manifesta: (Mischief Managed)
A huge thank you to everyone for your thoughts on my last two posts. It was certainly an interesting weekend.

The idea of even having to compile this list makes my stomach turn, but I figure it will be useful in future conversations. These are variations of statements I've seen made in recent discussions that were used to dismiss someone's concerns or objections about the potential negative implications of a book's content and minimize their argument. In my response to each I've included reasons why I believe these statements were made and why they are not the best choices for a conversation, particularly one that involves discussion regarding inequality. I write this because all too often it's the people who bring up issues about power and privilege that are not given the benefit of the doubt in a discussion and are forced into defending their position instead of hosting a conversation about it.

(1) Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. AKA, you're reading too much into it. I think this one crops up so frequently because high school English classes in the States try very hard to emphasize the apparent symbolism in every single book they can get their hands on (truly, I love Elie Wiesel's Night, but I'm not convinced there's symbolism in the snow) and after being told over and over again to look for the deeper meanings that seem to exist solely because you wanted to find them, the whole concept becomes silly. Combine this with (a) the internalization or lack of awareness of systemic inequality and (b) the societal norms that perpetuate and disguise systemic inequality, and the idea that the text is more than just the text is rendered unfathomable.

This cut was brought to you by the Society for Shorter Reading Pages (SSRP). )
manifesta: (Dangerous)

One of the reasons for my radio silence has been a historical analysis paper on white feminity and sexuality in early romance novels (1950s-70s). Have I mentioned that my women's studies/history professors are benevolent and wonderful and let me write about genre books?

I turned in that paper earlier this week, and now I have some time on my hands before finals to reflect on it. I think it was one of my better papers on romance novels; the process also introduced me to quite a bit of excellent research that I can use for other projects, including this journal.

I'm going to preface this by acknowledging that I can be very critical of romance novels. I'm also very critical of fantasy (I'm waiting to hear back on a presentation proposal regarding urban fantasy/paranormal romance) as well as young adult (re: YA & rape culture) but I tend to pick on romance in particular. I believe, and even more so now after writing my last paper, that romance novels have the potential to change how women think about ourselves and each other. They can be an outlet for dreams, desires, fears, and unexplored possibilities. Their influence as a pop culture phenomenon is frequently underestimated--something I'll delve into later on. Romance novels are written by women, for women, and are about women, a trend that's increasing in other genres but has strong roots in romance. There's power in that, and it's heady stuff. 

What I've noticed is that there is a certain stigma against criticism within the romance community. I see it as backlash against two things. A lot of feminist criticism has taken gleeful aim at romance novels, most often in an unflattering fashion that condemns romance novels as a whole without acknowleding their positive aspects or diversity. Likewise, the general media and American culture also tends to portay romance novels as fluffy fantasies and romance readers as bored, uneducated housewives with nothing better to do. There's a lot of rage in response to these accusations and dismissals, and a lot of hurt. Further, the rage and the hurt stems from the way women have been and continue to be treated as lesser--a socio-cultural norm that rears its misogynistic head whenever women or emotional content become the focus of the story.

So this me saying that I acknowledge the hurt and the rage, and the history behind it. And this is also me saying that when I criticize romance novels, it is not because I think romance novels are purely wish-fulfillment fantasies or lesser-than. It is also not because I believe women are stupid.*

I bring up the issue of criticism of romance novels precisely because there is a connection between how women are treated and how romance novels are perceived. It isn't a coincidence that women just so happen to be systemically and institutionally oppressed, it isn't a coincidence that romance writers and readers just so happen to consist predominantly of women, and it isn't a coincidence that romance novels take the heat from both sides when one side sees them as a threat to women's empowerment and the other sides sees them as a threat to male privilege and thus, in the interest of self-preservation, both sides choose to condemn them.

The unconditional feminist criticism of romance novels is backlash against what some feminists see as the perpetuation of heterosexual, monogamous, frequently white gender roles. The empowering aspects of romance novels are eclipsed in the rush to generalize. Is this quality of unconditional criticism justified? No. Is it understandable that feminist critics have reacted out of a similar hurt and rage as romance writers and readers when they feel that women--because that is who and what it boils down to--are being threatened, dismissed, or silenced? Yes. There are very real feelings on either side, feelings that can lead to blanket statements and end up pitting women against women. 

The media, on the other hand, dismisses romance novels as lacking in value because society dismisses women. American culture is riddled with double standards, and unless women conform to specific gender roles, they're either castigated or ignored, and if they do conform to specific gender roles, they might be acknowledged, but only in a context that subtly invalidates them in comparison to men. Because romance novels frequently do, in general, conform to the "feminine" gender role, it's easy for the media to dismiss them and thus by extension dismiss women.

The question of how the romance community can convince the rest of the world that romance novels aren't fluff has been bounced around for decades. The romance community wants respect; they want to be reviewed by major newspapers alongside the literary and crime novels; they want to be able to read their books on their lunch breaks at the office without being looked down upon or hiding the cover. They want respect for romance novels.* They want respect for women.

The feminist community views romance novels as tools used to perpetuate strict gender roles, heterosexuality, the virgin/whore dichotomy, and beyond. They want more egalitarian gender roles and more representation outside traditional identities. They want respect for women.

The two communities, at their core, want the same things. Both acknowledge that women are the bottom line and the ones being shafted by society. However, miscommunication and statements made out of fear and anger have resulted in creating the illusion that there's a boundary between the two, an utter incompatability. I don't subscribe to this illusion. Feminism and romance novels are not mutually exclusive.

Romance novels can be empowering for women.  Women authors writing about women to an almost exclusively female audience in a genre that consists of half the paperback sales in the country--that's strength. Women characters featured as heroines who have the potential to chase after love, money, sex, AND world domination (still waiting on this one, but I'm sure it's forthcoming)--that's power.

But romance novels can also be disempowering. When what women have created as a tool for enjoyment, empowerment, and to a certain extent fantasy is appropriated in the name of patriarchal goals and values or are imbued with qualities that silence, confine, and narrowly define women, that hurts women. And it's time to stop pretending that everything's fine by shutting out any hint of criticism regarding these elements of internalized sexism and take back what's ours.

In Part 2 I'll be taking a more in-depth approach in dissecting how romance novels can both empower and disempower women through either the breaking down or the perpetuation of patriarchal social norms. Stay tuned.

*I linked to two very different statements by Carolyn Jewel, a romance novelist nominated for two RITAs this year, to illustrate how powerful the stigma against criticism is. The second link, her essay on romance novels and respect, demonstrates a strong knowledge of romance and how it's perceived by society. The first link is a dismissal of a feminist critique as patronizing. The points she made in her essay and the points I made in my critique of forced seduction scenarios are both in support of women's empowerment, but because my critique was interpreted as (paraphrasing) "women are stupid," any potential for compromise was dismissed. Further, I think that the internalized sexism inherent in some romance tropes is frequently ignored because of the assumption that if women wrote it, then it can't support patriarchal ideals (or if it does, who cares?). I'll talk about this more in the next post.
manifesta: (Battle Eyeliner)
Remember, the 3W4D Book Giveaway ends tonight at 11:59PM PST! The contest entry post is here.

From Kiersten White, author of the upcoming YA Paranormalcy, on romance in YA:
"But I knew—KNEW—that we were meant to be together. And if I could just figure it out, convince him, I’d be able to root out his personal demons. He would confess he simply feared he wasn’t good enough for me/was actually protecting me, and we’d be able to have our happily-ever-after.

As long as I earned it. As long as I was good, and pure, and self-sacrificing. Then I could make it work.

Romantic, isn’t it?

Wait. You mean that was creepy? You mean that no girl should ever, EVER have to “earn” the right to be treated well in a relationship? That if a guy treats her like that, he is not worthy of her?

[....] So here’s to making sure that our girls know they are worth far, far more than a bad boy. That they shouldn’t have to work to earn the right to be treated like they deserve. That they shouldn’t have to sacrifice themselves or their dreams for someone to love them."
It's good to know some YA authors are listening.

I particularly appreciated her emphasis on how women, and especially young girls, are socialized to believe that they must earn their happiness, and in earning it they must compromise themselves (which isn't portrayed as compromising oneself at all, but rather making a general compromise for the good of the relationship if not solely for the boy).

I think that, in regards to relationships, there is a very strong American rhetoric of "making it work." Couples are encouraged to compromise and to be flexible enough to take as well as give, which all in all is sound advice. Gender roles throw a wrench into the equation because women are already encouraged by society to give more than they take. And so when you look at the current trend in romantic YA (and especially in paranormal), what Americans see--because it's what they expect to see--is a couple "compromising" when what's actually occurring is a greater portion of the burden of "compromise" being shouldered by the woman.
manifesta: (Never Turn Down Tea)
In a guest post at The Rejectionist, Zetta Elliott applied Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Knapsack principles to the publishing industry.
"1. You can submit a manuscript and it will likely be judged by someone of your race—even at a multicultural press.

2. You can query a number of agents who have extensive experience selling manuscripts by authors (and to editors) who share your race.

3. You can be pretty sure that the book buyer in a large chain or indie bookstore is someone of your race.

4. You can be pretty sure that your book—if it’s lucky enough to get reviewed by the major outlets—will be assessed by someone of your race who operates with an appreciation of your culture’s particular literary tradition(s).

5. You can attend numerous children’s literature conferences with programming that reflects your interests and/or your culture, you can network with industry professionals who share your race, and otherwise feel comfortable as a member of the majority.

6. You can write about anyone who lives anywhere and be accepted by many as an extraordinarily creative person and/or an expert on topics outside of your lived experience."

And the list goes on.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
I promise the 3W4D book posts are forthcoming; my life should wind down considerably after today. Expect the first book analysis sometime tomorrow.

However, today at Dear Author I found the perfect example of what I refer to when I say that not all readers, even educated ones, can recognize a forced seduction scenario as rape every time. I think this particular example highlights exactly how hazy the distinction can be and the cognitive dissonance we may endure when faced with two conflicting images: how we are inclined, as a society, to believe that if, later on, a rape is presented as though the woman wanted it, then we dismiss any other reactions she may have had.
"This is one of the problematic areas. Charlotte is not a prostitute but nor is she a virgin. At the beginning of the coupling, it appears from Charlotte’s point of view that this is unwanted and initially fights him off, yet the two proceed to climax. Later in the chapter, clues are given that Charlie not only consented but was a full participant. During the consummation scene, I wasn’t sure. I read it twice and came away with some ambiguity. However, the post consummation exchange displays what I enjoyed so much about this story."
This book received a B grade from Jane at Dear Author.
manifesta: (Psych Major)

[trigger warning for discussions of rape culture]

I've had a week to think about it, and the fallacy I keep coming across whenever there's a discussion regarding rape culture in books is the notion that if the reader is educated, then they are exempt from being influenced. This notion focuses on a small portion of readers that have been educated about what rape culture is and what it looks like, can recognize rape culture when they read or see it (and let me be the first to say that there are times when I, as a violence prevention and survivor advocate, and as someone who analyzes everything, cannot recognize it), and ignores the social norms that are inherent to and disguise, to the point of acceptance, rape in our society. It also shifts the burden of responsibility to the individual to educate themselves about what rape--and what the social norms that perpetuate rape--looks like.

Forced seduction scenarios contain an inherent element of confusion. They blur the line between rape and not-rape, perpetuating the society-accepted notion that "no" really means "yes." They are different from rape fantasies because a properly constructed rape fantasy not only defines itself as a rape fantasy but also creates a context that validates what consent is and isn't. While rape fantasies may still have a psychological impact on the reader, forced seduction fantasies are far more dangerous, because in a rape fantasy the reader is made aware that it is rape that is occurring, whereas in a forced seduction fantasy, there's no such tell.

I am a proponent of education that paints a clear picture of what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. However, no education in the world can stand in the face of the repetitive and mixed messages American* culture is currently sending through every possible venue. Popular culture can be a magnificent, terrifying force. I'm sure there are people out there who can say, with utmost certainty, that they know exactly what rape and rape culture looks like and that they would be able to identify every facet of it every time. And I have no doubt that they can. But this isn't about the individual.

When books, movies, songs, advertisements, and tv shows, the things we buy and the things that are force-fed to us, depict unhealthy relationships as healthy and violence against women as acceptable, then even a discerning individual's ability to see beneath the sparkle can waver. Even more significant than these messages' impact on the individual is the impact they can have on the group. The 'culture' part of 'rape culture' reflects the systemic and institutional schemas that normalize rape on a scale of millions. 

I am currently in the midst of conducting experimental trials regarding stereotype threat, i.e. negative stereotypes about a particular group that reduces performance on a related task. The particular stereotype threat my research focuses on is the stereotype that women are bad at math. Previous research has found that almost all American women have been exposed to and are thus influenced by this stereotype, regardless of whether they consciously believe it or are even aware of its existence. Simply checking the box that says 'female' before a math test is enough to consciously or unconsciously trigger the stereotype threat and reduce performance.

My point is that, in any discussion regarding rape culture or oppression or privilege, the words unconscious, subliminal, and implicit cannot be stressed enough. Simply by being a part of a culture, we are exposed to repetitive, frequently subtle, unrecognizable messages that we unconsciously allow to influence our beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

One example would be writers that write forced seduction scenarios. Either they have been exposed to the idea that a women who says no but then says yes after the hero ignores her original response is not rape, and

(1) thus not only consciously or unconsciously believe it themselves, but are also consciously/unconsciously sending it to the reader in equally implicit conditions because it corresponds with what societal norms say rape looks like, or

(2) consciously don't believe it, but underestimate the power of subliminal messages, particularly in the context of a culture that promotes the image of rape under narrow circumstances (which forced seduction does not fall under).

Rape thrives in part because women are blamed for the violence committed against them and because the definition of rape is frequently limited to a rape that coincides with physical violence. By writing forced seduction scenes, the author is caught in the bind that is rape culture, regardless of whether they recognize the harm their words can cause. It's a double-edged sword, one designed specifically so that women either perpetuate ideas that further their oppression or are silenced.

The other example would then be readers who intentionally or unintentionally read a forced seduction fantasy. A reader with education regarding healthy relationships or what rape looks like might be able to discern that it is, indeed, rape. Or they won't, and that'll be that. Or they won't, and this scene--coupled with other scenes and other books and other movies--might begin to chip away at what they thought they knew. Myths like gray rape might seem to gain credence.

A reader without any education regarding healthy relationships or what rape looks like might recognize it as rape. Or they might unconsciously or consciously integrate the scenario into their schemas of what rape isn't, based on what society has already taught them. If you're given two contrasting images, such as she said no/she liked it, the resulting cognitive dissonance will demand that you choose a side or find a happy medium. She said no = rape, she liked it = not rape, happy medium = it could have been rape, because she said no, but it wasn't, because she liked it.

It is rape culture when we're taught to believe that no means yes.

It is rape culture when our fiction reaffirms that no means yes and there is no context that disconnects this idea from reality.

It is rape culture when we're taught to believe that fiction that reaffirms that no means yes, without any context, doesn't harm us.

I don't consider myself to be patronizing women when I say that forced seduction scenarios are a symptom of a larger, cultural problem, one that not only sends mixed messages about what rape looks like but then also perpetuates the societal acceptance of violence against women. I don't consider myself to be patronizing women precisely because while I know for a fact that women are quite sharp, this kind of shit is sinister. 

We've been taught to believe that violence against women is acceptable, that rape is only rape if it's violent. To combat this idea we've worked hard to raise awareness and demand better, and we've seen progress. But now we face the conundrum of whether some of our attempts at progress reflect and promote the very attitudes we seek to rid ourselves of.
To go back to the original question of the responsibilities of the writer, I don't think that writers are obligated to teach readers appropriate beliefs and values. I do think that they are responsible and should be held accountable for the messages that their books send, messages that are reliant entirely upon the context that either validates or invalidates them, particularly when the content of the message coincides with subtle, real world attitudes and is conveyed in an implicit manner. I don't say this to censor authors or limit readers or suggest that only certain things should be written. A fantasy about a mass murderer doesn't hold the same water in terms of readers' unconscious or conscious impressions because it's quite obvious that in the real world, being a mass murderer is a Bad Idea. A romance that portrays rape as not-rape coincides with social norms that also consider some rapes as not-rape and is that much closer to normalizing and condoning narrow definitions of what rape is and what rape looks like.

*Though I imagine this extends to other cultures as well, being an American, I can only speak from my experience as an American.
manifesta: (Rory/Logan Kiss)
Maggie Stiefvater on young love in YA, bold emphasis mine:
"I think true love comes if you believe in it. If teens get nothing else from SHIVER, I hope they get this: that if you are open to love and are willing to settle for nothing less than someone who is completely into you and just you, who respects you for who you are, who is happy with your boundaries and interested in keeping you happy, you will find it. I want every teen who reads SHIVER to settle for nothing less than a relationship with that kind of equality and respect. Because you'll get what you demand, and if you go into it knowing that sort of love is possible -- well, you're a heckuva lot more likely to get it. It kills me when I meet teen girls who are dating some jerk who is less than respectful of them or who is making them do things they aren't ready for or who is disinterested or condescending. Real love lets you be the person you're meant to be. It makes you a bigger person, not less of one."
Though I haven't read SHIVER, this is the kind of message I can get behind. Whether the author's intentions are translated to the text or not is up for debate (anyone care to chime in?) but as soon as I get my hands on a copy I'll discuss it here.

Another thing that interested me was what I found while digging up reviews for it. The general summary I see going around is this:
"For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever."

Here's another summary from Beyond Hollywood:
"When a mysterious boy name Sam with yellow eyes show up, Grace realizes that he’s the wolf, but can only be human for a few months during the summer. In winter time, when it gets cold, he must revert back to wolf form. Further problems arise when a local boy is killed by a wolf, and a wolf hunt by the locals threaten Sam’s life. Can Grace save her hairy boyfriend?"
The most jarring difference between the two is how Grace's agency is framed. In the former, it's up to Sam to save himself, but in the latter, it's up to Grace to save him. It could very well be that it's a mix of both (and I don't doubt that it is), but both summaries convey a very different feel of autonomy. I think they also draw the line between a book that is just another mirror image of Twilight and a book where it's up to the mortal heroine to save her paranormal boyfriend, a new twist on a tired trope, and one that could potentially counter rape culture to boot.

Whether it actually does this... we'll see.
manifesta: (An's Fury)
Potential trigger warning for discussions regarding sexual assault/rape culture. Though I think it might be mostly in the links.

A week or so ago, [personal profile] kaigou wrote an incredibly powerful post in reaction to discourse occuring within the rape culture/YA debate. The post is currently frozen, but I still recommend reading it.

"What's the message in there? That to write a story where a girl stands up against the rape culture is only possible and believable if it's not in our world, and not in our present day? That we need to wait twenty years -- or be on another planet altogether -- before it'd be okay for a young girl to tell a guy where to get off and have her demands be respected?

"[...] Yes, science fiction and fantasy have their place. I'd be one of the last to argue otherwise. But in this context, in this genre, the contemporary has a power that cannot be defeated by "what it'd be like in thirty years" or "what it'd be like if we were all blue and living on Pluto" -- it can only be defeated, I've come to believe, by showing our next generation of women that the things they deal with, here and now, can be changed, should be changed, and that we -- the generation who went before, who now produces the works that these younger women read -- are aware of what they face, and we are using our own experiences to give them paths to follow, to lead them out of that goddamn cage of the rape culture, and that yes, as a matter of fact, that we do not believe that the only path to true love is to accept the stalker-rapist, that we call that as bullshit and are here to help them see there is a better life -- a better world! -- possible."  

In the post [personal profile] kaigou temporarily sets aside scifi-fantasy in favor of exploring the power of the contemporary (possibly also paranormal) YA (i.e. "this context") and demands why women and girls are only allowed to set boundaries and experience agency within scifi/fi but not contemporary YA. I think this raises some interesting questions, and I'd like to expand on it a little further. Note that I'm not setting contemporary YA and scifi/fantasy in opposition with one another, painting one as bad and the other as free of problematic portrayals of women; rather, I'm following the basic premise that women in scifi/fantasy are able to experience more agency (however layered or illusory) than their counterparts in contemporary YA due to fundamental beliefs about  women's lives in contemporary society that don't seem to apply to AUs.

I think it's a given to say that the contemporary holds a certain power of immediacy that scifi/fantasy doesn't, and I think this is significant in understanding why issues such as the perpetuation of rape culture become so prevalent across a single contemporary genre. I've said before that books often reflect the underlying beliefs of society, and while this holds true for scifi/fantasy as much as it does contemporary YA, by introducing the element of the fantastic we also introduce the possibility that not everything is the same as in the real world. Part of the reason scifi/fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance hold my attention from a meta-analytical perspective is precisely because of this possibility; it is also why I think they are incredibly powerful tools, particularly given their popularity and success, that could potentially shed light on systemic beliefs and counter them in an unrealistic context with realistic results.

That said, I think this exposes the inherent cognitive error that does set contemporary YA and scifi/fantasy in opposition: that scifi/fantasy should or does completely fill in the gaps left in between the reality of oppression and the fantasy of freedom. By this I mean the idea that if scifi/fantasy's role is to explore alternate possibilities, then contemporary YA's job is to reflect current realities. An alternate approach to the latter, and one I'm loosely basing on [personal profile] kaigou's above statement, is that contemporary YA's job is not only to reflect current realities but to also create a model for improvement.

This isn't to say that contemporary YA shouldn't tackle issues such as rape as a reality of many women's lives. But it is to say that the repetitive tropes that place girls and women in positions of vulnerability and their boyfriends in positions of power, without raising any questions about this arrangement in the text and thus subliminally advocating its acceptance does harm.* The defense that women are dealing with these issues in real life is not a reason to portray unhealthy relationships as healthy nor the women themselves as helpless victims too oblivious to recognize the violence in their own relationships.

From Bitch Magazine, in an article on why contemporary intersectional feminism isn't necessarily anti-racist,** which may seem off-topic, but I do believe the basic idea applies here, too:
"I mostly think this because my method of measuring where feminism is at isn't coming from the "oh, well it's better than it was before" place or the "oh, we need to understand that the second-wavers were women of their time" starting point. My measurement says that things have been really fucked up, are still really fucked up, but most importantly that I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding" why they remain that way in many instances."
Bold emphasis mine.

Part of the reason that many YA books are currently a vehicle for the perpetuation of rape culture is not just because the portrayal of relationships are riddled with socially accepted violence but also because we as a society have swallowed the defense of "this is the way things are." It is certainly pertinent to reflect "the way things are," but it is equally important to do so with an awareness and respect toward the people being impacted and to take a stance, implicitly or explicitly through the text, that does not in any way condone the behavior. 

*In accordance with my idea that genre books are the "dark mirror" to our reality--reflecting negative yet prevalent societal norms in a subtle manner--it follows that if stereotypical or negative portrayls of people, particularly marginalized groups, in scifi/fantasy books can have a dentrimental psychological impact on readers, then so, too, can contemporary YA. However I would suggest that the lag time between the absorption of the messages we receive and their solidification in our unconscious is greatly reduced (i.e. the amount of consistent messages need not be so high) due to the inherent relateability of contemporary/YA books. The messages are more powerful because they are all that more obvious. (And by obvious I refer to the connection between the realistic setting and the negative portrayal, not their subtlety as a function of privilege.)

**See how I slipped that in there? Read it. It's important, too.

Reposted because the original timestamp backdated it. Sorry if you're seeing this twice on your reading pages.

manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)

Because it's somewhat necessary in understanding what I mean when I discuss urban fantasy, I'll briefly outline my distinction between what I consider to be two very different forms of UF. For the record, I've only found one source that draws similar (but not the same) lines as do, so these are terms I've created to delineate my metanalysis and are certainly not the industry standard.

Urban fantasy, from an overarching view, is a subset of fantasy that features an urban setting regardless of the universe (but if it's not in a city yet still in the real world, it's either contemporary or historical fantasy, depending on the time period).

Traditional urban fantasy (TUF). Originated in the 80s with authors such as Charles de Lint and Emma Bull. Modern-day comparisons might include Neil Gaiman and Catherynne M. Valente's Pailmpsest. They have a lilting, literary feel that cleanly incorporates fantastical elements in an urbane setting. The connections between the characters is emphasized, and there might be sex and/or love, or there might not.

Modern urban fantasy (MUF). Originated in the 90s with authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton [and I can't remember who else--anyone know?]* and extending into the 2000s with others like Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Vincent, Carrie Vaughn, etc. Usually MUFs feature a reportedly badass lead heroine (though not always: Jim Butcher and Rob Thurman) and contain romantic elements (perhaps even a romantic subplot) but does not necessarily end with a HEA. There may be sex, there might not. If there is sex, it may or may not be with more than one character (a freedom not exhibited in MUF's often-confused-with cousin, paranormal romance). Unlike with paranormal romance, the conjugal couple is not as firmly established. The farther into the 2000s MUF books go, the more they're written with an edgy, action-oriented style. They feature an array of paranormal species, including but not limited to vampires, werewolves/shifters, and faeries.

Now on to Philip Palmer's Is Urban Fantasy Really All About Sex?

First I'd like to clarify that when Palmer discusses urban fantasy, he's not discussing urban fantasy in general, but rather modern urban fantasy, and in particular modern urban fantasy with vampires. It is his mistake that he generalizes modern-UF-with-vamps with UF-as-a-complete-genre. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I have conflicted feelings regarding modern urban fantasy, and I am neither pro nor con.

Palmer's analogy goes like this: )

*I consider Charlaine Harris contemporary fantasy, not urban, because as far as I know her series is set in the middle of a swamp, not a city. Feel free to correct me on this.

manifesta: (Coffee Shop)

From the Yale Herald, In Defense of Romance: Proving the Stereotypes Wrong:

Others rebut feminist critiques of romance novels by saying that such criticism is, at best, beside the point. Even if you believe that the books perpetuate harmful stereotypes, romance is hardly be the only genre to systematically denigrate women. “In many genres—horror or spy fiction, for example,” said Willig, “Women are treated horribly by men, whereas in romance novels at least the women are the heroines.” The pervasive nature of sexism in media means that to expect romance novels to be paragons of gender equality is to hold them to a much higher standard than any other form of popular entertainment.

Furthermore, despite the fact that this sort of indictment of the genre was first raised by feminist critics, there are ways in which the critique itself can be seen as sexist. After all, doesn’t the argument that romances inculcate women with “patriarchal propaganda” deny women the ability to judge the books for themselves?
Bold emphsis mine.

It is a symptom of the perversion of our society that we often justify sexism and gender inequality, regardless of the severity or context, by saying hey, it could be worse. If women are treated horribly by men in other genres, then not only is that not a cause for alarm, the stereotypical portrayal of women in romances--stereotypes with roots in sexism--is considered okay as long as they're the heroines. I can certainly appreciate the significance of romance novels, given that they're written by women for women and feature women leads, but that doesn't negate the the fact that they can still do so much better. There are more ways to end a HEA (Happily Ever After) than the heteronormative tropes of marriage and a baby. There are better ways to portray women's strength than to give them a gun or a paranormal boyfriend. Which isn't to say these things are inherently bad, but the consistency of how women are portrayed is the issue, and when these images repeatedly adhere to traditional heterosexual (not to mention able-bodied, white, thin) norms, the level of equality that romance novels possess becomes limited, and real people are impacted. Pretending that this isn't a problem is what is sexist.

I don't hold romance novels to a higher standard. I hold them to the same standard that I do for every other form of entertainment, precisely because my standards for every form of entertainment requires that they treat women with respect and include diversity. I don't see the media as demanding that romance novels stand on a stool of equality; when romance novels dominate the best seller list but don't appear even once in the reviews of the New York Times, I see the media as ignorant and dismissive. The issue of whether or not romance novels are decent examples of gender equality doesn't even enter their radar. 

 Lastly, because women are clever creatures, it is entirely possible for a woman to read a critique of a book and then judge the book herself. Criticizing a book, especially when that critique focuses on how the book perpetuates systemic male power through its portrayal of women, is not sexist. Denying others the ability to criticize books that contain sexist elements on the basis of women being unable to make objective decisions is sexist.  
manifesta: (Dangerous)
First things first. [personal profile] liv is hosting a giant non-fandom friending meme. If you're on DW, go check it out and toss your bio in the pile.

Second, I'm in the process of revamping things here at[personal profile] manifesta. I've been fortunate enough to have two super encouraging professors this quarter that have helped me to push my analytical capabilities even farther in the topics areas that interest me. As a result, the way I use this journal will be changing.

Black Widow's Walk currently stands at about 60k and has for over a month; for various reasons, I've let it go.  I may eventually return to it, but if I do, I most likely will not announce it here. Writing novels isn't where my heart is at right now. To the people who have come here in the past for my entries on writing, I apologize for this change but I thank you for all the support you have given me.

The focus of this journal will continue to be on analyzing genre books and the publishing industry from a feminist perspective. This quarter has done nothing if not convince me that there is a gaping hole in feminist theory regarding genre fiction, particularly in regards to romance and scifi/fantasy, both which are powerful forces in the industry right now. They reflect American society far more accurately than we realize, and my goal is to continue exposing the many layers that disguise these biases.

Topics considered fair game: books that I'm reading or have heard about; anything posted, said, or done by authors or readers, including comment threads; anything posted on book review or industry commentary sites; cover art; publishing fail; etc. A lot of it will consist of the day to day reaction-response posts that I've always done. The primary goal will be to write longer, more in-depth posts that take a deeper look at the dynamics and implications of what it all means.

Some more minute changes:
-Many, though not all, personal entries have been privatized. Entries that discuss the books I've been reading will remain public.
-The tags will be revamped to more accurately reflect the entries themselves.

What's already live? For new subscribers that have recently found their way here, Portrayals of Women in Romance & The Raven Prince is a good example of the longer (albeit hopefully less scattered and more specific) analysis I will be doing, while Gender Violence in the Military is more of my usual link round-up.

What's to come? Right now I'm brainstorming a series of topics to post on. I never did finish my post on women and sexuality in paranormal romance and urban fantasy, which happens to be one of what I consider to be my baseline ideologies for this journal, so that's at the top of the list. I also recently finished writing a paper on compulsory heterosexuality and male power in romance novels, so I may rewrite it for this journal.

Any content ideas, suggestions, etc. are welcome. Feel free to PM me or comment with any of the latest industry news, books, etc. that seems relevant.

Thank you for your patience!

manifesta: (Rory/Logan Kiss)

I usually don't comment on ebook-related issues. However, the Macmillan vs. Amazon kerfuffle (UPDATE: Amazon folds.) has prompted me to think more about the changing landscape of digital publishing lately. 

fictiontheory said it well:
"As far as the whole e-books thing goes? I'm sticking with paperbacks until the price comes way down and there's a reader that actually makes sense. Nothing on the market is even feasible. Sony's model can't handle temperatures under 30 degrees (and in NYC, that's bad), the Kindle is too expensive and Amazon can take your purchases back any time they want, and I'm not buying a damn iPhone just for the reader."
Right now, the market is absolutely unapproachable for people who can't afford to dish out $200+ a pop for an ereader that only accepts certain ebooks or doesn't let you actually own those ebooks or doesn't have the right lighting or ink or color or doesn't have a USB port or what-have-you. I have yet to find a single solid ereader that doesn't have any number of issues. The underlying point behind ebooks is that they are our 21st century solution for convenient reading. Ebooks are supposed to save paper, reduce production lag times, and be more easily accessible--but until they can do everything a print paperback can do and then some, I would not consider ebooks or ereaders to be anywhere near an investment.

So what would it take for me to invest in both?

A streamlined ereader that contained the following:

1. The ability to read and annotate ANY file, including .pdfs, regardless of who it was published by. Until I can read anything I damn well please on it, I'm sticking with my netbook and paperbacks.
2. The ability to link to wireless internet.
3. Color and pictures. Considering how expensive it is to include printed illustrations in books, I expect that their inclusion in ebooks of the future would increase their market value and garner additional attention.
5. Unlimited book storage, or at least the ability to store books on a USB. 
6. I want to own what I purchase. Period.

And finally, I'm not going to spend $9.99 OR $14.99 on a digital copy (that would be you, Macmillan) that could be revoked at any time (and you, Amazon) of a book I could otherwise get for $7.99 in print, by any author, in color, and without the headache. And this would be after spending at least $200 on the ereader.

It's just not practical.

If the price of average ereader was brought down by A LOT, and included all of the above, I might not mind paying more per ebook. But that would require the cooperation between publishers and the companies producing ereaders, and that doesn't seem to be what's occurring here, and instead it's the reader (as well as the authors) who get screwed.
See related: SFWA author breaks down the debate. A long but detailed overview.
manifesta: (Rory/Logan Snuggle)

Some follow-up links I've been hoarding.

On the Bloomsbury racefail, from Editorial Anonymous:

"One of the problems we have with racism today is that a fair number of people think that racism can only be deliberate. As in, it doesn't matter if something you say or do is racist. If you didn't mean it to be racist, then it's not.

"For the record, and I hope we're all really listening: THAT IS INCORRECT.

"And also for the record: those of us who objected to the cover were not objecting on the author's behalf. We were objecting on the readers' behalf. And especially on the minority readers' behalf, because some of us understand how excruciating and demoralizing it is to children to be made to feel that they are the wrong color. This is a question completely outside of the author's participation or non-participation."
On historical fiction, from[personal profile] naraht:
"If I can't even read about sugar on Elizabeth Bennett's breakfast table without thinking about slavery, then it becomes clear that the attempt to eradicate oppression and the products of oppression from the Regency period is doomed to failure. It's an inherently problematic project because it assumes that systems of oppression are window-dressing that can be easily stripped off and replaced with pleasant and happy-making equality for all. It isn't that simple. It never will be."

Read the entire entry. I think naraht elaborates more on historical fiction's inherent and interlocking systems of domination and oppression than I had a chance to.
manifesta: (Luxurious)
Drive-by update, seeing as I have class at 8:30AM.

A few days ago I was in a rush to get to some friends' apartment and I wanted a book to read (they're gamer guys; they game, I read, it works out wonderfully) so I grabbed Blood & Chocolate off the shelf. I've read it dozens of times and it's still as amazing as it was when I was 12. Vivian is one of my favorite heroines because she's strong and beautiful and she knows it. She's not torn up about being a werewolf; she loves it.

I won't lie, the ending pissed me off the first time I read it. Eventually I came to appreciate it, and now I wouldn't have it any other way

I'm in the final stretch of reading Skin Game by Ava Gray. It's a paranormal romance that's light on the paranormal (is there such a thing as 'low paranormal fantasy'?) and the dialogue between the two protags is snappy. Kyra is a stong heroine without the help of her powers or a gun, and Reyes is adorable. I seem to be on a streak lately for picking good books from categories that I normally take issue with.

Alexandra Bracken has an extensive list of current publishing trends. Most fall somewhere along the line of what I had anticipated. I hope to see more post-apocalyptics in fantasy sometime soon (instead of YA for a change). If Guild Wars can combine a post-apocalyptic setting with fantasy elements, so can books.

I have some rambles about BWW stewing in the back of my mind, but it's getting late, so I'll leave those for another time.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
It seems Bloomsbury publishing has fucked up yet again. They have whitewashed another cover.

Some of the comments make me wince--that this is shocking because they're "colorblind," that people simply don't notice covers, etc.--but the overall response, now that one has been galvanized, seems to be outrage. Even Jezebel has picked up on it.

There've been calls to boycott Bloomsbury, but boycotting buying the books doesn't just harm the publisher, it harms people who likely do not have much or any voice in the cover design process: the author, the agent, etc. One commenter summed it up well:

"See... this isn't so much a problem with Bloomsbury as it is most of the publishing world. What happens is that a cover artist will often get a little piece of the book, maybe a particular scene, and be asked to draw from that. It's often the same thing with someone writing the blurb for the back cover... they're given so little of the full product to work with that they'll get glaring obvious details wrong. Certainly Bloomsbury should have done a better job of getting the information to the right people, but they are by no means the only company to have this sort of problem."
This kind of racism--yes, you heard me--is not limited to a single publisher. It's a flaw of the industry because the industry perpetuates this short-cut bullshit, and our society 1. doesn't realize it and 2. effectively condones it through passive or active silence. One blogger made the statement that bloggers don't typically review books before they're published, but the author hosted a major web-based viral contest plus other contests where she gave away ARCs. This isn't an instance of "oops, teehee!" but a failure of the publisher to ensure that their covers accurately reflect the race of the character(s) in the book(s) and a failure of the people who have had a chance to read the book to call them out on it. I don't say this to point fingers, but to illustrate how white privilege operates. When publishers don't take the extra time to confirm and/or blatantly disregard the fact that the character being portrayed is NOT White, that's privilege. Being able to take a short-cut and assume the character is White, that's privilege. When reviewers either don't notice or don't make the connection between the character's race and the cover's inaccurate representation of that character's race, that's privilege.*

The author's response to the controversy is pending.

ETA: Here it is. Hmm.

*Which isn't to say that I haven't done the very same thing.**
**Which isn't to say that my having done so makes it any more justifiable or better.  
manifesta: (Dangerous)

It is an unfortunate truth that I live in a wind tunnel. For some reason, Bellingham likes to show its worst side in the morning hours when I need to walk to class. The wind tunnel is a direct line from my apartment to campus. With little to no cover. My jeans are still hanging out to dry from the crazy wind and rain.

However, an hour after my last class, it became perfectly sunny out. I live in a city with a cheeky sense of humor.


Dry, warm, and armed with a caramel macchiato, I offer forth my analysis of The Raven Prince (with an introductory divergence into my reading habits).

I feel like I frequently purchase or choose to read books from specific subgenres (urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance in particular) in hopes of finding one that redeems the rest of the genre. Being a fantasy reader first and a romance reader second, urban fantasy and paranormal romance should be right up my alley. And in many ways, they are. Setting aside my dislike of repetitive tropes, I enjoy the fantasy aspects of most UF and PR. My main complaint tends to be the author's portrayal of women, using multiple boytoys or leather or guns to create the illusion of strength while still keeping them firmly tied down in the realm of acceptable femininity.  The most disturbing aspect of this is that the majority of these books are written by women for women.*

Historical romance is not only rife with strict gender roles and reduce women's worth to their sexuality, often times domestic violence is disguised as ecstacy, the laws of consent are bent until they're broken, and sexual assault is sugar-coated and justified. Given the fact that historically women are and have been oppressed by men and a system of male domination, I argue that it is inherent within any historical romance set prior to the 1970s that there will be rampant sexism.**

Which brings me back to every once in a while picking up another one of these types of books in hopes of finding something that isn't utterly appalling. I love history. To my chagrin, this is the first quarter that I've been able to take a history course since high school. And so it is a particularly awful quandry I've found myself in, wanting to immerse myself in a romance that takes place in a non-contemporary setting while also wanting the female characters to be written with respect.

There have been many women from history who we now describe as strong and empowered despite the times they lived in. These women persevered despite the oppression that surrounded them. Most didn't outright ignore their society's social norms but instead learned to adapt them. If they couldn't vote, they influenced their husbands'. If they could only wear skirts, they would wear trousers when in secret.  If they weren't allowed to fight in a war, hell, they disguised themselves as men and fought anyway.

It is because of this that I am convinced that historical romances can do better. I understand and respect the need for accuracy in historical romances, but accuracy is more than just correct fashions or dialogue--it is the little things, the details that differentiate a novel that depicts women in history as unknowing victims from a novel that illustrates women's strengths in the face of adversity.

Now. The Raven Prince

I picked it up on a whim over Christmas break and recently sat down to read it. It's a compelling, spicy tale of an impoverished widow who actively seeks a job (!!!) and becomes the resident Earl's secretary. Anna is snarky, inquisitive, and uncowed, even when dealing with Edward's temper. At one point, she questions the social construction of propriety:

"Had she ever met a prostitute? She thought not. such persons lived in a different world from poor country widows. A world that her community explicitly forbade from ever intersecting hers. She should do as John suggested and leave the poor woman. It was, after all, what everyone expected of her.

"John Coachman was offering his hand to help her up. Anna stared at the appendage. Had her life always been this constrained, her boundaries so narrow that at times it was like walking a tightrope? Was she nothing more than her position in society?

"No, she was not." (page 69)
Hoyt takes risks in writing The Raven Prince; Anna pushes more boundaries than I've ever seen in a historical. She toes the line between what is acceptable and what is not while still remaining, if somewhat precariously, on the side of societal respectability. She does not break so many rules that she becomes discredited as fringe or Other, but instead bends enough of them that she shines as a strong individual capable of asserting her opinion and taking care of herself.

This is what I mean when I say women in historical settings can and did adapt to their circumstances instead of merely conforming. This is what I mean when I say historical romances can do better.

There are flaws, of course. The constant reminder of how Anna is "feminine" and Edward "masculine" was overkill and unnecessary, explicit gender stereotyping. Edward himself was as decent a hero as I've seen, which the exception of an episode later in the book where he pinned her against a wall with his weight in a fit of rage. Believe it or not, this falls under the banner of domestic violence, and it is a prime example of how violence against women is frequently glorified as acceptable "because she deserved it" or passed off as sexual aggression in romance novels and our society at large. He didn't hurt her, but he damn well made sure she knew he could if he wanted to.

Additionally minor spoiler warning )

I also have a niggling feeling that Anna is only allowed to bend so many rules because she is a widow. I'd like to see a romance of a single, nonvirginal  single woman in a historical period that questions the structure of her society and then defies it. In many ways a single woman would have more to lose, and so I believe the risks taken would be greater and thus more compelling.

Overall The Raven Prince is my favorite historical romance that I've read by far, and I'm looking forward to the second book, The Leopard Prince.*** Hoyt did justice to Anna and wrote her as a strong, salient female character despite and within the confines of the era's social norms. 

*If history is any indication, romance novels tend to quite accurately reflect the reality of middle-class, heterosexual White women. Romances of the 50s-70s featured rape as the main form of initial intercourse between the hero and heroine; rape was used as a justification for the female character's sexual pleasure in a social climate where women were not supposed to want to have sex, let alone enjoy it. I would theorize that the sexualization of women in modern UF & PR is a reflection of an evolved but decidely insidious form of the same gender stereotypes from the 50s. Women are allowed to have sex and be sexual, but only if it takes place in the form of what men want; women are allowed to be strong, but only in ways men find acceptable. A woman is not allowed to stand strong on her own merit. This isn't to say, of course, that women shouldn't wear leather or pursue multiple sexual liasions--certainly. I am more concerned about the overall trend, and, no, I'm not convinced that the what-sells-is-replicated model is a good enough answer. I question why it sells.

**Not that there isn't sexism in contemporary romance, or any other genre for that matter. Our society was built on and perpetuates sexism, and until that system is revolutionized, even the most egalitarian novel will reflect that.

***The interspersion of the fairytale "The Raven Prince" was a charming detail, one I hope is repeated. 

manifesta: (Dangerous)

Catherynne M. Valente on the intersection of politics and books:

"My story is political.

"I can write from the heart--and seriously, where else would I be writing from? I'm such a commercial sellout with my popcorn novels and my stacks of cash that I have to dig down to my Grinchy literary heart with both hands and even then I might not find anything but hot sparkly vampires? I'm all heart, baby. But I can write from my ventricles and still be political, because I am a woman and a feminist and queer and there is no telling my story, no matter how cloaked in fiction, without bringing all my uncomfortable politics in. That is telling my story. It means I worry about colonial issues, it means I worry about portrayals of gay sex, it means I consider the race and gender balance of a cast of characters, it means I think long and hard before committing narrative. Because my politics are the politics of thinking long and hard about things."
This is the reason why I dedicate a large part of this journal to the intersectionality of books, publishing, and social justice. When I criticize specific romance novels for ignoring the laws of consent or modern urban fantasy for only portraying women as strong when they're overly sexualized or the lack of strong female characters and woman writers in epic fantasy or the recent trend in YA promoting domestic violence as socially-acceptable and makes caricatures out of young women in comparison to their male paranormal counterparts-- THIS is why. Because books are the dark mirror to our reality and they reflect the subtle truths of our thoughts and beliefs and attitudes that the privilege inherent to belonging in an advantaged group disguises.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
Catherynne M. Valente on RoF's "all women-authors" issue to debut in August 2011:
"By definition, herding women authors into a single book or magazine and proclaiming it special for their appearance there is, well, segregation, and has an ugly implication that they won't be appearing in regular issues.
But brain, isn't this what we want? A high percentage of female authors in a table of contents? Well, 50% would be good. 40%, too. But creating Very Special Issues once in a 15 year run isn't the same as addressing the problem head on by understanding the psychology at play and changing the editorial paradigm. It's just a bone, thrown."
As always, bold emphasis mine.

On one hand, I can appreciate that women writers in a field still dominated by men are being recognized and showcased. An all-women's issue does benefit a disadvantaged group by placing and paying only women writers, whereas in a regular issue women writers would be lucky to get half the spots, if that. I particularly like their call for pieces that tackle, specifically, gender, feminism, and sexism:
"While being a woman submitting a fantasy piece to us is enough to get your manuscript considered for this issue, submissions dealing with gender, sexism, and other areas important to feminist speculative literature are particularly welcome."
On the other hand, in the same line of thought as Valente, I do wonder if this 'special' issue is not the celebration I perceive most women's mags to be, and more as a justification for present and future discrimination. It would be all to easy for RoF to put out this issue and then never again address gender within the context of sci/fi and publishing. A better system would be to ensure that more women writers are represented in every issue, not just one.

One commentor at the RoF blog said:
"I am totally for feminist articles and stories and art, but the idea of an all-woman issue is really distasteful and smacks of a stunt rather than inviting discourse on the issue of feminism and fantasy. It shows contempt for many male authors who write thoughtful female characters and it panders to a certain mindset that maintains that women authors are underrrepresented in fantasy. I don’t think that’s the case, and if you look at the fantasy bookshelves, women may be in the majority."
After reading RoF's guidelines, I'm not 100% in line with the notion that this is a stunt rather than an actual attempt at dissecting the intersectionality of gender and sci/fi--ask me again after I've read the stories chosen for the issue. I'm also disappointed with but not surprised at the oft-touted cry of "sexism!" any time a women-only space is established within a male-dominated sphere. Women authors are underrepresented in fantasy--though the number of women sci/fi authors is certainly growing, many of the books written by women that are shelved in the fantasy section are urban, historical, romantic fantasy or some derivative thereof. Epic, S&S, and high fantasies are still written primarily by men and/or feature male protagonists. And let's not pretend here that it's all about the authors; it's as much about the gender of the characters as anything. Publishing stories that are written by women but only feature male protagonists is effectively the same as a woman assuming a male pseudonym because they're less likely to get writing work otherwise. Women still operate in a male-dominated world, and sci/fi--both the process of publishing and the end product--reflect that.

Is the gap shrinking? Yes. Can the number of leading women protagonists in epic fantasy be summed up in a meager two pages worth of comments? Yes. Do we still see women in the refrigerator and Harry Potters instead of Harriets? Yes. Are women in sci/fi only visible when they're wearing leather, toting guns that they magically acquired out of thin air, and are reduced to their relationship(s) with other men? Yes. Have we made up for the past century's worth of fantasy works written by men for men that feature male protagonists? No. Hell no. And I'm tired of being told otherwise.

If this women-only issue knocks male supremacy down a notch, I'm all for it. If not, well, I'm willing to wait and see what happens before I pass too harsh a judgment.
manifesta: (Dangerous)

It looks like there might be a new genre in town. From Jmeadows

"Basically, it seems to be a genre between Young Adult and Adult with the age range around 20-26. More mature writing and ideas, but not full on adult stories."
As someone who's been reading 'adult' books since I was 8 years old, I find the notion that my age bracket suddenly requires a more watered down version of story both patronizing and repulsive.

On postadolescent fiction:
"But what about “postadolescent” fiction? That’s a bit harder to articulate. We, the “new adults”, have some perspective on our lives, but scope? We’re not old enough, we’re not experienced enough, we’re simply not grown-up enough. Our lives have immediacy, just as a teenager’s does, but we also possess the wisdom to understand that this immediacy cannot last for long."
I am not a 'postadolescent.' I am an adult. I live on my own, I vote on my own, I pay my own taxes, and occasionally I even wash my own dishes. It's true that not everyone is at the same stage in life at the same age. But considering how 'adult' I know some teenagers to be, I object to the idea that I'm automatically not _____ enough.

Further, as a writer, the line between adult SFF and YA is often blurry. The article makes it out to be clear-cut, but it's not. If reprinted, where would Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' Guild series go--in the adult section, or in this 'new adult' section? It has a somewhat YA voice and a YA character, and there really aren't any of the hotbutton topics in it that would regulate it to the adult section, but it's still shelved there. Putting it into another genre completely would take away from the 'adult' audience that has been reading it for years.

I think fictiontheory put it well when she said:
"But the idea of "new adult" is pure ageism. It smacks of the idea that my "generation"* is so perpetually childish that we can't handle "regular adult" books until we're nearly in our thirties. It also implies that stories about older protagonists are somehow so repulsive to anyone who's younger than 30 that they won't get read. I think it's feeding into our youth obsession as a culture here in the United States to do something like that."
I can appreciate books that take on a 20 year old's perspective. What I don't appreciate is the patronizing pigeonholing that seems to be the route the St. Martin is taking.
manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
So. I wake up at 6:30AM so that our group can meet at 7:30AM in the clinic. After arranging the room to our specifications, we went into the back where the hidden camera equipment is located... and discovered that no one had brought a DVD. No DVD, no tape of the room, no data, no experiment. We had less than 15 minutes before participants would be arriving. One of our group members booked it to the other side of campus, bought two DVDs, and got back in 14. We set up, we're awesome, we're waiting for participants to arrive... and waiting...

Turns out our experiment wasn't posted online. Which meant that no one could even sign-up let alone arrive.

After all the stress, one of our group members burst into tears and had to leave. The rest of us tried to pull it together and rescheduled the experiment, which is now online and hopefully being signed-up for. The graduate TA was very kind and didn't look at all pissed off that we had just wasted her time. She even tried to help us find DVDs when we realized we didn't have any. We're going to buy her coffee in thanks and apology.

In contrast to last week's racefail, I stumbled onto The Advantages of Being a White Writer on Justine Larbalestier's blog. Not only is the entry itself is good, the comments are either well moderated or the general community of her blog is thoughtful and articulate.

As someone who's sick of the bullshit, I really appreciated her beginning statement:
"I know that the title of this post is going to lead to some comments insisting that it’s not true that white writers have any advantages and that many white people are just as oppressed as people of colour. I don’t want to have that conversation. So I’m going to oppress the white people who make those comments by deleting them. I don’t do it with any malice. I do it because I want to have a conversation about white privilege in publishing. We can have the discussion about class privilege and regional privilege and other kinds of privilege some other time. Those other privileges are very real. But I don’t want this discussion to turn into some kind of oppression Olympics."
Go read it; it touches on some points regarding the intersection of race, white privilege, and publishing that I hadn't thought of. I only wish more blogs were moderated this way.

I also really liked Larbalestier's On Hating Female Characters entry:
"Yet still readers call Isabelle (of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy) a “slut” and have crushes on Jace who’s much more slutty than Isabelle. What can we do to shift such sexist assumptions when they’re so deeply ingrained in so many of us? Because even when we write books that challenge such stereotypes, readers put them back into the text by reading Isabelle as a slut and Jace as Hotty McHott Hero."
And I think this comment said it well:
"Which is why no one has a problem with girls reading a book about a boy written by a girl (Harry Potter), but people think it’s cool and different if a boy reads a book about a girl written by a girl (Twilight). And why Nora Roberts is not the same household name as Stephen King."