It just seems like the right time to link to this again... I'm hip-deep in writing a bounty hunter novel, afterall.
They Fight Crime!
Thursday, June 23, 2005
John Rickards submits his candidate.
Why, my favorite Clarion-buddies Read Aloud, of course!
In the Shadow of Omen by Steven Burgauer
Oh yea, baby.
Here's the digs:
A first-rate adventure set in a time when Mars is caught in the throes of early colonization. A feisty young woman must battle not only the untamed Martian wilderness, but a powerful corporation as well. To prove herself she must scale the tallest mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons. O.Mons to some, Omen to others, it becomes a symbol for all the mountains mankind must yet climb to conquer space!
The Year 2433: For ten thousand years every gulag had been the same. The same drawn faces. The same haunting vacant stares. The same cold-blooded, unfeeling guards. The same tools for inflicting pain. It was in this godless place called a gulag that the line between humanity and inhumanity blurred, that the basest of animal instincts revealed themselves, that people learned how much agony they could endure before they folded.
Now comes Carina Matthews. Rebellious. Feisty. Intelligent. And her crime? Upsetting the status quo. Oh, the arrogance of it all!
Oh, the arrogance of it all! To publish your own SHITTY FUCKING NOVEL!!!
I don't have a copy here with me, but let's just say that the particularly fun passages to read aloud are the info dumps about agriculture on Mars, the female protagonist's "sharp breasts poking" into a guy's back, and the oh-so-marvelous Padme-like birthing scene. The sex scenes are a riot. It feels like a book written by a guy who's never had decent sex in his life.
Highly entertaining for those drunken Con readings.
Here are some great Amazon reviews:
If I could have given a zero-star review for this book, I would have. This is dreck on the level of Newt Gingrich's "1945". Mr. Burgauer should hire a good copy editor, at the very least. At the most, he should stick to his business books. - reader
Congratulations Mr. Burgauer, you just got the first one star review I've ever given! Thank you for the excellent recipe for llama sausage given in such exhausting detail mid-book! Thank you for revealing, showing, and writing down the contents of your thesaures at every chance, opportunity, or possibility! Thank you for so clearly illustrating the endless literary uses of the generally underused exclamation point! Thank you for the multitude of sex scenes in which portions of the female anatomy are proved to not only have independant motion, but apparently minds of their own! Think of the endless fun I've been missing by not knowing such little tidbits about my own anatomy! - kangarex
Dumb questions like this always fuck me off:
Do we need gender exploration books any more? Do they have anything left to say to us?
Oh, sweet fucking fuck.
Is this a rhetorical question?
I assume the primary writer being evoked with the statement "how rotten the world is because it has men in it," likely refers to Joanna Russ (of course, there's the famous Tiptree line from The Women Men Don't See "Women have no rights, Don, except what men allow us. Men are more aggressive and powerful, and they run the world. When the next real crisis upsets them, our so-called rights will vanish like—like that smoke. We'll be back where we always were: property. And whatever has gone wrong will be blamed on our freedom, like the fall of Rome was. You'll see.", so I suppose Tiptree must have been one of those man-haters, too, right? Or maybe she just foresaw a neoconservative American future. Not too far off the mark, some might one day say), in which case, I don't know that a fair reading of Russ has been had, but one interpreted by a biased (likely male - oh yea, I'm making assumptions) reader who was so offended about all of the complaints women had about how they were treated (by men and other women) that he got offended and threw the book across the room.
And I'd argue that "gender exploration" was "new" in the 70s, not the 80s. "The Left Hand of Darkness" came out in 1969/1970. The 80s was the era of Heinlein, in which women were great fuckbuddies ideal for covorting with men in multiple parings, but cardboard in the actual character as living-breathing-human sense.
Safe light, I absolutely agree that it'd be cool to see more people (men & women) exploring issues relating to masculinity as well - "gender" is *not* the synonym for "women" that so many people appear to think it is. When we talk about "exploring gender" and "gender cliches" it shouldn't be confined to "cliches about women."
There are a shitload of cliches and social mores ascribed to men as well, and I've met a shitload of men who find those roles incredibly stifling and don't believe that they fit into them at all.
Widmanstatten - I don't think that in the realm of SF, the nature vs. nurture debate we're always in the process of screaming about has much relevance. What I want to read are those writers who are able to push past current debate and go, "Well, fuck it. What if things were really different?"
What bone-headed Summers has to same about my ability to put 2 & 2 together because I have a uterus would be incredibly dull to put into a current SF story.
Cause that's right now. Cause that's the world I already live in. I already live in a place where fucktards make assumptions about who I am and what I can do based on the fact that I bleed once a month.
I've already seen these ideas about what the sex of a person means in regards to their social role in this society. I fucking live it every day. I've been told my womb makes me stupid a hundred thousand times from a hundred thousand different blowhards.
And it bores me.
I want somebody to think outside the box (and, as David pointed out, there are indeed writers who do this, and there's a great starting list there); I don't want to hear the same boring arguments about how men are "naturally" rapists and killers and women are "naturally" passive nurturers.
SF/F drew me because when I was younger I realized it was the best place to really explore how things could be different, the place where you could say, "Sure, things are this way now, but what would have to change/be conceptualized differently for things to *not* be this way?"
*That's* the challenge, that's the allure of the genre for me, taking me somewhere new where people can express themselves in alternate ways, where society can be shaped differently, where biology does *not* equal destiny... and never did.
That's why I love this genre, and that's why there will *always* be a place in SF for questioning what makes us human, and how our bodies and societies can transcend these rigidly defined categories: women and men, that aren't rigid at all in actual practice.
If you're not finding anything that challenges that, you've either not looked over the Tiptree selections, or there are not enough people writing it who are being published mainstream. In which case, there's either a dearth of writers thinking outside the box (a bit doubtful) or editors who aren't seeing something that speaks to them (true, though if you're looking for a place for your gender-bending, we've got Strange Horizons for that, in which case you can't blame your subject matter for rejections, only the quality of your story :) ).
Yea, we need more genderbending fiction, but it also may need a better marketing strategy -
Stories that fly too far outside the box often freak publishers out, because there's a deep fear that there's no market for it.
Market it to women. Try tearing off the 14-year-old white male audience template and pushing the idea that SF/F is where you're gonna get to live outside the world of Larry Summers and the "girls are physically and mentally weak" world and enter, say, Buffyland.
Wow. That just might work (ha ha).
You may even interest a shitload of aforementioned guys who live outside the boxes, too.
But for better or worse, there's a reason that much of SF/F (some of the bestselling stuff) is considered a comfort food. It's conservative. It's token. It's Heinlein giving us polyamory but populating his work with female stick figures.
It reassures old ideals about what everybody's place is, and how the world works.
It's a dangerous place for a gosh-wow genre to be.
So, fuck it, what do gender-bending books and stories of the non-comfort kind have to say to us?
The same thing they said to Joanna Russ, the reason she started writing it:
"Things can be really different."
Had a dream last night where Jenn's SO was being held at knifepoint. Jenn (all 5'2 120 lbs of her) was trying to talk the guy down.
I ran up, distracted him, and Jenn threw a front-leg roundhouse to the guy's knees and felled him, her SO got out of the way, and I tackled the guy from behind and twisted his arms behind his back until the police came.
At some point, I got my wallet stolen somehow, but it was OK because I only had $9 in my bank account, no credit card, and I don't carry cash, so we were the winners all around....
BFB is having a bowling event here in Chicago on Saturday, and other fat-friendly events are going on all over...
It is just one of many social and athletic get-togethers that Ms. Bellemore's network and other groups like it organize around the country to allow the very overweight to mingle in a climate of tolerance. The events are meant to encourage people to get out and meet one another, to transform their shame into confidence and to accept themselves as they are, not as others would have them be.
As Sandy Schaffer, the director of the New York chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, put it, "Why allow somebody to say, 'You can't do this until you lose weight'?"
Some people have found it interesting that I identify so heavily with the whole "fat acceptance" gig.
I've had a friend or two say, "But Kameron, you're not obese."
I'm 5'9, 210 lbs or so, and a big, substantial woman in the big, substantial woman sense: my shoulders are as wide as my hips. My lowest weight post-puberty was 175/180 lbs, when I was working out six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and living mainly on brown rice and eggs. My sister told me I was looking "really skinny." (?) What these whole "5'2 200 lbs" descriptions never seem to take into account is how well that person holds themselves at that weight, what their workout and eating schedule is like, and how they maintain their time.
And guess what? According to the ridiculous BMI we're using, I'm obese.
Just like Brad Pitt.
And I can jog three miles and until a few months ago was engaged in regular boxing classes.
And guess what's even more:
At my "lowest weight" of 175?
Still overweight by BMI standards!
What incredible fucking useless fucking bullshit crap.
A lot of us have to monitor everything we eat just to stay at 200 lbs. Unless you want to get into starvation mode or major work-out mode (yea, I could do this in college. With 15 hours of commute time a week, it's not feasible at the moment), and starving, for me, means sleeping a lot. And you know what? Missing out on my life cause I'm sleeping all the time just ain't worth fitting into a size 10 (in fact, unless I start taking the boxing seriously and do about 3 hours of training a day, I don't think I'll ever be a size 10. I've never been a size 10. Post-puberty, my comfort level is a 12, and that's a tough size for me to stay at).
My journey the last two years has been one of getting my binge-eating under control, which I've very nearly successfully done. It was a crazy, fucked-up, freak-out sort of behavior that I engaged in when I was stressed out and pissed off because I wasn't fitting into the "right" size of clothes, because I viewed myself as too big and too unfeminine, and believed everyone thought I was a fat, ugly, useless slob.
Binge-eating is a great cyclical sort of problem...
So I have some experience in the realm of self-acceptance and learning to break the binge/diet cycle through the realization that being big and intimidating can be...
The trick, for me, is finding the power in my size, and working to build muscle mass, which I view as very useful weight.
I have up and down cycles: as mentioned, I've gone soft and doughy again, and I'm irritated about that, because exercise makes me feel a whole lot better in my skin. I make it a point not to eat shit food during the week, but if they've got bagels at work, I might have some. If we're celebrating and ordering Thai food, I'm totally in. When B's over, we have pancakes with enough lite syrup to drown a small navy.
Food's not the enemy, it's just that there are certain times for certain things, and hating myself by gorging is a terrible form of punishing my body because it's not "right" or "perfect." Like everything else in my life, it is what it is.
What I've realized is that my body goes through cycles, and it also has a pretty "high" set point and comfort zone, and I need to respect that, and respecting that also means respecting myself enough to give myself the right sort of fuel to get through the day, and through workouts.
I'm not here to get down to a place where I can fit into clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch, though that would be nice...
I'm just getting to the point where I realize it's not my body that's all wrong - it's Abercrombie & Fitch.
And if the A&F wearers are going to roll their eyes at me cause they're so hungry and I'm not, I'd far prefer to be in a crowd of equally non-hungry people who are out to have an actual good time instead of sitting around punishing themselves for not being a size 00.
I have more important things to do than play the who-can-eat-less-and-still-function-game.
It's cool to be around people who feel the same way.