Buffy: Gingerbread Redux

So I forgot to to mention it at the time, and if I go back and put it in a comment it will just get buried under all the Google tomfoolery, so I will just take a moment to note here that my favorite part of Gingerbread was that our first mention -- as far as I can tell -- of the Patriarchy in the Very Feminist Show Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a comment about Mr. Rodgers from an ivory-tower, abusively-disconnected, psychologist mother who is ignoring her daughter. (Right before stringing her up and setting her on fire.)

Willow: Mom, how would you know what I can do? I mean, the last time we had a conversation over three minutes, it was about the patriarchal bias of the Mr. Rogers Show.

Sheila: Well, (makes finger quotes) with King Friday lording it over all the lesser puppets...

Haha, that is really awesome! People have been telling me for years that Joss Whedon television franchises speak the feminist lingo, and they were totally right! And it was very clever and subversive and original to put that lingo (or "lingo", with the finger quotes, as you kids like to call it) in the mouth of an obviously villainous mother who has utterly failed to have any kind of connection with her children! Great! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

As an open thread prompt: What shows can you think of where feminist language has been used by unsympathetic characters and/or sympathetic characters have explicitly disavowed being feminists?

Metapost: Current Comments

Disqus is trying really, really hard to sync the Disqus comments with the Blogger feed that the Current Comments widget gobbles. Google is making this difficult because Google hates you. (Yes, you.) So Current Comments will be buggy until Google decides you're alright after all. Sorry about that.

Buffy: Helpless

[Content Note: Drugging]

The best part about last night's Buffy was when Giles hypnotized her and stuck drugs in her arm after it has been established that she is weakened and losing her powers, because this is the conversation we had:

Husband: It was really only a matter of time before Giles turned out to be evil, huh?

Ana: No! No, he's injecting her with something that will help. This will be like that one scene in The Hunger Games where it's all controversial because Katniss' heart was in the right place but drugging people is still a breach of trust. You'll see.

...time passes...

Ana: ..........fuck.

...time passes...

Husband: So do you think this will last longer than one episode, like when Buffy left home?

Ana: Seems like she'd have the upper hand in this relationship with the Watcher Council, you know? There's really only one of her, if you don't count Faith, and she's the one doing all the heavy lifting.

Husband: I'm going to go work on the computer now.

Ana: Oh look! The next episode is a XANDER episode! It's like Christmas came early!

Husband: BYE.

Twilight: Erasure of Self

[Content Note: Fetishization of Virginity]

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

DID YOU MISS TWILIGHT?

I kind of did, actually. I apologize for the long delay; it just sort of seemed like I could either press through Prince Caspian and get that sucker knocked out or work on Twilight, but it didn't seem like I could do both at once. (Which, yeah, you haven't seen all the Caspian posts yet, but they're at least written now.) And, gonna be honest here, the Narnia posts get more comments and I am a drama queen like that. Maybe we need more random chatter in the Twilight threads. I hereby demand more random chatter!!

Musings: Halloween Costumes

Please not that this exists. (Please also note this.)

My favorite has to be the original and redraw of the watermelon costume.

Are you dressing up for Halloween? And how do you feel about the sexification of costumes?

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.

Narnia: Veterans of Foreign Narnia

[Content Note: Racism, Amputation]

Narnia Recap: The Telmarines have surrendered to the Narnias.

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

   AT THE SIGHT OF ASLAN THE CHEEKS OF the Telmarine soldiers became the color of cold gravy, their knees knocked together, and many fell on their faces. They had not believed in lions and this made their fear greater. Even the Red Dwarfs, who knew that he came as a friend, stood with open mouths and could not speak. Some of the Black Dwarfs, who had been of Nikabrik's party, began to edge away. But all the Talking Beasts surged round the Lion, with purrs and grunts and squeaks and whinnies of delight, fawning on him with their tails, rubbing against him, touching him reverently with their noses and going to and fro under his body and between his legs. If you have ever seen a little cat loving a big dog whom it knows and trusts, you will have a pretty good picture of their behavior. Then Peter, leading Caspian, forced his way through the crowd of animals.

Metapost: Leave of Absence

I'm taking tomorrow off, and possibly the rest of the week, because it's finally hit me tonight how shaken up I am about this whole thing with my niece. Which is pretty much in line with how I fall to pieces after crises pass, except not because I realized tonight that if my sister threw my niece out once, there's nothing really stopping her from doing it again. And all this has brought up some stuff about me being homeless in a very similar situation twelve years ago, and though I thought I'd dealt with all that, I clearly haven't, based on the fact that I just inappropriately snapped at a valued commenter in a completely random -- and yet unexpectedly related to all this -- thread.

I've sent an email apologizing to the commenter -- and am also noting here and now that I acted like a jackwagon, for which I am heartily ashamed -- and I think I need to step away from life for a day or two and curl up in a ball and wrestle with some demons. Because I really, really, really do not know right now how to deal with my sister (with whom I am furious), or my niece (for whom I am terrified), or my parents (emotions so complex there are no words), all of whom I will be seeing in a few weeks for Early Family Christmas. And I really, really, really do not know right now how to deal with issues that I thought were tightly buried down and which are now bubbling up to the surface when I least expect it.

So I'm taking tomorrow (and possibly the rest of the week) off, by which I mean I'll be monitoring comments for trolls and spam like always, but probably not commenting. We're posted through with a Narnia post and something else (I can't remember at the moment), and I think I have a pending post on Slacktiverse, so if anyone really needs a response to a comment or question and I've failed to respond, ping me with an email and I'll try to respond as soon as I can.

My apologies, both in the general and the particular.

Review: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers
by Jack Finney / narrated by Kristoffer Tabori

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Invasion of the Body Snatchers / B002VACTHE

I bought this audiobook on the recommendation of a friend and I'm still uncertain how to rate it, especially as I haven't rated the book text itself elsewhere. I'll try to address both here, the book content and the quality of the audio book.

The audiobook itself is quite good. The narration is strong and does a lot to flesh out the narration voice -- indeed, I think the narrator manages to make an otherwise forgettable or even unlikeable character very sympathetic. The wry humor and deep weariness of the narrative voice comes through loud and clear, and it does a lot towards creating the atmosphere that this book is trying to evoke: when a major plot point is that the weary heroes cannot sleep or all will be lost, it's a plus to have a weary-sounding narrator. And it works very well as a whole.

The book itself I'm less enthused over. I recognize that this is a book from the 1950s and was revolutionary in its own way, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it has aged well. There's some casual misogyny here that may be distracting to the reader, and the heroes don't always face their apocalypse very sensibly. Readers will figure out major plot points long before the characters do, which makes them sometimes seem willfully obtuse. (This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of modern readers being genre-savvy to this form of literature, I suppose.)

Early in the stages of the apocalypse, the reasons given for why the heroes can't go to the authorities for help seem sort of flimsy, culminating at a point where they manage to call someone in Washington in order to register concern only to be talked out of it because, meh, it all seems kind of silly so nevermind. I get that this is supposed to be a commentary on the inefficient authorities against internal threats, but you'd think once you got through the phone lines, you'd at least TRY to register that stuff is about to go very, very badly. 

Overall, if you already know you enjoy this book, I think you'll be pleased with the audiobook version. If you've heard of the book because it was groundbreaking for its time, and if you don't mind some of the usual flaws of 1950s science fiction -- genre-ignorant characters and sometimes very slow pacing -- then you may well enjoy this book. I give it 3 stars for the text and 5 stars for the narration itself.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Nickel and Dimed

Nickel and Dimed
by Barbara Ehrenreich / narrated by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 Nickel and Dimed / B002V1BOFQ

I cannot praise highly enough "Nickel and Dimed"; it's one of those few books that I honestly think pretty much *everyone* should read. It's depressing and heartbreaking to see, first-hand through the on-the-ground journalism of Barbara Ehrenreich just how hard it is to get by in America as a member of the working poor, even with the numerous starting advantages that she began with.

The audiobook maintains the same high quality of this book by providing perfect narration. Maybe I'm unusual in this respect, but the ultimate goal for me as a reader is to hear what the author intended -- the humorous inflections, the wry disappointments, the sarcastic quips -- as though the author were reading hir own work to the reader. Cristine McMurdo-Wallis nails this novel perfectly, to the point where it's almost difficult to remember that this isn't the author we're listening to. For me, that's pretty much the Holy Grail of narration.

If you enjoyed reading "Nickel and Dimed", I can pretty much guarantee you'll like this unabridged audiobook version of the same. And if you haven't read the book before, I think you'll still get a lot out of this audiobook, and I recommend it highly.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Resident Evil Extinction

Resident Evil: ExtinctionResident Evil: Extinction
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Resident Evil: Extinction / 9781416544982

This is the third and final book in the DeCandido novelization tie-in to the Resident Evil series, and I have to say I'm glad to see the back of him as an author for this franchise; I hope whoever they got for Resident Evil: Retribution does a little better on characterization.

The plot aspects of this novel, like the two before it, are done well in my opinion. Extinction was probably the weakest of the first three movies in this respect; the plot was good but there was always the feeling that you were missing huge gaps of backstory and sidestory. This novelization delivers, and does a wonderful job of filling in the gaps between Apocalypse and Extinction, as well as explaining a lot of missing character motivation. We find out how the world went down the drain, why Alice left Carlos-Jill-L.J., where Jill is for the entirety of the movie, how Claire Redfield entered stage left, and how Umbrella is able to control Alice remotely. All in all, if you're just coming to this novel to fill in those movie gaps, I can strongly recommend it.

While I'm giving credit where credit is due, I'll also note that this is a rare example of a novel that handles frequent changes in POV character *and* in timeline without becoming confusing or cumbersome to follow. Because the Before and After settings in this case are so very different, the changes here are easy to follow and the reader is quick to acclimate to chapter shifts. I enjoyed that aspect of the novel, as well as the fact that Extinction is fast-paced and never seems to bog down, despite the many concurrent plot threads.

Where this novels falls down is where its predecessors also failed: whoever is in charge of the characterization for these novels -- whether it be the author or the franchise owners -- is not doing a very good job, particularly when it comes to minority characters. There's a return of the overuse of racial slurs and gendered slurs; this novel never seems to miss a beat to fling out a N* or a B* when presented with the chance, and to my mind it's overused and gratuitous. (I counted over 40 instances of B*, most of which are directed at Jill Valentine, who is repeatedly referred to as "white b*".)

Actually, Jill Valentine is good example of how badly written the minority characters are in this novel. I literally laughed out loud when the book asserts that Jill Valentine had, in the post-apocalypse world, let her "dark hair [grow] down to her ass, as she'd had no inclination to cut it". WHY does Jill Valentine not care about having short hair in a world with grabby zombies, equally grabby scavengers, and no shampoo for miles? Easy! She doesn't care about looking pretty anymore, so she's let herself go. Really, as the reader, you have to laugh or you'll cry, but if you're a woman, or if you've had to take care of long hair, or if you've read the Zombie Survival Handbook, or if you have a single ounce of common sense, you'll probably be ousted from the narrative when you encounter stuff like this. Or later when Jill has to roll into town and remind the local black police officer that he did promise to serve and protect his people, not hole up in his house with all the guns and wait for them to die. You can see how it could be hard to remember stuff like that.

The one character who does improve from the dreadful treatment he received in Apocalypse is L.J. Wayne. He's still not handled extremely well here, but we do at least receive the backstory on why he doesn't share his secret with the rest of the team, which was something that got left out of the movie entirely, so I consider that an overall positive net gain. As expected, he has good reasons for his actions and didn't just wake up one morning and decide to be homocidally careless and selfish in service to the plot.

Really, if you've come this far in the series, you might as well read Extinction and finish off this trilogy set. The plot is good and the facepalmy moments are nothing that you haven't already experienced in this series already. And if you haven't read the previous two books, well, go read those and see if you manage to stick with it.

~ Ana Mardoll

Metapost: Trolls

I wasn't going to make an announcement about this, since I do try to keep the metaposts to a minimum, but some of you will have noticed that I'm now a moderator at Shakesville. This is pretty much a dream come true for me, because it's like being a moderator for a field of unicorns drunk on the joy of baby burps and tickly cat tails, but...

...it also means that we may be getting some troll influx when people we ban over there for trollishness follow my Disqus profile back to this board. Trolls are fun like that. Since I'm pretty swingy with the banhammer, I don't expect any of them to stay long, but if anyone is wondering why troll got spilled all over the board, well, that's why. 

Buffy: Freebird (by Special Request)

[Content Note: Abusive Parenting, Homelessness]

Given my searing, all-consuming hatred of Joyce Summers, several of you have asked me to do a post on Gingerbread when Husband and I got to it in the course of our Buffy-watching. We have now done so, and I find myself sitting here at a loss for what to say.

Chances are, if you like Joyce Summers, you're not going to agree with anything I say here. I respect that, I really do. Gods know I am intimately familiar with how a fictional character can be viewed very, very differently depending on who is doing the viewing. I'm almost tempted to opine that fictional characters are like Rorschach tests, and that whether we see a crab or a spider or a butterfly or a bat says less about the source material than it does about what we bring to it. (I say "almost" because as much as I like the poetry of the idea, I can't back it up with facts or anything.)

Review: World War Z

World War Z
by Max Brooks / narrated by a full cast

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

World War Z / B002V8DH36

I love Max Brooks' "World War Z", and I heartily recommend the book to anyone who is interested in zombie tales, particularly world-building after the apocalypse. The only complaint I have with this audiobook edition -- and the only thing keeping it from being a full five-stars -- is that it is an abridgement. In order to keep the narrative flow, they kept in the "essential" stories, but I feel that it was the "flavor" stories that brought so much originality and creativity to the text. I understand why they had to go, but I am sorry for it.

The cast of voice actors here are superb, and even if you don't like abridgements (I usually avoid them, myself), I think most people will get tremendous enjoyment out of this one.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 3

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 3
by Arthur Conan Doyle / narrated by Charlton Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 3 / B004LOPYW0

I really enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories and books, so I was happy to find this available in audiobook form. The narration isn't as great as I'd like -- the narrator speaks a little too quickly for my tastes and some of his voices (particularly for female characters) sound a little distractingly silly -- but overall this is a solid compilation and I'm happy to have it. Note that while it's the "complete" stories, they're spread across three volumes, so you'll have to buy all three to have the total collection. Speaking of, I really wish the Audible application could show which track corresponds to which story (rather than just Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. for the whole kit and kaboodle) but that may be a technical limitation they couldn't get around.

Volume 3 consists of the novel "The Valley of Fear", and the stories in "His Last Bow" and "The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes".

"His Last Bow" contains the following stories:
- The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
- The Adventure of the Red Circle
- The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
- The Adventure of the Dying Detective
- The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
- The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
- His Last Bow

"The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes" contains the following stories:
- The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
- The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
- The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
- The Adventure of the Three Gables
- The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
- The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
- The Problem of Thor Bridge
- The Adventure of the Creeping Man
- The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
- The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
- The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
- The Adventure of the Retired Colourman

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2
by Arthur Conan Doyle / narrated by Charlton Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2 / B003FCIORQ

I really enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories and books, so I was happy to find this available in audiobook form. The narration isn't as great as I'd like -- the narrator speaks a little too quickly for my tastes and some of his voices (particularly for female characters) sound a little distractingly silly -- but overall this is a solid compilation and I'm happy to have it. Note that while it's the "complete" stories, they're spread across three volumes, so you'll have to buy all three to have the total collection. Speaking of, I really wish the Audible application could show which track corresponds to which story (rather than just Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. for the whole kit and kaboodle) but that may be a technical limitation they couldn't get around.

Volume 2 consists of the novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles", and the stories in "Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes".

"The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" contains the following stories:
- The Adventure of the Silver Blaze
- The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
- The Adventure of the Yellow Face
- The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk
- The Adventure of the "Gloria Scott"
- The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
- The Adventure of the Reigate Squires
- The Adventure of the Crooked Man
- The Adventure of the Resident Patient
- The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
- The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
- The Adventure of the Final Problem

"The Return of Sherlock Holmes" contains the following stories:
- The Adventure of the Empty House- The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
- The Adventure of the Dancing Men
- The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
- The Adventure of the Priory School
- The Adventure of Black Peter
- The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
- The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
- The Adventure of the Three Students
- The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
- The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
- The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
- The Adventure of the Second Stain

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1
by Arthur Conan Doyle / narrated by Charlton Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 / B002V0RHKS

I really enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories and books, so I was happy to find this available in audiobook form. The narration isn't as great as I'd like -- the narrator speaks a little too quickly for my tastes and some of his voices (particularly for female characters) sound a little distractingly silly -- but overall this is a solid compilation and I'm happy to have it. Note that while it's the "complete" stories, they're spread across three volumes, so you'll have to buy all three to have the total collection. Speaking of, I really wish the Audible application could show which track corresponds to which story (rather than just Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. for the whole kit and kaboodle) but that may be a technical limitation they couldn't get around.

Volume 1 consists of the novels "A Study in Scarlet" (which is very long), and "The Sign of Four", as well as the stories in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". That collection contains the stories "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Red-Headed League", "A Case of Identity", "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", "The Five Orange Pips", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor", "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet", and "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches".

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri / narrated by Ralph Cosham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Divine Comedy / B002V0TLKM

I like being able to follow along to audio books with my eyes, when possible. This Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed version is a little obscure, but can be borrowed as an ebook at Open Library. Note that the audiobook skips over the opening introduction by Grandgent in the book edition; the sync between audio and book occurs at "Note on Dante's Hell" on page 25 of the PDF version. (Also note that the ePUB version is a very poor OCR with a lot of artifacts; stick with the PDF would be my advice.)

As for the audiobook quality, I really like the narrative and reading - it's very flowing and well-done. Each Canto leads in with a quick summary as to what is about to happen, and I found these very helpful as a listener, but it would have been more helpful if it were easier to tell the difference between the narrator's "summary voice" and "reading voice". The difference between his inflections on these is *very* subtle. (As a side note, this is the same narrator who reads my copy of The Jungle Book, which is all kinds of awesome.)

Overall, I really like this audio book version of The Divine Comedy and feel like the book was worth the price.

~ Ana Mardoll

Open Thread: Of Course

Just a quick reminder.

Unarmored:


Armored:


Explanation:


You may now go back to what you were doing.

Fat Acceptance: White, Thin, Hairless, Naked

[Content Note: Body Modification, Fat Phobia, Hair Removal, Beauty Expectations]

I use Groupon and, for the most part, I like the service. I've had a chance to eat at restaurants I otherwise couldn't afford, I've been able to go to IMAX shows that I otherwise might not have seen, and I recently got a National Geographic Blu-ray movie for free which is obviously a major score. What I'm saying is, the service has added value to my life.

Recommends: The Difference

Thank you.

Here’s the difference. And pay attention, because while it is not a particularly complex concept, some people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.

Say that my entire family is eaten by wolves. In my grief, I insist, “I’m not grieving, I’m happy, because it’s all part of God’s plan. The Lord wanted this to happen. My family is in heaven now, eating ice cream.”

Everyone nods, no decent person would argue. It’s my right to spin my tragedy however I like, however brings me solace.

Now change the premise. My family is fine. The wolves rush past them to your family and eats your family instead. While you are grieving, I stroll over, drape my arm around your shoulder and say, “Don’t grieve. Be happy, because it’s part of God’s plan. The Lord wanted this to happen. Your family is in heaven now, eating ice cream.”

I’m a jerk to say that, right? Because I’m using my religious outlook to dismiss the tragedy that has torn your life apart. It’s not my place. We have the right to interpret the universe in a way that makes sense to us. What we don’t have a right to do is expect — never mind demand — that other people share our worldview.

Open Thread: Your Friendly Neighborhood Voting Guide

[Content Note: Rape]

Today I went to the local community center where the early voting is held and cast my ballot. (Or, possibly, my ovaries did. Or maybe not.)

Because I'm bad with linking names with details -- Bob Johnson supports this, but John Bobson supports that -- I usually vote straight-ticket in favor of the parties who piss me off the least. Here is my voting guide, which you are all welcome to snag while it's hot:

  1. Vote Democrat. 
  2. If no Democrat option, vote Green. 
  3. If no Democrat or Green option, vote for whichever Republican / Libertarian option sounds like a woman or a person of color.
  4. If no Democrat or Green option, and no Republican / Libertarian candidate with name that sounds like a woman or person of color, skip while silently cursing to self.

That last option, Number 4, is frustratingly common in Texas -- or at least in my area of Texas.

Voting makes me sad. I only very rarely feel that I go to vote for someone, and even when I did feel that way, I went with the knowledge that my state is so red that my vote only barely matters. Furthermore, the people I end up casting my ballot for -- if they do win -- more often than not disappoint me for failing to be as liberal as I want and need them to be. In the year 2012, we have honest-to-god politicians still suggesting that babies from rape is God's way of telling a special lady that she's special. I don't even know how to express my contempt that I live in a country where saying such a thing doesn't immediately guarantee an end to one's political career. And yet here we are.

I voted today. But I'm not happy about it. 

Deals: Books You Might Care About

The following books are part of this month's Kindle "Under $3.99 Sale".


ZOMBIE
A zombie book by Joyce Carol Oates is pretty much guaranteed to be awesome.
ETA: Does not contain actual zombies. :(
(Also on sale at B&N.)


THE WORST CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK
Because you never know when you might need to wrestle an alligator.


WHY HAVE KIDS?
I won't be getting this for self-evident reasons, but Valenti is a feminist and I've heard good things about the book.


THE GIFT OF FEAR
Several of you have recommended this, so I bought it.


AMERICAN GODS
I have mixed feelings about Gaiman, but here's one of his most popular books.


SETTLERS OF CATAN
Sure, you love the board game. But don't you want to read the book inspired by the board game?

Narnia: Narnian Girls, Telmarine Boys

[Content Note: Genocide, Appropriation, Violence Against Children, Unwilling Body Transformation]

Narnia Recap: Miraz has been murdered by his advisers, and Peter and the Narnians are being attacked by the Telmarine army. 

Prince Caspian, Chapter 14: How All Were Very Busy

   And then imagine that the wood, instead of being fixed to one place, was rushing at you; and was no longer trees but huge people; yet still like trees because their long arms waved like branches and their heads tossed and leaves fell round them in showers. It was like that for the Telmarines. It was a little alarming even for the Narnians. In a few minutes all Miraz's followers were running down to the Great River in the hope of crossing the bridge to the town of Beruna and there defending themselves behind ramparts and closed gates.
   They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered.

Buffy: Twitter Feed

Because you don't all follow me on Twitter, here is a Buffy-filled Twitter stream for your viewing pleasure. (This is just like any other post, but without actual content! And you can reply to the tweets with more than 140 characters.) Consider this a very poor apology for me being AFK today.

Homecoming






Band Candy





Revelations










Lovers Walk



The Wish


Metapost: Away From Keyboard

[Content Note: Homophobia, Homelessness]

I'm having a touch of a family emergency on my end; folks who follow the Shakesville Open Threads and Slacktiverse Posts have already pieced together the situation more than I have time to go into now, but the short version is that my teenage lesbian niece is essentially homeless right now and I'm going to be AFK periodically through the rest of the week while we try to grapple with this. Which means that direct questions, comments, concerns, and emails will stew in my inbox until I have a chance to dig myself back out of the hole.

Please continue to comment as usual (getting the comments on my phone makes me happy) and thank you to everyone who embuddied me on NaNo -- I'll accept your friend requests just as soon as I can because ZOMG FRIENDS.

Religious prayers and/or secular happy thoughts on behalf of my niece at this time -- and for her-mother-my-sister, because the situation is apparently a lot more complicated than I originally realized -- are very welcome on ya'll's end.

Open Thread: NaNoWriMo 2012

Your NaNoWriMo open thread this week. (Probably more will follow.)

Metapost: Blogger Update, Part 3

I'm pretty certain (though I am on my work computer, so there may be something going on there that I need to recheck at home, but work computer was working just fine last week) that Google Blogger has changed the field names in the Blogger Interface again, thereby breaking the Stylish/StyleBot changes again.

If anyone wants to get a head-start on re-skinning the interface again, I'd much appreciate it, otherwise I'm going to have to sort this out when I get home tonight.

(Dear Google: Fuck you and your continued hostility to people with visual/information processing disorders. You are evil.)

Monday Musings: How To Communicate With Writers

This amused me.

On the one hand, authors/poets/screenwriters/etc. are routinely villainized and bullied as being 'too sensitive' and needing too much ego-stroking. And I think that's a point of view that neglects to realize how vulnerable-making it can be to spend a full year-or-more on something like a novel and then place it out there for the rest o the world to pass judgment on it. That sort of thing could make just about anyone 'sensitive', given the right circumstances.

But! I still thought this was funny, in a sweetly tongue-in-cheek kind of way because, yes, it would be lovely to hear that everything in creation has been leading up to whatever I most recently finished. LOL.


What compliment would you like to receive on your latest work of artistry and/or effort?

Monday Musings are meant to open the week with chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note. If this is your first time at Monday Musings, you really should say 'hi' so that we can give you lurker cookies! Thank you.

Self-Promotion: Only, Not

A blog-wide request: Please do not create "book records" of my blog-to-book downloads on library sites such as GoodReads. Someone has done this with my Lion-Witch-Wardrobe compilation, and I apparently have to contact GoodReads support and beg them to take down the listing and it's all very inconvenient and unpleasant. So I has a sad this Sunday because of all this.

My blog-to-book deconstructions are unpublished for a reason (and it's not because I'm lazy or can't afford the ISBN numbers). There's a lot of quoted material on my blog, and I feel there's a major difference between posting that material in a blog form (or as a download-of-the-site for people with spotty internet connection) versus publishing the whole kit-and-kaboodle as an honest-to-goodness "book".

In the meantime if there are any GoodReads Super-Librarians in the audience who could do me the honor of deleting the record, I would greatly appreciate it as it beats my scattershot method of randomly contacting total strangers who have "Super Librarian" under their name while waiting for GoodReads to write me back. *sigh*

Update: In my experience, these things usually devolve into huge and emotional derails about Fair Use across various countries, the legality of fan-fiction, and/or the fact that just about anybody can bring suit for just about anything in the U.S.A. Because I do not wish to re-justify my request further in the comments, I have closed this post for discussion. 

If the GoodReads people get back to me that merely having the compilation available for download constitutes "publishing", then I will most likely feel moved to remove the download links from the blog entirely. If that happens, I will note that in this post as a comment.

Review: Resident Evil Apocalypse

Resident EvilResident Evil: Apocalypse
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Resident Evil: Apocalypse / 9780743499378

I love the Resident Evil movie franchise and I enjoy film novelizations so it seems like these would be right up my alley, but I can only recommend this novel with very heavy caveats.

I'll get the good stuff out of the way first. As far as being the book-of-the-movie, this book succeeds well. There's a lot of backstory that had to be left out of the movie, and it's all filled in very nicely here. The book explains why Umbrella was foolish enough to reopen the Hive, why Jill Valentine was suspended prior to the movie, why Angela Ashford is alive to be rescued in the first place, and how it is that Alice got from point A (the hospital) to point B (the church) in the first place. Considering that those were pretty gaping points in the excellent movie, it's nice to have those filled in.

However, I really have to register a complaint with a lot of the characterization in this novel. I don't know how much of this was left up to author DeCandido and how much of it was handed to him in the form of a script from the franchise owners, but several characters have been changed radically here, and not for the better. It seems like everyone who is fated to die has been amped up into the worst people possible, which sucks the pathos out of the novel. Worse, the characterizations rely heavily on offensive stereotyping. So now the Scottish guy in the church where Terri, Jill, and Peyton hides is a "papist" whose internal monologue browbeats into the reader that our doomed red shirt is a sexist, a murderer, a religious extremist, a racist, and probably also a jaywalker. VERY SUBTLE.

Carrying on this trend: the S.T.A.R.S. team that Nemesis encounters has been changed from an organized squad trying valiantly to defend their town to "glorified beat cops". The sniper on the roof -- one of my favorite no-name characters in the movie franchise -- is a loose cannon from Texas (because he has a cowboy hat in the movie, SO OF COURSE) who has been reprimanded four times for excessive force and the S.T.A.R.S. team didn't even realize he was up on the roof covering their position; he was just up there for fun and to "practice shooting". This is basically the exact opposite of how this scene plays out in the movie, and the change is not a good one, in my opinion.

The worst change of all, however, and the reason this book was bumped down to 2 stars in my review, is that of the character of L.J. Wayne. Now, I have just come away from re-watching "Apocalypse" because this bothered me so much and I want to be accurate. I love L.J. Wayne in this movie. He has gallows humor and can smile in a crisis (as can every other main character in this movie), yes, but there's a deep seriousness underneath as he struggles to survive the outbreak. He adapts quickly and easily to new situations, and despite his easy slang way of speaking, he has a certain erudition when he jokes that a new acquaintance can use his nickname "on account of the informal situation" and later when he pulls out a relatively obscure comic book reference in dialog.

That's movie L.J. Wayne. The L.J. Wayne in this book, however, is completely unrecognizable to me. He's happy-go-lucky to the point of being almost unable to process new information or assess the severity of a situation. He talks incessantly, which implicitly endangers the team since the zombies are drawn to noise. When he meets Terri Morales -- the weather reporter for the local news channel -- he becomes obsessively star-struck at meeting a "celebrity", and mourns her death only because "There goes my chance at stardom". He flings around racially charged terms, both at himself and at others: he refers to Carlos as a four-letter racial slur for Hispanic people (S*), he refers to white characters as a seven-letter racial slur for white people (C*), and he refers to black characters as a six-letter racial slur for black people (N*). Of the six instances of the N* word that occur in this novel (none of which, I hasten to add, occur in the movie), five of them are uttered by Wayne.

Later, Jill Valentine continues this lovely trend of racist dialog by repeatedly characterizing Wayne as a "roach" and additionally addressing Wayne as "boy"; whether the term is meant here in the classic racist sense or in the new extra-crispy version that involves a comparison to a dog, I didn't and don't care because at that point I was *done*. There's no excuse for all this gratuitous racism, in my opinion, and I will take a moment to point out that book author DeCandido and movie writer  Anderson are both white men. I feel like that's a touch relevant here.

Some readers may read Wayne's dialogue as modern and edgy, but I personally feel there's a difference between a black artist reclaiming racial terms and a white artist putting those terms in the dialogue of a fictional black character -- especially when that sort of dialog is completely omitted in the original, on-screen characterization for that character. I finished this novel and I was pleased with the actual plot and the filling of the movie gaps, but the blatant and unnecessary characterization changes to make half the characters offensive stereotypes about black people, Scottish people, and Southern people, I personally did not appreciate in the least.

~ Ana Mardoll

Buffy: A Picture of Abuse

[Content Note: Emotional Abuse, Misogynistic Language, Violence]

So let's talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And when I say Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically I mean Season 3, Episode 2, "Dead Man's Party", aka the most enraging episode of anything I have ever seen ever since I quit watching Everyone Loves Raymond. And with that little tie-in mention, it should be clear that we're talking about abusive friends and family.

For a recap of this show and my initial feelings about it, see here. Today we're going to line-by-line the transcript. BECAUSE IT'S MY BLOG AND I CAN, THAT'S WHY. Credit for the transcript goes here. (Note the irony that the transcriptionist is apparently a Xander fan. Note also that this is proof that Xander fans are not horrible people and are in fact capable of soaring acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. Thank you, kind transcriptionist, for providing captions for hearing-impaired people that Amazon streaming video does not.)

Open Thread: Vampire Tarot

This has absolutely nothing to do with Twilight, but I thought this was a very pretty vampire tarot that deserved to be shared. (Though I feel like you can't tell, minus the card titles, what the card is. So there's that.)

Open Thread Ideas: What vampire merchandise (both serious and spoofing) have you found to be pleasing in your sight? 

Feminism: Oscar and Weather Girl

[Content Note: Body Policing, Fat Phobia]

This is your regularly scheduled reminder that women should be skinny and sexy at all times in order to be considered normal and non-aberrant. Women should also make sure they always are standing on their toes, and should additionally not expect to have names.

Feminism: Lies, Damn Lies, and Mansplaining

[Content Note: Rape Culture, Swearing]

The greatest blog post ever written on the internet is, of course, Phaedra Starling's Schrodinger's Rapist. (At least in my opinion. As with all words that I write.)

It's a lovely post, and I love every word of it. I don't fully agree with every aspect of it -- lately I've been tending to the side of You Do Not Have The Right To Impose Your Words On Me, Period, And Especially Not To Inform Me (No Matter How Politely) That You Think I'm Fuckable, which means that even the merest suggestion that it's alright to say Hi to the cute girl trying to memorize Beowulf on the subway is not something that I'm particularly open to right now. But my minor quibbles of framing do nothing to take away from the Roaring Lion of Awesome that is this post. Good post, pretty post.

Twilight: The Open Thread Fix

An open thread for the Twilight people, because I've been falling down on the deconstruction job lately.

Random thoughts from Ana's brain:

1. I am so very excited that Breaking Dawn part 2 is coming soon. I am saddened, though, that I will probably have to wait a bit to see it, since I want to live-tweet the movie as I see it (unfiltered reactionary action!) and I don't want to ruin it for the other people with my bright phone.

2. I have had to recalibrate my Emotional Abuse Meter after having seen Buffy and read Cirque du Freak recently. Charlie, for all his issues, does not actually throw Bella from the house or yell at her when she's trying to talk. Edward, for all his issues, has not actually drugged Bella against her wishes as part of a complex trap that may or may not result in her death. Jacob, for all his issues, does not use language that suggests Bella is an sex object instead of a person, nor does he take every conversation ever as an opportunity to police her love life. If you'd told me two years ago that I'd be saying Twilight was less abusive than something else relatively mainstream (one of which is regularly held up as a Feminist Icon), I would have laughed in your face.

3. Pursuant to #2, I have recently been thinking more and more about WHY Twilight is so ridiculously popular among young women. I still think Twilight has toxic themes of abuse, racism, horribleness, etc. I still think that despite a few gleaming gems of feminism here and there in the series, the overall property is problematic in the extreme when viewed as a net bundle. But there's also the nagging problem that Bella Swan -- Bella freaking Swan -- has more agency in her story than several of the things I have seen and watched and read recently. Which (a) makes me sad at how far we have to come but (b) makes me think that maybe all those teenage Twihards that are so much fun to sneer at with Obvious Superiority maybe, just possibly maybe, might have been coming for the few glittering gems as much as they were for Edward.

THOUGHTS?

Metapost: Tag Cleanup

This is Blog Maintenance Month, which means I need to make some behind the scenes changes. I'll be cleaning up the indexes, and adding index posts for Little House and Buffy. I'll also be making some changes in some older posts to reflect the tagging.

This will probably cause the recent posts widget to burn out and start recommending old stuff for your reading pleasure; I apologize in advance for technical gremlins of that sort.

Randomly, please note that the next two weeks are pre-published with things, only one of which is Narnia related (but it's a good one) and non of which are Twilight related, which means I'm falling down on the deconstruction job in many respects. I hope to rectify this soon with a new Twilight post, and if nothing else we'll have Breaking Dawn Part 2 to talk about soon, so there's that.

Buffy: Your Fiercely Rambling Buffy Update

[Content Note: Buffy Spoilers, Thoughts of Violence, Copious Swearing]

Recap: Buffy had to kill her boyfriend in order to save the world. Then she ran away for the summer because her mother threw her out, she was expelled from school, and she is suffering from having the worst job ever. Then she came home. This episode was about her family and friends yelling at her. Really.

There is no god, and proof of this is in the fact that Joyce, Xander, Cordelia, and Willow all inexplicably survived to the end of Dead Man's Party, despite all four being very clearly the Big Bad for the episode. Nor were they apparently exorcised of the Asshole Demons infesting their human forms. I am puzzled and frustrated by this apparent departure from the Demon Slaying format of the show. At least when Angel was on the team, he had a soul. These people? Do not.

OH MY GOD, DIE YOU HORRIBLE TROLL PEOPLE. 

Open Thread: Product Placement

[Content Note: (Teasing) Food Policing]

I have been eating Spaghettios (With Meatballs!) every day at lunch for the past 5 years of gainful employment.  My coworkers, when they have noticed this, believe the food to be inherently childish and not appropriate for seasoned adults. (But mostly in a nice, teasing way.)

Last night, Season 3 Episode 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Anne") revealed that Buffy Summers eats Spaghettios (With Meatballs!). Clearly the implications are obvious: I am a vampire slayer.

What product placement in books/films/etc. has resonated with you in the past?

Monday Musings: The Saintification of YA Authors

I've been noticing a trend online that I don't understand. If I had a dollar for every time someone has breathily spoken of J.K. Rowling or S. Meyer or similar YA authors as having done a tremendous public service for having gotten young adults to read, I'd have quite a few dollars at my disposal now.

Why is this? I'm not disputing that their series have sold well, and I generally think that young adult reading is a decent thing (in general, it depends on what is being read and the young adult in question and stuff like this is complicated and individual circumstances matter), so yay, but writers ... write. It's what they/we do, and while I think it's a valuable service to society, I don't imagine that most of them/us ply their/our trade purely and simply to encourage literacy, forsaking all other worldly considerations.

What interests me, though, is that I only see this with YA authors. I have never seen anyone speak in reverent tones about how John Grisham should be especially honored (and implicitly immune from criticism) for having gotten adults to read. Which is interesting, because John Grisham did start my mother reading, so the statement would be as factually true as it would be about various YA authors. (And while I think reading has been entirely beneficial to my mother, I don't imagine society indebted to John Grisham for it.)

Why is this? I'm curious as to what you think.

Monday Musings are meant to open the week with chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note. If this is your first time at Monday Musings, you really should say 'hi' so that we can give you lurker cookies! Thank you.

Tropes: Darren Shan, Dangerous Extremist

[Content Note: Drugging, Violence, Reference to Infertility, Ableist Language]

One of these days I'm going to get back to writing nice things so that you all don't stop following me Because Negative, but today is not that day. My only excuse is that annoyance, irritation, and blind searing hatred for random things is more motivating for me to write about than happiness and yummies. (This is probably why my forays into journaling never work.)

Review: The Manhattan Madam

The Manhattan Madam: Sex, Drugs, Scandal and Greed Inside America's Most Successful Prostitution RingThe Manhattan Madam
by Kristin Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Manhattan Madam / B001RCTA1A

I picked this book up after seeing an article about it what it says about Eliot Spitzer; I thought it might be interesting to read what appeared from the sample to be a sex-positive exploration of the sex industry from the point of view of a high ranking madam.

In that respect, the book doesn't disappoint. There's not a lot of explicit sexual details in this book, as Davis states that she did very little actual sex work herself and instead handled the marketing, phones, and other details of the business. But what she does dive into is fascinating and detailed; the reader gets walked through the ins and outs of marketing sex work, how to handle impatient and powerful men who don't like to wait even a few minutes for their 'date' to get to their home, and all the behind-the-scenes details that went into building Davis' lucrative sex empire from the ground up.

If there's a failing here, it is perhaps how detached Davis sounds from the sex side of the business. She has a lot of negative things to say about most of her workers, and the reader may feel torn between sympathy for Davis (who is being flaked out on by her workers in many anecdotes) and sympathy for the nameless, faceless workers (who are 'flaking out' because in many cases they are struggling with debilitating drug addictions). There's a point in there somewhere where, sex-positivity or not, it all starts to seem very sad. Davis is clear that she walks each of her employees through an orientation and explains that sex work isn't all dates and chaste hugs like in the glamorous portrayals in movies, but it's clear that for at least some of her employees, they held out a painful hope that it could be.

Probably the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the frank exploration of the johns who frequented Davis' business, though of course all of them (except Spitzer) have been given aliases. It's interesting to see how ridiculously demanding many of them were, and how Davis built her business by providing the emotional side while her workers handled the physical side. Davis rents cars for her clients, arranges their schedules for them, texts reminders to them, and takes their calls all hours of the day and night so that she can provide them charming conversation and soothing reassurances while they men wait for their "girls" to arrive. In return, more than a few of these ridiculously rich and powerful men try to coerce the girls to do unsafe or unwanted acts, or try to weasel out of paying the agreed-upon fee. To Davis' credit, she stands up numerous times for her workers, choosing to blacklist sketchy or coercive clients at the first sign of trouble rather than let her workers operate under unsafe or uncomfortable circumstances.

"The Manhattan Madam" is an incredibly quick read, weighing in at 112 pages on my eReader. I enjoyed the book, and the fast and breezy tone made it easy to whip through. Davis is pretty clearly in favor of legalizing sex work, and she makes a compelling case for it through her personal experiences, and it is deeply fascinating to see her side of the business close-up. Having said that, I'm not at all certain this is worth the (current) high price, but I would recommend checking it out at a library, if you can find it.

~ Ana Mardoll

Recommends: Escher Girls FOREVER

Here is your weekly round-up of Escher Girls stuff. All links are probably NSFW.

Sexy redraw that is actually sexy, along with interesting words. Lots of them!

Gender-swap redesign pointing out that the sexualization of women in comics isn't the same as the sexualization of men.

DC Comics: Bad At Math. Burn!

Talk about these things! Or don't. Up to you.

Film Corner: Looper, A Review In Tweets

[Content Note: Looper Spoilers]


And here is my final word for tonight:

If every single one of your plot-holes is going to be filled after the fact with the statement That's Just How Time Travel Works, then you need to say that in the actual work itself. It's not the viewer's job to go googling after the fact. Because if they do google after the fact and that's all they receive by way of an excuse, they're not going to go aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhgotitthx. They're going to call your plot-hole excuse out as malarkey, because they're justifiably bitter about going to all the trouble to google what should have been ten seconds of in-work technobabble.

Feminism: Why Do You Care?

[Content Note: Anxiety, Religion, Parenting, Sexism, Bullying, Rape, Violence]

An Emoter's Story

Ever since I was a small child, I've been seized with bouts of anxiety and trepidation based on the fact that someone, somewhere, very possibly doesn't like me. Maybe they don't like how I look. Maybe they don't like how I act. Maybe they don't like who I am or how I think. Maybe they just really, really strongly disagree with my opinions. But they don't like me and they're angry with me and oh my god, here comes the vomiting and the stomach cramps.

Deals: Tolkien On Tape

After waiting FOREVER, Tolkien's books are now available in unabridged form for digital download (previously, you could only get them in a giant horking set of CDs).

Audible
iTunes

Narnia: Honor Before Efficacy

[Content Note: Bullying, Violence]

Narnia Recap: Peter and Miraz are going to fight to the death in a winner-take-all extravaganza event.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 14: How All Were Very Busy

Hello, everybody! Are you all excited to see that this book is still not finished? Are you maintaining MAXIMUM ENTHUSIASM for Prince Caspian? I know I am! I am so enthusiastic about Prince Caspian that at least four times this week I have thought, "You know, I need to finish those Prince Caspian posts," only to suddenly remember that I needed to wash the car or re-catalog the library or plan our vacation for next year or anything other than writing about Prince Caspian.

Monday Musings: Too Many Movies

[Content Note: Spoilers for Man On A Ledge]

So this conversation happened a few nights ago during a movie.

Author Interview: Guy Harrison on "Agents of Change"

Ana: Today we have Guy Harrison introducing their book, Agents of Change. I haven't read this book myself, but Guy was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Guy, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Guy: Well, in short, Agents of Change has been best described as espionage with a twist. In much broader terms, it's an action/suspense/thriller with a dash of science fiction.

The story's protagonist, Calvin Newsome, is, figuratively and literally, one of the good guys. He never hesitates to go out of his way to motivate people into doing things that improve themselves and the people closest to them. Unfortunately for Calvin, he's stuck in a career he doesn't love; he feels there must be more to life than worrying about money in order to make money.

The Agency of Influence offers Calvin an opportunity to truly make a difference. The organization's agents are imbued with the powers of shapeshifting and telekinesis, and are charged with improving our society, one despondent person at a time. The Agency of Influence also has a rival organization, the Agency of Justice, which essentially serves an antithetic, yet well-meaning, mission.

Now an Agent of Influence, Calvin appears to be on his way to realizing his true potential until he, and the world at large, are caught in the eye of a storm brewing between the two agencies. When it appears that he's been accidentally framed for murder by his own agency, Calvin must elude authorities while saving the world from what amounts to Armageddon.

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?

Guy: The overriding theme in the book is old but entertaining, given its backdrop in this story: absolute power corrupts absolutely. The big question is how can two organizations, both of which serve admirable missions, be so caustic to our society?

Additionally, the book explores the idea that not everything is what it seems. I think this ties into the shapeshifting abilities quite well. Essentially, the book proves that you don't need to be a shapeshifter to hide your true identity.

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? 

Guy: Oh, it was always about the money from the beginning!

In all seriousness, I was first prompted to write a much more lighthearted version of this story a year and a half ago when I was motivated to write my own pilot for a television show I called "The Matchmaker." I wanted a show that was a cross between "Heroes" and "Touched by an Angel," something that geeks would love because of the special abilities, but something the sentimental crowd would also enjoy.

After banging my head against the wall trying to sell this and other scripts I had written, I decided to try my hand at writing and publishing my very own novel. The problem was that I didn't have a decent idea for a story. I firmly believed in The Matchmaker concept, though, so I decided to expound on that in the form of this novel. Agents of Change ended up being darker than the pilot but I was okay with that.

In terms of voice, the story is (mostly) told through Calvin's point of view. As such, I wanted his voice to be a bit more casual than that of what you typically see in other first-person stories (i.e., The Hunger Games). He can be snarky, he swears, he's got a self-deprecating sense of humor, and he often tells it like it is. All of this leads to a more humorous tone at certain points in the book when the action and the darkness isn't as prevalent.

If I had to choose a work that served as an inspiration for Agents of Change, I'd probably point to Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series. That, too, is a series of first-person point of view suspense/thrillers centered around a protagonist with special abilities.

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?

Guy: I've so been cheating this question throughout this interview. I've already mentioned a few TV shows and the Odd Thomas series. If I really had to narrow it down, though, I think I could only shrink it down to two works:

Agents of Change is the Jason Bourne series with a dash of "Touched by an Angel." I choose Jason Bourne over Odd Thomas because, essentially Bourne was a creation of the organization that serves as his antagonist.

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?

Guy: As we speak, I am currently working on the sequel to Agents of Change (Agents of Chaos), and hope to have it out in time for the 2012 holidays. There will be a third and final installment of the Agents of Change series that will be released in 2013. After completing that series, there is a standalone action/suspense novel I'd like to write. It would be dystopian in nature and would be a modern take on an old English literature classic.

Agents of Change is my debut, but it's not my only published work. I have also published a short story called The Scorpion Nest. It is currently available for free at all e-reader book stores.

The Scorpion Nest is more standard fare than Agents of Change. It's along the lines of a sci-fi/horror "creature feature," although, like my novel, the short story also emphasizes personal relationships and isn't just about a young couple being chased around by scorpions.

Also, somewhere down the road, I'd like to venture into the young adult genre...but I'd probably do so under a pen name.

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?

Guy: The Agents of Change ebook can be purchased at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo. The book is also available in paperback format on Amazon.

I maintain an author blog/website: www.GuyMHarrison.com. Most posts on there pertain to the independent publishing process, but there is also some intriguing content on there relevant to my work.

Readers can usually contact me through my Facebook page and Twitter account (@GuyMHarrison). These are also the best ways to learn of future release dates as well as to be notified of the excerpts and cover reveals that will appear on my website.

Lastly, I'm active on Goodreads. I've run four Agents of Change giveaways and envision doing the same for the sequel. Additionally, I have had quite a few discussions with readers on Goodreads through their messaging feature and am open to communication on there.

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?

Guy: A brief overview of the book and its first chapter are available on my website. Also, free samples are available for download at both Amazon and Smashwords.

As far as potentially adult or triggering content, this book features discussions of consensual sexual activity, discussions of racism, brief discussion of sexual violence, and depictions of violence.

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.
If you are an indie author interested in joining the Acacia Moon catalog, please visit the forums here.

Feminism: Daniel Radosh on Moderating Fundamentalism

[Content Note: Infertility, the Holocaust, Appropriation, Fundamentalism]

In the final chapter of his book "Rapture Ready", Daniel Radosh argues that by keeping blatantly Christian pop culture out of mainstream outlets (book stores, radio stations, etc.), the effect is to isolate Christian pop culture and create a sort of feedback loop where the artists are forced to become more and more extreme in order to please the conservative gatekeepers who control the Christian pop culture outlets. Radosh suggests that if secular consumers accept Christian pop culture in their mainstream outlets, the result might radically moderate the Christian offerings:

As evangelical artists forgo the safety of the Christian bubble for the greater risks and rewards of competing in the mainstream, I hope the mainstream will make a similar effort to explore this “crossover” Christian culture.

This will strike many people as counterintuitive. Before I began this project, the idea that the influence of conservative Christianity could be checked by encouraging the further spread of Christian pop culture would have seemed ridiculous. But from what I’ve seen, it is precisely insularity that breeds intolerance. Even if mainstream radio doesn’t expand its embrace of Christian rock and Christian comedians never get their own sitcoms, Christians are going to continue to create Christian culture. When their only audience is other Christians, though, the feedback loop amplifies narrow-mindedness and inhibits self-examination.

What’s more, the existence of a separate Christian bubble gives fundamentalists greater influence on Christian culture than they deserve based on their numbers (or their ideas). That’s because the Christian subculture is dependent on gatekeepers, who by job description are more conservative than either the artists on one side of the gate or many consumers on the other. Thanks to the clout of the Christian Booksellers Association, Christian publishers will not publish and Christian authors will not write very many books that Christian bookstores will not carry. And the owners of Christian bookstores, for the most part, reject books that offend the sensibilities and ideologies of their most conservative customers.

But imagine now that mainstream cultural outlets were more open to Christian culture. In response, perhaps, Christian authors—and musicians and comedians—might find themselves playing to a wider, much less conservative audience. They might then be moved to experiment with more broad-minded material. This in turn might whet Christian audiences’ appetites for more such material, or at the very least encourage a healthy debate that the current gatekeepers generally suppress.

[...] Secular consumers may be understandably wary of having Christian content foisted on them, but ignoring Christian pop culture is not a solution to the spread of conservative Christianity. Our ignorance of Christian culture not only causes us to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misjudge our Christian neighbors, it also precludes our effectively challenging those aspects of Christian culture that may be properly judged as offensive. To the extent that we hope to change Christian culture, we have to understand and appreciate it.

How does this theory mesh with Radosh's other experiences in the book with Christian pop culture? Throughout his journey, he encountered upsetting and triggering material in unexpected places: fliers that demonized IVF children and their parents at a music festival; books that glamorized Holocaust concentration camps as settings for fictional Jewish protagonists to 'come to Christ'. Where is the line -- if any -- between being open to new experiences and new perspectives versus understandably wanting to protect oneself from harmful or triggering material in one's pop culture consumption?

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life? 
Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why? 
What responsibility (if any) do we have to help moderate ideologies we may not agree with?