Another WisCon! This year I’m participating in two panels and a reading. The reading will be the first time a significant portion of my writing/critique group will be getting together IN PERSON! We’re very excited and thrilled that we’ll be together and sharing our work with you!
Here’s my schedule:
|Small Everyday Forms of Resistance in SF/F|
|All Our Favorite Nightmares, Obsessions, and Inhuman Familiars|
|Impeding or Empowering? Representations of Mental Disability|
Please stop by and say “hello” if you’re going to be at WisCon. Leave a comment if these topics interest you or are important to you in some way. I hope to be able to bring many voices to the discussions. Plus, the discussions need not only be at WisCon, right? I mean, that’s what blogs and other forums are for, after all 🙂
What’s intersectional feminist speculative fiction? It’s where the future starts.
Because I’ve signed up for Mikki Kendall‘s Comics Writing Workshop at Wiscon (moment for squee-fest and happy-dance!! I believe this is the first year something like this has been offered) I came across this article, Writer Mikki Kendall Talks Dynamite’s Swords of Sorrow, which led me to Race and Romance in Daredevil Season 2 at Women Write about Comics. It got me to thinking about my own criticisms and disappointments with the show and in pop culture media in general.
While I have criticisms (both cultural and writing centered) of the story, I have enjoyed the Daredevil TV show: well produced, good styling, set and wardrobe; interesting cinematography; complex and intriguing story line. But the writing in the 2nd season felt more scattered (possibly because it was–we did follow three major characters: Daredevil/Murdoch, Elektra, and the Punisher). More noticeable this season, too, was Matt’s disregard for other people–he forces others to clean-up his messes despite their clear discomfort regarding his requests, thus placing those people in harmful and dangerous situations. I don’t know if this is intentional on the writers’ behalf, but Matt came off as a spoiled child thinking he’s acting like an adult. (The character that felt most like a hero was Foggy.) Matt’s callous disregard for the consequences of his own actions and for other’s feelings and needs is a point CLARA MAE makes about Murdoch’s treatment of two of his romantic interests, the two WoC–Claire and Elektra. Ignoring another person’s discomfort and safety is abusive behavior. This paragraph really hit home:
Karen is taken on dates and is formally courted by Matt. Claire and Elektra are the women he’s with only under the cover of darkness, where he’s rougher, less considerate, and embodies more masculine aggression. I can’t emphasize enough what kind of message this sends about what the writers and Matt think of women of color, and how harmful it is for WoC to see themselves as the girls who a white man will come to at night, but never take out during the light of day. We know that stories have a marked effect on self esteem, and the less a WoC sees herself portrayed positively in media, the less likely she is to feel like the society she’s in values her as a human being.
What we see around us, we absorb into our psyche. We internalize everything. It’s how we learn and function as a species. So the stories we consume as well as the stories we tell ourselves shape our beliefs and what we feel is right and what we feel is possible. If I remember correctly, at a Wiscon panel, Daniel José Older said that happy endings are subversive. And in this excellent interview with Tor.com, Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle, I can actually quote him: “I believe in the revolutionary power of happy endings. Especially when you’re dealing with marginalized people… we need to see that there’s hope.”
Apparently even active female characters must be made more… appealing(?, because why else are the writers undermining her active role) by diminishing her agency and being her own competent character. Karen is filmed/styled as the damsel in distress. I’d like to know why her actions need to be glossed up/over with daintiness and a helpless sheen when she’s the one who killed ruthless Wesley, forged forward in her investigations despite real threats (that killed Ben Ulrich), and in general is not cowering or distressed, but active and getting things done. All this while still doing “feminine” things like taking care of the boys and not getting as beat up as the other romantic interests (who are WoC (who are either under-sexualized or over-sexualized…and how sexuality is related to femininity!)), or killed like Ben. As Clara Mae puts it so well, “I’m not at all arguing that violence should befall Karen, but the treatment of Karen stands in stark contrast with the treatment of Elektra and Claire. If Karen is the princess, protected from the brunt of Hell’s Kitchen by the men around her, then Elektra and Claire are the warriors on the front line.” The history of cultural depictions of women of color as not needing/worthy of protection is long. Related is the sexualization of women–either hyper or under sexualized depending on ethnicity, age (lets not forget age!), and whatever it is men were wanting to justify or fantasize about.
I’d like to see all the female characters given as much rounding and complexity, as much humanity and personality, as Karen is given–attractive (well, this is a difficult “idea” isn’t it? Attractive to whom and why? Usually to the male gaze) and worthy as well as active, inquisitive, resilient, and fallible and human, too. There’s some excellent articles out there on why the strong, black woman stereotype is damaging and not the positive praise it might at first glance seem to be (similarly, the “angry, black woman” and other such stereotypes: article by Sofia Samatar on the hyper visibility & invisibility of academics of color, this article by Stacey Patton at Dame Magazine, and “Amandla Stenberg And The Sad Reality Of The ‘Angry Black Girl’ Stereotype” at the Huffington Post).
“But in a society that finds little to praise in black women, other groups’ appreciation for perceived black female strength can feel like a reductive appreciation.”
In Tamara Winfrey Harris’s article linked to above, educator and social-justice advocate Deborah Latham-White is quoted: “I am unwilling to be the mule for the nation.” I cannot put it more eloquently or more succinctly than that.
To those who point out that the comic is different than the TV show–adaptations are their own entity and it is this entity/medium/iteration that is being critiqued. TV has a history and tropes and stereotypes all its own (related to the comics, of course, because it’s created by people in the same broader cultural context). Many consumers of the Daredevil TV show are unfamiliar with the comics, thus the story they are getting is the TV version, so if something different happened in the comic, that’s in the comic, not in the show.
(Clearly this is not meant to be an exhaustive post, nor is it a definitive post. These are discussions that have been on-going and better written than I’ve come up with. But it’s a discussion that is important and vital. Nothing new here, but hopefully a good reminder and stepping stone along the way.)
So, yeah, I’m very much looking forward to Mikki Kendall’s workshop and dipping my writing toes into the world of comics. I’ve got some ideas bouncing about my head I’d like to see out and about in our world. Here’s hoping they make their way to you all one way or another.
In other news, I received edits for “Backlash of the Rapunzel Incident” from Mad Scientist Review. Things are looking good, people! Very excited about this piece finding a good home.
my Wiscon schedule,
maybe some photos of Spring!
Back in the trophy room the gentleman would be taking the leash off their conversation. Likewise, here in the drawing room, each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left by the men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, life flowers or knives.
Yeah, that’s the best three consecutive sentences I’ve read in a while.
And as if that weren’t enough to encourage me to pick this novel up and read read read, there is this in Ana’s review (also beautifully written–who can refrain from reading reviews when they’re this beautifully written?!?):
I wondered if I was looking at it wrong. Because if we look at the realest aspects of story which describe events that really did happen, thoughts that people did believe, it is easy to be struck by how surreal they read. Because in truth, the further removed we are in time, the more history sounds fantastical to us. In a way, everything about The Lie Tree could be seen as fantastical, especially with regards to gender. But then again: no. Better not to reduce what was very real and very painful to flights of fancy.
The Lie Tree is the story of a young girl – Faith – who is at that moment in time where she is no longer a child but not yet a woman. Faith lives a conflicting life, torn between what she is told about what it means to be a woman and the things that she is not supposed to do, feel and know and the feelings she has, the knowledge she knows and the thoughts she thinks. Constantly at war within herself, Faith strives to be good – but also to be accepted and loved. What she has learned over the years is how to hide, to conceal. In sum, how to become just as invisible as the world expects her to be. But she is ever so angry about it. And watching that anger unleashed was one of the best reading experiences of my life.
These are themes and topics that have shaped my life, that run deep in the currents of my mind. That division, the struggling of various needs (social vs personal vs emotional) that contradict one another and can therefore not peacefully co-exist within one person, which render that person torn and invisible (and a part of me wants to say powerful, for what is anger but energy or power that is tainted and stopped up so that it poisons the one who holds it?).
Rest assured, I will add my two cents worth once I have read this novel. Because I will. How could I not?
Wiscon – the world’s leading feminist Science Fiction Convention – is just around the corner! Held here in Madison, Wisconsin from May 24th – 27th.
Thanks to LaShawn for being organized and posting her schedule, thus reminding me to do the same (I know what I’ll be doing Friday night – I’ll be going to the Oxford Comma Bonfire Reading).
This year I will be participating as a panelist in two discussions and reading from my poetry with a wonderful and talented group. My schedule in short (with descriptions and a list of panelists and poets below):
Sat, 1:00–2:15 pm; When Bodies and Jobs Are the Same; Caucus
Sat, 2:30–3:45 pm; Open Secrets: A Speculative Poetry Reading; Senate B
Mon, 10:00–11:15 am; Passing: Self-Care and Embracing Who You Are; Caucus
|Passing: Self-Care and Embracing Who You Are|
|Open Secrets: a Speculative Poetry Reading|
|When Bodies and Jobs Are the Same|
It took 60 pages (if I remember correctly) to get to the driving point of the plot. I wondered if the whole novel was just going to be Nyx stumbling from one “note” to the next endlessly and pointlessly as the war. But then the big one fell in her lap and projected her and her group further down the rabbit hole of bounty hunting = the plot.
This novel touched on many themes and ideas and world building that I found really interesting. The plot did not exactly go there, however.
But the world building really is something. Bug tech! Maybe I don’t read enough of this type of sf to know better (has this been done a lot? I don’t know). I liked it, though.
Hurley has populated her novel with not necessarily likeable characters: they tend toward pessimistic, stubborn to narrow-minded, they don’t learn any lessons or change by the end of the novel. But then again, not all people learn and change and not all novels and stories are about lessons, either. The characters’ ability to deal with emotions, especially attraction, romantic feelings, or love, is certainly limited and this is frustrating, but what is to be expected? the nations are stuck in an endless war that has mostly annihilated the planet. Emotional intelligence is not going to be taught at school (some of the characters didn’t or barely finished general education, limited as that was) and won’t on the top of people’s hierarchy of needs.
These are flawed characters. And yet I didn’t not like any of them. Hurley kept them all human and understandable, even if I did disagree with their actions and views. To be honest, I am not sure how much of my not disliking them had to do with my already lowered expectations. If it has more to do with her writing, then that’s an achievement.
I think I was interested in Nyx and Rhys because I wanted to see if they could care about each other, or anyone other than themselves. They were interesting as characters to begin with, flawed and gritty and driven by fears that one can understand. But they did not change or learn… perhaps Rhys did discover something about caring for someone he did not like, Nyx, but he would not act on it. I think that would have helped this story: set on a world that is being destroyed by a permanent war about religious beliefs, if in this context two people from opposing sides could learn to care for the other despite the fact that they disagree and don’t even like each other, then there is hope – not an answer and not a solution and nothing short of Sisyphean work to change their cultures, but hope nonetheless. But Nyx didn’t change much less learn or recognize her affection for Rhys, and Rhys did seem to recognize his affection for Nyx, but not more.
So I don’t think I will be reading further in this series. Because if things don’t change, then that’s just bad melodrama and bad action movie series and booooring. There needs to be change, hope, uncertainty… faith. And faith needs to be challenged. I don’t think Nyx was challenged. Main character not challenged = not good.
The plot got complicated and convoluted instead of complex and I did get lost with some of the factions and double-agent stuff. Also, a bit repetitive in the kidnap and torture the main character or one of her group, get sprung, run a step or two forward toward goal, get captured and tortured again, and etc.
I am not a mystery or thriller or action reader. Perhaps that is why I thought the novel was such a thrill ride and I forgave much – it was easy to suspend my disbelief and let slide the things I didn’t like (including the disbelief which did filter through my lowered threshold) and look for the aspects I found interesting: gender roles, bug tech, political reproductive interstellar intrigue, fight scenes. I don’t go to roller derby expecting to be educated and enlightened, I go for some adrenaline fun and (restricted, enacted) brutality. I don’t expect finesse or deep thoughts. If that were included somehow, though, that would be pretty awesome.
Implications of race, religion, and gender but these were not explored. Gender more than the others, I’d say… at least it was in the forefront more than the others. I say this because when pressed with what to say about how gender was explored all I can come up with is women can be as greedy, violent, and hopeless as men. But that’s not really news. Perhaps it is to some. Someone mentioned a similar feeling about the message in Cloud Atlas that we are all interconnected, that there is no distinction of race or gender, and that that is not news…. and I agree, in my circle that is not news, that is a given, but in the rest of the world… well, I sadly sadly do not think that this understanding has yet hit the op-ed for the world at large much less the headlines.
While typing in ‘tags’ I decided to include ‘feminism’ and ‘characters of color’ because I think some people will read Hurley’s novel as being a pro-such. I do not think a book mostly populated by women and non-white characters is alone a reason to call it a feminist work or that it champions diversity, but we simply do not see many novels of mostly women characters and mostly characters of color… whether or not the novel is an action based thriller or a more cerebral tale. But it does depict a world populated and run by women and people of color and it does not make a big deal about these things, which is a nice change.
It just occurred to me that the racism and religion-based discrimination and hate are therefore all the more complex because this world is populated by women and people of color. Racism and discrimination is usually a white to non-white issue because that’s the ‘dominant paradigm’, the ‘normative’ in North America (white, Protestant, heterosexual, cis male). I don’t know what to say about that, not in any coherent way that would translate well on this forum, and not in this already long post. And I didn’t even get into the sexuality issue.
Thanks for sticking around if you got this far.