- The Dark Origins of Conjugal Visits: “Conjugal visits are a good policy, and they got their start in America for the worst possible reasons.”
- Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about the black family in the age of mass incarceration. I’ve only skimmed this piece–I haven’t had the time or energy to really dig into it as it deserves.
- Elizabeth Warren on Black Lives Matter: “And it’s not just about law enforcement either. Just look to the terrorism this summer at Emanuel AME Church [in Charleston, S.C.]. We must be honest: 50 years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.”
- Lisa Congdon and her tendency towards vulnerability hangovers: “I am not a perfectly polished person. And, in fact, I think that might be what people like about me. To the extent I can, I share the truth about my experience. And if I’m going to keep being real, I’m not always going to say things exactly right, or think of all the right things to say in the moment.“
- Maureen Eichner on Gaudy Night: “Most of all, perhaps, it’s the fact that their journey is to see each other clearly and to love what they see there. Rather than leaving themselves aside and becoming the other person, they learn to become more truly themselves together.” (Spoiler: this is my favorite Sayers novel.)
- The women behind the blog LadyBusiness have gone ahead and posted an enormous study of gender distribution in SFF awards. They’re making the rest of us look bad, even if they use EVIL PIE CHARTS. And 3D ones at that. #sobbing
- The mansplaining of Taylor Swift: “Adams’s achievement is that he didn’t sympathetically engage with Swift’s lyrics at all, but simply appropriated her words by applying them to his own, more complex, man emotions.”
- Amal El-Mohtar on The Traitor Baru Cormorant and queer responses: “To really talk about a book, to have delved in or bounced off and try to figure out the hows and whys of our reading, where they matched up and where they diverged, is delicious to me.”
- And in conjunction with El-Mohtar’s post, Heather Rose Jones tweeted not only about why she doesn’t believe that Dickinson’s debut novel falls into the queer tragedy story trope but also about a much larger issue: if this book had been written by a queer woman, would it be getting the kind of attention and publicity push that it is getting? I mean, it seems to me that it’s fairly obvious that it wouldn’t be. If a woman writes something, it’s niche. If a man writes it, it’s universal. It’s straight out of Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, it is.
I’ve been in class all week for day job and it was a pretty challenging class, so my brain is pretty much mush this week.
Here is a delightful set of promotional pictures of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny; my personal favorites are FBI Slavic 80s Pop Stars and FBI Weird Theater Kids.
What’s struck your fancy this week? Let me know in the comments!
- Are college lectures unfair? “Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that the lecture is not generic or neutral, but a specific cultural form that favors some people while discriminating against others, including women, minorities and low-income and first-generation college students.”
- She wrote it–but she shouldn’t have: “So many of these recent essays make a show of maximal divulgence, but are too half-baked and dashed-off to do the work of real introspection.”
- She wrote it–but she really isn’t an artist, and it isn’t really art: “Men write these kinds of pieces all the time. They just aren’t seen in the same, marginalizing light. A man writing about his drug addiction or squandered nights in sweaty sheets is just considered normal. Interesting. Literary.” This article also makes a point of highlighting this: “Society sees women of color’s shameless writing as proof of deviance, not a relatable and fun story to share on social media.”
- Great interview with Kate Beaton: “I think that what’s really happening there is that women in history or literature are often presented to us as sort of second-tier importance. We hear less about them, we study them less, representations of women are likely to be ‘less’ somehow.”
- I love “Kitchen of the Future” films: “These films and pamphlets and pretty websites aren’t selling you goods, but rather ideas, narratives, and stories about how the future is going to work, and how their company fits into that future.”
- Locked Tight: “They understand that the online world has become a horror show, and that men largely drive that horror.”
- I once got into it on Twitter with someone from the knitting world about their use of this word. I lost a lot of respect for them that day. “Words matter. Like icebergs, nine-tenths of their heft lies out of sight. Insults like gay and lame can kill. If you’re not gay or lame, you might not see the grinding damage that’s occurring below the waterline to those who are.”
- On not giving up: “I have to do what I do, even if the world decides it’s worthless. I have to follow my own compass and give it my best and hope to connect. I have to carve messy emotions into a useful shape that feels inspired but not reductive.”
- Roxane Gay on unlikable characters: “I want characters to do the things I am afraid to do for fear of making myself more unlikable than I may already be. I want characters to be the most honest of all things — human.“
- The uniquely American myth of Satanic cults: “‘Regardless of intelligence and education, and often despite common sense and evidence to the contrary, adults tend to believe what they want or need to believe; the greater the need, the greater the tendency.'”
- Sady Doyle on rape jokes: “They’re asking you to think about what else might be in there — what we know, from history, is too often found in there. To know that some people are flammable, and to be careful where the spark lands. Because, in the end, I don’t believe you when you say you don’t care. You are human. You are too good to want the innocent creatures burned.” (content warning: graphic description of sexual assault and animal abuse)
- How an Ohio reporter helped convict more than 100 rapists: “‘How were they able to pick the most vulnerable people, the people that either had drug addictions, or mental health issues, or other problems, and prey on those people? They didn’t get caught because we couldn’t deal with creating a system that helps those people, or listens to those people, or believes those people.‘”
- The Truth of “Black Lives Matter”: “They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued.”
- On Kanye West and Black Humility: “How many conversations have you had with people where they refer to a confident black man as ‘self-important’ while a white man gets an adjective like ‘brash’?”
- Fascinating piece on Civil War re-enactors: “But to leave out the stories of and facts about the slaves, who built the buildings in which he stands and worked the gardens from which he pulls ingredients, is not only a lie, he says, but also an act of aggression toward those who need to learn and understand our shared past.”
- Purity culture as support of the status quo: “Purity ideology means that no Christian will ever again be quite as pure and righteous and clean as they are at that moment of conversion.”
- I was kind of annoyed at this article about Amish romance–the author has a good understanding of what evangelicals are looking for in romance novels, but she also seems to use a single Amish romance with a totally ridiculous and over the top plot as a stand-in for all Amish romances and that is not how that works: “Peering out from a wire rack in a grocery store was a religious vision of sorts: a paperback romance novel that neatly summed up classic yearning, confining cultural norms, and the hazards of defiled purity.”
- Lovely and thoughtful post on one of my favorite novels: “And so, necessarily within Strong Poison, there is a sense of alteration, of the world unmade and remade. Of yourself unmade and remade.”
- Your anxiety isn’t an excuse to be an asshole: “And if I were, the last thing in the world I would need is this dumb fucking self-care rhetoric that essentially tells you, ‘You’re a golden anxiety flower, and everyone else has to deal with you.’” (I read this piece more along the lines of “Hey, remember that other people are people too and everyone has stuff” as opposed to “Suck it up, buttercup” but your mileage may vary!)
- Spring–or is it?: “Spring is an artificial concept imported and imposed upon the Australian landscape when those invaders should have been chatting to the Traditional Owners about the six (or seven, or two) seasons.”
- The Witches of Salem: “In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed.”
- On Yi-Fen Chou: “You had to stay visibly Other so you could remain a racialized fetish-object; the more assimilated you seem at first glance, the less reason he would have to use you to garnish his work.”
- Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” may not have been created by him: “‘One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture; since there was nothing indecent about it, there was no reason to reject it.'”
- This sounds like a really interesting game: “Your job is to protect your children from hunters, an impossibly steep task that I was not able to do. It seemed possible at first, but the spear-wielding figures, dark lines slashed against the world, just overwhelmed me in the end.”
- On the Power User problem: “it might be more fruitful to reimagine software whose default user is not a composite of focus testers, the designers and their imagined user types, and demographic/usage data, but a potentiality of users willing to adapt software to their particular needs and desires.”
- New species of ancient human! “To find one complete skeleton of a new hominid would be hitting the paleoanthropological jackpot. To find 15, and perhaps more, is like nuking the jackpot from orbit.”
- Justice Department sets sights on Wall Street executives: “‘We’re not going to be accepting a company’s cooperation when they just offer up the vice president in charge of going to jail.'”
- I like cranky Michael Stipe: “‘Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you—you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men.'”
- So there are some scholarships available for Smofcon. There’s a hitch, though: “The recipients will be selected by a committee of Robbie Bourget, Kevin Standlee and René Walling.”
I said this on Twitter, but I feel like I need to put this sentiment someplace more permanent: Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is a delight.
It was exactly the book I needed to read. On the surface, it’s a series of hijinks and scrapes but it’s doing a lot more underneath the surface. It’s an exploration of racism, sexism, and colonialism all in the guise of a fantasy novel set in early 19th century England.
Zacharias Wythe is England’s Sorcerer Royal. He’s new to the post, having taken over after his adoptive father, Sir Stephen Wythe, died. Armed with the staff of the Sorcerer Royal but not accompanied by the familiar Leofric, Zacharias is not really accepted by the other magicians in England by virtue of the fact that he is black—born a slave and only manumitted as a young teenager by Sir Stephen. He has had to prove and prove again his magical ability and his competence—being in possession of the staff is not enough.
Prunella Gentleman is a young woman of uncertain circumstance and parentage who resides and assists at a school for young women with magical ability: the school teaches them to tamp down their abilities because women are perceived as being too frail to manage magic (shades of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series here).
Together…they fight crime.
Okay, they don’t fight crime but Zacharias does end up speaking at Prunella’s school, there’s an incident and the next thing he knows, he’s agreed to take her to London in order so she may find a husband but also as his (secret) apprentice.
But there are other things going on: a strange block on the magic coming into England from Fairyland, a witch of Janda Baik (the fearsome and awesome Mak Genggang, and I the only one who wants a book about her terrorizing men all over the world because I would pay good money for that, please take note), mysterious rocks that Prunella has inherited from her father, and plots—so many plots within plots.
Cho manages this completely over the top plot (even by Regency romance standards—and there is a romance here, too—it’s a bit much) and still manages to convey the extreme constraints that Zacharias is under due to his race and those that Prunella has due to both her gender and her race. It’s thoughtfully and sensitively conveyed, but it’s always there—I’d say it’s background radiation, but it’s more palpable than that. They suffer constant slights and aspersions on their characters and abilities and still they keep on keeping on—because they have no other choice in the matter.
This is, through and through a delightful book and one told by a consummate storyteller: I can’t wait to read what Cho has in store for us in the years to come (this is the first book of a trilogy! yay!).
(And this reminds me that I bought her short story collection, Spirits Abroad, quite some time ago and it’s been languishing in my to be read pile. I think I need to rectify that.)