Archive for ‘blogtopia’

November 13, 2010

Various Links

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.

Via Queen Emily, this study seems to show that our brains can predict the future. Or something.
Here is a much (much!)-belated link: As most people who read Indian blogs will know by now, a few weeks ago there was a case of plagiarism involving the magazine India Today - editor Aroon Purie’s letter at the beginning of the magazine contained some rather distinctive lines that had been lifted from Grady Hendrix’s Slate piece on Rajinikanth. A number of blogs reported the incident – very few mainstream news sources did so (Aditya Sinha, who I like and respect, did a piece in the New Indian Express. His is the only article on the subject that I saw).
And then Mitali Saran, whose funny, indignant, personal column Stet is one of my favourite newspaper things, wrote a column on both the plagiarism and the Indian media’s reaction to it. Guess what happened?
Much respect to Mitali for standing up and making a big deal of this. And I hope Stet will soon be appearing elsewhere.
From plagiarism to piracy – Celine Kiernan would (understandably) prefer for you to buy/borrow her books, rather than illegally download them. The Speculative Scotsman did a post on the numbers involved, and this led to some fascinating discussion in the comments.
From piracy to pain – Aadisht had an article in yesterday’s Mint Lounge about the phenomenon of the 100 rupee novel. I am all too familiar with some of the books from which he quotes (I lent him some of them).
Catherynne M. Valente has a new book out and I am waiting most impatiently for my copy. The book is based in the Prester John myth and in order to explain who he was to those strange people who did not read Mandeville for fun (I know, right?) she wrote a post on Scalzi’s blog and made this magnificent and totally authentic video:

April 8, 2010

Three pairs of hands and some waffling on genre. Also, Fabio.

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.

I was very amused a couple of years ago when the good people at Sepia Mutiny came up with this hilarious Anatomy of a Genre post where they pick apart the various elements of a generic Indian Novel In America (is there a less clunky term for this category of book?) cover*. The book in question is The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi. For a more detailed pointing out of what, specifically, makes that cover so…generic, you should probably read the SM post. Or just look at the picture of the cover below, along with a couple of other books that deal with a similar theme.

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.


(Yellow Blue Fabio)

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.

August 31, 2009

Pride/ The Crowded Shadows

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.

April 2, 2009

Business

1. I have decided to join Blog Every Day April because, well, it’ll force me to blog every day. This is the second day, and I really should have something better to post than an announcement that I will be blogging every day. But I have a deadline to meet tomorrow and this is the best I can do. But I promise that later posts will contain pictures. Some may even be illustrated.

2. In order to help with 1., and because everyone else seems to be putting fiction on their blogs, I have decided to write a series of short fiction based on my search terms. Feel free to leave some of your more interesting blog search terms in the comments, and I’ll have a go at those too. (Also, feel free to join in!)

July 18, 2008

The Sixth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy

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?)

Women Looking:
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.

While guestblogging at Feministe, Natalia Antonova wrote about why she objectifies men:

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.

Sex work:

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.

Here’s Ren again on sex workers’ rights and being an ally.

Kim clarifies her position on porn. One of the things she says –

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.

Radical Vixen continues her Sex Worker Solidarity series with this interview with Catalina.

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.

Renegade Evolution has written extensively about section 2257, and addresses this particular instance here.

Ideologically Impure writes about the state of the industry in New Zealand five years after the Prostitution Reform Act.

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.


Via the
SWOP-East blog, an examination of a news headline that claimed 345 people had been arrested in a child prostitution sting.

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:

Sappho at Noli Irritare Leones has had a series of sex and relationships posts recently – here, here, and here, for example.

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.

And finally,
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.

…and I think that’s it, for now. I have much love for Lina, who ended up doing more work than I did. The next carnival will be held at Tom Paine‘s on the 4th of August.

July 3, 2008

Call for submissions

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!

May 10, 2008

A 101 post (of sorts)

“Feminist, Fangirl, and Maker of Fine Omelettes”

This was for quite a long time in the “about me” section of my blogger profile and so is probably familiar to some of you.

One of the things I fangirl is the internet. I have a crush on the internet. I love that it’s this huge, chaotic mess that allows for things like serious groundbreaking academic work, and really perverse football slash, and LiveJournal communities dedicated to pictures of baby animals.
Back in February, Amit Varma wrote this gloriously geeky article in the Indian Express:

The blogosphere is a meritocratic space. Each blog finds the audience it deserves. If you like economics, you’ll find tons of good economics blogs, often much better than anything you’ll see in the mainstream media, because they’re written by specialists, not generalists. You want gardening? Literature? Technology? You’ll find content in any niche you can think of.
There is a lot of junk on the internet, but readers navigate through it easily, and soon settle on a few sites they regularly visit. Information percolates so quickly that a good new blog doesn’t take much time to build a readership. You write something nice, people who like it link to you, their readers check you out, and so it grows. Marketing and hype are generally wasted, and everything is viral. If you provide compelling content, readers come. If you write rubbish, readers go. Competition is the best regulation.

And this exemplifies the stuff I love about the internet. Who wouldn’t be excited by a system that has space for pretty much anything, that is completely free, where your rewards are based purely on merit, and the like? The internet is really very sexy.

But then there’s the “feminist” thing too. I’ve been female on the internet for some years now. More, I’ve been a female who blogs under my real name. There’s a reason comments on this blog are moderated. Then there was the Kathy Sierra incident. It seems (cue shocked gasps) that the internet does not exist in a vacuum. How about race? How about that bloggers’ lunch with Bill Clinton in Harlem that somehow only white people attended?

Apparently some of those nasty meatspace power dynamics have cunningly leaked in here too. Who would have thought? And they’re there affecting who gets heard, and by how many people, and by which people, and yes, who gets book deals. And so on.

What I’m saying, or should be, is that it’s inevitable for people who are naturally excited by concepts/ideas to focus on the concept itself and stop noticing the cultural context within which the idea exists. But only if they’re the people who that cultural context is made for, who are not constantly alienated by it.( Note how I cleverly do not use that word.) Except you can’t separate things from their contexts because their contexts inevitably influence them.

Which brings me, inevitably to the Open Source Boob Project. I was going to say a lot more about this when it happened but was lazy and by the time I started lots of other people had said it for me. But to me, this is a classic case of the sort of thing I’m talking about. A world where sexuality and bodies aren’t stigmatised? Undoubtedly a good thing. Approaching women in a male dominated space and asking them if they’ll consent to participate in a Social Experiment where people can come up to them and ask to touch their breasts? Um.

Context. It’s important.

And so are omelettes.

May 2, 2008

Regarding non-appearance of brilliant blog posts

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.

*Wave*

April 17, 2008

On what sorts of voices get heard (Some links)

First, BFP’s wonderful, elegant response to last week’s eruption in Feminist blogtopia (that post, by Holly, is also excellent. The comments thread is a disaster, though a very educational disaster.)

Also, this week, Renegade Evolution was invited to speak at a forum on sex work and feminism. Now it seems she may be uninvited because another panelist isn’t comfortable with her presence. Of course it makes perfect sense to exclude sex workers from a conversation about sex work. What would they know about it anyway?

August 15, 2005

New policy regarding comments

(Yes, I realise this is common sense and most of you get it.)

Comment moderation has been enabled on this blog as the result of a few alarming experiences with threatening comments a while back. I generally approve of comments as soon as I see them. If you’ve left a comment and it hasn’t been approved, it might be for any of these reasons.

  1. I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been offline or blogger has failed at email notifications (in which case I’ll see it next time I sign in). I’m sorry for the delay and I’ll approve it when I can.
  2. You commented solely to tell me to visit your blog. No, sorry. If you want people to read what you write, try actually responding to their posts.
  3. Your comment was blatantly racist, sexist, ablist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. I might occasionally let a comment like this through to mock it, but many of my readers face this stuff in real life on a daily basis and there’s no reason they should have to put up with more. Yes, this is censorship. No, free speech doesn’t mean you get to parade your various prejudices on my blog. This is not a difficult concept.

Apart from this stuff, I don’t ask for perfect spelling or grammar (because I get that there are situations where that isn’t possible, and because I’d probably invalidate myself as a commentor if I did) but try to be as coherent as possible.
Do try to stay on topic, and if that isn’t possible pay me extravagant compliments to make up for it.

That’s all, I think.