Thursday, January 21, 2010

Space Of Grace

Book Cover: A bald, possibly twenty-something black man in long flapping leather coat, with a sword in one hand, a gun in the other, and a crown on his head. Lightening spears out from behind him like a halo.  He's walking down an alley with buildings which have fire escapes. Text says: King Maker - The Nights Of Brenton Court. Maurice Broadus

Hi-rise buildings in shades or purple which shade to yellow and then orange/red. Three black people's faces are in the yellow diagonal shading, two men bookending a woman who has a sloth on her shoulder. The top man has prickly spears of something extending from his face. The bottom man has a dog(?) half shading into his face. Text says: Zoo City. Lauren Beukes

Both coming out through AngryRobotBooks.Com, a new SF imprint via HarperCollins.

On the one hand, it's encouraging to see SF with PoC, that have PoC covers. On the other, checking out AngryRobotBooks, I saw it's three white guys in charge.

Still just looking at them lifts my spirits.

And Zoo City is set in South Africa!

==- + -==

ETA: I've not really wanted to do any sort of demarking on the fact that it's been a year since Racefail/Racefail-09 began. The people who behaved, as they behaved have left it behind and likely given it not much thought at all.

And truthfully, on the blogs of people who have mentioned it, the stream of comments from various well meaning white people talking about just how much they learned, is frankly distateful to me.

It was meaningful because it changed how they think? And now they're on their yellow brick road towards being better people?

What happened changed my life and will continue to. It changed how I see the world of publishing and it will continue to. It changed how I see white people and it will continue to. And it has left me exhausted and affected my health.

I really don't care about white people's watershed moment of illumination. Especially because what happened was just a magnified moment of many moments in many years.

And those moments are still happening.

So to all the white people patting themselves on the back for being so much more aware now. Is that all you're going to do? Be aware as you navel gaze? And you want me to smile at you?

You want me to think your "awareness" is real change? Just because you jumped on a bandwagon of chic? Or to refute a label of racist you saw looming? Or to pad your damn egoes?

Nah dread. Not righteous. Not righteous at all.

Expend some effort. Take up some of the bloody load. Then we'll see if I have a 'progress report' to make for next year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti & Privilege

There's something bothering me. Bothering me a lot. So much so that even though I got into it some with someone and realized we would never see eye to eye and it wasn't worth continuing the conversation - I feel a need to say something here in this space. Because it is seriously bothering me. It deserves some energy.

My view of the USA in Haiti right now is this:

We are the conquering heroes. The world must marvel at our largess. We are here to help with our military, who are trained and shiny and have many guns to KEEP THINGS UNDER CONTROL. And OMG, these poor people; not a pot to piss in, not a phillips screwdriver to turn a screw. And we will not break out some empty bottles for people to piss in, and butter knives for people to use to screw, because our procedural mandate instructs pots and screw drivers. It also mandates backhoes not shovels. We cannot do anything innovative or outside the box. We cannot use back strength and gloves and rope to help dig people out. We cannot rumble through on our humvees since that would destabilize buildings, but neither can we send people out on foot to check things out, mark buildings, etc. And we will not listen to, or take comments from individual organizations and groups that are used to this environment and what can be done without our massive shiny technology that will save lives. Yay technology! We are America.

And the thing that gets me is how whenever anyone points out there is industrialized privilege in expecting and waiting for a backhoe, a screw driver, a humvee, etc... someone American says "Oh, you don't understand the logistics. You don't understand the US military doesn't use anything but these kinds of vehicles and this kind of equipment. And there's no room to use the weight of American technology in Haiti because they have no infrastructure!"

It reminds me very much of archaeologists going 'The Aztecs and Mayans had no metallurgy' and 'There is no way Nubians built Pyriamds'.

I do not understand how some people can say that things Haitians can do themselves, if they had rope and gloves and shovels and bottles of water and dettol and bandages - the US military can't do.

Why can't they do it?

It's not sufficiently first world? They'll lose cool points?

Is it really the best thing, to not dispatch aspirin in a packet when there are doctors there doing surgery on children with no anesthesia - because you, the US Military, state there's no place to keep more delicate pain killers and medicines?

Is it really the best thing to say that a liter of water is too small, and so is five liters, so it's perfectly ok for no water to be brought until it can be brought in the gallons?

Is it really the best thing to call people who are angry and upset; over emotional and irrational and unable to grasp logistics, because they're accustomed to 'making do' and America(ns) are not?

Is it really the best thing to tell people their expectations of what help looks like are all wrong?

It's all very well to point out that UN Peacekeepers are raping folk in various countries in Africa. But that doesn't change what the US is NOT doing in Haiti, how it is NOT acting and the privilege that is preventing it from doing some small help while planning out their big, majestic, this is what first world rescue looks like.

This is what is bothering me. First World/Developed Nation/Industrialized Nation Privilege. And how very, very much people do not want to look at what it encompasses.

At how certain actions are somehow beneath them, even though those same actions, small and rural and old fashioned as they might be, offer help and hope and the potential to save lives.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Night Watch

I finished Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch, book 1 from the series World of Watches, this past weekend. On the one hand it was incredibly intriguing to read a fantasy premise I like and play around with writing myself. And it was also amazing to read about a magical Cold War. There were so many bits in the books I recognized from growing up during the Cold War; history lessons, politics (as theory and practice) and even a goodly shading of the flavour of Cold War movies in the intrigue.

I do not know how much of Lukyanenko's style remains after translation into English (Andrew Bromfeld) but I enjoyed the rhythm of the words in english. I enjoyed the character sketches; multifaceted glimpses into life and experience and personality.

BUT and it is a big but; when I'd reached the end of the book and realized I'd read the last line, I was left with one distinct feeling.

"Well, that was depressing as f*ck"

It really really was. And it is difficult for me not to think the style of depressing is something indicative to Russian writing - given that I've only ever read Russian writing in school and I found those to be depressing as well. The book starts and ends, essentially with "Life is about being a rock against the shore and how long you last against erosion. And even if at the end of the day you're still standing - the sea. does. not. stop.

Perhaps someone might describe this flavour I see as depressing as being realistic. Right now I'd be hard pressed to put into words and explain to them that I know there is a difference between depressing somewhat pessimistic grim reality and a reality that accepts itself while being less the olive in the press. I could not begin to describe the latter reality except to say I know it exists and being able to step away from the darker energy sucking grey where the difference between life and death is conscious breathing is something I myself have worked on for years.

I do not know if I will read book 2 in the series any time soon. The world building is wonderful. Not just the fantasy elements but Moscow and Russia; the balance between the old and the new, the many faces of Russia itself with its varied ethnicities. I can't claim to understand Russia, Russians, or Moscow just from reading one book. But I do feel as if I got a glimpse into another world and how another people view that world and I think that takes craft. The world building wants me to go back as soon as possible to read more about vampires, werewolves, the war between Light and Dark and the forces of individuals on either side.

I just don't think 2010 so far is a space where the -best- thing I could do for myself would be to read something where victory doesn't seem to last much past a good cup of tea.

Perhaps book 2 further enriches the relationships established in book 1. That is one other thing the book does, it makes it clear that in such a world and such a fight, how people hold on to, respect and love one another can be the only thing that matters. And I do tend to like books that stress connections as a need that humanity has in general, if with less focus on the strictly romantic; and that the lack of connections equals a lack of what makes an individual human.

But... I might just hold off a bit all the same. I can get similar via The Dresden Files and even though there's the same Light against The Dark there, the victories last at least as long as a good meal and a fine night's rest.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Project 880 vs Avatar

The Avatar That Almost Was.

I've just finished the author's repeat of the original scriptment. And it's still got elements of 'What These People Need Is A Honkey'. But elements vs the WHOLE DAMN THING, is a very odd perspective.

For me, the fact that the Na'vi are actively resisting by the time Sully's character arrives and it's due to human privilege and hubris and OTHERING (right down to killing animals for fun which just make me think of Zebras in Africa and Buffalo in the US) seriously makes me wonder at the INSERTS of stupid racial tropes.

The fact that those controlling avatars going native, has happened before and has facets of individuals from a ruined earth falling in love with something that doesn't look at all like over industrialized earth and facets of falling in love with a way of life that reveres trees and growth and green - rather than 'the white men want to live the nobler, simpler life' is just so - blink blink blink.

And I guess for me, the ugliness of Research & Devleopment and certain military characters is so damn true - in a way I've rarely seen in mainstream media (which might explain why it didn't make it) - but for example, certain individuals wanting to bomb the Na'vi's home, not to obtain the unobtainable, but to send a message planet wise that humans will fuck up all those who don't bow to their imperialistic boot? Let me know if that's been stated plainly before - and give references. It might be something I'll enjoy watching/reading.

There are apparently nods to deeper concepts of what is self, who has the right to oppress self, what would it mean to be a blended entity, etc. And Sully doesn't end up the new leader of the Na'vi, but the new leader of the blended Avatars - which makes FAR MORE SENSE.


Am I more furious over Avatar, that not unlike Texas School Board Approved Books, American Exceptionalism got promoted in the final work, vs 'historical accuracy'?


I think what it does, however, is make me even more distrustful of Hollywood and all Hollywood is beholden to. The Hollywood machine knows very well what pap the public will swallow and they won't deviate from that, it's not in their best interests.

And given that there will be individuals growing up with a less accurate understanding of science and history - there will be even less for Hollywood to worry about accidentally challenging in the future.

I can't help but be reminded of this post, claimed to be done anonymously by a woman in Afghan. She talks about the difference between her father and her brothers. Her brothers grew up in Taliban enforced times and picked up their attitudes towards women. Despite how a prior member of their household felt, a respected member, their father - how the Taliban revised history and reshaped the world was what made an impression on them.

Each history book, and movie that reshapes and revises so that there's stress on American Exceptionalism but without mention of the slavery and indentured servitude, racism and second class statutes that allowed that bubble moment of glory and fortune, is renewed oppression.

Avatar vs Project 880 (according to Devin Faraci at CHUD) looks like a microcosm of that kind of revisioning.

A Tyrant In BL

There's a manga series called "The Tyrant Who Fell In Love". It is apparently very popular. It is yaoi.

I have a problem with it.

The conceit of the series

a) assumes there can be no such thing as a strong affinity or even love of a person that does not necessitate sex.

b) thus meaning that asexuals do not exist in this universe

c) and setting things up to make rape excusable and a sign of true and desperate caring

I finally stopped trying to figure out the manga when I realized there was never going to be any attention paid to such concepts as co-dependency and misplaced guilt on the part of the violation victim/survivor.

Further, the set up of; "I'm not gay, I only put up with these actions from you! Only you!" Does not read like a great love confession to me or a statement of someone unconsciously in love - but rather the statement of someone not in a position to deny a request due to some particular need they have for an individual or some protection they need from that individual.

And it even further disturbs me that there are those who would say I'm not taking cultural norms into consideration - because I cannot believe that Japan is supposed to be a place that's all about non-consensual and dubious consensual sex. Reading about women getting drunk at frat parties and ending up having sexual relations with guys there, doesn't automatically equal American culture as one where it's ok for women to have sex if they're drunk first.

That said, I do recognize that it seems to be a Japanese manga and hentai trope for someone to get themselves into trouble by giving into blackmail which then pushes them to do things they would not ordinarily do and which is usually far more embarrassing than the original blackmail material. I recognize this as a possible concept of 'Face' that I can never truly understand, having not grown up with it.

I've said before I have confusion over the concept of love at first sight in Manga. And now, I add to my ponderings; What are current Manga readers picking up and learning about relationships and sex; What are the manganka exploring when they present scenarios as/of force(d/ful) seduction?*

I'm not assuming all Manga readers are children or teenagers by the way. It is perfectly valid to me to wonder what adults are picking up and unconsciously, or subconsciously adding to their concept of how the world is when it comes to relationships, boundaries, consent, love and rape.

And after all, the manganka (and other creators) are adults.

My ponderings also aren't gay relationships vs straight - but ponderings about what physical strength and the ability to emotionally manipulate mean in the context of relationship dynamics and, relationship hierarchies.

Who tends to have the power to make things go their way? Who ends up being dragged along? There's a storm of questions I could pose about what this exploration might mean socially as a facet of conversation happening in Japan, about roles.

But the thing that I ponder most, is having seen one individual state 'I've read so much BL featuring this trope, that I don't think it's rape anymore' - I can't help wondering how many people have reached that place, and if they even realize they've come to accept, at some level, that Rape Is Love.


* Forceful Seduction:

There seems, at least in the manga and BL I've read, and if I think about it, some UF, to no longer be a difference between confidence (assertiveness) and aggression. This lack of difference is best exemplified in what I've read manga readers describing as forceful seduction - which I just read as rape.

The concept of a confident and charming, debonair seducer who knows how attractive they are and tease the individual of their desire in order to get said individual to admit to wanting them; has been seriously lost. The concept of someone who doesn't have to use physical or psychological power to attract partners or merely sate their sexual wants BECAUSE THEY HAVE PRESENCE - is gone. Woosh, like a candle blown out.

Assertiveness and confidence have gone and been replaced with aggressiveness and demands.

Once upon a time 'the bad boy' was bad because he didn't pretend he didn't feel desire, just to go along with the polite fiction of supposedly civilized individuals. And he was perhaps further bad because he chased after what he wanted; saw what he wanted as distinct from what could or would be handed to him.

And he had patience. Infinite patience.

Granted some of that portrayal came from relationship dynamics where women were treated like childen who didn't know what they really wanted. But there was an expectation that someday they WOULD KNOW and get the chance to make their own choice.

What I'm seeing a lot of, especially in BL are situations where someone-A wants someone-B ; someone-A is stronger, has more influence and power, and/or is willing to manipulate the feelings currently growing in someon-B in order to have instant gratification.

So there's rape, followed by 'You were going to love me anyway, I just sped up the process'. And this is portrayed as ROMANTIC!

Around November of last year, I had thought there was perhaps too fine a line between assertiveness and agressiveness when it comes to seduction. And that the ability to acurately portray that in dialogue and art might swing back and forth. But I've had time to realize that's not really true. The distinction is not in where assertiveness crosses a line, which can be fuzzy in real life far less in fiction; but that want now demands instant gratification.

A month, a week, a year, two years, five, ten - the story starts at the end of a long period wherein someone-A has done NOTHING but moon and whine, sigh and sit. And suddenly they decide to do something, but after waiting so long they leap into attaining instant gratification and things go as follows:

I was a useless piece of lint and did nothing about my growing attraction to you because I was a coward. Now that I realize I have the opportunity to get you alone/get you drunk/get you to notice me, I MUST HAVE MY WAY WITH YOU - TADAH RAPE!

In 'The Tyrant Who Fell In Love' it's a little bit worse in that this long standing crush and torch holding and self caused yearning pain is portrayed as something both admirable and noble as well as pathetic enough to require some kind of drug assistance to get things moving along.

"Oh you poor noble dear, loving and being silent. Here, have a date rape drug."

And then despite claims of knowing use of the drug is wrong, when circumstances set up an opportunity, the actions taken by someone-A are all about -their- instant gratification; their desires, their wants. Apparently not violating someone against their will goes out the window if a penis is throbbing.

I'm not really liking the simplification of desire going on; that there are people who want and people who fulfill that wanting.

[Comments On. For Real This Time. /Smack Hammer Waiting ]

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jumping Right In

The Detective Chen Series by Liz Williams?

Are there two editions? One British the other American?

If so, has the American version removed Chinese names for people, institutions, instruments and tools thus leaving a book full of Chinese Dressing and little else?

In Snake Agent? Are the human components signing up to earn money for university fees or bridal dowries?

Does Zhu have a Katana or more properly a Jian?

Are there mentions of Kale, Swat Teams & Other Americanisms?

Is there an American version that turns the writing to seeming steaming piles of cultural appropriation and less palatable, perhaps less good writing?

Is this a case of an entire series getting the Sorcerer's Stone treatment? Y'know, Harry Potter, where people who knew what the hell a Philospher's Stone was (like me) ended up thinking a Sorcerer's Stone was some made up contraption out of Rowling's imagination and who ended up going 'WTF' upon realizing that Philospher's Stone would have made the things make sense much MUCH earlier?

Has anyone else had this experience of American versions of books, dumbing down and lowering the reading level and perhaps even the writing level?

Which books? Which authors? How often?

Someone told me New Year's Day that Britsh YA is sold as adult fiction when it crosses the pond - that that is the state of American Literary Analysis; it points down and keeps plunging.

The statement was a huge shock.


Right now as I ponder how necessary acquiescence to American Publishing demands might be resulting in sub-par product and possibly wronged/wrongly perceived authors (eta: never published authors?) - I'm no longer in shock. I'm just pissed off and disgusted.

Is the Dumbing Of America along with a Big Ego and Demand For Cultural Dominance preventing me from being able to have THE CONVERSATION(s) I WANT TO HAVE? Is it stifling things at the seeming SOURCE?

Because I admit, this is not a perspective I previously explored.

[Comments On]