Category Archives: books

April-May YA SF girl hero reading

I read a lot of SF… hells, I read SF almost exclusively (except for a recent diversion into Australian stuff – Peter Temple (!!) and Shane Maloney), and lately I’ve been hunting down good YA Scifant and Scifi. I prefer female protagonists and authors, just because I’m tired of reading SF stories about men, because they dominate the cinema. I also read quite a few comics.

Lately I’ve been using the Newbery award, the Andre Norton award and a couple of other lists of awards for young adult and children’s literature, mostly in SF. I didn’t intend to only read the books by women or with girl heroes, but that’s how it turned out.

And it’s been a delight. A real pleasure. There is some truly fantastic YA and children’s SF literature out there, and to be honest, I think a lot of it is better than most of the adult SF and SFant getting about at the moment. The writing can be truly wonderful, the plotting strong, the stories sophisticated, and yet simple enough for younger children, the characters full and engaging. And they’re cheaper :D

What’ve I read lately?

The Hotel Under the Sand
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I really enjoyed this one. I was a bit nonplused by the cover (it’s a bit shitty and cheap-seeming), but the story is just wonderful. Basically, a little girl gets lost in a storm, and then washed up on sand dunes, where she discovers a huge, magical hotel buried under the sand. Adventures follow. It’s just fab. The sort of book that’s engaging for kids, but magical and sophisticated enough in theme, and well enough written for grown ups. I will hunt down Kage Baker’s other books.

How Mirka Got Her Sword (Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old jewish orthodox girl)
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I bought this one (from book depository) thinking it was a novel. But it turned out to be a graphic novel! I have a strict ration for graphic novels and comics, because otherwise I mow through them too quickly. I’m only allowed one a month. So this felt like a secret win!
It’s gorgeous. Great art, and a fantastic girl hero. Barry Deutsche is a bloke, but that’s not his fault. :D

Savvy – Ingrid Law

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I kind of enjoyed the premise – kids in this family develop a hidden magical talent or ‘savvy’ on their 13 birthday – but found the actual plotting a bit silly and dumb. The heroes just go on a long car trip. It gets a bit jesus-y and god-y for me, too, and add to that the fact the kids are home-schooled when they develop their savvy… well, that just didn’t really sit too well with me. There are more in the series, but I’m not rushing to buy them. But this was a good one for slightly younger readers (ie well under 13, I think).

Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora Segunda was absolute gold.

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I just LOVED this. I loved Flora, I loved the premise (Flora gets lost in her family’s huge magical, moving-roomed house, discovers the house’s ‘spirit butler’ thingy, has to do some adventuring involving spells, disguises and ponies, has a famous army general mother who’s largely absent, and a drink-addled dad), I liked the world-building, and there was some good adventure action. I wasn’t totally ok with the underlying theme of child neglect (I have zero tolerance for child abuse and neglect), but it wasn’t too dark. This reminded me very much of Pyratica, but for a slightly younger audience, and slightly less dark. I will DEVOUR the next ones.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner was a nice surprise. Some really good plotting going on here.
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BUT

It’s the sequel, The Queen of Attolia that blew my brain.

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This was just fanTASTIC. I was really amazed by this one. It’s a fairly standard SFant premise – young person adventures. But the world is great: sort of like a parallel universe ancient greece with greek gods, except not in Greece, and with very early gun technology. I just gulped this one down, and went immediately to the internet to buy everything in this series. It’s for a slightly older reader (over 13 I’d think, though I’d have read it young because I was precocious with books).

Meg Rossof’s How I Live Now
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This is for teen readers, and it’s been made into a film. I usually avoid post-apocalyptic fiction, especially in teen books, because BORING AND OVERDONE. But I liked the setting – rural england. It’s as depressing as post-apocalyptic teen fic usually is, but it was pretty good mostly. I won’t rush to read her other stuff, though.

Ash, by Melinda Lo.
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I picked this up because it was a retelling of Cinderella, with a magical/fairytale writing style. It turned out to be a lesbian rework of the romance, which was ok by me. It’s pretty good for a first novel, but I don’t think Lo’s second book, Huntress, is as good, and Ash isn’t that great. It’s certainly no Robin McKinley, or Lois McMaster Bujold (they do some bloody good scifant) that’s for sure.

The girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making took me by surprise.

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At first I didn’t think I’d be able to get into it, because it really is quite surreal. Very Alice in Wonderland. But eventually I got the knack, and then I LOVED it. There are a bunch of others, and I’ve already ordered them. NICE ONE.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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This is one for teens. I didn’t really mind it, until it got a bit fat shamey. The girl hero was fat, and that was kind of interesting in the way it affected her place in court, and then her adventures in the desert. But there was some weird food obsession going on in the writing that made me veeeery suspicious. And some god talk that got a bit much. So I’m not sure I’ll be getting the next ones.

Tithe: a modern fairy tale

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Uninteresting ‘urban fantasy’ romance. There’s too much of this shit, and it’s all the same. This wasn’t quite as badly written as some, but I wouldn’t bother, really.

Children of the Sea was my first manga.

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I bought it for the art, but loved it for the story, and the fierce girl hero. It’s just gorgeous. Another ‘graphic novel’, again for YA, this’s won heaps of awards and is massively popular. It was a serial in a magazine or something I think, but it’s been collected into books. I was thrown by reading ‘back’ to front and right to left, because I haven’t read any other manga, but I got over it. It actually slowed me down, which is a good thing, as I read very quickly, and I’m finding that ruins the experience of reading graphic novels – you’re meant to go slowly and enjoy the images and words together.

The Anatomy of wings.

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I’d read a bunch of Australian fiction, and YA fiction in particularly earlier this year (February and March), and this was one of them. I’m a bit tired of YA that’s full of dreary stories about suicide and death and apocalypses, so I wasn’t really digging this one. But the writing is fuckoff good, and Karen Foxlee is pretty good. I didn’t mind her other book ‘The Midnight Dress’, though they both feel quite similar in their airy prose style. I’m curious to see what her book ‘Ophelia and the marvelous boy’ is like – I think it’s for younger children, so maybe there isn’t so much suicide and young death.

Honestly, I am REALLY tired of YA fic for young people with girl heroes who kill themselves/die. I read Kate Constable’s ‘Cicada summer’ and ‘Crow Country’ and felt the same way: enough of this! That’s partly what prompted my YA sf binge: I wanted some good things to happen to girl heroes!

Right now I am ready Ice , which is ok.

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It’s edging towards that urban fantasy teen romance vibe, except that it’s set in the arctic circle and the romantic lead is a giant polar bear (who turns into a bloke at night). It’s definitely for teens, and it’s not too badly written.

Some of these I read because they were the first in a series where the second or third had won an award. So I’ll have to go back and see which ones were just the ‘getting through’ books so I could read the really good ones.

So these are some of the books I read April and May: some real gold here! YAY! I read a couple of Peter Temples, some other graphic novels and comics and a couple of other bits and pieces, but these are the good ones.

If you’re interested in talking books, I’m dogpossum on goodreads, and keep a list of what I’m reading and have read there.

(Try To) Write About Jazz


(Photo of Amiri Baraka by Pat A. Robinson, stoled from here).

Long time no post. I’ve been busy with a few different projects lately, most of them impeded by vast quantities of randomly-generated anxiety. I’m bossing some DJs for MLX11, I’m bossing some DJs locally, I’m sorting some solo dance practices, I’m looking at venues, I went to Church City Blues, I’m doing lots and lots of exercises to help my knees, I’m trying to improve my own DJing, and I’m working on at least two websites. They’re actually all the fun things. Also, we’ve started cooking meat at our house. The less said about that the better.

Perhaps the most challenging part of all this is trying to get my brain in gear for writing coherent sentences. More than one at a time. Ones that link up and make paragraphs. Anything more than that is really a little too ambitious right now. Writing. Why are you so demanding? The hardest thing in the world is writing properly when your brain won’t stop buzzing and fretting. Dance workshops? Actually quite good when you can’t make your brain shush. Forty minutes of slow, careful strengthening and stretching exercises every day? Quite calming, actually. But anything creative or requiring sustained creative thought – choreography, writing, editing… that shit is impossible. So here is something messy. Because it’s like learning to dance fast. If you never actually do it, you’ll never be any good at it.

Right now I’m thinking about writing about music. Again. I think it’s because I like to write about music. I’m also a woman. Wait – that last part is important (have vag will type). And because the things people write and say about music shape the way dancers and DJs think about music. And that affects the way they dance to music, which bands and DJs they hire to play their events, whether and how much they pay musicians and DJs, and what sort of music they put into the event programs. I know this is kind of old school literary studies/cultural studies/media studies stuff. And I even wrote about it in my PhD.

But now, I want to write and think about it again. Because I am organising DJs for MLX, and because I’ve noticed a clear trickle down (or bleed out?) affect from the developing online dancer discourse to the face-to-face. Yes. My PhD has come to life. Basically, Faceplant, blogs, podcast, youtube and all those other goodies are having a clear effect on face-to-face dance practice. Dancers are writing more about music (and dance), Faceplant has increased the penetration of this writing, and dancers are now reading more about music and dance. And this is having clear effects on how dance events are run. And on the interpersonal and institutional relationships and power dynamics of the international lindy hop scene. Yes, I will make that call. I can’t help it. I’m trained to see words as articulating power and ideology. And discourse as at once articulating ideology and creating it. I CAN’T HELP IT. I HAVE LEARNT TO USE MY BRAIN. ALL THIS THINKING WILL NO DOUBT RESULT IN THE COLLAPSE OF CIVILISATION AND RISE OF OUR FELINE OVERLORDS (WORSHIP THEM).

So what I’m saying, here, is that I’m getting that niggly tingly itchy feeling in the back of my brain that tells me there’s something going on that I need to pay attention to. Some dots are being joined. Unfortunately not by my conscious, rational brain, so you’re going to have to muddle through some fairly irritatingly vague, malformed or downright wrongtown blog posts til I get it together. If this was a magazine or an academic journal you’d be reading coherent sentences. But it’s not. So you’re getting dodgy stuff, but sooner. The fact that I’m still managing all those buzzing-brain anxiety issues means that it’s going to take me longer than usual to make this all into proper paragraphs. But then, I figure it’s a goddamn improvement on the past few months that I’m actually able to set fingertips to keyboard and make with the sentencing.

Words: why are you so demanding?!

I’ve been trying to get an idea of how jazz journalism works, both in historical and contemporary contexts. I’ve read a bit about the history of jazz journalism/criticism, a lot of which is really concerning. Lots of white, middle class guys writing about jazz, to paraphrase Amiri Baraka. Very few not-men, very few not-white anyones. To quote Baraka:

Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petite bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalists defame Western musical tradition. Most jazz critics were (and are) not only white middle-class Americans, but middle-brows as well. (Baraka, Amiri, “Jazz and the white critic”, The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, ed. O’Meally, Robert G. ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998: 137-142. pp 140)

Yeah! Baraka brings the smackdown! Old school 60s politics style!

What I have read has, for the most part, been really annoying. It’s kind of frustrating to see jazz studies – jazz criticism – failing to really get a grasp on gender and race politics. It’s like the 60s didn’t happen for so many of these guys. And it’s maddening to read the arguments that jazz histories emphasising black contributions are ‘racist’. Reminds me of those fuckwit people who try to argue that affirmative action policies are ‘reverse sexism’. …wait, I’m going to derail here for a bit of a rant:

IF we were all starting from the same place on the running track, it might be reverse sexism. But, dumbarse, we are working within PATRIARCHY, so affirmative action policy isn’t ‘reverse-sexism’, it’s simply an attempt to get us all at least onto the running track together. Of course, you’ve got to be a real ninja to actually pull off that sort of affirmative action effectively. So it’s ok, dickhead. Your power and privilege really aren’t in a whole lot of danger. We still have quite a bit of work to do. And anyway, most of our most important successes have been sneaky, and you haven’t noticed them. But, FYI, just like that beefcake guy in that rubbish film Crazy Stupid Love says, convincing women they’re learning to pole dance ‘for fitness’, that’s not a feminist victory. Convincing women stripping for money is empowering: that is not feminism. That’s old school sexism. So you’ve pretty much scored a point there.

…but back to my story.

Some of these jazz writer guys are entirely lacking in a sense of cultural and social context. And they really, really need to do a few introductory gender/race studies classes. Hellz, some introductory literary studies subjects.

But it’s worth having a look about at what has been written about race and class and gender and ethnicity in reference to and within jazz criticism. Queer studies? Yeah, don’t hold your breath, buddy.

So there is some critical (in the sense that these authors are engaging with the ideology and assumptions at work, rather than ‘being negative’) attention to jazz histories and jazz criticism/journalism. I’ve written a little bit about it before (in the post the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more and New Orleans jazz?), but I’m certainly not well read on this topic.


(Photo of Ellen Willis (with Bessie Smith), feminist and music journalist stoled from Ellen Willis tumblr)

That was made quite clear when I bitched (yet again) about the lack of women jazz journalists on twitter. @hawleyrose suggested I talk to @elementsofjazz (herself a woman jazz writer), who then hooked me up with Nate Chinen’s article On women in jazz (criticism) and Angelika Beener’s article Nice Work If We Can Get It: Women Writing on Jazz. Then I followed a million links from each of those articles to many more articles. The bottom line, here is that I mouthed off without researching the topic properly. I fell into that old ‘invisible women’ trap. Because I didn’t see women writing for big name jazz publications, I figured they didn’t exist. Just like that arsehat who recently bleated that there weren’t any women bloggers or tweeters writing about politics. With that bloke, the problem was a) that he defined ‘politics’ using the usual, very limited party-politics-institutions-and-polls definition and b) that he didn’t bother with bloggers and tweeters outside his usual sphere.

So my problem was a) I wasn’t looking in the right places (I was only looking in the conservative ‘official’ jazz journalism public sphere), and b) I hadn’t bothered to do much work to find those women journalists. Now I know better. And I’m delighted to be wrong. There are lots of women jazz journalists. Particularly when you broaden your definitions and include independent media, especially online media.

I think it’s worth talking about the history of jazz criticism here. And how small independent print publications were so important to the development of jazz criticism and writing from the turn of the century. But it’s also worth giving an eye (or ear) to the larger print publications like Esquire and Downbeat. I’ve written about this before, quite a few times, so I won’t go into it here (search for ‘magazines’ and you’ll find some old posts, or follow the links from More Esquire Talk).

What I do want to say, here, is that I’ve been thinking perhaps I should be asking “Are there any women writing about early jazz?” I’m wondering if the usual industrial and labour divisions of the early 20th century made it harder not only for women to get published, but for women to get read in the early days. And if there’s a resistance to writing about early jazz in the modern jazz publications and sites. Surely I’m once again voluntarily making women writers invisible. Surely. Time for more research, yes? YES!

strange angels

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Strange Angels site
I’ve just finished the third book in this series, ‘Jealousy’. The cover art for the third book is so bad I can barely look at it, so I won’t waste bandwidth with it here. And it looks like I’m having trouble stringing a sentence together today, so bare with me, friends.
I really enjoyed all three of the books in the series (‘Strange Angels’, ‘Betrayals’ and ‘Jealousy’).
I read quite a bit of YA paranormal fiction, usually ones picked out by my mother and sent up in a postpack. That means they tend to be heavy on the romance, and quite often heavy the crapitude. But this series is quite good. The protagonist is female, and while the books fail the Bechdel test, I find Dru less objectionable than most supernatural romance YA heroines.
I’ve just read my way through the first two ‘Vampire Acadamy’ books, and they’re awful. Even though they do pass the Bechdel test.
I can’t really think of anything to say, but I like this series.
Otherwise, I’m also reading ‘Obernewtyn’ (Isobelle Carmody) which I missed as a kid as they came out after I’d moved on to adult books… or they came into our household after I’d moved on. I’m also reading ‘White Mare’s Daughter’ (Judith Tarr) which I _think_ is a grownup book, but is mostly a sort of reworking of the whole matriarchy v patriarchy in ‘ancient times’ device. But with ponies. It’s actually far better than the rest of this trash I’m reading, and I’ve a bunch more of them to burn through after this.

things i like about true blood

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I didn’t like True Blood immediately. It took me a few episodes. Sometimes it’s dumb. But it’s also really great. I like supernatural telly. I watch every supernatural telly show I can get my hands on, no matter how terrible. I also read supernatural romance fiction, both adult and young adult. I like films with supernatural themes. I’m not really interested in ‘classic’ horror fiction at all, but I do read masses of SF lit. Masses of it, and nothing else these days… well, except for the odd crime novel.
I am predisposed to liking programs like True Blood. But I am also a fairly critical reader, in the sense that I am interested in critiquing themes, industrial context, audiences and so on. My doctoral research was centred on audiences and am particularly interested in fan studies.
But I also like to just watch. I like chick flicks because no one dies, and because things end happily. Though I can’t abide a spineless bimbo female protagonist, I can excuse terrible acting, directing and writing if the story is nice.
What do I like about True Blood?
1. It looks really good. In that the colours are nice, the ‘cinematography’ in season 1 is sweet. It’s really quite lush and fancy – not like ordinary TV at all.
2. Despite its fancy ‘look’, True Blood reads like melodrama. Like daytime TV. All hyper-emotion and ridiculous plot lines. It looks like ‘quality’ but reads like ‘trash’.
3. Except for the sex. The sex is pretty hardcore. That’s not Bold and The Beautiful, it’s supernatural ‘romance’.
4. It’s supernatural romance lit made into telly. The TB books are truly, terribly awful. The TV series isn’t. It’s clever. But at the same time it’s utterly celebrating the awfulness of the books. Not all supernatural romance lit is awful, but a fair swag of it is. Some of it is quite brilliant. This is where the big figures in popular fiction are at. This is where the readership is at. Women. Supernatural. Romance. Part of the pleasure of romance (you know who I’m referencing, here) is the ‘dirty secret’ aspect: it is ‘wrong’ to like it (because it is trash and terrible and all about love and kissing (and fucking) and all those things ‘women’ like), but it’s so addictive, so pleasurable. Such a lovely, quick read where nobody (important) dies, where the morals are quite black and white and the heroine always gets (to fuck) her man.
Romances are increasingly sexy; not just chaste kisses.
Supernatural romances blur the genre lines: there are far more interesting things going on here than a woman pursuing love. Now she has a gun or a stake or a spell book or a muscle car, and her hot sexbot love interest is increasingly secondary to her job as demon hunter/werewolf friend/wiccan powerhouse.
TB doesn’t quite handle these things as well as the best supernatural romance books, but then it’s not looking for a women-only audience. But it takes that idea of guilty pleasure and runs with it. It’s celebrating the awfullest of the awful supernatural romance books.
5. But it twists the generic conventions a little. The heroine is the least likeable character in the story. But in the books she’s a really painful, stupid, shallow, racist bimbo. So the telly series is a slight improvement. But the very best character in TB is Lafayette. He is beautiful, he’s glamorous, he’s an arse-kicker (literally), he calls Sookie on her bullshit (I do like the way he calls her a skank somewhere in season 1), he’s African American and he’s gay. He is the one, persistently ‘real’ character. Even though he is the stereotypical young buck, he twists this role repeatedly, commenting on the way his body is read by white queer men, by white straight women, and by white straight men. His queerness is really one of the most important elements tipping me off to the campness of TB: read this as hyper-sex, hyper-gender, hyper-hype (and here, the masses of online ‘tease’ and ‘tie-in’ marketing sites (bloodcopy, TruBlood, American Vampire League, Fellowship of the Sun), Myspace account and youtube channels (BloodCopy and the Fellowship of the Sun channels) are just wonderful: there’s just too much TB online viral marketing for this to be anything other than awesome parody of viral marketing campaigns.)
Supernatural romances tend to have kind of lame heroines for the most part, but the very best ones are awesome. I’m especially fond of Mercy in Patricia Briggs’ skinwalker series and Rachel Caine‘s weather wardens. Teen supernatural romances are a whole other genre, but some feature truly great heroines: Rachel Cain’s Claire in her Morganville Vampire series is great, and my current passion, Lili St Crow’s Strange Angels series’ protagonist Dru is fully sick.
But TB is not trying to be the very best. It’s aiming for trash.
6. It sounds more like a Tex Perkins album than the Twilight sound track. Sort of dark and kind of disgusting, but in a really sexy way. You probably wouldn’t date this series (well, not after you’ve turned 20), but by geez you’d think about having hot sex with it. And then washing very thoroughly afterwards.
It’s really about the grotesque, about the flesh and the body, both in terms of sex and of violence. But then, that’s what vampires are all about. Underneath. Twilight might be all about abstinence, but TB is about recognising the subtext of those type of ‘safe’ vampires. Really, when you’re watching a vampire text, the violence and sex get mixed up. The idea of drinking blood is both revolting and riveting. While your more mainstream vampire media work because they only suggest and imply this stuff, TB is wonderful because it doesn’t bother implying or suggesting. It wears it all at once, all the time. Loudly. Nothing is left unsaid or simply suggested in terms of sex and violence in TB
7. It passes the Bechdel Test.
8. It’s utterly ridiculous. Truly, utterly ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous you squirm and shriek.
9. The romances are really kind of horrible. While Sookie and Vampire Bill’s romance begins in season one all hearts and flowers, the second season really begins to turn their ‘true love’ story line on its head. Eric’s question about Bill’s motivations in giving Sookie his blood are really telling: why exactly did Bill rush into forming this intense relationship with Sookie, taking her at a disadvantage and really keeping her as the vulnerable ‘heroine’ to his ‘hero’? This is one of the things I really like about TB: the romance part is continually fucked about. Characters like Eric question the hero’s motivations. Eric asks the sorts of questions I ask myself about romance fiction: what is so ok about the heroine being so blindly, desperately in love with the hero that she overlooks self-respect and self-preservation in pursuit of his affection (and desire)?
Jason, Sookie’s dumb, body-beautiful brother finally finds ‘love’, but it’s with an utterly screwed up vampire murdering hippy drug addict. Sookie’s friend Arlene’s fiance [SPOILER] turns out to be a murdering bigot [ENDSPOILER]. And it continues… I’m really looking forward to seeing how Hoyt and Jessica’s sacharine-sweet romance turns out.
10. It’s shocking. Not in a sex or violence way (though it really is quite full-frontal for telly). But in an excess and overflow way. There’s a lot of sex, and it’s quite graphic. But it’s also ridiculous, particularly in season 2. There’s a lot of violence and blood, and it’s also ridiculous (I’m thinking of scenes like the bombing of the Dallas nest in particular). It’s all colour and close-up and gorgeous lighting and cinematography. But its content is ‘trashy’ and really quite dodgy.

misogynist much?

A recent io9 story about Wonder Woman quotes Marvel Comics’ Brian Michael Bendis’ tweet:

Spider-Woman has better hair, better costume, frank cho implants and a fucked up origin. Wonder Woman is a walking std farm!!

This bothers me in so many ways. Not to diss Spiderwoman (who was one of my favourites), but wtf? Since when is it even a little bit ok to call anyone a ‘walking STD farm’? It’s at moments like these that I despair of superhero comics writers. FAIL.
In antidote, let’s have a little badass Wonder Woman wonderfulness:
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That’s a great pic, but part of me worries about the violence.
But the io9 article is interesting, if only because it discusses the tension between violence and pacifism in super beings – as they’re depicted in comicland. I’m not sure I buy the discussion of Wonder Woman letting a man beat the shit out of her to make a moral point (I think you need to engage with gender and the way WW is sexualised before you can make claims about the visual depiction of this sort of violence/victim stuff). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a powerful woman brought low with sexualised violence (WW is wearing a bustierre, for the goddess’ sake!) – think of the (fucked up) episode of Buffy where Spike tries to rape her and she can’t fight him off*. WTF was going on there?! Since when could some lamearse vamp take Buffy down? The implication in that particular story line (as with the WW one) is that this badass chick was complicit in her own assault – she wanted to be assaulted/punished/whatever. The linking of sex and violence, the implication that all women (particularly the badass ones) want to be controlled or beaten down and of course the whole ‘man brings low strong woman’ fantasy really get up my arse. I sure as fuck wouldn’t be writing any of that shit in my stories.
So here’s something a little better:
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I like this image because – in the simplest sense – she returns the gaze. She’s not laid out as a body to be devoured by teenage male eyes, she’s bringing it. The pose is iconic WW, centering her bracelets. But the returned gaze (not a sensual beckoning from below coy, lowered lids) is something interesting. There is the problem of the bustiere, but it’s so iconic, I think it’d be very difficult to not feature it in this sort of WW cover art.
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Again, the bustiere and bracelets, but no returned gaze. I like the fist, but I’m still having trouble with the bustiere.
There’s lots more to say, of course, and WW’s history as a character is interesting, as is the history of the comic. But I don’t know enough to make any more than these few comments.
*This is one of those moments where Joss Whedon FAILS. Don’t give me any bullshit arguments about how he didn’t write or direct that ep. HE IS RESPONSIBLE.

All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong

The Louis Armstrong bit of the jazz discography is really, really big. And that’s not counting all the entries with bands other than his own.
They have this neat discography in the library: All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong and I want it. It’s a beautifully produced book and something I know I’ll keep and use forever. It’s just a bit expensive (even in paperback).





Bones and books

I really like Bones, but it’s a little lacking in scientific… hell, logical reality.
1. Would you use an elevator to reach the floor of a building where a bomb had blown up and caused a fire?
2. The computer machine thing that the girl lab person (what was happening in that sentence?) uses to recreate an image of the victim works a little too quickly. It’s also a little dodgily convenient. I doubt its existence. I also doubt (in the nicest possible way) an artist’s ability to write a program so sophisticated it could ‘build’ a picture (a 3D picture!) of a person from a bone fragment. Maybe she does have mad programing skills, but that sort of seriously specialised mad programing skills? Nope.
3. Whatsit Boreanz isn’t the best actor. He’s fully built, but has dodgy posture (though that’s improved a bit). I think he’s a cheery person in real life. This isn’t a critique of the program, merely an observation.
4. I do like it that Bones’ boss is also an alpha chick. And that Boreanz doesn’t really mind being bossed about women. Ace.
I’ll post more observations about Bones as I come to them.
Also, we are watching Mad Men. It tends to rely on the ‘woah, things were weird in the 50s’ effect a little too much. The story moves so slowly and there are so few parallel story lines, it makes for quite boring viewing. I like the 50s stuff but not enough to be distracted from the fairly boring story line. Quite frankly, I don’t really care about the protagonist’s ‘secret past’. Not even for curiousity’s sake.
And, on an even sider side point, today I spent about four hours in three different book shops. Firstly, I went to Kukinyani (doods, I just cannot spell that). I spent about two hours there, wandering around the young adult fiction section. Then I spent some time in the illustrated books section (can’t remember the fancy word for comics I’m afraid). Mostly I was with the YA stuff. I put together a very expensive pile then left all but one book with a very nice campy boy who recommended Alison Bechdel‘s other book when he saw I had the most recent Dykes to Watch Out For book.
I ended up going home with an Ursula K. LeGuin short story collection (in the Earthsea universe) – one of the pretty re-releases. I left the Bechdel book and three Jane Yolan books (The Heart’s Blood series) in the pile.
Then I went to Galaxy Books. I remember it being better than it is. It’s also a bit expensive. And they don’t have a separate YA section. Which is annoying.
Then I went to Abbey’s and spent a loooong time in the YA section, and then an even longer time just kind of cruising the ground floor. Many more YA books added to my list. And then some other awesome things, including a book (in the serious style guides/editing/how to write a book section) telling you how to write a book using proper pirate talk. It’s apparently an historically accurate guide to pirate vernacular. It also looks just like a ‘real’ pirate book. And rocks. I’ve just been reading Tanith Lee’s Piratica books (all three, and all three are utterly awesome – totally rockingly awesome), and suddenly, I’m totally into pirates. Not sure I want to write a pirate book, though. At any rate, I then had to kill a bit of time, so I started looking through every shelf quite carefully. And instead of just looking, I had a proper girl look, and actually took things off the shelf, moved them around, looked properly and closely. It was ace. My interest was especially caught by books about:
– music and dance in Australia (not actually all that awesome, disappointingly)
– a French widow champagne maker who smuggled the stuff internationally during the French revolution
– R. Crumb’s 1980s life and art (saucy but also interesting, especially his drawings of blues musicians)
– explorers who died on the job – for Australia Day: Captain Cook was speared and then eaten by Hawaiins. Awesome.
… there were a bunch of others, but I can’t remember them. Basically, my eyeballs were kind of blowing up after all that really small font. Suddenly, I just want to read and read and read. Wish I was rich.
I don’t mean this to sound as if I don’t read and read and read usually. I’m always reading. It’s just that, all of a sudden, I’m discovering new books that I haven’t been leant or bought second hand. Suddenly, I’m looking at non-fiction (what is with that?). It’s weird.
I’m still having trouble with the price difference between adult and YA books. Why are YA books between $10 and $17 (unless they’re something bullshitty like the Twilight crap) and adult books over $20? They’re often the same size. The font is frequently the same size (especially if we’re talking about those terrible ‘books for women’ – not the romances, those terribly books with bright covers and stories about shoes and chocolate). So why the price difference? Not that i’m complaining, mind you, but I am confused. Also, I wish books were cheaper.

waaaaaah

In the two weeks I was in Melbourne I read three of these young adult books. They’re called ‘Pretties’, ‘Ugglies’ and ‘Specials’ and they’re by some guy whose last name starts with W. I want to read the last one, ‘Extras’. They’re not very good, but they’re quick reading. I am very into young adult fiction (YA for those of us in The Trade) atm, mostly because of ‘Titus Groan’.
Now I am reading this other dumb YA book called ‘City of Bones’ or ‘Bone City’ or whatever. It’s kind of crap. No Diane Wynn Jones, that’s for freakn’ sure. Also, finishing off ‘Tehanu’ the other day (go Ursula Le Guin, go!) has ruined me for anything less. Jeez, that’s some good shit. Also, has anyone read the other ‘sequels’ in the Earthsea series? I think I might.
Basically, this big binge on books (I’m also reading ‘1984’ for the first time) is the product of a trip to that giant second hand book shop in Newtown and some time in Melbourne with Galaxy. She made me buy books (well, I bought the two Buffy season 8 volumes I was missing, but didn’t go with the Angel because it was all FREAKING EXPENSIVE. No more Minotaur bookshop for me). I also went to a game shop and bought some more Cheap Ass games (NEED GAME PLAYING FRIENDS! NOW! min. 2 players for my 3-player games). And I bought a broach. And then, because I was obviously ridin’ HIGH on the crazy horse, I stopped. But the ride, while it was on, it was so good.
So now I am all about buying books. Usually I wait for The Mother to bring up a shipment or I re-read, but I can’t re-read those bastards any more. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read them, but we’re over 10. So now I’m buying the buggers.
Also, I am thinking about emusic again.
And, I haven’t bought anything for anyone for christmas except my little brother’s kids. Because I am crap. But I’m not sure anyone but me wants Chronological Classics CDs, jewelry by local artists, squids of YA fiction (actually, I’m not sure about that one – I think one of my nieces is into books. Because she is into adolescence, almost, and has turned into the nerd of the family. Finally – another nerd is born. She aims to be a chef when she grows up, so I figure that’s a win).
Anyways, I hate buying christmas presents. I’d rather make them, but the fabric shop is TOO FUCKING FAR AWAY. It makes me crazy.
And, I have injured my plantar fascia, so I am hobbling around in pain or sitting on my arse watching DVDs (Heroes is less than A1 second time through, but it fills the gap). Or reading YA fiction. Can I just say: YA was better in My Day. Which was about the 70s, apparently, as that’s when all the YA books my Ps had were published. Considering I was born in 1974, I guess they were planning ahead. Phew.
Have I mentioned the pain in my foot? Physio has hopes for me and a big dance camp in January, but I’m not so sure. It’s a lot of pain. I blame MLX. I can’t walk without pain. I can only just walk without a limp. Most days. I do the exercises, though, and I hope. I’m not sure about this getting older thing. It was better when I could just drink drive and get into pakour. Now that I am old, I am reaping the effects of my ill-spent youth. Which, actually, was mostly spent wearing docs and shaving my head. Oh, and going nuts in the university library. With the books. Because, you know, the UQ library had a fair few more books than the Sandgate High library. And you could just _borrow them out for free_!
Anyway, with that and all the disco dancing, I think I damaged myself a bit. The physio reckons fracturing something in my ankle horse riding when I was in my early 20s is responsible for a dodgy ankle today. At the time, I shrugged it off. Today, I suffer. Also, the once-fractured right wrist is also giving me trouble. So this is the lesson: breaking limbs has long term consequences. Which SUCK ARSE.
I am not coping well with the enforced home-stay. I want to go out. Into the world. I hadn’t realised just how much walking I do in my day to day life. To the train station, down hill (excruciating on the home trip). To Ashfield for groceries (returning home to empty house, home alone til the weekend, local shops CRAP for veggies, partner working full time so can’t go to shops: shitful!). To Marrickville to explore the local fabric shop. To the train station for a 2 part trip to the fabric shop in Green Square. Around Circular Quay, just to look.
Not to mention dancing.
Anyway, if I had a car, I could probably get around. But I’m relying on the bus, and it’s not so good. It’s just about driving me MAD.
A trip to Burwood yesterday to see a (terrible) film was really hard. I wanted to look in the Burwood shops and eat dumpling. No. Go straight to the cinema. Once I got there, I was in real pain. Then I had to stop off in Ashfield for our veggies. That was ok, but by then I couldn’t imagine getting home from the train station in Summer Hill. So I caught a cab. It was so frustrating and painful – ordinarily the 20minute walk to our house from Ashfield would be delight. I’d walk through the park and pick some rosemary. I’d sticky beak in people’s gardens. I’d think about things. But yesterday, it was a big piece of crap. Getting a cab felt like a failure.
The physio says riding a bike would be a bit less painful. But I have this stupid left over cold from MLX which is also making me very tired and weak. Which is probably why yesterday was so hard. But I’m also still scared of the traffic.
Fucking hell, this sucks. Injuries: be over! But the physio says we’re in for a month of work before I can dance. Which makes me cry. No christmas performance :( No social dancing at three christmas parties. Nothing.
I think I’ll buy myself another book. Or perhaps a few million more songs on emusic. I deserve them.

crazed alpha females in outer space

Thanks for the link, Scotty.
It seems most of my friends are now on the search for interesting active female characters.
The basic rules?
1. there will be 2 or more female characters, and they will talk to each other about something other than men.
2. they will kick arse.
The second is pretty ambitious, considering how difficult it is to fulfill that first rule (can’t remember where I read that one, either, sorry – props to whoever it was). But we are on the case.
Perhaps some of the scribblers out there could consider scribbling a female protagonist who meets these criteria… and a couple more?
3. her costume will cover her arse and her tits and her belly. It will not be skin-tight (but it will be well-made, well-cut and comfortably ‘cool’). She will not wear high heels.
4. she will kick arse.
I am currently reading a series of freakin’ awesome sf books by Karen Traviss (I’d link to them within the site but it’s got some nasty frame-type action happening). The protagonist is a woman. An angry woman. There are ongoing discussions about what it means to be ‘human’, a ‘person’, in a relationship (where matriarchal polyamoury is the norm), a parent, a soldier, an ‘environmentalist’, a woman or a man.
I try not to read these before bed because I end up staying up really late because I can’t put the damn things down.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read female characters who actually work for me – lots of female characters talking to each other about things other than men. Traviss’ Shan Frankland reminds me of Bet Yaeger from C J Cherryh’s Rimrunners.
…and while I love this stuff, why is it that the best female characters have to be miserable sods? Guess we’ve got Tanya Huff for happy female space soldiers who can still kick arse and the women Miles pines for in Lois McMaster Bujold‘s (fab) books.
–:Edit:– You can read a bit more about ‘the rules’ here