Xanth: We're Having So Much Fun, So Let's Keep Going

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Nasty Stereotypes about Wives/Marriage]

Source of Magic, Part 1

We had so much fun with A Spell for Chameleon that I thought I'd continue with the next book, The Source of Magic. But I want to talk about why for a moment.

Talking about sexism in Xanth is like shooting fish in a barrel. As an example, I had 74 highlighted passages in my Kindle version of Chameleon, most of which I shared in my blog post. In contrast, I have 186 highlighted passages for Source of Magic. That doesn't mean the second book is twice as bad as the first (I'll leave that to you to decide), but it is pretty awful. So why talk about it?

For one, Will is right in that a lot of people still don't talk about the misogyny in the series. For whatever reason, we tend to focus on the egregious puns. To a certain extent, I think the rape culture in Xanth is worth talking about for that reason alone: because it's there and it needs to be talked about and I don't know of a source that has covered it thoroughly already. I like filling holes like that, because I like to imagine someone like my past self finding my blog post and being saved a lot of bother, ha.

For two, I think Xanth is worth talking about because it's so easy for the rape culture to fade into the background of the silly pun-fun. These are books that are marketed to young adults, even children, precisely because they are (on the surface) fun and light-hearted. Most people don't think of Xanth as hardcore rapey grimdark because for most people these books aren't hardcore rapey grimdark. And I find it really fascinating (and I think it is worth exploring) why it's so easy to forget a male protagonist who wants to rape his true love when written by a male author, and yet we tend not to forget it when a male protagonist wants to rape his true love when written by a female author. That seems like it would be sobering in any context, even a childish punny one, and yet for many of us, we forgot entirely! Or our brains purged it. I find that fascinating.

For three, these books are still being recommended. If someone objects to the rape in later books, people tell them to go read the original trilogy because that was back before the books got rapey. If someone objects to rape in the early books, people tell them to go read the later books because they got better. I like writing posts that people can link to and say This is why I'm not reading the series, now quit saying I can't criticize an author just because I didn't read the entire series. Because, full disclosure, that's a pet peeve of mine, ha.

So! Let's dive into The Source of Magic and determine whether it's twice as bad as the book before it or not. (No, I'm not going to share all 186 notes.)

Metapost: To the SKA Site Owner

[Content Note: Online Harassment]

I want to thank everyone for the support they expressed in my post yesterday. Thank you all, so much. I hope to try to post more deconstruction content soon, and I am sorry (for myself and all of you) that all this has to be going on. I know I'd prefer to be writing fun content, and I'm sure you'd prefer to be reading it.

I have been monitoring the harassment site yesterday out of necessity since my post went up here, because I had hoped to see an acknowledgment that they'd received my message that their harassment of me hurts and (I'd hoped) that they would stop now that I have asked them to.

The site moderator has posted several posts in response to mine, so they are aware of my feelings. But they have also claimed that I haven't said anything to them, which I have taken as a desire that I do so. I have sent them the following message on their Tumblr contact form, which I am reposting here so that they can verify that the message did in fact come from me. I do not plan to contact them further. Also, that they might verify that the request to please stop has come from me, I have recorded the message in my own voice, though I apologize for the quality: I am not a public speaker.

Comments will not be enabled on this post, though I will leave them open on yesterday's post. This is simply being posted as a direct and clear message that yes, I am asking the site owner of SKA to please stop harassing me. I don't want there to be any claims of confusion on the grounds that I didn't ask directly.

Metapost: This Shit Hurts

[Content Note: Online Harassment]

Please note that all links in this post are courtesy of Do Not Link

A lot of you have no doubt noticed by now that despite rigidly sticking to a posting schedule for several years now, much of 2014 has seen a dramatic decline in my post numbers, as well as in regularly-scheduled posts. (Meaning that things go up when I manage to write them rather than on our Tuesday / Thursday schedule.) And a number of you have noticed that I rarely manage to return emails anymore, and that my Twitter activity has become almost non-existent.

I'm ready now to talk about why that has been happening.

Xanth: We Need To Talk About Piers Anthony

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, including statutory rape of a minor.]

A Spell for Chameleon

So after my FSoG post, I ended up in a conversation with a friend about the Xanth series, and I realized that we are long overdue for a Piers Anthony discussion. Xanth is one of those series that is difficult to explain to newcomers because its popularity is undeniable (I myself devoured the books readily when I was a youngster) and yet they are super-rapey.

And it's one of those things that a lot of us didn't really notice at the time (self included), I think because so much of male-suthored science fiction / fantasy is rapey already. Like, for all that Xanth was rapey, it was light-hearted rapey. As opposed to grimdark rapey, see also the Dragonlance books that were, for me, the main fantasy alternative to Xanth growing up.

So you'll see posts nowadays, since as far as I know Xanth is still going, talking about how Xanth has gotten all rapey these days (like this nice post from Jim Hines who seems to legitimately be the nicest guy, so this isn't a criticism of him in the slightest) except that we have many of us kinda forgotten that Xanth started rapey and any continued rapey is just so much furthering of that status quo.

In preparation for this post, I did two things. One was to dig through the 1977 copy I'd scanned and epubed for myself in order to copy-pasta the egregious stuff for my friend to gawp at. Two was to check Amazon to see if Xanth had finally become available on the Kindle store (it has!) and purchase a copy there.

Feminism: This Is Really All I Wanna Say About FSoG

[Content Note: Non-Consensual Fantasies, the usual Rape/Abuse CN for Twilight/FSoG, BDSM/kink]

Probably everyone is aware by now that the trailer for the new 50 Shades of Grey movie is out on the internets. (I recommend both Erika's deconstruction of the book and Cliff's deconstruction of the book. So highly recommended.) The following is a collection of tweet thoughts I made about Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey last night, but in longer format:

Twilight has toxic abusive relationships in it, yes. But I would really beg the world to remember that the success of Twilight could (and I would argue does) indicate that many of our girls and women feel safer with fiction where the things they desire are "forced" on them rather than the girls and women going out to get what they desire for themselves.

Is that a problem? Yes.

Is it a problem to be solved by berating lady-readers and lady-writers? No.

If our society has made girls and women feel unsafe--and I want to stress that word, unsafe--for WANTING and GETTING the things they desire through their own non-forced-upon-them-means, then the problem is with our society and not with the lady-readers and lady-writers trying to navigate that unsafety.

And I would also like to point out that I could easily name a hundred male-authored scifi/fantasy books (a) that have worse relationship dynamics, (b) that do not end with a girl/woman getting what she wants (i.e., Winning At Patriarchy), and (c) which come under a fraction*** of the scrutiny and criticism that we give to works by women, for women, about women protagonists. And that avalanche of criticism, as well as what it is directed against and what it isn't directed against, doesn't occur in a vacuum.

So, yes, Twilight has bad things in it and no one is obliged to like it. But let us remember that it's not uniquely bad (looking at almost all the male-authored scifi/fantasy on my bookshelf, with a few key exceptions--and the fact that many of you reading along KNOW which scifi/fantasy male authors are feminist should kinda drive that point home, I think, because it's a short list and well-known precisely because they are wonderful rare unicorns). And let us also not fall into the trap of shaming women for liking Twilight because that just compounds the underlying issue that women aren't allowed to like the things they like.

What I will say about 50 Shades of Gray in specific is this: My feminism does not dictate how I like to fuck. My patriarchal upbringing did try to dictate that. I will not shame women for liking kink. I will not shame women for liking kink in the name of "protecting" them or offering them "better" kink they should read instead. I will not infantalize women. I will trust that they can tell the difference between real life rape/abuse versus fantasy rape/abuse. I will not pretend that the rape and abuse in 50 Shades of Grey is different or unique or worse than the rape and abuse I read in hundreds of male-authored books.

I will remember that rape victims can have rape fantasies. That purity culture can make noncon fantasies the only "valid" source of relief and pleasure for some women. That my feminism punches up at the purity culture and patriarchy that dictates how women are allowed to fuck rather than punching down at the many, many women who have read and enjoyed a goddamn novel for fuck's sake. I will remember that every time I sneer about 50 Shades and its readers, there are women in the room who hear me and hear loud-and-clear that their desires (in bed, in reading, in wherever) are mock-worthy and shameful and wrong and bad.

By all means, do not come away from this thinking you have to like Twilight or 50 Shades. Or thinking that you can't criticize these books. I've spent 5 years criticizing Twilight, which would seem to indicate that I think criticism of these books is both necessary and valid. But I seriously beg that criticism of these books be done in a thoughtful manner that doesn't infantilize women* or shame them** for liking these books.

So, yeah. All I'm gonna say about 50 Shades is that it's personally not my thing, but I have zero problem with women writing or reading or enjoying noncon fantasies, and I would say to people who do have a problem with that: maybe try getting rid of purity culture and sex-shaming of women first and see if that doesn't cause the popularity of noncon fiction to dip a little. I think that's a worthy experiment to try first, if only because then we'll be in a world without purity culture. (Yay!)

* Sexuality is complicated. If you wanna talk about books that fucked up my sexuality as a kid, L'Engle and Lewis fucked me way worse than Twilight or 50 Shades ever could have. If you're shocked by the knowledge that I would rec Twilight over L'Engle to a Hypothetical Impressionable Teenager, well. I will just point out that Bella gets sex and doesn't have to give up Heaven or Unicorns for it. (Yeah, that's gonna be a flamewar in the comments, I predict.)

** I am almost-but-not-quite certain that ebook sales for 50 Shades far outpaced paper sales. I just want to stop and think about what it means that a book about women only getting what they want by having it forced on them... was successful in part because women could get the book they wanted without the people around them knowing at-a-glance that they had gotten a thing they wanted. Wow, it's almost like the point is being proved right there.

*** (Yes, these footnotes are out of order.) I can almost guarantee that a FSoG movie about kink for adult women will be subjected to 1000% more hand-wringing than fucking Ender's Game which was, I remind you, a book about genocide and thinly-veiled sexual assault in showers. For children. Written by a guy who actively uses his platform to lob hatred at non-[straight cis white men]. Also, you need to read Will's posts on Ender's Game because they are everything.

Open Thread: Rain In The Forest

Rain In The Forest by Larisa Koshkina

Hosted by a river in the forest with raindrops on it.

Twilight: Waiting for Edward

[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 21, Bella receives a call from James claiming to have her mother; Bella agrees to try to get away from Alice and Jasper, and then writes a farewell note to Edward.

Twilight, Chapter 21: Phone Call

We're really racing towards the end here, because I think this may be the shortest chapter in the book. It certainly feels short; you can whip through it pretty quickly so we're going to do just that.

   I COULD FEEL IT WAS TOO EARLY AGAIN WHEN I WOKE, and I knew I was getting the schedule of my days and nights slowly reversed. I lay in my bed and listened to the quiet voices of Alice and Jasper in the other room. That they were loud enough for me to hear at all was strange. 

One of my biggest regrets about the Twilight series--aside from the way-too-common-in-literature abusive relationships and the fact that I dreamed last night that Bella was vampire'd mid-Twilight and everything was so much better--is all the missed opportunities to explore out the nuance between Bella's human life that she doesn't have much left to savor versus Bella's vampire life and what she can expect when that happens.

Open Thread: Flower Meadow

Flower Meadow by Larisa Koshkina

Hosted by a tree in a meadow of flowers.

Twilight: The Cullens are Terrible at Everything

[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 20, Bella hangs out in a hotel room with Alice and Jasper.

Twilight, Chapter 20: Impatience

So Chapter 20 is titled "impatience" and it's like the author is trolling us at this point, because we spent seventeen or eighteen chapters with absolutely nothing happening and then plot finally started to occur--it wasn't good plot, but it was plot and there was danger and excitement and car chases and things--and then BOOM everything has to slow down so that we can chill in a motel room for a day. It's so boring and tiresome, and I'll be skipping over 80% of it, but there are a couple of juicy pieces to bite into. But here's a chapter summary in advance so that I don't have to quote the whole chapter:

In Chapter 20, Bella wakes up in one of the Cullens' cars to find that Alice and Jasper have made it to Arizona in one night...somehow. (Ostensibly by the power of not observing traffic laws.) They pass the airport, but decide to head to a motel instead and hang out. They then proceed to hang out in a motel room for an interminably boring period of time while nothing happens and no one calls and Bella worries about Edward's safety. Bella and Alice talk about the vampire-making process. Then Alice has a new vision that Bella utterly fails to interpret correctly despite being amazingly obvious, then Edward calls to say they lost track of the tracker, then Bella leaves a message for her mother telling her how to contact her. 

Okay, now we're all on the same page. Let's do this thing.

Let's Play: Long Live the Queen (Magic Mirror)

[Content Note: References to assassination, oppressive government, depression, self-harm, parental abuse, incest.]

It's another Let's Play! (Technically it's one I recorded months ago and am only now getting around to uploading!)

Technical details first: I used LiteCamHD to grab the video and my voice, and I used Freemake Video Converter to merge the video files together whenever I had to stop for any reason. And I am still unable to find a way to transcribe these with any degree of accuracy, and I apologize for that; I'm sorry to our deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the community.

Copyright permission next: I thank Hanako games for responding to my request for copyright permission to use this material (to avoid all those pesky Fair Use considerations) with "open permission for people to make let's plays of our videos and to use the standard youtube monetisation tools if they want". That's a wonderful policy.

Content summary last:

Walkthrough 06 (Magic Mirror) is my playthrough where I let our father beat the final duel with a mysterious artifact. Game achievements include:

1. A Mysterious Artifact (You have discovered a magical mirror.)
2. A Promise Discarded (You have broken off a planned engagement.)
3. Better Left Unsaid (You have discovered a terrible family secret.)
4. Interpersonal Diplomacy (Your actions have caused a couple to divorce.)
5. A Dangerous Juggler (You have hired someone to spy for you.)

YouTube video below the cut, plus game transcript. I also strongly recommend the LLtQ wiki for any questions about the characters.

Open Thread: Yellow Autumn

Yellow Autumn by Petr Kratochvil

Hosted by a tree with orange and yellow leaves.

Animation: Bending Race and Gender

[Content Note: Binary-Gender Paradigms]

Gender is not binary and there are more than two genders. And this is the usual starting-point problem when we talk about "gender-bending" established characters because while it's fantastic to take an established role and play around with it, it's very important to make sure that we all understand that gender isn't a coin-toss.

Having said that, I've been spending some time this weekend looking at gender-bending and race-bending fan art of established animated characters and musing on what these deviations from the established canon do to the narratives--as well as what it says about our social constructs of male-gaze and female-gaze.

* A collection of gender-bent characters by Sakimi Chan, including Princess Mononoke and what I think is Howl's Moving Castle. I'm particularly fond of Hades and how she kept her sharp teeth.

* A collection of gender-bent characters by Maby Chan, including Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon and Phoebus from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

* A collection of costume-swapped characters by Haruki Godo, and I can't even pick out a favorite--it's amazing to see all the princesses wearing clothes that cover them, are practical for various professions, and aren't interchangeable pretty dresses; these clothes actually confer character by suggesting timeline, occupation, personal preference in ways that, say, the Shiny Blue Cinderella Dress and the Shiny Pink Ariel Dress simply do not.

* An amazing tumblr of gender-bent and race-bent characters by TT Bret. My favorite thing about these versions is how subtle many of them are; girl!Wendy and girl!Alice don't look significantly different from the "boy" versions of the characters, nor should they need to. Since gender isn't a function of physical appearance. Here's a compilation of the head-shots.

* A scene from gender-bent Frozen. Also more here. And a race-bent Elsa here.

* A scene from gender-bent The Little Mermaid. And another here.

* A scene from gender-bent Road to El Dorado.

And then there's this: boy!Jasmine in the iconic "seduction scene" from Aladdin. And in some ways this is my favorite of the bunch not because I particularly like it, but because I think it's such a perfect illustration of male-gaze in movies. That scene with Jasmine in this pose is hardly a blip on the radar for "pretty girls in sexually submissive poses in movies", but then you keep the same post and swap out the genders and--for a lot of viewers--there's going to be the sudden realization of how sexual that scene is.

And yet for many of us, we don't see the sexualized context until it's not a girl/woman being sexualized anymore, precisely because girls and women are sexualized by default in much of our media. Just like it sometimes takes a costume swap to let us see that the Girls Wear Pretty Things but the Boys Wear Things Which Indicate Actual Personality And/Or Occupation.

Open Thread: Contemplative Cat

Cat by George Hodan

Hosted by an orange cat looking into the distance.

Twilight: Asking Permission

[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 19, Bella flees town.

Twilight, Chapter 19: Goodbyes

There's a lot of Chapter 19 left, but it all conveniently follows the same theme of Bella's consent being entirely disregarded by the Cullens, so I think we can whip through it all very quickly. When we last left Bella, she was flouncing out on Charlie while pretending an intent to drive to Arizona, which is a 24 hours drive under the best of conditions (i.e., not stopping to eat or sleep or buy gasoline).

   “I’ll call you tomorrow!” I yelled, wishing more than anything that I could explain everything to him right then, knowing I would never be able to. I gunned the engine and peeled out.

I'm pretty sure that Bella (a) never fulfills this promise and (b) doesn't even intend to. Which, I mean, to a certain extent? Fine. My personal morality is perfectly comfortable with lying about a phone call if necessary to save someone's life or something. But, as several of us have already noted, Bella driving out of town and then instantly disappearing off the grid--no phone calls, no witnesses, no credit card trail of gas stations tracking her to Arizona, not a single person who has seen or heard of her--will naturally lead her father (and the other local authorities) to assume very bad things have happened to Bella.

Metapost: Medicine Is Magic

I had this whole adorable thing worked up where I was gonna do this post as an episode recap for My Little Blogger: Medicine Is Magic! and how shy little Ana-jack learned a valuable lesson about the importance of her back medication, but (a) the idea was cuter than anything I could implement and (b) the implementation step would have required me to sit at the computer longer and I kinda can't.

So. Short version.

I get my medications through a mail-order pharmacy attached to our insurance. There was a goof-up this month which means that a medication I've been on for 2+ years now will now be a week or two late in getting to my house. Which means that for 1-2 weeks, I'm off one of the four medications that I pretty much can't function without. Which means that I am now, on Day 3 of being without this medication, not functioning. I can lie in bed and I can get to the toilet but that's about it. And while I know, intellectually, that I was already in constant pain, somehow it feels so much worse when it gets worser all over. Like, exponentially.

Anyway. I'm going to go lie back down and try to think distracting thoughts, but I wanted to let people know what was going on. There will be more Twilights--I have all the thoughts on Chapter 19 and was planning to post more yesterday but then all this happened--but for right now I'm in a hurty place. The short version is that all the Cullens are assholes, lol.