Regarding who the anthology is intended for, they were giving this title away at ALA Midwinter in the Young Adult section of Harper Collins booth. I picked it up, but didn't get a chance to read it before a teen snatched it up at our teen book club. :) They may be marketing it to adults as well, but most of the authors are known for their YA fiction.
"Art isn’t obligated to be an accurate reflection of the society you live in."
1) That isn't the argument being made. Why are you arguing with straw people? The argument being made is that art, as a whole not as individual works, should reflect the vastness that is the human experience. And it's not doing that, in the aggregate. And that the way we talk about all of this hides this obvious fact. [Here is one example, etc.]
2) I was under the impression that Art being about Truth was, if not universally agreed upon, at least a non-controversial opinion.
The appalling under- and mis-representation in movies (and other mass media art) of most everyone who is not white, male, cis, middle class, able-bodied, neuro-typical, and heterosexual is hardly reflective of the "Truth" of the human experience.
"I enjoyed them all without feeling like all of Earth’s major ethnic groups needed to be represented in each work."
So the thing about numbers and representation is that we have them. In spades. And they make it very clear that lack of representation is the norm, not an outlier. So I'd really appreciate it if everyone who claims to be in it for the art could stop pretending that they aren't bolstering up white supremacy, among other things, by pretending, every time someone talks about a well-known work of art as an example of these overwhelming numbers, that all we need to do to get a different perspective is to look at all of the other work over there. As if the vast majority of all those other works aren't overwhelmingly white as well.
And all of these posts (that some people complain are happening too often on Tor.com) have made this point repeatedly as well, so I'm not sure what everyone's excuse is for pretending otherwise at this point, and acting like there are an equal number of Hollywood blockbusters featuring Asian or Black or Hispanic or First Nations leads, and so on.
If you don't believe that representation matters, fine that's your opinion. But if you are going to start implying that equal and equally respectful representation already exists, well then I'm going to have to call bullshit.
And wonder just why you are so invested in pretending this particular lie is the truth.
"Jemisin’s success has nothing to do with skin color or gender – just a great writer. Does JK Rowling’s success have anything to do with gender?"
Is anyone here arguing that marginalized people get ahead because they are marginalized? Because if so, I missed it.
(It's also possible that we are talking past each other in terms of scale here as well. If you were to ask me to make a list of my favorite books, it would be way too long to tweet. I'd be filtering it in order to tweet it, regardless. The question is always how I'm filtering it, not if I am.)
"I wonder how this process of filtering your favourite list through social justice would be affected by how … fluid gender seems to be nowadays."
I'm not entirely certain what this is asking, but as a data point, I recently ordered a book for my library's YA collection which has since been moved to the adult collection because the identity of the main character - an intersex teen - made certain people very nervous. So I question how supportive mainstream institutions - including publishing - are of gender fluidity.
I don't "filter [my] favourite list through social justice" - at least not in the sense that I have some checklist that authors must meet in order to make it to my list, or in the sense that I pick lesser quality books to mention in order to fill some quota.
I consider the needs of the people the list is for when I make such lists.
(And you all may not be librarians, but one assumes, if you are making such lists, you are making them for some type of audience, yes?)
I consider the fact that while I love both Mo Willems and Suzy Lee's picture books, Mo Willems is already well known while Suzy Lee is not, and so making a point to mention her will not only help an author who could use more exposure, it will more importantly better help the people reading the list by helping them find an excellent author they are unlikely to hear of otherwise.
I consider the fact that NOT mentioning books like None of the Above leads to the marginalization of certain identities. I take into account the fact that continued insistence that gender is NOT fluid by most of the people and institutions in power makes such stories harder to tell and harder for people to obtain. (As does this idea that it's possible to not "see" gender or other identities.) Which in turns makes it harder for me to keep well written books like None of the Above on (the correct) library shelves.
"If I’m asked for my favorite book? Now that’s an entirely different matter."
But that depends on what your job/role is and how much power you wield, yes? As a librarian, I get asked that question in interviews, and it matters to me what kinds of books I'm highlighting. I don't lie, but there's a difference between talking only about my favorite books from when I was a child, 20 years ago, (which, by the way, is how a lot of these lists of "Essential Scifi for Teens" and "Classic Books Every Child Should Read" tend to go) and talking about a more balanced mixture of the books I've read and loved - new and old, books where I strongly resemble the main character, and ones where I don't, etc.
It also depends on what the question actually is. In at least one case, the men Liz and Natalie are talking about were not asked about favorites, they were asked about recommendations. And that's a very different question.
"Isn’t it possible that more white males are writing good fantasy because more white males are writing any fantasy at all?"
As has been said several times already, the actual statistics do not show that to be true, with regards to gender and science fiction. Even more so when it comes to fantasy. Certainly not to the point that all white male lists are statistically likely - in the absence of bias on the part of the person making the list.
"At most, this is a symptom of a disease in Science Fiction, which is historically dominated by men. Of the women Sci Fi authors that Luhrs lists, Ursula K Leguin is the only one I’ve even heard of. "
Dominated how though? In terms of actual numbers? Not to the extent that booklists like these would lead us to believe. Dominated in terms of the accepted narrative being that science fiction is written by men, regardless of the truth? Yes. But well, that's what we are pointing out, that the accepted narrative is false, and that the accepted narrative exists in part because people treat these lists as some sort of proof of anything other than the bias of the people making them.
"If white men don’t check gender and race of their authors but still end up reading only white men, the only logical explanation that comes to my mind is that it’s because their chosen genre is mostly populated by white men. Isn’t it?"
No, actually, that isn't the most logical explanation. The most logical, scientific, statistical explanation is that unexamined biases mean that gender and race are still influencing their choices, even if they don't realize it.
Logic says that - unless you are arguing that white men are just better writers? - the only reason for this kind of imbalance is bias at some level. Science has proven time and again how unexamined bias influences our thoughts and actions - who gets chosen for jobs, what kinds of stories we think are important. Statistics says that there should be at least someone who is not white or male on those lists, even when there are few writers who aren't white and male.
Also, we have stats on who is published and who isn't and it isn't nearly as bad as those list would indicate it is. So it's not just that, statistically, there should be someone, it's that, statistically, there should be several someones.
Also, regarding the argument that the identity of the author should have no bearing on how we judge books, including literature: The idea that this is a useful goal is news to me, as a librarian. My inability to be an expert in everything means that I routinely judge the quality of books in part based on the author’s experience and expertise. While this more often comes into play with non-fiction books with regard to professional expertise, it can and does at times include both identity and fiction. People's lived experiences matter, especially if I'm going to be suggesting other read the book, or using tax dollars to purchase it.
I have to admit I spent a great number of tweets tearing the first two books apart (it's all Liz's fault!). Particularly the slut shaming in the first book.
And then I found out that Maas WAS a teen when she wrote it. And then I felt bad. And was really mad at her editors.
Oh, that's interesting, especially in light of the conversation about acessibility we had during the podcast.
And I forgot to say the first time around: great post!
"'hmm it seems its all a matter of taste ;)"
See, whether you like a scene that has a penis "slipping" into a dry vulva may be a matter of taste. Maybe.
But recognizing that such scenes are illogical has nothing to do with taste - that's just reality.
And quite frankly the number of men in this thread that don't get that distinction is freaking me the hell out. The reality of my anatomy is not a matter of opinion or taste, people.
I'm really curious about the reasoning behind claiming that Ancillary Justice was trying too hard to be like Le Guin (or the next Le Guin). Because I've seen it pop up several times (not just here) but never with any specifics as to how the book does this, or why this is even an issue in the first place.
It's smacks to me of the anomalousness that Russ talked about. Because it's fine to have countless LoTR and GoT rip-offs - and for some of them to even win awards - but too many women writing about gender, we can't have that! So clearly there must be something wrong when new women (who aren't the rare few we've accepted as canon) dare to presume to write about these things too. And any similiarites must be bad writing, or trying to hard, rather than deliberate allusions, despite clear differences between the books' other themes.
It would be one thing to simply say that you don't think that it tackles the topics it does in a manner worthy of winning awards. But this constant need to pit it against The Left Hand of Darkness - and ONLY The Left Hand of Darkness - I just don't get it. (It's quite telling too, that when it does get compared to other works, works written by men and related to the AI theme, it doesn't get this kind of THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE or AJ IS NOT WORTHY OF LE GUIN type treatment. The discussion is about themes, allusions, and differences as well as similiarities.)
I'm not entirely certain how pointing out that the anatomy
doesn't work, and that this particular "not working" ends up denying the lived experiences of rape victims (as the point of view character has just become), translates to either a request for more gratuitiousness or political correctness.
Applying those terms to the complaints Liz has about the book implies that the only reason one would argue against the superfluous dehumanization of rape victims (or good writing for that matter) is for petty political reasons. It also puts you squarely with the people who think books like Speak
must contain porn, because all remotely acurrate depictions of rape must be gratuitious, yes?
More? That's not enough? * looks at dangerously high to-read pile *
I'm SO EXCITED for Ancillary Sword. Also Mirror Empire, Unmade, and Pearson's new series. Gail Simone and Beth Bernobich's also sound good - and I've heard very good things about Zettel's series, which I haven't started yet.
AND I know it's not sff, but Elizabeth Wein has a new book coming out this year and I can't wait. Celine Kiernan's latest book is also coming out in the US this year, same with Justine Larbelestier's most recent.
I already have a copy of Midnight Thief! and I'm very much looking forward to starting it. :)
(Blackburne attended the Ontario Teen Book Fest, and Disney-Hyperion was nice enough to provide early copies for her to sign.)
You also might want to think about what it means to say/imply - when you are conversing with women, commenting on a podacast in which a woman was a guest - to frame reading women's words, listening to them speak, as having a cost that doesn't exist when when it comes to men. As just not finding women as interesting to read or listen to.
Even if you are agreeing that interesting women exist, and claiming it's other people's fault you don't have access to them - what do you think that says to us, the women conversing with you - about the words we are saying now?
What does that imply about the women you are conversing with? And what kind of effort you are willing to make to consider what they are saying, versus making excuses for your own choices?
@ The G
the institution, particularly those of us that are actually being talked about in the podcast: the bloggers. That's why Renay looked at bloggers in the first place, because of the influence they have. It's both a litmus test for what everyone is reading and a way of looking more in depth at one of the institutions that's failing.
This is what makes institutional bias so hard to deal with: it's institutional, but perpetuated by individuals. So the solutions need to be institutional, but in the end they need to be individual as well because that's what institutions are made of.
"Not a death match at all. Just trying to raise questions about reading choices we all make,"
Then why create such an outlandish zero sum scenario, since that's not at all how people make reading choices?
I find it very interesting how often the decision to read a book written by a woman has been framed in these comments as a decision to not read a book by a man. How reading books by men is framed as the default. How reading books by women is framed as having a cost, but not reading books by women is not. Your assumptions, defaults, and biases are showing in ways you don't realize.
And - not to try speak for all women - but considering that I'm the only woman in the comments so far, but hardly the only one with these opinions - I think maybe you all might want to stop and think about how this conversation might be different if it wasn't happening mostly among men.
Do you think the rest of us don't need to expend effort to find women to read as well? Do you think Liz Bourke doesn't put a lot of work into finding the books she talks about for Sleeps With Monsters? (Or Alex Dally MacFarlane for her column, for that matter, since this conversation always ends up being unfortunately very gender binary.)
Do you think it didn't take tons of work to even get these numbers? Do you think Renay did all this work for fun? For the attention?
And do you think, when we talk amongst ourselves, that we talk about the challenges in quite the same tone as is being done here? As if the question is whether it's worth the cost? As if NOT doing something was an option? Or would we instead be talking about which
solution has the least cost (for us, at this particular time)?
"For example, if a I'm trying to decide between which of two books I want to read one by a dude, one by a woman, should I select the women-authored book only because it is written by a woman?"
Is this like book death match or something? There can be only one? Is there a reason you can't read one, then the other? O.o
"...it doesn't really address what Rob was saying"
Of course it does. "You didn't offer a magical solution that requires no effort from me." =/= "You didn't address the question."
There's a difference between "acheiving gender parity immediately" and doing better. No one's asking for the former, as much as we'd like it.
"Is it on me (or us, really) as the reviewers to select the women authors from those we get even if the title/synopsis doesn't appeal?"
As discussed in the podcast, there are other options for dealing with that problem - requesting books is just one of them.
Also, it wouldn't hurt to try the first page, or the first 50 or so. If you find yourself never finding the title/synopsis of any of the books sent to you (that are written by women) appealing, it's possible that you are making assumptions about their content/style/etc. without realizing it, or the marketing is relying is sexist stereotypes to sell the book despite the decent content, and that you might like some of them if you tried.
It's never just a matter of "but should I have to do [x]?" or "Is it my responsibility to do [y]?" It's about understanding all the ways in which institutional bias is well, institutional. And looking for cracks in the system to chip away at. Which is why conversations like this are so important, so that we can share solutions and strategies. And ways of looking at the issue.
I am ridiculously excited for the new Princes Diaries books. :D
I've been looking forward to reading this one! :)
"I am sure poor writers of either gender write poor characters."
* resists using the phrase "not all men" *
While your statement may be true in the absolute sense, I have yet to read words written by a women which described anyone's breasts (or balls, for that matter) as "untethered." So.
I have a question for you:
What is the most effective presentation of human characters that you, personally, have seen in fantasy fiction?
If your own answer to that
question does not present you with a satisfactory answer to your own questions, I supect any answer anyone
gives you will prove to be rather unenlightening.
If the default is not binary gender, what's the default? Is there a default?
None. and No.
how does proper, respectful representation of variant and variable genders require ending the binary default? Why can't we have binary as the default while having a strong healthy minority representation?
I'm not entirely sure how you are using "default" here. It does not mean "statistical majority" it means "assumed norm." It's really not a good idea to assume things about people, and doing so harms actual individuals and communities. It's not possible to have a "healthy minority representation" when one assumes a default, because the assumption itself is unhealthy. It prioritizes the "default" over everyone else, and furthers the lie that people who don't belong to the default are not the main characters in their own lives, so to speak.
And that's before we get into how often defaults are used to hide the fact that the default is not always the statistical majority in the first place.
I'm just trying to point out that it doesn't make sense to want a majority of the books to appeal to the minority.
Since when do books about "minorities" only appeal to people in those groups?
I don't know about anyone else, but I read fiction (and non-fiction) not just to read about people like myself (although that's fun too) but also to learn about people that aren't like me, to explore possibilities. My complaints about what is considered "mainstream" includes the overall homogeneousness of the characters, not only the ways in which they aren't like me.
After all, the vast majority of them are white, like me, and I'm not particularly happy about that either.
I just want to chime in to say that I, too, am really looking forward to this!
"What I do want to do is demonstrate how big that conversation truly is."
yay! Smart literary commentary that introduces me to new, interesting works to read is the best kind.
I'm so glad to know that this is out in paperback! I have to add it to my "to-buy" list now that it is.
By my lights, at least, Howard is a much better writer than Maas.
Having just finished Maas' Throne of Glass
, that's quite a relief to know.
Tesh @ 2
As a young adult librarian, my main concern is not with being "politically correct" but with ethics, which includes treating all my teen patrons with respect and care. If (to use race as an example) a minority of my teen patrons are white (as is true of the United States as a whole - current US census data has whites as a minority among minors), but an overwhelming majority of the protagonists in the books I offer to them are white (and by overwhelming majority I mean ~90%, which is what the available stats say about children's books published in the US), then I'm not doing my job in terms of providing adolescent readers with books that will challenge and inspire them. It means that I am instead providing them with a world-view that is flat and homogeneous, and one that also treats them as "other" and insignificant.
It's not a matter of wanting the percentages to line up exactly in quota like fashion, it's an issue of inequality so glaring that to ignore it is unethical. That for me to ignore it is to fail in serving the community that pays me.
It would be like only 10% of the books published for children being about boys. And then boys, on average, having lower reading test scores. And hardly anyone caring to make that connection. In fact, it is quite literally exactly like that.
I realize that not everyone involved in young adult literature does so with the same purpose as a librarian. But the more people who are talking about and addressing this issue, and the more readers that take the time to find diverse young adult fiction and spend money on it, then the easier it will be for me to find diverse young adult fiction to include in my library's collection.
So I have to admit that I take it a little personally when people dissmiss such discussions as "political correctness." As if I'm concerned about diversity in young adult literature because I want to look good rather than because I believe in what I do.
"STOP PICKING BOOKS BASED ON THE GENDER OF THE AUTHOR, ITS SILLY & DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE QUALITIES POSSESSED BY THE FICTION IN QUESTION!"
, it does.
Picking a female author means I am:
1) more likely to get a female main protag
2) more likely to get female supporting characters
3) more likely to get well rounded female characters
4) more likely to get female characters that do fun things
5) less likely to get the male gaze
6) less likely to read descriptions of sexual assault that makes my skin crawl
Which, now that I can go onto goodreads and amazon and other corners of the internet and get information quickly, and now that I have people I trust to suggest books to me, people who review books with these qualities in mind, the statistics don't matter nearly as much. What matters is what individual books contain.
But back when I was 15-20? And the internet was non-existent to new? And all I had to rely on for suggestions were displays and flyers in Barnes and Noble, and the blurbs on the back of books? And what I knew of the gender of the author?
That was when I made the decision to only read SFF written by women (unless it came strongly recced by a limited number of people). Because reading SFF only by women may not mean that all the books I read were "quality" but it did mean that I would avoid being punched in the face
by bullshit like Piers Anthony's misogyny and male gaze
- which is what mostly got recced to me at the time. Because reading only SFF written by women is not at all a guarantee that the books I read will have the qualities listed above, but it sure as hell increases the odds like woah.
And now that I do have the advantage of the internet, and have found all kinds of wonderful female authors in the meantime, the question I keep wanting an answer to is: why do all these lists by people who claim they are being "gender neutral" end up so stacked in favor of men?
@ Carrie80 - Thanks! I didn't know that! :)
Although that's rather an interesting data point itself - yet another female author who goes by her initials rather than her female sounding first name.
You're welcome. :)
@ Jamie L Moyer
Yes, to everything in your comment.
It depends on what you mean by 'celebrity'. Walter Dean Myers, MT Anderson, Sherman Alexie, James Dashner (oh, hey, look another male YA author whose books are getting made into movies), John Flanagan, Anthony Horowitz (who also had a book made into a movie, but writes about spies, not SFF), Jay Asher, David Levithan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Christopher Paolini, and Scott Westerfeld are hardly unknown, just to name a few.
Also, it depends on what you mean by 'YA' - Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, and James Patterson all have SFF titles that are shelved in the teen section of most libraries, but writing YA is not what they are famous for.
But yes, YA does seems to skew female - although in reality not nearly as much as most people perceive, I suspect.
@ Durand S Welsh
You do realize you just listed three different YA authors, yes? The genre that has exploded in the last decade? And whose authors still regularly get derided because they 1) write for teens and 2) they tend to write for teen girls, specifically?
And as far as the movies go, please also keep in mind that until movie exes starting noticing that many/most of the fans in line for the later Harry Potter movies were teen girls, conventional wisdom was that movies whose main target audience were teen girls just couldn't do well at the box office. These books are being made into movies in large part because Hollywood hasn't a clue how to capture this "new" audience any other way. Not because adult SFF fandom has any major respect for most of these female authors.
In the meantime, Gaiman has had several of his stories made into movies/shows, despite none of the adaptations being more than a moderate success, financially. Try finding a female SFF author that that's true of. Also, convenient of you to fail to mention Christopher Paolioni, Michael Crichton, Orson Scott Card, Rick Riordan, PD James, just about every single superhero movie ever, Richard Matheson, Steven Gould, or JRR Tolkien. Just to name a few authors who have had books of theirs made into movies in the past 15 years.
I mean, really, we're talking about gender and publicity and respect in SFF and you mention Twilight? As an example of what, precisely? Because we're talking about books here, not movies, and Twilight didn't get any publicity as SFF until it was already big enough to get a movie deal.
Here's a thought: maybe the three women you mentioned stand out in your mind because they are an exception to the rule. Or maybe it's because of the way that people tend to see gender equality as women dominating, and any percentage of women around 25% as being "equal." Or maybe these movies have just done better financially - possibly because until recently there have been so very few movies aimed at teen girls.
Because it sure as hell isn't because as many female SFF authors have had their books made into movies in the last 10 to 20 years as male authors have.
"Also, given the success of J.K. Rowling, I think it is difficult to say the market is male dominated."
As evidenced by the fact that she made up a second initial just so that she could hide her femaleness.* And chose a male nom de plume when she wanted to write a novel and have no one know it was her.
In any case, no one is arguing that the market is male dominated, Liz is suggesting that our perceptions of male and female authors, including the number of must read authors in each of these categories, may be a bit off. And that this means books by men are more likely to get publicity. And then become part of the history of SFF that we tell ourselves.
It's one thing to argue that your own reading skews male just because. But to argue that it's just personal preference when most SFF "must-read" and "what's new" lists skew male as well - that's something else altogether. It's worth it to examine the connections between those things, which is really what Liz is talking about.
* This factoid always frustrates me particularly, because my first two initials - and nickname - have always been JK. So I take it as a personal affront that she had to come up with a middle initial - and chose mine. Also, I find it slightly insulting to be told that my initials sound masculine. They aren't! They're mine - and I'm a girl! so how can they be masculine?! I know this makes no sense, but the point is that it means I'll never forget that she did so and why.
I do not have enough YES for this post.
One of the most world altering experiences I've had was attending an all women's college. And suddenly having all the STEM students around me be female. All the student goverenment officers be female. The founder of the school be female. All the alumnae* who went off to become famous scientists and leaders be female. etc.
Growing up, I always felt stuck in this weird sort of limbo, where "being good at science" was a huge part of my identity" but so was "being female" - and a part of the cultural definition of "female" included a lack of female scientists. It took several years at an all women's college, doing electronics experiments surrounded by only female students, etc. to make any sort of dent in my subconscious when it came to science and gender. Despite always being really good at it myself. Despite having plenty of female classmates in high school who did as well as I did in our science classes.
Also, I have a question for those of you who are looking at your shelves and finding mostly female authors (me too, but well, there's a story there too). Do you think the percentages of whose books you talk about is any different from what you read? I'm rather curious - although I don't know how one would measure that accurately....
*Even now I still sometimes want to type that as "alumni" nonononono
But if you're fascinated by Robert Graves and/or interested to see where
all those fantasies which posit (pre)historic matriarchies draw their
inspiration, this is probably the book for you.
What you did there, I see it. :)
Oh, goodness. This book.
I feel like a part of my insides have been hollowed out. And I keep wanting to pick up the Verity and hold it tight, as if maybe - if I press it close enough - it will fill up the hollows it made.
"But nobody has demonstrated why they are so good that I should read them."
You can't describe Code Name Verity the way you can talk about most books. Hoping for detail is like expecting to be told when your surprise party is - the more information we give you, the more the experience will be ruined.
The best reads are a journey that you discover along the way, rather
than merely another helping of your favorite meal, cooked to perfection.
And Code Name Verity is one of the very best books I've ever read.
"Sex sells, romance sells."
If "sex sells" was really the reason why even children's movies so often end with a (straight) couple pairing off, then there would be a hell of a lot more shirtless men in movies and on my TV screen. And the romance would have a lot more variety to it - including focusing on more than just the falling in love part. And...well, the list goes on.
It's not sex that sells - or, at least, it's not "sex" that's really being discussed here - it's the status quo in the form of heteronormative narratives about love and relationships and which people belong in which place that sells. (Also, the idea that life is simple and can be wrapped up with a neat "happily ever after" - which ties into the support of the status quo - that everything is fine, nothing to question here, move along now...)
I do appreciate the apology, but honestly...
"Open" itself implies a value judgement, because of the way we talk about what we are suppposed to be open to. Open minds. Open to ideas. Open to change. We don't talk about being "open" to to being mean to other people, or doing self harm.
And it mirrors the way that people have talked about me, and my lack of religious experience/feeling/whathaveyou, all my life. As if I could just choose to open my heart to Jesus, or some more general idea of the Divine. I can't. No more than I can "open" myself to being good at music or enjoying coconut or being an extrovert.
Regarding this part of what Liz said:
"It's hard to talk about this stuff without at least implying a positive moral value to religious/spiritual experience."
Perhaps it might be helpful think of religious/spiritual experience as being much like music or art or sexual orientation. That finding joy in each of these things is a positive good in people's lives, and should be celebrated. But it's absense is not something to wring ones hands over or find excuses for.
And I don't know about all of you, but I would never talk about sexuality/asexuality in terms of people being more or less open to sex/desire.
(Apologies to the mods if I am overstepping here. Last night was the second night I couldn't sleep, and by the time I decided that contacting you would be best, you had already left for vacation. And I'd really like to sleep sometime between now and Friday morning.)
The moderation policy for these here parts wisely says that we are supposed to disagree with ideas, not people.
Unfortunately, this puts me in a bit of a bind, since my prior anonymity seems to have left some of you with the impression that I am an idea, and not a person. I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to discuss ideas on equal terms with other people when I've been reduced to an abstract. Because that means you get to disagree with me - or, rather, your construct of me - but I can't disagree with you.
So, since some of you clearly need reminding:
I am an actual person, not just an idea of a person. I'm not a thought experiment created so that you can speculate about why I feel what I feel. The fact that I gave Liz permission to talk about our conversations does not mean that it's appropriate for you to make conjectures about me. If you want to know something about my feelings, actions, or experiences I suggest you ask. Because not only can I read what you are saying about me, I'm capable of speaking back! Although, to be perfectly honest, I'm very much not in the mood to talk to people who think that my difference is a thing that needs to be fixed.
Because it doesn't. I don't. Need to be fixed, I mean. Just because I reacted differently to a book than you did. I don't need you to make excuses for me. I don't need you to suggest that maybe I just need to read more carefully. Or be more "open." Or do a better job of "sinking into the world view of a book."
While I can't speak for everyone who responds as I did to these particular books, I want to make it clear that I don't feel I need to justify or excuse how I react to what I read. And I find it rather presumptuous, to put it mildly, that so many of you felt the need to do so for me, and others like me.
I now return you to the part of this thread that is about the books and people talking about how the books made them feel.
"books have no gender titles for young adults, she argues, should have gender neutral covers."
grrr - NO. "gender neutral" usually means "male" since the same sexism that is concerned about boys being too "girly" also sees "male" as the default. So switching to "gender neutral" covers is just going to perpetuate the problem in the long run.
What we need is more variety in covers, covers that better reflect what is inside the book, and most importantly better role models for boys in terms of reading. That last includes everything from more men (especially men of color) in early learning to adult male readers being open about reading "girly" books - instead of, like Sparks does, doing everything they can to distance themselves from the girl cooties.
"If you keep talking about really interesting books like this, how am I ever going to get through my to-read list?"
THIS. I'm just never going to get through my list, am I?
I finished The Madness Underneath (young adult) by Maureen Johnson last night. It managed to avoid the middle book syndrome and instead was actually quite good.
I also recently read Below, a middle grade novel by Meg McKinlay. Also nicely done. While it's a mystery rather than fantasy, the whole setting of the nearby lake being the site of the old town, which drowned when the damn was built, will appeal to kids who like making up new worlds.
I've also been making my way through Bujold's Vorkosigan saga; Ethan + Ellie + conversations about the economics of child-rearing = AWESOME.
They're targeting a broader audience...but (effectively) don't let you play used games and require than you connect to the internet once a day?
I don't think that works how they're expecting it to work. O.o
As I said before, I know we're such a tiny part of the market share that we don't even count, but Microsoft just made their new system incompatible with most library gaming programs that I know of.
"...for one it seems strange that all groups of students have better grades at the end of the last year then at the start of the first."
Not really, especially considering how small of a gain the control group made. The grade changes are over the course of several years, from the start of high school to the end, and it's normal for kids to become more concerned with their grades as they get closer to graduating, while the classes themselves don't necessarily get significantly harder in comparison to the student's abilities. A big gain throughout their junior year and then a flattening out in senior year lines up well with the cycle of planning for leaving high school.
(Personally, I'm curious how and if dropouts affected the numbers.)
Also, a big part of the significance isn't just in the fact that the "treated" group gained ground, but that they did so steadily. Something that isn't true of the small gains made by the control group. That is unusual enough in and of itself to be (potentially) significant.
I'm the youth specialist for my local library. We currently have an xbox w/ kinect set up in our program room for teens to use (among other things) afterschool.
An always online requirement could be a dealbreaker, depending on the details of how it works. These aren't MY kids. Also, the room is open to some kids under age 13. Aside from the fact that I just don't want to be making that decision for other people's kids (even if it's the library account they are using), we could be violating COPPA by doing so.
Also, what pro-star said @ 18. Do they think people come to use our computers because we have the latest software or something? As if.
Wetlandernw @ 18
1) as already pointed out, laughing at oneself is not the same as others laughing at you. This is where it matters that, no matter where you are from, the author of this piece in American.
2) you initially argued that the humor from "jokes" based on stereotypes lies partly in the butt of the joke being able to laugh at themselves. Is there a different way to interpret those words than "can't take a joke" ? Perhaps I am simply being a humorless feminist, but I don't see it.
3) You implied that your view was the correct one when you said that "some of us did recognize" - as if our problem is that we are too ignorant or stupid to see the attempt at humor, rather than simply not finding it funny.
"deliberately playing off commonly-recognized stereotypes"
In order to be "playing off" stereotypes, one would have to do more than repeat them wholesale.
Wetlandernw @ 16
"but only if we're able and willing to laugh at ourselves."
It would help to read what other people are actually saying. The point has already been raised several times that the post seems rather confused about the difference between "Irish", "Irish American", "of Irish descent", and "Irish character created by the same guy that made a world filled with the Chinese language but absolutely no characters of Asian descent."
So, no. the author is not laughing at himself, or - at least - his post isn't, even if that was his intent. As with most times the "can't you take a joke" defense is used, the punchline was about someone else.
braak @ 7
That would have been in an interesting post. Which would probably have done a better job of being about things Irish without invoking stereotypes. In fact, I think examining the stereotypes themselves is one of the few ways to write a post like this and not end up endorsing stereotypes.
I also think it's worth examining why so many vampires are, essentially, white-but-not-the-"right"-kind-of-white. Either Irish or eastern European or similar. Even just a cursory examination suggests that its a variation on non-whites as savages that allows for those on the edges of whiteness to come across as something between human and monster, rather than always outright animals.
Morg @ 33
"In reality only 1-6% (depending on which study you rely on) of the population is LGBT,"
I'm pretty sure all or most of the studies those numbers come from are of LGB persons only, not people who identify as LGBT. Those studies are also completely unrealiable for your purpose here because they are based on indentification. This means they are going to under-report all three groups, but most especially bisexuals, as many people who are attracted to the people of the same sex somewhat will not identify as bisexual on those kinds of surveys.
Besides, when we argue that we expect fiction to reflect reality, we are not talking about quotas based on real life percentages. We are talking about the fact that LGBTQ persons exist in significant numbers and that, fiction being fiction, it would make sense for it to explore these dynamics in a noticeable way. To a degree that, if anything, ought to be a higher percentage than the number of people who outwardly identify as such, not smaller - simply due to the attractiveness of different dynamics to play with.
Most of all though, you just compeletely erased the "Q" part of LGBTQ.
The Irish have a history of suffering and oppression that has permeated their culture as well...and they tend to find refuge in humor and alcohol.
What the hell? and
The stereotypical image of the Irishman is as a heavy drinker (he says, as he orders his third beer)
Since when do we treat offensive stereotypes as facts
"That being said, I think the Bechdel test is somewhat limiting in any Holmesian show where the Holmes character is male -"
* facepalm * Actually, that's rather the point of the Bechdel test to begin with. Not that it's an abolute measure of the worth of a show, but that it points to how uncommon it is for shows to pass it, and how common it is for shows to pass the reverse.
I'm sure there are a few random episodes that pass the Bechdel test - the one where Juliet goes undercover in a sorority comes to mind. But for a show as long running as Psych, it's a depressingly low percentage for such a low bar.
"Vick is really the only character that can call him out without Shawn inevitably trying to prove them wrong."
That is because Captain Vick is not an equal, she is the authority that Shawn must get around in order to be his bad boy self. Thus, why she is never proven right and he is never proven wrong, because their relationship is not about that. It's about her being an obstacle. She is also incapable of calling Shawn out on the most important point - that he's not actually a psychic - because the show would fall apart if she was observant enough to figure out that very obvious fact.
As for Juliet, all the times that she has had to apologize to Shawn for not believeing what we, the audience, know to be a lie completely negates the few times she calls him on his shit. Also, as I have already said, the point of the narrative is for him to turn around and prove her wrong.
"Everything you like about Elementary seems to be fulfilled by Psych, including snappy writing, acting, and direction."
O.o Since when does Psych A) pass the Bechdel test ever and B) have anyone at all call Spencer on his shit?*
*Dule Hill being comedically outraged, and then going along with what Spencer wants as he always does, does not constitute calling Spencer out on his shit. Same with Spencer Sr. being all fatherly and lecturing Shawn about his antics. Both exist so that Shawn Spencer may prove them wrong, not for the text to suggest that Shawn is an asshole.
between4walls @ 2
hmmm. I'm not sure I agree because I think the context makes it clear what she is talking about. And the trope she is discussing isn't about what women like or don't like, but whether or not we frame characters as Exceptional or unfemale because of what they like. The key point is not what these characters are into, but the derision towards other women implied in "female fluff" and most importantly the idea that liking what she likes, and doing what she does, makes her unlike all those other women.
That's what makes these characters a "men in disguise" to me - not the the characters' own traits, but the way the text frames these traits as masculine to begin with.
Although I would also add that I think a large part of this isn't even so much the lack of friendships with other women, as important as they are, but the absence of professional relationships with other women. How often stories with Exception Women lack other characters that are both female and Doing Stuff. I'd be less supicious of characters lack of female friends if the texts in question included other women in other ways. For me, it's this inability to see the other women around them (as competent and knowedgeable and so on) that makes the characters feel like "men in disguise" or "men with breasts" - not anything to do with what they like, don't like, or so on. For me, it's all about the gaze and viewpoint and has little to do with hobbies or skills.
I don't know that I have much to add to the suggestions, sadly. I can think of more YA books with LGTB characters, but not any that are genre as well.
"Let's have it make sense for the story instead of shoehorning them in."
And where in the world do you get the idea that anyone here wants it otherwise? The entire point of the title even is that the clear absence of LGTB characters from so many books is what makes no sense. And is an artificial construction brought about by who and what is considered normal or default. Sticking to that is hardly going to lead to more interesting stories.
I always think this when people respond negatively to complaints about lack of (realistic) females character too. In what universe is a character like C'Needra a better choice, storywise? How does disappearing the work that women do, the conversations we have, make for better stories?
fadeaccompli @ 60
oh, yes. Westmark is all about revolution being serious (and dangerous, and risky, and uncontrollable) business. I think I first read it about the time I read My Brother Sam is Dead - the summer before 7th grade US history - and together they definitely informed how I viewed the myths of history as presented in class. I wouldn't say that I viewed what I was told in class critically, exactly, but rather with an understanding that the details, at least, were a lot bloodier and more confusing than the outlines we were given.
It's very much YA, mind you. But it's very good YA.
Eric Saveau @ 56 and 57
Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy does that. I dunno if it counts as epic fantasy, but it's pretty standard second-world (ya) fantasy. Also, the queen just pretty much says: nope, not gonna rule. don't believe in monarchies, so I abdicate - have fun! We never see what happens after.
Regarding sex in epic fantasy - Yup. Also, if epic fantasy is largely sexless, who the hell was Pratchett supposed to be making fun of in The Color of Magic?
Cian_Shmian @ 54
"The consequence of this, however, is that you can only end up saying
'this cluster of tags that falls under Urban Fantasy are liberal' and
'this cluster aren't'. Which doesn't seem like it would be all that
Well, that depends on what you are able to do with the data, yes? Complex patterns are harder to tease out than more clear-cut ones, but they still exist. And are often more interesting.
Although I don't think what we would find would be as simple as "this subgenre is good/bad at this, while this subgenre is good/bad at that." My guess is that urban fantasy overall, which is often about the mixing of old tales with modern settings, is going to be good AND bad about the things that it is about.
The interesting patterns, I think, will be in the ways that it is good or bad. More female characters, but usually still the Exceptional Woman. Polyamory exists, but it needs excuses - including being iffy on aspects of consent. In other words, how are the old and new reconciled? Where has change run aground? What of the old still persists? And so on.
Urban Fantasy crossed with Romance in particular has always struck me as being inherently conservative. Much like a lot of the Romance in the 70s and 80s, a lot of it seems to be working through and reacting to the changes in cultural mores - and usually in not very self aware ways. So that what you get is a lot of behavior that seems to culturally go against conservative ideals - or, at least, fails to be reactionary towards a very new status quo - but that is excused or shored up by very conservative ideas about power, race, gender, etc.
So Anita can have group sex and not be a slut, but not bc group sex is ok, mind you. But bc she has special reasons for doing so. Bella gets to want to have sex with her boyfriend, but only because he knows better than her how bad it would be for her and thus refuses. Etc. Much like how romance heroines of past decades (and some now, but it used to be worse) were allowed to like sex - as long as they protested enough first, never mind how rapey that made the books.
jaspax @ 7
Aren't you more accurately describing "reactionary" and "conservative" vs "conservative" and "liberal"?
"If I said Ahmed and Jemisin's work is about non-white power and
centrality, and further stated it is either because they are clueless or
purposeful in doing so in a racial sense, I'd have a white hood and Nazi slippers slapped on me.."
If so, it would only be because phrases like "racial sense" are big red flags. (What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?) Also red flags: people who think that bringing up race is automatic FAIL and assume that everyone else thinks this way too. Why the hell would you think that any of us believe that pointing out how race and power relates to Ahmed or Jemisin's work would be a bad thing?
IanPJohnson @ 48
"By this point, the labeling system isn't simply a way for readers to find books that they might like. It's dictating what stories authors are telling."
Really? because I don't see that at all. Or else I don't think you would get such wonderful mash-ups in the first place. You certainly would be less likely get books like Brennan's A Natural History of Dragons or Larbelestier's Liar.
Categorization is a tool. It's usefulness is determined by how it's used as much as how the taxonomy is set up.
Back when I was a young-un and I didn't have the internet to help me navigate finding sff to read, my understanding of these genres (or, the adult, literary, versions of them anyway) was largely defined by well-known, mainstream, white male dominated stories. Because that's all any of the adults I knew could direct me to, and anything that did not fit inside that box they did not see - and I did not see - as sff. My childhood love of things like Rainbow Brite were seen only as proof I was interested in girly things, and the scifi aspects of the show completely ignored.
Detailed taxonomies can be useed to futher box things in - but they can also be used to allow for more nuanced definitions. Especially now, in the digital age, where it's easier to see things as belonging in more than one place, rather than taxonomies needing to be a series of constantly narrowing categories. So the idea of a "Dystopian Art-Deco Trans-Humanist Cyberpunk Post-Apocalyptic YA Novel (with a touch of Steampunk" is not that it belongs only with the other stories that fit that exact description, but that it fits with all of the stories that share any part of that description.
This is how I see my friends and I, and the authors and critics I enjoy most, using these labels. And I find that much more inclusive than simply lumping everything under broad categories like scifi or fantasy, because it makes it easier to allow for something to be a type of scifi without being a "typical" scifi story. Which means its easier to make the argument that Rainbow Brite is too scifi - along with being other things.
Eugene R @ 41
haha. That might work. The alliteration is useful for both emphasis and intentional overkill, I think.
Ryamano @ 42
"Conservativism isn't exactly about maintaning all things as it is, but about choosing a certain point in time and saying what worked there is what works best."
That sounds reactionary, not conservative.
"Regarding gender, most books genres tend to be conservative."
I don't even understand this sentence.
IanPJohnson @ 43
"Hell, there's no mention that it has to be pre-modern there."
Yes, exactly! Which brings into the conversation stories like Bear's Edda of Burdens, which is futuristic and scifi and well as fantasy and mythological.
And this is what I meant when I was asking if genres are exclusive or inclusive. Are stories like this really on the edge? (On the edge of what?) Or do they just interact with genre differently from how we tend to think of books doing so?
Mayehem @ 28
That explains the anglo part (not really - bc why so little translation? - but I'll ignore that for now) but what about the white and male part? (also cis, straight, etc.)
AlanBrown @ 30
What I would want to know about the music is - if it's not traditional, what is it? It may very well not be traditional Irish music, but clearly it's something. And not necessarily something so very different from traditional Irish music.
Likewise, I always wonder when people argue that something is or isn't a genre - well, what is it then? In other words, I still want to know how we are defining the genre(s). No even so much what our definitions are, but more....how we conceptualize and discuss them. How do we deal with edge cases? Do we see genres as inclusive or exclusive? Do they work like dog pedigrees do or are they (as Liz has argued elsewhere, I believe) more of a conversation?
Supposedly, everyone agrees the definitions are all about tropes and themes and such. But in practice I've noticed that people like to throw around words like "core" and define genres more in terms of examples they believe belong in that core - or not. Which makes it more of an in-group/out-group thing - and that may influence the importance people place on aspects of the stories that have nothing to do with the tropes in question.
Only being concerned with whether things fit into a particular box, and not with the fullness of what they are...that's where I think it can be easy to treat labels as status rather than tools. Which leads to moving goalposts and terms like "hard science" and other tools for maintaining the status quo. And results in conversations about genres that fail to be interesting.
regarding Liz' defintion of conservatism....
"...epic fantasy is ... by nature, conservative in structure, and by habit conservative in the political institutions it portrays. But it's not necessarily conservative in its attitudes towards power, relationships, and orientation towards divinity."
It seems abudantly obvious to me that those sentences are using a definition of conservative that has nothing to do with any "liberal, conservative-loathing viewpoint."
"Personally, I *like* that there are not just liberal books, but
conservative books, and libertarian books, and communist-bent books, andeverything inbetween."
Really? because I tend to find books that can easily be placed in categories like that to be rather boring.
"Should we be having a conversation about if urban fantasy is "crushingly liberal" in tandem with this one, then?"
Surely we can at least come up with an adequately alliterative phrase instead?
TansyRR @ 24
Yes. And I think that may go back to the whole "define you terms" issue. I suspect a lot of what happens is that people are considering
conservative ( or * cough * white/male dominated) to part of the defintion of "epic fantasy" and therefore see anything that deviates from this as being an edge case by definition, if perhaps not by popularity. And, likewise, when stories are edge cases according to the defintion of "epic fantasy" but our understanding of conservatism, they are often held up as the "core" of the genre.
Such as: extent to which GRRM's work is mentioned as an example of epic fantasy when in reality (from what people who have read it have told me) it's attempting to deconstruct it. Yet how often in Smith's Inda* mentioned as a good example of epic fantasy?
Some of this is simply a matter of what is popular and discussed, but this mindset in turn affects what is popular, because it alters which stories we discuss when the topic is epic fantasy.
* forgive me if by the fourth book it no longer fits the definition well, I have made it through the first two so far and it seems to me to be a prime example of the tropes.
"Have we yet ventured upon a definition of epic upon which we can reach any kind of consensus?"
I'll make an attempt! I would say epic has a lot to do with scope - a grandness of scale in terms of either time or geography or both.
My question is: can the point of view be intimate and limited, while the action and consequences are grand in scope, and the story still be considered epic? Could one substitute layers of culture and society for time or geography?
As in: could a story that is about a short moment time in a particular place, but whose focus encompasses a wide variety of people, and where the effects of the action is clearly far-reaching - would that still be epic? How about a clearly epic plot, but only told through the eyes of a single person?
"....her untethered breast jiggled in a quite charming fashion."
Wow. Until I read that sentence I had underestimated how casually one could completely dehumanize women. While supposedly writing from our point of view even!
Also, I totally keep picturing her breasts as floating out in the great wild yonder. (please tell me I am not the only one)
This looks fun and entertaining and definitely something I should track down - soon!
Maybe? I enjoyed the first book, but the second book felt like a less interesting repeat of the first.
I do, however, strongly recommend Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken, which has a similar premise but is a much better story.
Serendipity is the source of some of the best art and science!
"... not sure how you interpret that to be erotic..."
Because of all the possibilities that the artist could have gone with, this is what we get. This is where the wrestler's hands are placed, how their legs are intertwined, this is how much we can see of the their bodies, etc.
It's very much NOT erotic in the manner of glossy, sexualized objectification but, personally, I think that's what makes it so erotic. It's emphasizing the real sensualness of what is going on, rather than trying to creating something fake. And the way that the women are acknowledged as people also makes it's easier for me to place myself in the wrestler's (lack of) shoes and imagine my body in that position, touching someone like that, being touched like that. And to me that's a thousand times more erotic than most of the sexualized and therefore supposedly erotic images that are so often used in advertising, etc.
(I also love how you can see the reflection of Liz and her camera in that photo. Something about the way it's all framed makes it look like a statement rather than accidental.)
TansyRR - that sounds like a really cool topic!
This looks delightfully creepy. I must get my hands on a copy. :)
Tick, tock, it's a clock.
(somebody had to say it!)
Thanks! I will definitely check them out. :)
Wendy W Durden @35:
I'm with Liz on this one. Possibly this is because I am on the lookout for such stories not just for myself, but also because I am a teen and children's librarian. I want stories where the characters "just happen" to be lesbians, but I also want stories where romance and genre elements are blended and both take center stage.
Romance tends to be a huge part of the majority of teen novels. So when queerness is only mentioned in novels that focus specifically on queer romance, and when genre fiction always sidelines (or more often disappears) queer romance in a way that doesn't happen to hetero romances, it sets up the idea that queerness is considered outside the bounds of normalcy.
Also, I want these stories not just because they are inclusive of queer girls (which is reason enough by itself!) but also for the same reason I suspect they are so rare in teen fiction: they can't avoid focusing on teen girls as people who experience sexual desire, versus people who are lusted after by others. I suspect the lack of lesbian characters in teen fiction in particular is tied to the larger issue of our culture being very uncomfortable with the idea of teen girls being sexual. The concerns of parents still influence on what kinds of stories get published/shelved/bought and which don't, and these fears mean that what does get published/shelved/bought is often very heteronormative.
This is why sentiments along the lines of "if you buy it they will build it it" annoy me so much. That's not really how the teen fiction market in particular works, because even when it is the teens doing the purchasing, their choices are often greatly influenced by what it is safe to be seen reading. What teens read is not always what they buy, especially when it comes to certain topics. This is especially true when it comes to queer teens; it's safer to be out of the closet that it used to be, but that's hardly an absolute.
And on that note - since everyone has been so awesome with the suggestions! does anyone know of any teen genre novels that include lesbian relationships? Malinda Lo's novels are the only ones that I know of; I have one of hers on order for my library, and will likely get the others depending on how that one checks out, but I would love to be able to get more books by other authors (as money permits).
"Tell me there's a sequel."
and Alyc - quite true! on both counts.
When I was about the same age and looking for fantasy to read, all the booksellers and librarians kept suggesting Piers Anthony. It was at that point that I gradually gave up on reading fantasy (or, at least, fantasy written by men) - until the internet came along and I could better investigate titles before reading them.
"Sometimes a body wants a book that's all about the women,..."
Along with more lesbian romance, I'd love more school/academy type stories that feature all or mostly girls/women. This may may or may not be influenced by the years I spent at an all women's college. :)
"If the writers and publishers start making more money in that "niche", better books will inevitably follow."
Not that buying said books is a bad idea, but NO, actually it is not inevitable that better books will follow, especially when one is talking about topics/themes against which there is a significant amount of prejudice. Granted, attitudes towards women, homosexuality, and lesbian romance are better than they they were several decades ago, so it may work. Now.
I just think it's dangeous to start putting forth arguments that, on the flip side, suggest that the reason why there is, for example, little lesbian romance is merely due to lack of interest. That way leads to confirmation bias and worse.