Feminism: A Yearly Reminder

Winter holidays are coming up, and for many people that includes buying/creating/obtaining gifts to give to loved ones (and sometimes not-so-loved-but-otherwise-it-would-be-awkward ones). Please remember as you move forward into this season that gifts are things that are purchased for individuals and not for gender stereotypes.

Nor are personal preferences indicative of an individual's gender, any more than an individual's gender is indicative of hir personal preferences.

Nor should personal preferences be treated a moral quandary between valueless "girly" things and valuable "manly" things. 

Or to put a finer point on it, I have recently purchased one of the items in this picture and my gender didn't factor into the purchasing decision. Nor should the assigned gender for these items reflect the relative social worth of the items in specific or my purchasing decisions in general.

Metapost: Illness Update

I have gone to the doctor and have been told that my illness is viral (not antibiotic-treatable) and will probably go away in 10-14 days (!). Since I've had this cough since Sunday, I guess I'm 4 days into it. Yay.

Rigorous treatment with water, sleep, and Kairosoft games will continue on schedule.

Twilight: Carried In The Arms Of Assholes

[Content Note: Disability Appropriation, Infantilizing Women, Virginity Fetishization]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 12, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 12: Balancing

Let's wrap up Chapter 12 today; I know you're all anxious to get to the sparkle-scene in Chapter 13.

Metapost: Still Ill

This is an update on the illness situation: I'm still ill. (Yuck.)

I'm trying to read email as it comes in, but my ability to respond from bed is pretty limited. I can delete posts upon request (some of you needed this yesterday because of anonymous issues), and I can make small comments here and there, but that's about it. Just letting everyone know that I'm not deliberately ignoring anyone.

Narnia: The Problem of Eustace

[Content Note: Hell, Bullying, Food Diet/Intolerance]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

And now at last we come to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or "Dawn Treader" for short.

I loved Dawn Treader when I was a child, and after re-reading it again in preparation for this series, I find that a part of me still loves the book. I've heard tell that Dawn Treader is the most popular of the Narnia books, and it wouldn't surprise me. I'm not sure how one measures something like that, but I would imagine it's not hard to find one who likes Dawn Treader best of the series. I certainly did and do.

Metapost: Ill

My throat is burning and I seem to be coming down with a cold. I'm going to bed and will not be reachable by email or comments for a few days. Sorry!

Disability: Remembrance

[Content Note: Disability, Infertility]

Possibly my favorite two posts at Shakesville is Liss' two-part series on disability and remembering. (Here and here.) Liss discusses something that I'm not sure I've ever seen discussed elsewhere: that part of being an ally to the disabled means remembering that they are disabled. That part of loving a disabled friend or family member means not forcing them to repeat, over and over, that they are disabled.

Open Thread: Completely Open

Open Threads are for chatting, asking 101 questions, and self-promotion links to personal blogs and interesting material. Please be polite.

Feminism: How To Be A (Male) Ally

[Content Note: Rape Culture]

Lately, I've been reading a lot of comments on the interwebs from genuinely nice guys who want to know how to be good feminist allies in this shitty rape culture world we live in. And it's a more complicated question that it looks, since there's a lot of conflicting advice out there about white knighting (which in itself is a confusing term with about four distinct and sometimes mutually exclusive meanings) and helpful-versus-unhelpful anger and nice guyism and creepers and OMG PARALYZED BY THE POSSIBILITY FOR WRONGNESS.

So here is a Helpful (Male) Allies 101 post for men who would like to be helpful male allies as far as my opinion goes. Also, upfront, these posters are very cool. Just sayin'. 

Narnia: Prince Caspian, Disney-ified

Content Note: Image of Violent Lion

Narnia Recap: We'll be doing a couple of film adaptations before moving on to Dawn Treader.

Prince Caspian, American Adaptation

Before we go another word further, I really must request that you go read this parody at SarahTales. Because it is awesome, hilarious, and a very accurate text rendition of this movie. I'm not kidding. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not: it's pretty much an exact summary of this two and a half hour movie plus it makes me laugh until I have tears in my eyes pretty much every time I read it.

Alright. Done now? Good! Now we can talk about this movie.


Review: Waffles

Waffles: Fun Recipes for Every MealWaffles: Fun Recipes for Every Meal
by Tara Duggan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Waffles: Fun Recipes for Every Meal / 978-1616282059

We love waffles in our family, but I'd not really considered the level of variation that they can apparently lend themselves to: this ~100 page book has quite remedied that misconception. There are recipe variations here for American waffles, Belgian waffles, and the delightful-and-hitherto-unknown-to-me spherical "egg" waffles popular in Hong Kong. Almost all the recipes here are usable with either of the three forms, though a few note when American or Belgian shapes are more appropriate for the given spread or filling.

I haven't tried all the recipes in this book, but the ones I have tried were quite delicious. I'm also intrigued by the author's use of waffles as bread in a number of "sandwich" waffles, as well as in Napoleon stacks for desserts. There's a full-page picture for almost every recipe, which I appreciate because it makes assembly easier and all of the pictures are positively mouth-watering. Last but not least, a "basic recipes" section at the end gives various base recipes (classic, Belgian, buttermilk, sourdough, etc.) which can be endlessly varied upon with additives and toppings. A full list of recipes follows:

Breakfast & Brunch
* Vanilla Bean Belgian Waffles with Whipped Cream and Strawberries
* Sour Cream-Orange Waffles
* Classic Buttermilk Waffles with Blackberry Syrup
* Hong Kong-Style Egg Waffles
* Lemon-Ricotta Waffles with Blueberry-Citrus Syrup
* Lemon-Poppy Seed Waffles
* Pecan-Crusted Waffles with Cranberry Sauce
* Cranberry-Ginger Waffles
* Whole-Wheat Blueberry Waffles
* Oatmeal Waffles with Brown Sugar and Bananas
* Yogurt Waffles with Honey Cream
* Gingerbread Waffles with Maple Butter
* Waffled French Toast
* Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Cream
* Buckwheat Waffles with Smoked Salmon, Dill Sour Cream, and Capers
* Cornmeal-Bacon Waffles with Thyme-Infused Syrup

Lunch & Dinner
* PB&J Waffle Sandwiches
* Fresh Corn, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Pepper Waffles
* Spinach and Ricotta Waffles with Pine Nuts
* Zucchini-Asiago Waffles
* Sourdough Waffle BLTs
* Cornmeal Waffles with tomato Chutney
* Chicken and Waffles with Pan Gravy
* Multigrain Waffles with Avocado and Tomato-Almond Pesto
* Waffle Bites with Roasted Pepper Aioli
* Ham and Cheddar Waffle Sandwiches with Dijon Dipping Sauce
* Three-Cheese Waffle Sticks
* Potato Waffles with Applesauce

* Waffles with Salted Caramel Sauce
* White Chocolate-Butterscotch Waffles with Almonds
* Pineapple Waffles with Raw Sugar
* Chocolate Chip Waffles with Whipped Cream
* Chocolate Waffle Bites with Peanut Butter Cream
* Coconut-Rice Waffles with Mangoes and Lime Cream
* Waffle S'mores
* Raspberry Waffles with Lemon Sauce
* Double-Chocolate Waffles with Strawberry Sauce
* Ice-Cream Waffle Sandwiches
* Waffle Banana Splits

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Alice in Wonderland (Graphic Novel)

Alice in WonderlandAlice in Wonderland
by Raven Gregory

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Alice in Wonderland (Graphic Novel) / 9781937068400

I love Alice in Wonderland adaptations (as well as the source material) and I really wanted to like this graphic novel, but while I feel like the idea for this volume is commendable, I think the execution -- particularly the writing and drawing -- is unfortunately rather poor.

First and foremost, I feel that the object here is titillation to the detriment of the actual artistry. The outfit Alice is wearing on the cover is far more modest than her actual outfit in-text; she spends pretty much the entire book in a cleavage-busting corset and a midriff-bearing skirt. I like the female form, so I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is the fact that after Alice's stomach and breasts are rendered in a panel, everything else seems optional. Legs come and go, costumes are altered between panels, and facial features change radically. Of the four major women characters in this novel, many of them are rendered with identical faces that nevertheless shift and change from panel to panel. I don't think this is a commentary on the changeable nature of Wonderland; I think it's just lackluster artistry.

Though I like the concept underlying this story, the actual writing is not very good. Points are repeated numerous times, and whoever was inking in the dialogue boxes seems not to have understood which words needed emphasizing in the jokes. For example, a card-suit character makes a joke that soon people will "call me the suicide queen". This is an obvious reference to the King of Hearts being called the "suicide king" because his sword is positioned behind his head. But in the dialogue bubble, the wrong word is bolded for emphasis: she doesn't say "call ME the suicide queen" (to differentiate herself from the King of Hearts), nor does she say "call me the suicide QUEEN" (to point out that there's been a gender-swap). Instead, she says "call me the SUICIDE queen", which rather ruins the joke in my opinion and makes me wonder if the artist was unaware of the reference. The rest of the humor is pretty lackluster: there's several jokes where the "punchline" is basically that some people in the world are fat. Very original material, this.

Of note here is the strange "footnotes" that exist in text. Frequently characters will reference things that took place in different volumes of the series, and a footnote will say something like "Editor's Note: See Call of Wonderland." This does nothing to clarify what is going on in-text, and the little sarcastic notes that accompany some of them (like "weren't you paying attention?") aren't nearly as witty as the editor seemed to think. As a reader, this strikes me as a bad attempt at marketing: I'm not likely to put down the current book to go get the backstory, and if I'm able to puzzle out the relevant backstory, I won't go get that volume later because I already know what happens. I know it's not easy to make an interconnected series, but I feel like there are better ways to reference off-screen events than with a non-explanatory footnote telling me to stop reading and go read something else.

Here I will insert a minor but nagging point. (Spoiler!) Death isn't permanent in Wonderland, but Alice needs to defeat a dangerous enemy for good. Early on, a mystical blade is introduced as causing permanent death, and this *feels* like a decent setup for a Chekov's Gun. But after the death of two minor and utterly unimportant characters, the blade is carried off by a mouse and we... never see it again. Maybe it shows up in a later volume, but a *lot* of the book feels like this: details are introduced, but then shuffled off stage and forgotten. After awhile, the reader starts to feel like half the book is just killing time rather than weaving a coherent narrative.

Beyond anything else, I'm somewhat saddened by how flat and one-note this Wonderland is. The writers have decided that if everyone in Wonderland is insane, then therefore they must all be *violently* insane. There's a lot of limbs and guts and gore flying, but everything is one-note. There's none of the sadness of the Mock Turtle, none of the cheer of the Cheshire Cat, none of the questionable work ethic of the Duchess and the Cook that added so much dimension to the source material. Instead, pretty much everyone Alice meets is immediately interested in killing her, full-stop. Alice's own inner narration even pokes fun at this, asking when she'll stop trusting people, but though this question deserves an answer, we never receive one. Alice just blunders through, heartily wishing to leave Wonderland behind, and eventually the reader may feel the same.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: My Boyfriend Bites

My Boyfriend BitesMy Boyfriend Bites
by Dan Jolley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Boyfriend is a Monster 3: My Boyfriend Bites / 978-0761370789

I've been following this loosely connected series with interest, since I like the concept: a series of graphic novels about "monstrous" boyfriends, all written and illustrated by different people. I loved the first novel ("I Love Him To Pieces"; zombies), and was ambivalent about the second novel ("Made For Each Other"; Frankenstein's monster). Now we come to the third in the series and it's a story about vampires in New Mexico and a drop-dead sexy blond boyfriend, so how does this one compare?

"My Boyfriend Bites" reminds me of the second book in the series, in that it seems like the author was more interested in telling a monster story rather than in telling a story about a monster boyfriend. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it seems like we already have buckets of stories with monsters in plus the tacked-on addition of a supernatural romance. I expected this novel to be different and to have a little more exploration of what it would like to be in an actual relationship with a supernatural character; I was anticipating more of the *being* in a relationship over the *formation* of that relationship.

But moving past my slight disappointment with the subject matter, this is still a solid story well-told. Without wishing to spoil too much, this book contains all the elements of a fun vampire story: an army of frat-boy vampires, transformations into huge bat-winged humanoids, a Chosen One (who may or may not be destined to fight vampires for all eternity rather than going to college), gratuitous references to Abraham Van Helsing (who is rapidly becoming the Mitochondrial Eve of the genre), and armloads of garlic. The pacing and plotting are done admirably well, there's a lot of good foreshadowing at the beginning that pays off nicely at the end, and the sidekick character is endearing rather than annoying.

I can also highly praise the artwork on display here: I really love the art style, including the appreciation to detail and the realistic facial expressions. It's not often that I read a graphic novel where the characters' facial expressions are so consistently drawn that I can actually identify facial quirks over time, like Vanessa's tendency to pull her lips into her mouth when she's nervous or upset (a facial gesture that I demonstrate on occasion, myself).

The only thing that keeps me from giving five stars to this novel is that sometimes it felt like it was doing too much with too little. There's a *lot* of story-telling techniques here, like false memories and dream sequences and red herrings, but there's not a lot of romance or character building between our protagonist and her titular boyfriend. They obviously have chemistry when on screen together, but those moments are so few and far apart that it's hard to sustain the "boyfriend" angle of the story. Still, if you ignore the title page and just dive into the story, you'll almost certainly find a fun story to occupy your interest.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Book 1The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel)
by Denise Mina

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel) / B009DNVXX8

I'm a big fan of the Millennium Trilogy, having read the novels several times, listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance, and own the original movies with Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. (I have not, for the record, seen the American remakes.) I selected this graphic novel at NetGalley with a great deal of excitement, fully expecting to enjoy it, but... well, I won't say I'm disappointed exactly, but I'm not enthralled.

This installment of the series takes us from the opening (with Vanger receiving the yearly flower) to maybe about a third of the way through the novel (where Lisbeth revenges herself on Bjurman). I want to recognize upfront that adapting this much material into a ~150 page graphic novel could not have been easy, and I think the adaptation author did about as good a job as could be hoped for.

The story and characters have been altered pretty radically, though, in order to convey emotion and urgency "on screen" through facial expressions and dialogue rather than narration. Erika Berger talks candidly about sex with Mikael Blomkvist and Christer Malm's sexuality at board meetings, Dragan Armanskij openly flirts with Lisbeth at work, Henrik Vanger cries on receiving the yearly flower, Lisbeth dances and laughs and flirts with Mimi in public, and so forth. Everyone feels like they're wearing their heart on their sleeve and that change doesn't really work well with the tenor of the story, I think.

The dialogue, too, has been changed pretty radically to support the format of the adaptation. Cecilia Vanger contributes more proactively to the investigation, and the old friend who sets Blomkvist off after Wennerström in the beginning has an entirely different story to tell. I think all these changes are fair enough, given the needs of an adaptation, but I'm less enthused about some strange Americanisms creeping into the dialogue. When Lisbeth confronts Bjurman, for example, she quotes Al Pacino from "Scarface" by saying "say hello to my little friend!" Things like that ended up jarring me out of the narrative, though others may feel differently.

A word on the art in this novel: it's not really my cup of tea. There's a lot of heavy use of shading and shadowing in panels to prevent having to draw facial details beyond a rough outline. Lisbeth is rendered very well, and her facial expressions are extremely vivid, but Blomkvist's face (and even the shape of his head!) seems to shift and change a little too much from panel to panel. It's also worth noting that the scenes of Lisbeth's rape are extremely graphic, with blood covering much of the panels -- this isn't a criticism so much as a caution to know what you're getting into if you purchase this volume.

On balance, I'm glad this graphic novel exists but it doesn't really "feel" like the story I know. I think this will be a great introduction to the series for people who are curious about the story but weren't able to get into the densely detailed books, and I consider that to be a good thing. But if you are a hardcore fan of the books, whether or not you like the adaptation will boil down to how you feel about the changes made in service to the new format. I'd give this book 3.5 stars, but I won't be picking up the next installment for myself personally.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Disability: Depression Diaries and Hanging In There

[Content Note: Depression, Self-Harm, Shitty Doctors, Fat Phobia]

Enough people have written me about the depression posts that I felt it was necessary to have a follow-up post on depression in general. So let's talk about depression.

Self-Promotion: Ambling Books

Pulchritude the audiobook is now available on Ambling Books as an MP3 download. While you're there, check out my narrator's link -- she has a whole bunch of free PD books, and her voice is a joy to listen to.

I've contracted with a new audiobook distributor, and so there will be more posts like this in the near future as more stores are added. Stay tuned!

Open Thread: Weekly Escher Roundup

Bazooka boobs. (NSFW)

Here we go again. (Misogyny)

Drawing eyes. (Coolness)

Escher Kitty. (NSFW)

Sexy carrot. (Hilarious)

Open Thread: Google Ads

Is it just me, or is anyone else starting to feel really sorry for the "Language Professors Hate Him!" guy? Like, that poor guy. He was probably just trying to make life better for the rest of us, and now he can't go to the cool parties without being spit on by the language professors.

Maybe I'm not being fair to both sides; maybe he really is a jerk and the language professors are right to hate him. Maybe we'd all hate him, given half a chance. But I'm just saying it's tugging at my heart-strings a bit.

Not my purse-strings, though. I have no idea what the ad is selling, to be honest.

Twilight: Removal of Agency

[Content Note: Agency Loss, Buffy Spoilers]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 12, Bella and Edward's relationship is observed by Billy Black and Bella worries that Billy may inform her father Charlie. Later, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 12: Balancing

When we last left Edward and Bella, they were planning their outing for the next day.

Edward let slip the fact that the majority of his family aren't keen on his dalliance with Bella. They are concerned that if Edward loses control and kills her, they'll all have to go on the lam to avoid pointed questions. This is actually a reasonable setup: Edward has been spending a lot of private time with Bella, and I'm pretty sure that she's told Jessica that she's going out with Edward tomorrow and they're driving to another town. So Edward does seem like a likely suspect if Bella turns up missing. Additionally, it seems reasonable that the entire Cullen masquerade wouldn't hold up well to a serious police investigation.

Recommends: Helping Xavier

[Content Note: Cerebral Palsy]

If you haven't seen this post by Kit Whitfield, and if you have the spoons, please read it here. An important person in my life has cerebral palsy, and it's a hard condition to live with. I will quote Kit here:

First, if you can donate even a small amount, please do: every penny helps. If you can spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, or around your friends and colleagues, please do that too.

Narnia: Prince Caspian, BBC-ilicious

Narnia Recap: We'll be doing a couple of film adaptations before moving on to Dawn Treader.

Prince Caspian, BBC Adaptation

So we're finished with Prince Caspian the book, and we're two posts away from starting up Dawn Treader. ARE YOU EXCITED? I know I am; Dawn Treader was definitely my favorite book in the series when I was a child, and I'm interested in seeing how it holds up as an adult. (And a little concerned because I'm not sure what we'll find.) But as excited as I am to be moving past Prince Caspian and towards Dawn Treader and as excited as you may be, no one is more excited than the BBC adaptation department! Because it's clear watching their Prince Capsian adaptation that they were in a hurry to get past this sloggy slog of a book and into the real meat of the Caspian story -- the Dawn Treader -- as quickly as possible.

You may think I'm exaggerating in my usual lovable manner, but I'm actually not. Whereas LWW had a whole six 30-minute episodes devoted to it, PC has two. Huge swaths of the book are cut out, not so much because there's anything objectionable about those pieces as because (as we've already observed) not much happens in them. Lewis may have been able to squeeze four or five chapters out of aimless walking in the woods, but adaptationers faced with this task are going to throw up their hands in defeat because audiences aren't going to watch that. Peter Jackson was able to keep the action going by skipping over all the Tom Bombadil stuff and going straight to summoning up Ring Wraiths, but the BBC adaptation department in the 1980s didn't have that luxury. There are no Ring Wraiths in Prince Caspian, so instead they have to make do with belabored exposition and child actors.

In light of that, therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that not only is this adaptation packaged with Dawn Treader -- the full title for the disc is "Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader" -- but the opening sequence sets the stage for Dawn Treader with the children on the train station to go to live with the Scrubbs (or in the case of Peter and Susan, to be put on a bus never to be seen again until the Book 7 bus crash), and the second episode ends with Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace being sucked into the Dawn Treader painting. So if you're taking notes, this means that about 10 minutes of this 60-minute-long Prince Caspian adaptation is actually taken from the following book in the series. So of the remaining 50 minutes, what remains of the 15 chapters for Prince Caspian?

Not a lot, and yet somehow ... all of it. 

I mentioned in my post for the BBC adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe that I watched these obsessively when I was a child, but rewatching Prince Caspian has made me question that memory somewhat. As starved as I was for entertainment of any kind -- as I recall, cable was a waste of good money, video rentals were a scam, and books needed to be on the church-approved reading list -- I find it hard to imagine that I could have watched the first two episodes of this adaptation with any kind of regularity, because they are awful. But now I've done that thing where I've hurled down the gauntlet and have to back up and justify that subjective thing I just said. So here we go!

Episode 1

Episode 1 opens with the Pevensie children racing across the train platform to grab the last available bench, and Lucy the Valiant hip-checks a little girl off the bench while shouting an obviously insincere "SORRY!" This was so abrupt I had to back it up and make sure that was what I had seen, and I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand: Dude! Not cool. On the other hand, it's sort of ... nice, I guess? ... to see the Pevensie girls allowed to show a little spirit and verve. It's a realistic detail, even if not an entirely appealing one. I guess we'll chalk that up to Not Perfect, Just Forgiven, and move on.

Anyway! Susan teases Lucy (with a good-natured twinkle in her eye) that her behavior isn't very queenly. And Edmund -- who never got any kind of character memos on how Redeemed!Edmund is supposed to be different from Sinner!Edmund (since Lewis never really bothered to write any) and who will therefore spend most of the movie in a quiet funk that seems to oscillate between sulking and self-flagellation -- tucks his chin down and says "I hardly ever think of those days now." Peter pipes up quickly and says, "Talk about something else."

I find this interesting. We've never really come to a consensus on how much the children remember Narnia and on whether or not they're missing it at this point. The book doesn't give us a lot of clues; Susan breaks down crying when she finds the golden chess piece, but the other children seem pretty blase about everything. There's even confusion about how much they remember: when Edmund starts treating Narnia like it's something out of Robinson Crusoe rather than, you know, his actual literal past, it's worth asking if maybe some memory alteration has occurred.

So it's natural that the BBC adaptation department will have to weigh in on this unanswered question, and they seem to have fallen on the side of memory alteration on the grounds that it's at least superficially less traumatic. None of this business with Susan sobbing into the grass of ruined Cair Paravel, since that will upset the children. Fair enough; I can roll with it. But it's interesting that it's Peter the Eldest who changes the subject abruptly here. I do like the actor for BBC!Peter, and I think he brings a lot of needed vulnerability to a role that could otherwise easily edge into smart-aleky territory. (And I like that BBC!Peter is shorter than BBC!Susan, which makes some sense considering the ages we're dealing with, if these two are on the cusp of puberty.) It almost seems like BBC!Peter here is conveying a sense of woundedness here, like he's changing the subject because it's painful for him. Given that this is a fan-theory for Peter's OH LOOK FRUIT! subject change in The Last Battle when the others are harping on about Susan, it lends a continuity of character that I like.

And yet that means we're already back in Confusing Land with the Fairies of Perpetually Cocked Eyebrows because INCONSISTENCIES! Why would they make Narnia nothing more than an teasing in-joke to the girls, a mere half-remembered dream to Edmund, and a matter of intense pain for Peter? And why strip out Susan's soul-aching sobs only to add this detail in here? My theory is that the BBC adaptation folks were so anxious to get through this slog that they let the children go with whatever character interpretations made sense to them: which is why Susan is quiet and thoughtful rather than The Worst (a blessed change), why Edmund is sulky and sad rather than a Fell Warrior (a confusing change), and why Prince Caspian over-acts in every scene he's in (a terrible change).

With that reference to Caspian's child-actor, we'll smoothly segue from the train station to young Prince Caspian.

OMG THIS KID IS AWFUL. That is a direct quote from my notes, I'll have you know. I don't know exactly why this kid is awful -- I'm not a professional actor, I couldn't do better myself, and I don't usually harbor dislike for child-actors -- but this particular child-actor is dreadful. Every face he makes looks contrived and unnatural, and it's impossible to look at him and not think this person is acting and he is acting badly.

But on reflection, I really don't know how much of this is Bad Acting and how much is Bad Writing; Caspian doesn't really have much of an established personality in the book, nor even an established age. Possibly our young actor is simply doing the best he can with the source material, but it's not pretty to watch. (Out of curiosity, I looked him up; his name is Samuel West and he's actually been in a number of respectable things as an adult, including a quick role in Van Helsing as Dr. Frankenstein. So on the very slight chance that Mr. West is reading this, I want it on record that I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here and assuming the source text is to blame. Update: Whoops! The child-actor in question is actually Jean Marc Perret; see Maddie's comment below.)

Anyway! Caspian is nine-ish, by my guesstimation, and his aunt waltzes on stage to be unnecessarily shrill and evil because I guess the BBC adaptation department felt like there wasn't enough misogyny in the series? Or maybe this is just to really super-duper underscore how harsh it is to be born a prince in a land where your people have genocided the inhabitants out of the picture: sure, you have a silver spoon in your mouth, but on the flip side your aunt is constantly nagging you for not being grateful enough. Harsh. And then Caspian is howlingly foolish because he keeps on telling Miraz about his nurse and her stories even after it's very clear that Miraz is frothingly furious. After which we cut to Caspian asking his tutor about the old stories and being super-oblivious to the fact that, dude, this conversation is not a safe one. You'd think this kind of behavior would make Cornelius hesitate about confiding in his impulsive young charge, but oh well.

They nip up to the abandoned tower for star-gazing and exposition, and it's noteworthy that the BBC -- who like to keep dialogue lines in-tact when they re-enact a conversation -- have yanked out the bit about Caspian being right to be scared of dwarves because non-Cornelius dwarves are totes awful people. And Caspian offers up another made-for-television tie-in to Dawn Treader by musing that he'd like to see "the eastern end of the world", which I thought was a nice touch.


And Trufflehunter is a girl! Oh my gosh, you guys! I am so excited about this, and I don't even really like Trufflehunter. But do you know how rare it is to take a semi-major character and say, "You know what? We need more women in this cast. Let's change this character to be female." Thank you, BBC. I almost forgive you for the random evilification of Aunt Prunaprismia. But then Caspian goes and ruins the moment by telling the Narnians that "Some of us in Narnia still believe in you." UGH. Dude, could you be any less sensitive to the whole invasion-and-genocide thing? Calling your people "some of us in Narnia" to actual marginalized Narnians is hella privileged.

Moving on! Not getting bogged down in details! Caspian meets Glenstorm the Centaur who can ... do magic. And provides a magical costume change for Caspian. And serves as Caspian's private pony. Whatever! And because you will not get any Bacchanal dancing later, you may have some now. Along with more over-acting from Caspian, who has started to order everyone about in an imperially bossy manner that I personally wouldn't expect would go down well from a 9-year-old boy to a group of hardened survivors who have spent their entire lives on the run from his people. But what do I know?

Cornelius shows up! They travel to Aslan's How! Miraz's troops block the way to the How, which seems surprisingly presentient of them? There is a battle! Trufflehunter coddles young Caspian and in the most soothing voice ever says "You've fought enough, sire. Go on, go inside. Hurry." If there is not cookies and milk waiting for Caspian inside, he is going to be really disappointed, because that is what that voice says to expect. And then there is the VERY GRIPPING HORN ARGUMENT, which BBC has apparently thoughtfully preserved in full for us. Thank you, BBC!

Another one of Lewis' Theologies gets tampered with here: the Pevensies go willingly. "We are wanted! We are called!" someone yells -- I think it's Peter -- and they all hop up from the bench, join hands, and disappear into the ether. None of this no-stop-it-no business from Susan. And then the kids are in Narnia. They pretty much immediately decide that the ruins of Cair Paravel look like a ruinous version of Cair Paravel, and Edmund offers that a year of England time is probably centuries in Narnia time and then ... we're done. We will never speak of this again. That's pretty much how the book treats it, too, but seeing it on-screen is almost surreal and underscores (to me) again that we're going with the Barely Remembers Narnia option, because it's the only thing that I feel fits the action.

And this is underscored again when we get to the Gifts.

Adaptation is a tricky thing, especially when you have a narrator who likes to address the reader directly. In the book, Lewis turned to the reader and explained that Edmund didn't have a Gift because he was off faffing about when Santa was handing out goodies. In order to preserve that here, though, the BBC adaptation team has to work that into the dialogue somehow. So Lucy asks Edmund directly where his gift is, and Edmund ducks his head and says "I didn't have any gifts." There's really only two ways to take this: either the Pevensies regularly ritually humiliated Edmund before heading out on trips ("Where is your gift again, Edmund?" would have been the joke, followed by peals of cruel laughter) or they've forgotten what they should have known very well already. The Gifts are the greatest treasures of their kingdom, and are practically symbols of their divine right to rule (despite coming from Santa and not Aslan); there's no way that Good!Pevensies wouldn't have been deeply sensitized to the whole Edmund-hasn't-got-one situation. So I'm going with this attempt to work narration into dialogue as another point in the Barely Remembers Narnia column.

Anyway! Trumpkin arrives! I'm pretty sure Susan kills a guy, but I could be wrong! Trumpkin is terribly amused that the great Kings and Queens have come back as children, which I have to admit is kind of funny in a laugh-lest-we-cry kind of way. (Not that the Pevensies aren't capable enough, just that they're so very much not what was expected. Imagine finding Strider in the Prancing Pony, but Strider is a 12-year-old boy, basically.) And Edmund grouses that Trumpkin doesn't give them proper credit for killing the White Witch, which strikes me as taking credit for something the kids didn't have that much to do with. I mean, they led the army and all, but Aslan gathered the army and Aslan did the killing of the Witch, and didn't they have a whole lot of other victories that could be mentioned here? Oh well, moving on.

Tromping! Lucy sees ... a picture of Aslan's face superimposed over some honking big cliffs, which is a bit odd. Edmund doesn't speak up in Lucy's favor, and we brush through this very quickly with very little of the OMG SUSAN AWFUL that pervades these scenes in the book. Amusingly, when Peter isn't quite sure of the way to go because the terrain has changed, Susan asks very gently "Are you sure?" and Lucy snottily interjects "No, he isn't." Ha. Again it's realistic and it's nice to see Lucy isn't a saint, but it's interesting to see BBC!Lucy able to get away with snark when book!Susan is raked over the coals for making logical and reasonable points.


Episode 2

We're nine chapters into a fifteen chapter book, so obviously it's time to step on the gas. Remember that this mini-movie will be over all of 25 minutes from now, after which Dawn Treader takes the reins.

Lucy meets Aslan in the forest at night, and he doesn't growl at her. Yay for Ronald Pickup's smooth tones and the BBC adaptation team feeling like an allegory for Jesus should maybe not be a tone-policing jackwagon. Then we entirely skip the Waking Up Everyone scene, and everyone just quietly follows Lucy without grumbling. Susan smiles a lot and keeps her mouth shut, and when she sees Aslan at the end of the road, she races forward crying "I see him! I see him now!" which is all kinds of sweet. SUSAN BLUB.

And Aslan feels like he'll never have a better opportunity to bully a dwarf, so he levitates Trumpkin and spins him around in the air because picking on people smaller than you is totes hilarious and the BBC weren't going to let 1980s technology keep them from having Aslan traumatize a perfectly innocent dwarf.

Then Aslan sends the boys off to foil the Nikabrik sub-plot, and BBC!Lucy -- who is all kinds of awesome for this -- complains, "Can't we come too? We can fight just as well as any boys."

Aslan chastises Lucy, saying very sternly: "You are not to fight. And they are not boys." And this is a really jerk move on his part, because he's basically using equivocation to win an argument against a 9-year-old. (Or however old Lucy is supposed to be at this point.) Aslan is saying that Peter and Edmund aren't boys because they're effectively Men with a capital-M: they're brave and strong and sure and true and capable regardless of how old they may appear. But that wasn't Lucy's point; she wasn't saying that she and Susan can fight as well as Peter and Edmund because of some arbitrary child/adult divide based on age and experience. Lucy was saying -- and Lucy is very probably right, given that Susan is a crack shot and Lucy has extensive battlefield experience a la The Horse and His Boy -- that she and Susan can fight just as well as anyone else in the area and should not be excluded because of their gender.

So Lucy is using "boys" as shorthand for gender, and Aslan is using "boys" as shorthand for experience, and in doing so he effectively obscures the fact that Susan and Lucy have the exact same experiences. If Peter and Edmund are "not boys" -- i.e., adults -- then neither are Susan and Lucy who are just as much adults as their male siblings. So basically Aslan is being a specious asshat in order to exclude Susan and Lucy from all the action, and Lucy can't call him on his equivocation fallacy because they haven't gotten to that in school yet. Nice.

This exchange, of course, isn't in the book because book!Lucy doesn't question being excluded from the fighting. But if she had questioned it, I suppose this argument might well have been used.

Nikabrik! I'm amused to note that Barbara Kellerman -- previously the White Witch -- reappears here as the cringing-yet-polite Hag. Probably this was casting economy, but it's nice to have her back just the same. And yet the realization that you really only need one woman if you want to make a Narnia movie is kind of saddening to me: outside of Kellerman as the Hag, the only other women in this movie is Prunaprismia and the woman voicing Trufflehunter, neither of whom are plot-critical characters.

No time to dwell on gender ratios! Caspian pulls his sword first, true to the book, and then chaos and fighting, and then Peter's "I have a plan". Edmund stomps out to read the challenge to Miraz, which is very awesome because Edmund does not look like a "fell warrior" by any stretch of the imagination. Miraz reasonably asks why Caspian isn't making the challenge, and Edmund blithely offers up that the prince is wounded, which is not something I think I would volunteer in this situation. Then Peter and Miraz fight and trash the camp because nobody bothered to rope off the duel area, and there is none of this time-out nonsense because we're burning daylight.

Peter wounds Miraz, and one of Miraz's generals hops in and completes the kill, and then there is a BIG BRAWL. And we cut to Aslan and the girls watching on a nearby hill, and then they stroll up, and um... the Narnians have won. Aslan and the girls were just observers. And so by cutting out all the ridiculous Bacchanal dancing, the BBC adaptation team have accomplished the impossible by making Aslan even less useful. LOL FOREVER.

And then we get a long conversation in which Reepicheep convinces Aslan to give him his tail back through logic rather than through the loyalty of the other mice, probably because adding that many extra actors wouldn't have been cheap. And I note here that BBC!Reepicheep is played by Warwick Davis, who went on to play Disney!Nikabrik, and is therefore probably the only actor on earth to appear in both adaptations of Prince Caspian. I wonder what Mr. Davis thought about his experiences on each set, and what his thoughts might be on wounded Mice and marginalized Black Dwarves.

There is absolutely no mention whatsoever of the Telmarine emigration -- instead, Aslan just sort of points out that there's an opening to England over yonder. And Peter takes the hint and says, "Goodbye, Aslan. We're not coming back into Narnia again, are we?"

Aslan says:
"You are not and Susan is not.
You are getting too old.
Edmund and Lucy may come, perhaps."

And that's it. You are getting too old. At least, and I cannot believe I am saying this, but at least the Disney version has Aslan affirm that Peter and Susan have done good things for Narnia and this banishment is in no way intended as a punishment. But here, now, Peter and Susan are "getting too old" and this natural state of affairs is presented as almost a crime. Because, let's face it, being permanently banished from a wonderful magical fantasy world that you love -- and Peter and Susan do seem to love it, based on their actions in the text and their willingness to fight and die for Narnia and her people -- is a Bad Thing, a Hard Thing, even if it's for a good reason. Yet I think this reason is the worst of reasons, a sort of backhanded acknowledgement that Peter Pan was right and that we should never grow up because growing up means "getting too old" for the things we love.

Peter is whisked off to school, Susan is whisked off to America, and Edmund and Lucy are whisked off to stay at the Scrubbs, where they and Eustace will be yanked back into Narnia via a painting on the wall. The trip to the Scrubbs can't have been more than a few days travel at most, I would think, but we all know that by the end of the Dawn Treader adaptation, Edmund and Lucy will also be "getting too old".

Aslan likes them young, I guess.

Surprisingly, I don't really have a lot to say about the BBC adaptation of Prince Caspian. I actually have a lot to say about the Disney version, but I think this is partly because the Disney version pretty much rewrote the entire story. The BBC clearly tried to stick closer to the original, and while this approach can result in some lovely adaptations of truly good works, I think this is a rare example of a backfire.

If we were to outline Prince Caspian chapter-by-chapter, we would essentially get this:
  1. In which the Pevensies explore Narnia. 
  2. In which the Pevensies explore Cair Paravel. 
  3. In which the Pevensies save a dwarf.
  4. In which Caspian is a very little boy. 
  5. In which Caspian leaves the castle. 
  6. In which Caspian meets Narnians. 
  7. In which Caspian blows the horn. 
  8. In which the Pevensies leave the island. 
  9. In which the Pevensies walk through the forest. 
  10. In which the Pevensies walk through the forest. 
  11. In which the Pevensies walk through the forest. 
  12. In which the Nikabrik subplot is introduced and solved with violence. 
  13. In which a duel is planned. 
  14. In which a duel occurs. 
  15. In which the Pevensies leave.

Every single one of those points occurs in this mini-movie. Every single one of those points -- along with a good deal of the pertinent conversation -- is covered in 50 minutes and it still seems like a slog to the finish. This is not an interesting movie. (I don't, for the record, recommend it.) It's a faithful movie, but it's not (imho) a particularly interesting movie, because there's not a whole lot that actually happens.

The funny thing is, I think this is a story that could easily work. But I think that in the absence of a compelling plot, we would need compelling characters. The Disney movie works well (imho), because the adaptationers decided to embrace the characters of Susan and Peter and treat them as respectably complex, and the result is a character-driven movie that works. But there are a plethora of other options that could also be explored.

Imagine this story from the point of view of someone like, say, Trumpkin -- caught between the misery you've known all your life and a fierce, burning, tiny hope that maybe things could be better. We've seen Trumpkin's character before, the dyed-in-the-wool rationalist who is trying not to get his hopes up, but who can't help but nurture a fragile belief that maybe there's a brighter tomorrow on the horizon. Maybe these Pevensie kids really are who they say they are, and really can work miracles. Maybe this Aslan god really does exist and could roll in to save the day. Maybe this Caspian guy really will turn out to be better than his forebears and will let Narnians live like Narnians. Maybe, just maybe, there might be a future for Trumpkin and his people.

That story could have worked, but Lewis didn't want to write that story. Instead he wanted to write the story where Trumpkin is attacked by god because he had the gall to not believe in him after he went AWOL for a measly 1,300 years.

Or imagine this story entirely from Caspian's point of view. Imagine him actually having to grapple with the guilt that comes from being the privileged son of genocidal invaders. Imagine his private relief at Trufflehunter's soothing words, coupled with his tortured knowledge that Nikabrik's criticisms are also just as true: it's not his fault, but he has benefited greatly from acts of great evil. Imagine a Caspian who really does work hard to correct his privilege, to be the Telmarine who saves Narnia, not because he's such an awesome good guy, but as an act of redemption. Imagine a Caspian who fights and dies not to be king, but to give Narnia back to the Narnians. Imagine a Caspian who has a "war council" because he really doesn't think he's fit to command the Narnians*, a Caspian who only comes to power in the end by popular election of a people who have come to trust and respect him and care for him as one of their own.

That story also could have worked, but then it would have had to acknowledge that people with privilege are privileged, and that Not My Fault! isn't an excuse for a failure to acknowledge that privilege and work to erase the gap that separates the marginalized people from privilege. It would have involved abandoning this Divine Right of Kings and Sons of Adam and Caspian Sperm-Heirs and asking hard questions about governmental legitimacy in a land where invaders vastly outnumber the invaded.

Instead, for better or worse, we have the story we have. A story in which four English children pop into a fantastical land in order to put a Telmarine boy on the Narnian throne because Narnia runs best when Narnians aren't in charge. A story where the marginalized persons who are undeferential to the privileged are Black or Malformed or Subhuman, and who are villains to be killed. And, of course, a story where ugly schoolgirls and insufficiently-worshipful schoolboys are terrorized because the author felt that a children's book was the best place to deal with his hatred of school-children.

All in all, not the easiest story to adapt to the silver screen. I suspect the BBC adaptation department did the best they could.

* Because for all Lewis' point about thinking you're fit to command being proof that you're not, Caspian was more than happy to order people about in the middle of a bloody great war. So thinking you're fit to order people to their deaths is Good, but thinking you're fit to manage a kingdom that did fine under the last utterly incompetent and irredeemably evil ruler is Bad

Buffy: Whut.


   Field Reporter: Fishermen discovered the body today, the victim of a brutal stabbing. Authorities and citizens alike were shocked when the slain man was identified as Deputy Mayor Allan Finch.
   Joyce: Oh, honey, you're up. (turns back to the TV) Oh, it's just terrible, isn't it?

Yes, mother and mainstream media! It's almost as awful as the twenty-three other mysterious deaths and/or murders that have occurred this month! Some of which even happened to pretty young white girls and not deputy mayors! Which makes it even more puzzling that the news is devoting so much coverage to this!

   Trick: Well, they're not gonna be much of a threat in jail.
   Mayor Wilkins: Well, we don't have near enough evidence to put 'em away.

No, we really don't have enough evidence to take them to trial! And there's the pesky little fact that EVERYONE ON EARTH emphatically does not want the Masquerade becoming a matter of public record at a trial wherein a demonstrably super-human Slayer explains why she carries an arsenal of wooden stakes! And the fact that a number of those people invested in the Masquerade are absolutely capable of making life very uncomfortable for us! And the fact that "locking the Slayer up" is actually a step down in terms of efficacy from our previous plan of just plain killing the Slayer! And the fact that a world without the Masquerade is a world where any yahoo with a cross and a UV lamp can kill us with impunity!

Little things like that!

   Giles: Which means that Faith will be soon on her way back to England to face the Watcher's Council.
   Buffy: And then what?
   Giles: Most likely they'll lock her away for a good long while.

Most likely! I mean, it's not like the Watcher Council doesn't regularly murder Slayers when they reach their eighteenth birthday! I'm sure they'll respect the sanctity of life and keep one of only two effective weapons they have against the dark forces of evil locked in a cupboard for years rather than ruthlessly murdering her and hoping the next one activated turns out better! That absolutely seems in keeping with the character of the Watcher Council so far!

Author Interview: Ryan Sean O'Reilly on "The Energy Scavengers"

Ana: Today we have Ryan Sean O'Reilly introducing their book, The Energy Scavengers. I haven't read this book myself, but Ryan was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Ryan, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Ryan: My story is a novelette (basically a long short story). I think my synopsis sums it up well: "When mankind reaches far out into the universe to find other life forms it may first find machines. A string of planets on the outer edges of the Milky Way contain the mechanical workers of an ancient alien civilization. Calvin an exploratory rover coupled with Nutshell his landing ship, are sent to discover what it is that all these machines are still doing–now that they’ve been abandoned by their owners. First contact comes not by hand of man, but by metal of machine."

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Ryan: I have had some readers tell me that my story is about faith and hope, which is odd because my initial inspiration was a hopeless and pointless notion (see below in inspirations). Yet, when I look at the completed story I do see this. It's also about sacrifice and trust.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Ryan: When I set out to write the story of “The Energy Scavengers” I started out with an abstract concept. I was thinking about art in general and its place in my life. I considered how much I enjoyed discovering new masters and studying their works in hopes of inspiring my own work. Then I wondered about the purpose of my own art–was I creating merely to inspire others to make their own works. Was this the purpose of art, creating more art to influence others in hopes of creating more art? The whole thing began to appear as a sort of regurgitive cycle. There had to be some sort of outward benefit. And of course there is–art has many purposes.

Never-the-less, these thoughts brought a vision to my mind. I pictured these robots left behind on some futuristic planet setting. By their own technology they were able to sustain themselves with energy long after their creators had abandoned them. But what would they be doing after they were left behind? I saw them going about, fighting and exploiting each other for the capture of energy in an endless struggle to “stay on”. What was the point? Why did they bother? Something was driving them to continue to exist, even though they no longer served their original purposes. Yet, why did they not develop their own purposes? They were simply striving to exist just to strive to exist.

There was something oddly, humanistic in these questions. So I jaunted out into the galaxy to find these machines and discover answers. I found some answers and also some more questions, but that seems to be exactly what life is like.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Ryan: Ray Bradbury "The Martian Chronicles". I'm not sure it's a great comparison, but this work sort of reminds me of the feeling I had when I read Ray Bradbury's work.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Ryan: This is essentially my first published story. I have inspirations for "furthering" this story, but my next release will be unrelated. So far I have been writing in science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Ryan: My official website is here. From there you can get to my facebook page, twitter feed, blog, email, and get on my email list.

"The Energy Scavengers" is available at these online stores: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Books,and Smashwords. Other markets will hopefully be available soon (including ibooks).

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Ryan: I have an animated book trailer here

Here is a sample paragraph from my work:

"Calvin powered across the lake, leaving small ripples in the water. An explosion erupted behind him, and smoke filled the air. A spray of wires and robot parts whipped past overhead. The piercing screech of strong supports yielding under a heavy load resonated against the grotto walls, only to be replaced by a scraping wail. All was finally drowned in a series of crashes. He turned and bore witness, as the Solarsphere crumbled. Giant slats were sloughing off, descending into the chaos. Pieces of rock broke from the oculus and crashed down. Amongst the destruction Calvin’s cameras focused on Grak. Spinning gnashers, flailed wildly, and came directly toward the little rover. Calvin picked a dark tunnel mouth and made for it.”

Sample and preview (not a chapter as this is a short story) are available at Amazon

Narnia: A Brief Observation

I think I mentioned that I've been listening to The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien on Audible lately.

I haven't read Tolkien in years. I read him when I was young -- twelve or thirteen, I think -- when I received the boxset from the same kind* Christian relative who'd gifted me the Chronicles of Narnia boxset two or three years before. Christian literature was highly preferable in our house, due to the concerns of my parents for edifying literature, and fantasy literature of a non-Christian nature was largely forbidden, since my mother had a strong aversion to dragons, believing them to be symbols of Satan.**

I might have read Tolkien again in my later teens, but I've not read him since college, and it's been surprising to me just how much of the novels I remember. Obviously the movies and games and social folklore have helped to reinforce my knowledge, but even so, I'm struck by how much of the non-movie/non-game material I remember of these novels, given that I only read them maybe two or three times. And this is particularly interesting because I've been surprised lately at how much of Prince Caspian I didn't remember, when I must have read it many more times. I read all the Narnia books at least a dozen times, except The Last Battle, so you'd think those would be the ones I would recall the most clearly, and not Tolkien's works which, for all their many virtues, did have an unfortunate tendency to get sometimes bogged down with poems and food, neither of which interested me much as a child.

But now I'm already off and rambling from my point.

Something I've noticed with Tolkien is that he shares a habit with Lewis: a penchant for running away from the narrative to tell us the past or future of some minor character. I don't mean general world-building, which Tolkien has an obvious fondness for and Lewis mostly does not; I'm speaking more of the introduction of minor characters and then telling us what becomes of them, like Lewis' "Narnian girls" and "Telmarine boys" and narrative asides about the protagonists and their friends and relations (some of which are particularly on my mind, because I've been reading Dawn Treader this weekend).

It's struck me though that there's a very fundamental difference between Tolkien's use of this narrative style and Lewis' use of the same. Almost every time Tolkien runs off from the narrative to tell us the pasts and futures of minor characters, it's in order to tell us something nice. He tells us about Barliman Butterbur the Innkeeper and how even though he was out a great deal of money on behalf of the protagonists, it came out alright in the end because their escaped ponies eventually came back via a roundabout route to Butterbur and he ended up with some sturdy work-ponies in the end. And, indeed, Tolkien tells us in the same breath about those ponies -- who missed a frightening adventure and were happier as work-ponies -- as well as another pony, later, who brightened under the care of Sam Gangee and developed a talent for treading carefully in order that the wounded Frodo Baggins is not too badly jostled. And this trend continues so far largely unabated: narrative asides about minor characters are usually positive ones. There's a very strong sense coming through the text that Tolkien actually cares about these characters, even the smallest ones.

Part of this may be rooted in a narrative need. Tolkien is writing a very dark story, so it makes sense that he might have felt the need to sprinkle in good things to lighten the road along the way. And perhaps the converse is true of Lewis: the Narnia books are largely intended to be happy and cozy, and perhaps asides about Telmarine boys being turned into pigs and driven into the woods are meant to inject some hard drama into the series, to bring it back down to earth a bit. And it would probably be a mistake to read too much theology and philosophy into the narrative styles of two very different authors. But it's hard to shake the impression I've gotten lately that Tolkien describes life as a hard journey sprinkled with unexpected joy, whereas Lewis describes life as a cozy existence but with cruel caprices (usually from an ineffable god whom we are not to criticize) always lying silently in wait. Given a choice, I have to say I far prefer the former worldview to the latter.

There's something else, too, and it will be relevant to the upcoming discussion of Susan in the Prince Caspian Disney adaptation. I like that Tolkien envisioned that the journeys his heroes underwent would indelibly mark them, and not always for the better. Merry and Pippin may return home taller and bolder and stronger than they left, but Frodo and Bilbo carry the wounds of being former ring-bearers, even though the ring is destroyed. And Frodo's shoulder pains him and his nightmares plague him. I don't think this is meant to be grimdark for the sake of grimdarkness; I do feel that Tolkien had placed himself in Frodo's shoes and empathized with him. I think he arrived at the realization that if he'd lived through such things, he would carry painful baggage with him as a result. And I think after that realization came, there was nothing for it but to write it in, and to try to provide Frodo and Bilbo with some sort of peace by means of sending them away with the elves. And I think it's by that same process of empathy and self-insertion that many*** of us came away with the idea that we too would be permanently marked -- and perhaps permanently damaged -- by the events in Narnia.

So that's kind of interesting to me.

* I was not close to that relative in question and have grown even farther away since, due to very strong personal differences. And it probably didn't help that later Christmas and birthday gifts from him were notifications of "donations" made in my name to charities I didn't approve of. Still, those boxsets must have have cost him a significant amount of money, invested on behalf of a child he almost never saw and had no real relationship with. And this is perhaps evidence that people can sometimes surprise you with kindness when you least expect it.

** I was deeply distressed the day that Patricia C. Wrede was banned from the house. I must have checked her Dealing With Dragons book out of the library dozens of times, before my mother noticed the dragon on the cover and found out that it wasn't a foe to be fought and defeated. I was henceforth banned from reading her work, since sympathy with dragons could lead nowhere good. I remember being so distressed and upset that I wrote her name on a slip of paper and kept that slip hidden among my things for years until I went to college and was free once again to read her. This incident also taught me the value of never discussing my library books with my parents. 

*** Though obviously not all of us, and that's okay. I absolutely respect the point of views of many of you who have explained why Narnia would not have damaged you, had you been a Pevensie, and I recognize that we are all individuals here who handle different life events very differently.

eReader: 1DollarScan Interview

[Content Note: Disability, Infertility]

So I'm still not at the level of fame required to be asked to do a RiffTrax with Mike Nelson -- my ultimate blogging dream-goal, placing me alongside the Comics Curmudgeon and the Something Awful guy in the immortal pantheon of amusing bloggers -- but 1DollarScan did kindly notice that I talk them up online a lot and also sent about one million books to them in the post, so they asked me for an interview! And they made up nice questions for me and everything, which was really awesome of them! SO I AM VERY EXCITED!

You can read the whole thing here on their pretty green site, or you can read below in my usual peanut butter colors.

Feminism: Questing for QUILTBAGs

[Content Note: Homophobia, Prejudice within Families]

Ana's Note: This is a repost of a Slacktiverse Special.

Sometime between my first marriage and my second marriage, I realized that I am bisexual.

I have never acted on this knowledge. At the time of my realization, I was quietly musing on how to proceed with altering my online dating profile to include "seeking women" while still being upfront that this was new territory for me, when (quite unexpectedly) my second Husband fell into my romantic lap. For my part, I was open with him about the fact that if we did not work out, I was going to start dating women; but as it turned out, we managed to be surprisingly compatible together and sailed off into the sunset, married and determined to live Happily Ever After.

Metapost: Disqus Loading

So I finally did what I should have done a long time ago, and dug into the code to figure out why Disqus was taking so long to load. I *think* the problem was the location of the code: Disqus was loading last after everything else on the page, which meant that if the Twitter widget was being fussy, all you saw on this end was that, hey, no Disqus! Drat! And so forth.

I *think* I have fixed this by repositioning the code. Let me know if something breaks, if the loading gets worse, or (happily) if I've maybe made things better.

UPDATE: I've also yanked out the Google Ads again because they were also taking forever to load.

UPDATE part two: I'm thinking about yanking the "Recent Rambles" (because it doesn't update in a timely manner and also takes time to load) and putting the "Hierarchical History" up there in its place. Speak now or forever hold, yada yada.

UPDATE part three: Ha-HA! I finally got a Current Comments widget that actually works and displays the commenter name again. Alas, we still don't have the "filter per thread" feature which was very nice and which I miss immensely, but at least we have something working now. In other news, Google is bad and they should feel bad.

Open Thread: Fat Acceptance 101

[Content Note: Fat Acceptance]

Some of you have asked for a fat acceptance 101 open thread in order to ask genuine questions in a relatively safe space free from trollage. Here it is. I will not be moderating this thread as a Strong Safe Space like I usually do, but I will be moderating it for trolling and rudeness, so behave. For the polite people who asked polite questions in the Hunger Games thread about obesity epidemics, here is where you can ask genuine questions and get genuine answers if you want them.

Be polite, and remember that there is a difference between "wanting to learn" and "trying to convince". For those of you who really want to be fat allies and just don't know where to start, you can learn here, if the commenters choose to share their spoons with you. For those of you who are just interested in teaching fat people everything you think you know about fat bodies, this is not the thread for you. Just sayin'.

I highly recommend that people read this before posting here, especially point #1:

1. Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even the goddamned diabetes. Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get fat for our health (which we wouldn’t be able to do anyway, because no one knows how to make a naturally thin person fat any more than they know how to make a naturally fat person thin; see point 4), but I’m definitely saying obesity research is turning up surprising information all the time — much of which goes ignored by the media — and people who give a damn about critical thinking would be foolish to accept the party line on fat. Just because you’ve heard over and over and over that fat! kills! doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that people in this culture really love saying it.

Metapost: Change of Scheduling (Again)

I'm still trying to fiddle with the scheduling, because I'm still trying to get used to life and stuff and things. STAY TUNED. In the meantime, here is this week's schedule which will probably continue for at least a week.

Sundays: Musing, Open Threads, Recommends, Reviews, Interviews as applicable
Mondays: Something! Probably Narnia!
Wednesdays: Something! Probably Twilight!
Fridays: Something! Maybe just an Open Thread if I'm busy!

Wow, that's a great schedule, isn't it? Sorry I can't be more precise! Here is a picture of a panda bear to make up for it.

Hunger Games: Feast and Famine

[Content Note: Starvation, Disordered Eating, Obesity Epidemic Bullshitery]

Hunger Games Recap: In Chapter 2, Katniss volunteers to be the girl tribute from District 12 in place of her little sister Prim. The boy tribute is picked -- Peeta Mellark -- and it is revealed that Katniss owes Peeta a debt because he once fed her, at physical cost to himself, when she was starving.

The Hunger Games, Chapter 2

You may miss it, what with all the fighting and dying, but The Hunger Games is a series about food.

Open Thread: LOTRO and LoTR

Today I needed to rest, so I pulled up LOTRO and started playing. I've been listening to audiobooks when my mind isn't otherwise occupied, and I decided to plug in my new Audible copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. Because, you know, topical.

I do a lot of critical deconstruction on this site, with a heavy emphasis on critical, and I do have issues with LoTR for a lot of reasons -- I wish there were more women characters, I regret that there are no people of color as characters, I have doubts about Always Chaotic Evil (And Usually Very Tribal and Othered) races in literature, and all-in-all, Tolkien's writings are far from perfect.

But! It's been lovely to hear Rob Inglis' smooth narration of LoTR while being immersed in the computerized world of same, and it's a nice break from Lewis -- as someone said aptly in the comments recently: if there's a statue in LoTR, Tolkien knew who put it there and why, and I do respect that level of care that he sunk into his craft. (Speaking of, I've been re-reading Fred Clark's Left Behind deconstructions, and I do so like how he talks about crafting with care.)

And since this wouldn't be an open thread without something utterly rambly:

1. I have been so consumed with blog issues that I've done no NaNo writing thus far, though I genuinely meant to. Also, I have to read a book about horses that are made of water and eat people (or something) for book club. Plus, Thanksgiving for four people, three of whom are vocally picky. (Well, all four, really, but I'm the fourth so I don't count.) WHY NOVEMBER WHY.

2. Tonight is my first attempt at Yorkshire Puddings.

Narnia: Going To Texas

[Content Note: Genocide, Racism, Hate Crimes]

Narnia Recap: The Telmarines have surrendered to the Narnias. Also note: This is the last chapter of Prince Caspian and the last post on the book proper, before we move on to the BBC rendition and the Disney movie.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 15: Aslan Makes a Door In The Air

   Next day messengers (who were chiefly squirrels and birds) were sent all over the country with a proclamation to the scattered Telmarines -- including, of course, the prisoners in Beruna. They were told that Caspian was now King and that Narnia would henceforth belong to the Talking Beasts and the Dwarfs and Dryads and Fauns and other creatures quite as much as to the men. Any who chose to stay under the new conditions might do so; but for those who did not like the idea, Aslan would provide another home.

Review: The Children of Henry VIII

The Children of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir / narrated by Simon Prebble

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Children of Henry VIII / B008QYINQU

I gave "The Children of Henry VIII" four stars when I rated the text version, and I'm happy to give this audiobook the same. I still don't care as much for Simon Prebble as for Weir's other narrators; in general I prefer narrators of the same gender as the author for non-fiction, and in specific to this case, I don't care for some of Prebble's pronunciations. I preferred Judith Boyd's ("The Lady in the Tower") smooth "Shap-we" (for Eustace Chapuys) to Prebble's "Chap-poo-we". However, since this is a direct follow-on book to 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII", it's nice to have the same narrator for continuity.

If you're coming to the audiobook without having read the book, this is a solid scholarly look at the four heirs of Henry VIII: Edward, Jane Grey, Mary, and Elizabeth. The book follows the relationships between the heirs and not so much the reigns of the heirs themselves, which means that the book stops rather abruptly at Mary's death and Elizabeth's accession since there are no more inter-heir relationships to document at that point -- though you can continue from there with Weir's "The Life of Elizabeth I", which I do recommend).

~ Ana Mardoll

Open Thread: NaNo Themes

Here is a thing that I want: The next time a poor-but-plucky farm/shop-boy comes home from his fantastical adventures to realize that he's fallen in love with a mysterious fairy/star/princess/witch-girl rather than the big-fish-small-pond rich town-girl he'd previously been pining over, please have the boy let the girl know in a scene that is layered with respect, kindness, and politeness, rather than being a ritual humiliation and hilarious comeuppance for all those selfish bitches who failed to appreciate the writer boy for having well-hidden awesomeness all along. I'd like to see that just once. 

What themes would you like to see and/or are being incorporated into your NaNo novel?

Review: fathermothergod

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Sciencefathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science
by Lucia Greenhouse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

fathermothergod / 9780307720924

fathermothergod is a story that is well told, and well-written. It is an episodic guide through the life of a little girl (and, later, a young woman) who experiences tremendous emotional and spiritual abuse at the hands of her parents and church community. It is a story that is easy to read (I finished the book in a single day) and hard to consume. I'm glad I read the book, even though the contents left me broken and crying.

Make no mistake: this is a literary picture of abuse. Lucia (and her siblings) are raised in an atmosphere of terrifying emotional and spiritual abuse. Their parents pressure them emotionally and psychologically to make the "choice" to join their religion. Because her parents believe that "bad thoughts" can ruin their plans, secrets and lies are used to abuse the children. The parents announce major physical moves and life-changing decisions at the last minute, giving the children no time to say goodbye to their family and friends. The parents force the children to lie and deceive and dissemble, causing little Lucia to break down in tears when she has to lie to her friends and not tell them that she'll never see them again.

The most severe abuse in this book comes in the form of her parents' complete denial that illness and death exists. When close friends or family are ill, her parents keep the information from Lucia and the others; when death occurs, it warrants only a brief "oh, by the way, so-and-so died" announcement. Grieving isn't allowed, and illness is treated as a weakness. When Lucia needs eye-glasses, her father screams and shouts at her, bringing tremendous psychological and emotional pressure on her before telling her that she'll have to pay for glasses (and the exam) with her allowance money. For having an astigmatism, this little girl was treated as sinful, as rebellious, as unloving of her parents, and as unworthy of love herself. Really, this book will break your heart.

What makes fathermothergod somewhat unique as a tale of Christian Science is that it's not the "usual" story of a young child being denied medical treatment and dying from something preventable. (And how tragic that we live in a world where I can apply the word "usual" to that situation.) Instead, the deathly disease grappled with in fathermothergod is a disease that afflicts Lucia's mother -- an adult woman who possibly had the power to ask for medical intervention from her relatives and yet apparently chose not to. (There is an underlying question mark under all this based on something her mother repeatedly says later about the father, and it's one that Lucia does explore, but there are no answers given at the end.)

Lucia is forced by her parents to watch silently as her mother wastes away, and to lie and dissemble to her relatives in order to keep their "bad thoughts" at bay. Repeatedly, it is made clear to Lucia that if she doesn't tow the line and do everything her parents command, they will cut her off entirely and she'll never see her dying mother again. In the meantime, Lucia's father and the staff at the Christian Science 'hospital' (where the nurses do nothing but read to the patients) repeatedly lie to Lucia and her siblings about her mother's condition, even while her mother is dying of starvation and bedsores.

If you can stomach a biography of religious abuse, and if you're interested in the extremist branch of Christian Science, I can highly recommend fathermothergod as a gripping and heartbreaking tale. I also especially liked that Lucia included, in the end, a long conversation with her siblings and relatives, even pointing out that *her* story is not the same story as that of her sister and brother. Her older sister points out that Lucia's rosy memories of childhood don't reflect her own experience, and Lucia reassures her sister -- and us -- that by telling her story, she isn't trying to rob anyone else of their voice. I thought that was a nice touch and I appreciated that.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine as well as a paid-for version acquired in the Amazon Kindle store.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The Six Wives of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir / narrated by Simon Prebble

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Six Wives of Henry VIII / B009PRIE2K

I gave "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" five stars when I rated the text version, and I'm happy to give this audiobook the same, or at least four-and-a-half stars. I don't care for Simon Prebble as much as for Weir's other narrators; in general I prefer narrators of the same gender as the author for non-fiction, and in specific to this case, I don't care for some of Prebble's pronunciations. I preferred Judith Boyd's ("The Lady in the Tower") smooth "Shap-we" (for Eustace Chapuys) to Prebble's "Chap-poo-we". But these are minor flaws that I'm prepared to forgive for the sake of the overall text.

If you're coming to the audiobook without having read the book, this is a solid scholarly look at the six wives of Henry VIII, from the childhood of Katherine of Aragon to the death of Anne of Cleves. I especially enjoy that this book really is about the wives and not about Henry, and I also highly recommend the following companion text "The Children of Henry VIII". 

~ Ana Mardoll