Quick drive-by update for the curious:
-I met Anne Bishop on Thursday and must have babbled at her about how awesome she is for a solid 60 seconds. She read from The Shadow Queen and her voice sounded exactly like I could imagine Cassie's being.
-After getting back to Bellingham the next night at 7PM, I turned around and went back down to Seattle an hour later for salsa dancing at HaLo.
-Yes, I am crazy. Yes, I am going back down to Seattle again, tomorrow, this time for Jacqueline Carey's signing. Oh my.
Quick drive-by update for the curious:
I understand that a genre can start out as one thing and evolve into another, but when even the origins of said genre are misrepresented, it becomes a little too much.
1. If a book is referred to as 'urban fantasy,' then it damn well better feature a setting that could even remotely be considered urban. Set in the present real world outside a city? Contemporary. Contemporary. Urban fantasy is a subset of contemporary fantasy, not the overarching umbrella of all modern-era, real-world fantasies. A novel can be both urban fantasy and contemporary, but not all contemporaries can be urban.
2. Urban fantasy existed before Nail Gaiman AND Laurell K. Hamilton. They didn't appear on the UF scene until the mid-to-late 90s. Charlaine Harris didn't publish her first Sookie Stackhouse novel until 2001. Who were the harbringers of the genre, then? Charles de Lint. Terri Windling. Emma Bull.
UF originated in the 70s and 80s, not the 90s like too many people tend to believe. My guess this occurs because UF in the 70s and 80s didn't necessarily (if at all) feature what we consider to be the earmarks of UF today: kick-ass heroines and their string of boy-toys. Instead, they focused more on regular people who were connected in some way to magic while living in an urban setting. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Urban fantasy is NOT about the kick-ass heroines. In fact, let me go a little farther and say: ENOUGH. I don't want to read about some half-vamp, half-wolf wanna-be slayer who takes names while wearing stilettos* and fucking every goddamn male being that trots along. Stop it. Just stop it. I'm all for consensual sex regardless of the number or type of partners, but the "ambiguity" of the heroine's relationship HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH URBAN FANTASY. If you want a book that deals in HEA-less sexual affairs, go petition the RWA into changing their requirements for a romance, or write literary love stories and give Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. (Or, hell, just convert all the way and write erotic romance or straight-up erotica.) UF is not the ghetto to write whatever won't fit into other genres.
Additionally, from a feminist standpoint, I can see why ass-kicking heroines are often portrayed as magically and/or physically strong AND as women uncommitted to any particular relationship. It's a short-cut. Why attempt to go through all the effort of writing a character that is strong because of who she is and the choices she makes, when all she needs to do is have sex with multiple God-like men? Newsflash: having sex with 2+ partners is no more feminist than having sex with one partner. It does not make her stronger, and in some cases, it simply makes her indecisive; the victim of yet another stereotype of femininity.
Urban fantasy is about people living in urban settings that interact with magic or magical beings in some way. I can appreciate the lean toward equality by making the majority of lead characters women, but it's not about the ass-kicking heroines. It's really not. And if you're going to portray a heroine as kick-ass, regardless of the genre, make her genuinely kick-ass, emotionally and mentally. Don't take short-cuts.
*Speaking as a ballroom dancer, if slaying demons were possible while wearing heels, I'd drop out of college and start hunting.
Found via Smart Bitches.
After explaining all this, my Romantic Relationships professor went on a tangent to explain that the women's liberation movement was (is) not about raising one group over the other. He explained--at 8AM in the morning to roughly 20 summer college students--that its goal was to make women equal to men, without the constant power struggle.
It's really good to see someone teaching a class that is largely about gender roles from a psychological perspective who gets it.
To my dismay, today has involved quite a bit of me running around for what turned out to be a fruitless effort. Both the people I'm subletting from as well as my property manager neglected to tell me that I needed two additional keys--one for the mailbox, and one for the building's front door. Many hours later, 2 trips to the property manager out in the middle of a residential zone bordering on rural, 1 key wrongly copied, and lots of coffee consumed, I ended up back at my apartment without anything to show for it. A couple hours after that and additional phone calls made, they property manager had the right front door key copied and hand-delivered it to me. I think they felt bad. They didn't say anything to the effect of feeling bad--they're too arrogant for that--but I think they felt bad. Maybe. I still don't have a mailbox key.
A couple weeks ago, I lent a male-identified friend The Venus Fix by M.J. Rose. Romances aren't really his thing, particularly not psychological thrillers, and I knew this, but we had been discussing pornography at the time and The Venus Fix has a solid perspective on how it impacts people. He later came back and told me he could definitely tell the book was written by a woman. I asked him why. He said that when the heroine woke up and opened her eyes, the hero described them as an ocean (or a storm, or something nature related... whatever). He laughed and commented on how cheesy-slash-creepy that would be if a guy did that in real life. I have to agree with him. I'd probably fall off the couch laughing if a guy looked into my eyes and declared them to be wonderously similar to soil. Or something.
Outrageous nature comparisons aside, I think it's worthy to note that women-identified folk writing men don't necessarily write men's thoughts and behaviors as they typically might be. Which isn't to say that no man would ever compare someone's eyes to a raging venus fly trap (okay, I'm done now), but I have to wonder whether it's the author's--and, subsequently, women in general's--wistfullness to be considered special manifesting in print. Women are taught from the cradle that their worth is determined solely by their attachment to a male. Of course we would want to believe, and thus put down on paper, that men think our eyes are remarkable.
-Hawkspar by Holly Lisle
-My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel
-Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan
The last was even a signed stock-copy. According to one of the booksellers, she had been in town recently and was wickedly funny. I stayed up late reading it last night. I've been following Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for a couple years, but I still wasn't expecting the level of critical analysis and feminist scrutiny Sarah and Candy have packed into their book. My former roommate Kiki took an English course on romance novels last quarter and groaned the entire time. The list of books they read leaned heavily on the literary side rather than romances published AS romances. This is also ignoring the fact that they included Twilight as an assigned read.
Thus spawned this Facebook message. Consider it my review.
"I think you would appreciate its epicness, and I fully intend on bothering you, Harry Potter Puppet Pals-style, into reading it come fall. Just so you know."
Yes, Kiki and I have an affinity for combining random swear words with food items. Deal with it.
Books aside, I moved into my summer apartment yesterday, and it is glorious. I currently have Sara Bareilles blasting out of the speakers in the dining room, and I'm living off Ramen and bread. Class starts Tuesday. Woooo.
I've been watching the Iranian Revolution from the seclusion of my bedroom in an upper-middle class neighbourhood of the United States. I loathe the idea of human to human communication being boiled down to a mere 140-character limit, but I even signed up for Twitter, just to read about what's going on firsthand.
A lot of people scoff at non-violence. They say it's an idealistic notion. It's true; it is. Perhaps unrealistically so. I hold no illusions that one day there will be world peace and it'll all be unicorns and rainbows from there out on. However, what I've learned in the past year as a violence prevention advocate is that ideals are necessary. They are the golden standard we never cease to strive for, because--being humans--there is always room for improvement. Without that standard, without someone, somewhere, saying, "HEY. This is what we can achieve if we try hard enough!" there is no motivation to reach that point. And without the motivation to reach that point, we lack the motivation to reach the more realistic milestones in between.
Non-violence is not made of soft stuff. It is the work of hundreds of thousands, of millions. It is patience, and it is learning when to keep your mouth shut and when to scream and keep on screaming.
Non-violence is currently reclaiming an entire country. Ghandi would be hella proud.
A lot of people are crying out for the US to step in and intervene. And do what, I want to know. Storm in and take over, exactly the same way we've overrun the rest of the Middle East? I have faith in the Obama administration, but what America doesn't understand is moderation. We want to be seen as the rescuers. The heroes. To be perfectly clear, Iran doesn't need a fucking knight in shining red-white-and-blue. It's got its heroes. Thousands of them.
US citizens are helping the ways that they can, by creating secure proxys, forums, and spreading the word. The last thing we need is our military to step in and steamroll any progress the revolutionaries have made. It's their country; they are in the process of shaping it to be what they want it to be. Give them support, but don't take away their autonomy.
Finally, I'd like to note that regardless of Iran's leadership, the US will still be facing the same diplomatic issues. A new leader may be the result of a "reform," but on a Western scale that "reform" will be mild at best. There will still be quite a few contentions between the US and Iran, socially if not economically and diplomatically (being a social psych geek I focus on the social aspect more). A revolution may aid in promoting kinship, but it will not change the immediate relationship between the US and Iran.
My mother took me out this morning for coffee and a fresh stack of books at Barnes & Noble:
-Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear
-The Cipher by Diana Pharaoh Francis
-Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Additionally, Jacqueline Carey's latest novel, Namaah's Kiss, technically isn't supposed to come out until next week, but has already hit the shelves. I pre-ordered a signed copy some months ago; unfortunately, it won't arrive until July.
I am now also on Goodreads. Feel free to friend me.
Yesterday Marjorie M. Liu celebrated the fifth anniversary of selling her first book. Happy anniversary, Marjorie!
Last night I went to hang with a friend I haven't seen in several months (she goes to university on the East Coast). We made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which were delicious and made the room smell of yumminess.
I recently finished reading Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce. Enjoyable, particularly since I've taken a rather thorough geology course in the past year, but no where near her best. I haven't kept up with her books since Trickster's Queen for some reason. I'm not sure if I'm feeling the age gap or if her writing is just going in a direction that simply isn't my cup of tea.
Speaking of Tamora Pierce, I ran into this at the Tamora Pierce LOLcats Association:
Even after all these years, I instantly recognized the joke (see: Protector of the Small quartet). It made me giggle.
Jumping on the bandwagon of online publishing, Simon & Schuster will now apparently be selling thousands of its availiable titles through Scribd, a site known for its pirated content. A practical move, considering the online following these days, and the whole "keep your friends close but your enemies closer." But then I read this:
Ms. Pittis said that piracy is “probably pretty low in this country,” but worries about it more overseas, where millions of Scribd users live and where “there’s such a culture of piracy.” Asked to identify a book damaged commercially by piracy in another country, Pittis said she couldn’t, but added, “I don’t want a HarperCollins title to be the test case.”
How many bad inferences can be drawn in a single sentence? Even if the US has lower piracy rates than the next country, its rates are by no means low. That Ms. Pittis cannot think of an example of a book damaged commercially by piracy in another country (though I'm willing to grant that 'damaged' is a little vague) only cements her vast generalization.
Here we have yet another case of nationalism and American priviledge. We downplay any problems that we may have and dump the blame in another country's lap. Way to go, Simon & Schuster.
Found via Dear Authors.
Kayla: "You're so weird."
Kiki: "Like you're not? You're a psych major."
Kayla: "I'm justified. You're not."
Kiki: "Who're you to judge me?!?!"
Kayla: "...a psych major."
On an unrelated note, I've been the victim of hiccups off and on all day. The record is currently at 5 separate sets.
I'd also like to note the significance of the 5 typed as a number, rather than spelled out. This, ladies, gentlemen, and gender-benders, is the direct result of becoming a slave to the psych department. I used to be well-versed in MLA. Now, I practically breathe APA. I know, I know; it's saddening.
I was browsing Carolyn Jewel's site this afternoon, and ran across this pretty:
More on that when I have my thoughts in order. Back to studying for Stats.
Helix's 21st birthday is on Sunday. I'm giving him a giftcard to The Woods coffee and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Now, I pride myself on my ability to match people with books. Rarely has someone come back to me and said they didn't like it. Just recently I converted a friend to Anne Bishop's Daughter of the Blood, which is not a recommendation I make to many people. Turns out she loved it and wants to borrow the rest of the series.
Thing is, I'm not a lit fiction reader. Not really. The overarching themes of literary fiction may be beautiful, but in general the writing is far too dry for me. (I also picked up for myself Christine Feehan's Shadow Game, a romantic suspense, and Brenda Joyce's Dark Embrace, a paranormal romance, if that gives any indication of my reading preferences.) In contrast, Helix loves lit fiction. Catch 22 is one of his favorites. I gave him Catcher in the Rye for Christmas, which he appreciated, albeit I don't know if the recommendation was spot-on. (Catcher is a rather odd book, though.) I'm hoping that the writing style and story of The Cellist will match his tastes better.
I'll be carpooling down to Century Ballroom in Seattle tonight with a couple of salsa friends. We've been doing this monthly for almost 2 years now. Every first Friday night of the month... Century! Tomorrow I'll be staying in town for blues dancing. It's going to be a good weekend.