-- and particularly of birth-control technology and superior medicine and food-production techniques. In my culture it makes sense to have casual premarital sex, to treat anyone with a brain as equally able to do almost any kind of work, to value work done outside the home which brings in money more than work done inside the home which doesn't, etc. This just wasn't usually the case in pre-industrial times and places.

And the thing that people tend to miss is that this doesn't mean that most women resented it all the time. Because frankly, if it's 1300 Europe, everyone's life sucks, and everyone is stuck doing things that are difficult and unglamorous, and their best hope is heaven. I'm pretty sure that "women's work" was not seen as nearly as unimportant as people see it as being now-- because money was not, always, the major motivating force in people's lives. Survival was. Power and respect were not tied to work in exactly the same way they are now. In other words, not every single little girl wanted to run away and become a knight. I am eternally grateful to The Privilege of the Sword for the fact that the woman who learns swordfighting didn't want to-- she wanted to be a proper lady, becuase there was nothing wrong with that.

I realize that this makes it tricky if you just want to curl up with a nice fantasy novel that feels comfortable that you don't have to think about. But honestly.

7) Ignoring Christianity in settings where it's really, really present. I realize people worry about being banned. I realize that generic "gods" are easier to talk about than what you grew up with/what you grew up in opposition to. But sometimes you write American Gods, and you leave out Jesus almost entirely, and you spend an entire book talking about how Americans are so secular and this is no good country for gods, when in fact, it is an excellent country for one god, and he's won. And that's just lame.

...Hm. In looking over the list, it seems to mostly be annoyed at people for not thinking enough.

I'm cool with that.

--R

PS: VACATION!
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