The Carl Brandon Society are having a fundraiser to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship. If you enter you could win an eReader that comes pre-loaded with work by some amazing spec fic writers. Details here.
It is only afterwards that these things are ours
It is only afterwards that these things are ours
There has been quite a bit of debate on various SFF blogs in recent months over the nature of book covers. I’m not going to rehash the whole thing because the people who have been following the discussion are all probably really sick of it by now, but briefly, some people are annoyed by the sameyness of a lot of SFF cover art at the moment, with all the hooded figures and swords and things. Which is a valid enough complaint. On the other hand, other people have pointed out, a major (perhaps the primary) function of the cover is to sell the book to as many people as possible. That means making sure that regular readers of the genre see the book and recognise it as the sort of thing they like. Those cliche elements on the cover act as useful signifiers. [I'm simplifying unfairly - if you haven't read this stuff and want to, go here, here and here].
On the whole, I’m neutral. I’d like things to be more original; then again, the fiction I read doesn’t usually have this problem – I haven’t read as much epic/ sword and sorcery fantasy in the last few years as I used to. Plus, generic covers have been useful to me as a romance reader, so I can quite well see why they would perform that function for someone who reads fantasy in the same way. So yes, cover cliches as useful signifiers of genre make sense to me.
Except, wait. One of these things is not like the others.
Earlier today I read about Heather Tomlinson’s Toads and Diamonds on John Scalzi’s blog. Toads and Diamonds is a retelling of a Perrault fairy tale set in India. What it is not is a generic Indian Novel in America. But would you be able to tell by the cover?
Tomlinson’s book is set in India and the publishers are justified in using an “Indian” image (however cliched) on the cover. Just as, for example, the publishers of Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia could have argued for the inclusion of a romantic image on their cover (the title is apparently a play on the Russian for “I love you”). Yet if I’d gone into a bookshop and seen this I’m pretty sure I would have been surprised and confused (and delighted!) to find Roberts’ book between the covers.
It’s a silly example, but that is how weird it feels to see a book from one genre with a cover that so obviously suggests it to be part of another
I have no idea whether Ms Tomlinson’s publishers purposely designed the book to look like the sort of covers above, or if it’s all a very odd coincidence. Perhaps it’ll get mis-shelved, or someone walking past the SFF section in a bookshop will do a double take and buy it and so become a hopeless fantasy addict? I do not know.
*The existence of this sort of genre raises a few other interesting questions in the context of this cover debate – I’m footnoting them because I don’t really want to make them the subject of this post. In some of the discussions around covers people brought up the issue of publishers “whitewashing” covers (which the publishers involved presumably think will sell more books) vs using cliches to indicate genre. (which the publishers involved presumably think will sell more books). To my mind the difference is obvious, yet here is a genre where the cover conventions are entirely dependent upon presenting a very specific picture of India to a mostly Western audience. You could hardly call that entirely divorced from race. Hmm.
September the first is Outer Alliance pride day.
As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.
Since I haven’t written any fiction (queer or otherwise) in a while, I’m going to to talk about someone else’s work instead. Some of you will remember this post a few months ago when I talked about being disappointed in the lack of gay men (or indeed women though men seemed more likely) in Celine Kiernan’s The Poison Throne. What I couldn’t discuss at the time was the rather important relationship between two male characters in the next book in the series. But The Crowded Shadows is finally out and I’m free to talk about it as much as I like. I should add that I asked Celine if I could write something about her book for today and she went out of her way (and she was away on holiday)to get it to me on time.
The first time I read The Poison Throne I stayed up all night and just gulped it down. It’s an incredibly fast-paced fantasy, there’s tons of political intrigue, and it’s utterly uncompromising when it comes to killing people off. I was expecting more of the same from The Crowded Shadows.
The second book in the series is a complete change of pace from the first, however. It helped that The Poison Throne was set in a relatively confined space, if you can call a castle confined. At the end of that book all three main characters leave to go out into a world that the reader knows very little about. Which is why, I suppose, so much of The Crowded Shadows is about world-building. It’s rather skilfully done, seeing that the entire action of the book takes place in the wilderness. But it does mean that the plot moves slowly – a large chunk of the book has the main characters travelling by themselves and by the end of it they still haven’t reached their destination. But then there are the sections involving the Loups-Garous where the text seems to pick up some of Christopher’s frenzy and rushes breathlessly through them.
The world-building itself is interesting. Partly because Kiernan bases the geography (and aspects of the culture) of her world so heavily on our own, making the minor differences particularly worth noticing. I’m not sure yet (and I can’t be until the final book of the trilogy) how uncritically or otherwise she’s doing this, but I have hopes. And as the book progresses we do finally find out more about these characters; about Razi and Christopher’s friendship, about Wynter’s family and why she has that awful name.
Plot-wise, as I’ve said, not a great deal happens in this part of the trilogy. Relationship-wise, it is fascinating. I was not particularly invested in the relationship between Ashkr and Sol on a first reading – on a second, knowing what is to come, it can be gutwrenching. And setting it among the Merron, where it is accepted with as little question as any heterosexual relationship works for me as well. It saddens me that that relationship is unlikely to play a role in the next book – the events of this one would make it seem impossible.
However, for me the most interesting relationship in this series is still the one between Chris and Razi. This is in part because Wynter’s relationships with the two men are relatively uncomplicated; and Wynter herself has so far not been particularly interesting to me. I don’t know if this is because she’s the narrator – we haven’t really had the chance to see her and what makes her interesting through the eyes of her companions. I’m hoping she will show some amazing diplomatic skills in the next book and I will be made to love her. The main male characters are both fascinating in their own right (Razi particularly so) and Wyn deserves a chance to be more awesome.
But my interest in Razi and Christopher is also because I still believe that in only slightly different circumstances that relationship could have been physical as well. I know the author doesn’t mean it that way, that it’s supposed to be “just” a very deep, intense friendship. But if either of these men were a woman I couldn’t not see it as an incredibly strong romance. If the author hadn’t made it clear in the first book that this was not the case, I’d think this was probably what it was.
So I guess even if it were not for Sol and Ashkr that this would be a queer review based on my reading of the text? I don’t know, and I suspect the author and I are never really going to agree on this, and that’s fine. But I like the book and if it didn’t make me lose sleep as its predecessor did, it did make me cry a bit.
First of all, I’m sorry for putting this up so late. It should have been up on the 14th, but it’s been a strange and generally horrendous week. Then again, delaying it by a few days did mean I was able to include some really good posts that were written after Monday. So here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.
(Note: some links are NSFW, but you would expect that, wouldn’t you?)
In June, this post led a number of feminist bloggers to make it Female Desire Week. Some (Belle did a particularly stellar job) used this as an excuse to post shiny pictures of people we desired. I’m a big fan of objectification.
I do think that because of power differentials, objectification of women more readily becomes a springboard for abuse, and worse. But I do think that there is a genuinely OK way of expressing one’s appreciation for someone else’s physical body and/or persona (and hell, a beautiful mind can be just as sexy). And I want more women to be comfortable with expressing their views on men and women that they find attractive, and even be superficial about it.
Much discussion followed, in the comments and elsewhere.
Then Dw3t-Hthr had this gorgeous post about looking too.
Renegade Evolution posts about her participation in the William & Mary debate, which she describes as one of the most empowering things she’s done in years.
And I’m sure I made some people angry. I know I made some people laugh. I know that before that event a whole lot of people would never think that a porn performer might also play “World of Warcraft”. I’m certain they weren’t expecting me to compare anal sex scenes to yoga. They probably never, when thinking of a woman in porn, figured that I had a husband, a Saturn, and literally lived just a few hours up the road from them. Well, they certainly had to see, as I was sitting there in the same room with them, that there really is a whole lot more to me than a set of implants and a couple of holes, that I was anything but a woman with no other options and a drug habit, that I had, indeed, picked my career, by choice, of my own free will, and that…well, I even like my job.
My biggest concern with porn is how it has the potential to shape our expectations of sex and our expressions of our individual sexuality. I have this concern especially for kids and teenagers. I am concerned that young people could see some of this stuff and think they are “supposed” to do that. That girls will think they are supposed to like getting a wad of secretion in the face, for example. Or that they are supposed to repeat “Oh God, oh God, YES, YES, YES” over and over and over and fucking over — when probably at best they feel nothing, at worst, pain.
is something that worries me too. Here is an older post by Ren on the subject.
Naked Feminist talks about being a feminist sex worker and the double standards she faces.
Grace, on how to be a good customer.
Elizabeth at Sex in the Public Square questions “Stop Porn Culture”‘s violation of porn laws.
It is galling to watch SPC use the work of the people they most claim to despise, and to freely distribute images they think nobody else should be able to distribute. And it is especially galling to watch them talk about the exploitation and humiliation of the women in the images all the while continuing to humiliate those same women by publicly exposing in and then condemning their work.
What kind of people go to brothels? They’re sleazy, lonely, gross guys who can’t get lucky in normal bar situations. And they’re well-dressed businessmen with platinum Amexes having a fun night out. They’re surprisingly often American tourists, here for work or vacation, checking out what a fabled Legal Sex Industry looks like. They’re young, happening, attractive guys who’d have no trouble with women just coming in for a laugh and a 21st-birthday ritual. They’re obnoxious loud drunks looking for a place that’s still open, quiet reserved guys with really particular tastes, regulars who all the workers know and love. They’re guys I know, who to this day are quite open about having used sex workers; and they’re well-to-do Pillars of the Community who certainly don’t want it known where they’ve spent the occasional Friday night.
Trinity on the “No Porn” pledge.
And if you’re in Chicago, you might be interested in attending the Desiree Alliance conference on “Pulling Back the Sheets: Sex, Work and Social Justice”.
Sex and Relationships:
And a post by Dw3t-Hthr on polyamoury, sexism, and related issues:
And sure, there are people — of all sexes — who like a lot of reasonably casual liasons. But one of the traits of that is that one isn’t marrying them, and thus they’re not “off the market”, if one wants to go all transactional like that. Once one gets into more serious relationships, one starts hitting limited resources — even if one has infinite money, infinite desirability, and infinite sexual stamina, one has limited time.
Things that I couldn’t think of a category for but that you should read anyway:
Penelope Friday on being disabled and writing erotica.
Whatsername writes a deeply personal post about rape and false accusations.
Those of you who read what I read will know that a few months ago Caroline at Uncool started the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy. I will be hosting the sixth edition here on the 14th of this month. So please submit any blog posts you’d like to see in the carnival (including your own) to bluelullaby at gmail dot com.
Previous editions of the carnival can be found here. If you haven’t read them before, I’d recommend taking a look.
Edit: Real life has been hectic this week, so the carnival will probably be a few days late. I promise to have it up by friday night though!
I am in Bangalore (right now, tomorrow I’ll be in Chennai) with the PL. Faithful Laptop Nigel has accompanied me, but I can’t be bothered to do the research that the posts I want to write would require until I’m back in Delhi. So I’ll probably be seeing you after the 14th.