Archive for May, 2009

May 29, 2009

The Poison Throne and gay men from abroad

I stayed awake most of last night reading Celine Kiernan’s The Poison Throne, which was much more gripping than I’d bargained for. It’s the first of a fantasy trilogy, set in an unnamed kingdom (I think?) in fictional Europe. Some of the most important relationships in this book are between friends – Razi and Wyn (who have been raised almost as siblings), Razi and Christopher, and Wyn and Christopher, who first bond over their shared love for Razi.
There’s a lot about the dynamics of the connections between these three characters that is interesting, and I think Kiernan does this brilliantly. But the relationship that interested me most was the one between Razi and Christopher.

I don’t want to give away plot details, but the threat of Christopher being harmed is frequently held over Razi’s head to manipulate him. When Christopher is injured, Razi nurses him. They live in the same rooms. It’s clearly a very intense friendship, and they’re open about how much they care about each other.

And for a good chunk of the book, it was unclear (to me) whether this relationship was also a physical one. It could be; and while I didn’t particularly want descriptive sex scenes (or any, really, what with all the plot-stuff going on) I loved that the possibility was left open. I thought Kiernan might be doing something really interesting and unusual by not attempting to define this relationship, not slot it neatly into some easily definte place.

Then page 313 happened.

Razi moves out of their shared quarters because ‘people’ have been saying that Christopher is his catamite. And suddenly this all becomes very familiar to the reader me. Razi is horrified, Wyn is horrified, Chris is amused and informs them that among the Merron (his own people, who do not live in this country) homosexuality is acceptable. Kiernan turns it into a teaching moment – Razi’s disgust is seen as irrational and rather stupid, and Wyn is made to realise that she too is prejudiced. And certainly the reader isn’t left in any doubt that Kiernan thinks homophobia is wrong. Yet it’s still deeply disappointing to me.

This is mostly (I think) a literary thing – she re-establishes conventional definitions of relationships, and the Razi-Christopher bond remains unusually strong but stays within those limits. But ideologically, too, it’s not entirely satisfying. The whole thing reminds me far too much of this exchange from Tamora Pierce’s Page.

She stopped and turned back. “What you said about Garvey and Joren – it’s not an insult in Yaman. Some men prefer other men. Some women prefer other women.” Kel shrugged.
“In the Eastern Lands, people life that pursue their loves privately,” replied Neal. “Manly fellows like Joren think it’s a deadly insult to be accused of wanting other men.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Kel said.
“It’s still an insult on this side of the Emerald Ocean, my dear.

I like Pierce. I reread her frequently, and many of my friends claim that she was crucial to them when they were growing up.

But it is rather convenient to have all these openly gay people (who of course aren’t doing anything wrong, and you shouldn’t discriminate against them) in countries other than the one where all the action is based. The author’s praiseworthy politics are established, the young reader learns its valuable lesson, and all this without anyone who isn’t heterosexual even entering the text; much easier than, for example, writing a queer hero.

Pierce and Keenan are both writing about feudal societies feeling the impact of comparitively progressive governments. This gives them plenty of opportunity to play around with race/class/gender and how prejudice works. I don’t think it’s as easy to play around with sexual preference though. Perhaps if they’d both chosen to set their books in ancient Greece.

I live in hope of Pierce coming out with a Tortall book that addresses this, and I know that Kiernan’s next, The Crowded Shadows, contains an important gay relationship. But it’s obvious that we’re all not quite there yet.

Edit: It occurs to me that the sort of relationship I was hoping for for Razi and Christopher (including the purposefully unaddressed question of physical intimacy) has been done. It’s original series Kirk and Spock!

May 24, 2009

Stuff I would like on a T-Shirt

Click on the picture to see a full-size image.
This was discovered recently by my friend Kate (Thank you Kate). I wonder if if qualifies as redamancy?

May 23, 2009

Save The Words

Following the advice of Sara O’Leary, I have adopted a family of five words from Save The Words. I have pledged to use these words as much as possible in conversation and correspondence (and, presumably, blogging).

These are my words, and I think they’re all wonderful.

Roomthily: spatially, with respect to space.
This roomthily hall can easily accommodate fifty adults, or a hundred; if the other fifty don’t mind piggybacking.

Sinapistic: consisting of mustard.
He was a little too fond of his condiments and insisted on bathing in a sinapistic sauce.

Redamancy: act of loving in return.
The cat continued to leave dead rodents on the doormat, never expecting any redamancy from her master.

Murklins: in the dark.
The one-eyed cat pounced murklins and somehow managed to swallow a lump of coal.

Woundikins: mild profanity.
She wouldn’t tolerate woundikins, so little Jimmy’s cry of “poopydrawers” soon upset the young kindergarten teacher.

The English language is the first one I learned to speak and the one I write and (mostly) read in. And it is a joy and a privilege to work with a language that contains words like frutescent (having or approaching the habit or appearance of a shrub) or gaudiloquent (speaking joyfully or on joyful matters) or vultuous (having a sad or solemn expression) and, magnificently, ficulnean (an adjective meaning “worthless information regarding fig-tree wood”). However rarely I am likely to use these words it is comforting to know that they exist, and I’d like to believe they always will.

May 21, 2009

And the fifth sign shall be sweetened popcorn

People tend not to give me religious tracts. I’m not entirely sure why – perhaps they don’t like what they hear of my conversation as I walk down a street; perhaps I don’t look like the sort of person they want in their religion; perhaps I am actually invisible. But on tuesday as I walked to college a man at a street corner handed me this, and I took it.

Unlike many other religious tracts, this one merely lays out the totally scientific evidence for you, the reader, to put together.

The first page tells the story of a reckless driver who refuses to listen to warnings on the car radio about a collapsed bridge because he is too busy listening to the sports news. His car plunges into the water and he dies. (This is a metaphor).

A long list of signs and warnings that are being ignored follows. This includes violence, rape, terrorism, AIDS, and the like. However, the really convincing argument for the coming apocalypse?

By the way, this mad rush was foretold by Daniel 2,500 years ago, as evidence of “THE TIME OF THE END” (Dan 12:4); “Many shall run (rush) to and fro”.
“The travel industry is now the biggest industry in the world.

Other problems

Sex Manipulation: “For this and some sort of sex manipulation taking place between fallen angels and women in Noah’s day, God’s judgement was to wipe them all off with a flood, except Noah and his family who trusted in Him. Weird experiments that are taking place today.

Mice: (As a part of the Animal-Human Hybrid section) “Inside their brains are living human neurons that help them to see, hear and think”.

Gay people: (This is a long section, encompassing most of the booklet)

New York got a powerful warning in the destruction of the Twin Towers, but this was wirth the hands of evil men, but I think a judgement on the extremely perverting influence flowing out of Hollywood and San Francisco could be a mighty earthquake and tsunami to hit the West coast of the USA. but not at all limited to that area.

Sex teaching in schools is fanning the fires of passion in young people. A report in Newsweek says “They have gay assemblies, with speakers extolling the virtues of gayhood”, and go on to say how gay pop idols “Help promote experimentation among teenagers. Kids today are willing to try just about anything”.

…talented and professional people are often involved. Playing a leading part in this is the increasing Occult and Satanic activity, promoted and fanned on by the Internet and similar electronic devices.

There is no account of Homosexual or Lesbian marriage in Sodom, yet suddenly now hundreds of thousands of couples are lining up to take vows and go through a ceremony which, until how, has been the right of a man and woman only.

AIDS + tourism: “It began with the Homosexuals and by illicit sex spread to the Heterosexuals too, so that the increasingly rapid world travel adds to the increasingly rapid spread of AIDS.

The Church, now the laughing stock of demons: “Instead of boldly proclaiming what God says about this, they are ordaining practising homosexual men and women to the highest offices in the churches and helping promote the cause of the Antichrist religions which are aggressively aiming to take over these Christianized lands.
An apologetic, compromising Church must be the laughing stock of demons and scornful men, and to the Lord Himself it must be as he said of the Church in Laodicea, “Because you are lukewarm, I will spue you out of my mouth“.

The Mark: “The long talked-of MARK has been developing in unexpected ways and could soon become universal REALITY. Don’t be fearful, but be careful what you sign.

Global Warming: I wasn’t aware that this was still an issue, what with the sudden rise in piracy. It is clear that pastafarianism is an Antichrist Religion.

Yet with all this, there is hope. The writer (a representative of End Time Ministries, located in Kilkenny) wants to be saved, and he hopes you will be too.

May 20, 2009


Felix Gilman, in this interview.

I did read China Miéville before starting to write, but not really a lot else that falls into the whole New-Weird-Slipstream-Infernokrushor-What-You-Will category. Miéville’s books were instrumental in encouraging me to get started writing, in part because he showed that you can write something really wonderful around the skeleton of a very basic, B-movie pulp structure: i.e. sometimes your characters’ motivation for getting from A to B can be we are being chased there by a monster, and that’s O.K.

May 18, 2009

10 things Star Trek taught me about the future

1. We might still have capitalism: The original series is actually pretty socialist - it’s certainly evolved beyond capitalism. We’re not (as far as I can remember) shown any actual exchange of money in the new film, but the product placements are pretty blatant so it’s easy to tell that Nokia and (horrifyingly) Budweiser are going strong.

2. Most people will be white. Oh there will be POC. There’s Captain Robau. And Uhura. And Sulu. So we haven’t actually died out yet. We’re just not the majority of the world’s population or anything.

3. Despite the fact that people are zooming across the universe, fraternising with all manner of creature and barely notice aliens standing next to them at the bar counter, non-American, non-English accents will continue to be hilarious.

4. Voice recognition technology will be used, and miraculously all the alien types who might need to use it will have physically evolved in a manner that will enable them to do so. But not human Russians, because they talk funny.

5. Women who go to the bar to buy a drink will still have to contend with random arseholes. Random arseholes will go on to have successful careers by way of an old-boys-club-ish set of values – “I knew your dad”, “You were very brave, there, when you punched out those colleagues”, etc, and said women will have to work under them and it won’t be awkward at all.

6. Appropriate clothing for women will consist of impractically short skirts.

7. Yo mama jokes will continue to be in use and effective.

8. School bullies will continue to exist. No one will actually do anything about this except maybe vaguely disapprove of it.

9. The Beastie Boys will continue to be awesome.

10. There will probably be sandwiches.

(Having said all this, I loved it. I was entirely uncritical while the film was actually playing, and plan to watch it again. “It makes my Id cum heaps all over”. )


11. Humankind will still have not come up with a way to make childbirth less painful. (What is this “epidural” of which you speak?)

May 16, 2009

and while on the subject of codpieces

…I hope it is sufficiently clear to people that a codpiece is something you wear (if you are so inclined); not a part of the human body. One Jamaica Layne is clearly under the impression that “codpiece” is a euphemism for “penis”.

The knight gives me a knowing smile, and jiggles his giant cock in my direction. “You look like a fair maiden in need of a good visit from the codpiece,” he says

He grins wider. “Your lady-softness told me herself when she was wrapped round my codpiece.”

I’m horribly, horribly tempted to read this book.

May 16, 2009

Suspicious bulges in Regency Pantaloons

(re)Reading Georgette Heyer yesterday I was, as always, pleased by the amount of attention she pays to men’s clothing – and by the amount of attention her male characters (and apparently most upper-class Regency men) do. However, reading about young Peregrine’s skin-tight pantaloons has made me wonder.

According to Boots and Bonnets,

Breeches were replaced by pantaloons, which were tighter fitting and extended to mid calf or below. These were bias cut to achieve a much closer fit. They were worn with highly polished tall boots. Between 1807-25 trousers, originally worn by working men, appeared as an alternative. They were skin tight to the knees and below the knee they were looser and anchored in place by straps under the instep, a device possibly introduced by Brummell to ensure the trousers’ unwrinkled perfection could be maintained. Breeches, pantaloons and trousers in this period fastened with a side buttoned rectangular panel to produce a flat front to the garment and preserve the closeness of fit.

This is all very well. But I have to wonder whether all these skin tight garments were not sometimes rather…revealing? When Lady Barbara Childe walked into a room having damped her petticoats so they would cling to her body, was it not obvious that the men present were affected by the sight? Codpieces were no longer in fashion, and as far as I can tell, male underwear mostly consisted of cotton drawers. Does anyone know how this worked? Did young Regency girls just have to determinedly look at men’s faces? I’m told that the “modesty girdle” took a while later to come into existence – what exactly was happening in between?

May 16, 2009


I’ve been following the discussions around the new Patricia Wrede book (The Thirteenth Child) for some time now, and it’s probably obvious where I stand on the issue. But for now, I’m going to post this quote from Wrede, without comment.

I’m currently assuming there will be African slaves, possibly even more (since there won’t be any Native Americans to have already done a certain amount of prepping land for human occupation, nor to be exploited later).

Actually, no. Here’s a comment. WTF?

May 12, 2009

Random Dublin