Friday, December 30, 2005

What I'm Doing For New Year's:

Sleeping. Lots and lots of sleeping.

Well, and some writing. But that's a given.

The Old "Separate But Equal!" Argument

Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff over at Alas, A Blog has proposed creating women's-only threads there. Well, Radical Feminist Women's Threads, anyway.

Because that's what feminism is all about: creating a women's-only treehouse so we can sit up there and throw eggs at the men's-only treehouse.

Yea. That'll be real productive.

Leaving the whole "What's a radical feminist?" thing alone for now, I've gotta say, I was pretty shocked to hear this.

There are just so many anti-feminist posters here. There are way too many men here, and too many of them seem to be here for the express purpose of making feminist discussion unlikely to impossible.

"There are way too many men here" WTF??

Wow, we're in trouble.

Now, I support women's only spaces. When you're counseling women who've been abused by men, the last people on earth they'll want to deal with for awhile will be men. If they have the right counselors, that hopefully won't last more than a year or so.

Because I hate to break it to everybody: the world is composed of men and women - and even some people who are in-between - and we have to deal with all of them out here on the bus, on train platforms, at bars, in restaurants, on the street, on the plane, at work (oh yea), and at home.

Even the trolls and the assholes.

And if you can't deal with them in cyberspace, how the hell are you going to deal with them in real life?

If you're having such a terrible time with trolls and anti-feminist posters, somebody's not moderating properly. Take some advice from Teresa, and take back control of your boards.

Sure, I have a smaller audience than Alas, but I don't have trouble with trolls. Outright assholes just get deleted. I've only had to delete an asshole's post three times before he headed out for greener pastures where he could find some "radical feminists" to argue with. There are things I'm not going to engage with, stuff like "I think homosexuality is a birth defect" and "Come to my website! Feminists give the best head!"

Why would I put up with that crap? One asshole breeds more assholes.

I'll delete to my heart's content: it's my blog.

But one thing I will NEVER do is ban "all men" from my blog. That's as bad as what men do with "men's only" clubs and exclusive "boys only" military schools and "boys only" at the front ideas. Reverse sexism, silencing men's voices, is just as bad as silencing women.

I try to be a good moderator. If two people start a flaming argument, I tell them to cool down and get back on topic. I'll do that twice if it happens (yes, it's happened a couple of times), and if they don't do it, I'll tell them to go cool off and come back when they want to have an intelligent conversation. If the flaming continues (and it hasn't, yet, I have very good readers), then I start deleting (I really outta do TNH's disemvowling thing, but I haven't reached a point where that's neccessary).

Because here's a wake-up call to everybody in the blogworld:

People are going to disagree with what you say. They're even going to hate you for it. I'm sure I have "regular" readers who come over here just because they hate me so much (a lot of people on the Baen boards certainly did).

There it all was in familiar detail, the same dynamics I've seen play out over the years on so many boards where feminists have attempted to gather: the trolling, the misogyny, the endless diversion,the ongoing defenses of indefensible anti-feminist, anti-woman behaviors, and always a tiny number of dogged and persevering radical feminist militants who are relentlessly baited and goaded, to the point they respond decisively, vehemently, passionately, even angrily and (gasp) stridently, at which point all hell breaks loose, they end up accused of being "bullying" or "silencing" or "overbearing" or "domineering" or "rude" and "uncivil," to the point that, as with Ginmar, they end up leaving the boards entirely (or being banned).

Yea, it's called life. Sucks, doesn't it? The same thing will happen if you're in a group of frat boys or radical conservatives. In fact, it'll likely happen if you're in any of the southern states or 98% of the midwest. If you're the lone "feminist" (let alone "radical feminist" - whatever the hell that is, what, the ones who want a world without men? What's that mean, "radical." I don't think free healthcare, equal pay for women, better laws against rape and etc. is all that "radical") you're going to get harrassed about it. What better place to cut your teeth than online? There's less threat of physical violence, there's usually fewer people trying to attack you at once, and you have time to sort our your reply before you make a fool out of yourself.

Of course, if you choose to hang around a place where everybody thinks, acts, talks, and behaves just like you, you won't have any experience with debate, with a free range of ideas. You won't really be forced to think. You can all sit around and smoke cigars (or knit. Something tells me some of these "radical feminists" she's talking about are likely big on the knitting) and thump each other on the back for being so good-natured about being repressed by "the system." Which, of course, they won't feel they have to engage in because they have their own club.

After all, who needs to engage with the other half of the population?

What's the point of talking to men? All those men so set in their ways.... what's the point of engaging them with your ideas, getting their arguments, creating one of your own? I mean, if they can out-argue you, maybe you'll realize you need to go back to the drawing board and refine the way you speak about things, and what a lot trouble that would be!

Which means, of course, that the radical feminist voice and presence is ultimately silenced, erased.

Well, they weren't so radical then, were they? If you can't argue or ignore flamers, you must not have much of an argument.

The world is not full of sugar and spice. And worse than that - you make feminism a "woman's space" and you cut out half the people who have help move feminism forward. Cut them out and they won't see it as anything that effects them anyway. Why should they care? They aren't even allowed to talk about it. You think they're going to take it up in a locker room?


Let's just shut down all the feminist blogs and boards to "women's only" spaces, only let women talk about "women's issues" like, say, equal rights (fooled me. This only effects women?).

Seperate spheres doesn't solve anything. It just drives us all further apart. It drives yet another wedge between the sexes, both of whom - guess what? - are human.

I hope the feminists at Alas aren't forgetting that. If they are, they're no better than the old boys.

The solution is proper board moderation, not cutting out half your audience.

I Didn't Realize Women Still Did This

So, what's up with douching?

I always thought it was a kind of vagina-hate type of thing. Like, "My parts are sooo gross no one will like them unless they smell baby-fresh." (which might say something right there. Yuck). I grew up hearing it was basically something that ruined the natural cleansing mechanism of your vagina, and so caused infections and etc.

Looks like Moms was right:

But health professionals generally advise against douching because it's thought to raise the risk of certain health problems, including bacterial infections and pregnancy complications like preterm birth. Though it's not clear that douching is the cause of these problems, experts believe that the practice may disturb the normal balance of beneficial bacteria in the vagina.

I just never understood the practice. I like my vagina. I think it's neat. I quite like the way it is. I don't see guys going around looking for something to stop themselves from ejaculating cause it's "gross" or to change the consistency of their ejaculate to a more "acceptable" texture. Sure, they may eat a little more pineapple on weekends, but c'mon, if your partner thinks your parts are gross, you need a new partner.

(via Twisty)


I've been working out for awhile now, and dropped some of my stressed-in-South-Africa weight, which is nice. But beyond getting back to a comfortable size, a lot of people work out to get specific body results.

My secret I-want-it-to-look-better spot isn't my abs or my breasts (the myth still persists that if you do enough chest exercises, somehow your breasts will look bigger. They may hold out on sagging a little longer than usual, but that's about it. I've also never been a big breast person. I'm quite happy to have breasts that don't get in the way and are easily contained for jogging). My look-better spot is my collar bones, shoulders, and that thumb-sized imprint at the base of the throat. I always thoughht that women who had these areas clearly defined were terribly sexy.

This morning I put on a new thin black shirt with one of those wide collars, and was startled to see that I could see a bit of defined collarbone and some nice trianglar trapezius muscles there along my upper shoulders and the back of my neck. Not bad.

I've been thinking a lot about how I was killing myself last year living on 1700 calories a day and doing morning weights and intense workouts twice a week and pilates on Saturdays and wondering why I felt like I was going to die and my waist size stayed the same. But every "Women's Fitness" type magazine you pick up will give you meal plans for 1400-1700 calories a day. The eye-opener was when I read Hers, a women's body-building magazine, and they said 2-2500 calories a day was totally OK if you were working out and wanted to build muscle.

And whoa boy, what a difference it's made. I bumped up into that range and I feel fucking great. Now, granted, I'm pretty big. I'm the height and weight of the average guy, and telling a *guy* to live on 1700 calories might tick him off(there's a great study about a "starvation" experiment where twenty men or so were put on 1700 calories a day for sustained period. They became irritable, lethargic, and after a time started freaking out in the you're-kind-of-crazy way). For people who are smaller than me, this might work. For me, it doesn't.

I think it's pretty criminal to go around saying women should starve themselves, and I think it's what keeps us binging and purging. First we're on a diet where we can only eat eggs and salad, then we give up and live on donuts and pasta for three months, then eggs and salad, and yo-yo all over the place until we break our metabolism.

We've got to find sustainable programs. If I was doing something, some routine, that I didn't believe I could sustain, I'd be in trouble. Instead of 5 days a week at the gym, I decided on two, and five mornings a week of weights. That was doable. I also cut out exercises at the gym that I hated and/or dreaded doing. Sometimes I would skip the gym because I couldn't handle the idea of spending half an hour on the elliptical machine. I switched to half an hour on the bike and I feel much better about it. Same thing with some of the machines. I had a terrible time with one of the leg extensions, and cut it out after a couple of weeks. I hated it.

And I think that's how it has to go. You can't tell somebody "Here's the only way to do it." You've got to start with a program, sure, but then add and subtract according not only to the results you want, but how much you enjoy it.

And that'll keep you working out long after the New Year's resolution gym rush has died down.


I just got a 4.5% raise.

There's no other place I could work that would pay me this much to do what I do. I'm stunned.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Olympics: On 800 Calories a Day

The 25-year-old Mariash has been a runner for nearly as long as she can remember, and began competing in triathlons in 1998. Like many female athletes, she strictly limited her food -- dipping as low as 800 calories a day -- to improve her performance by losing weight.

But her results were just the opposite.

"I used to wake up really tired," she said. "I used to take a lot of time off training because I was so exhausted."

No shit. Holy crap! 800 calories???

"In high school track, we all starved. That's not how you get to the Olympics," she said. "Now I can train harder, farther. Things I was afraid of, like a four-hour bike ride, are easy now."

Read the rest

In Which the Protagonist Returns

Got back home to Chicago after reasonable airport delays and promptly fell into bed. I caught my mom's cold, and it's a crappy one. Had a great time spending Christmas at the Oregon Coast, at the Goonie beach.

It was incredibly relaxing, which is just want I needed. I was pretty burned out on everything. Got to catch up with a couple friends and did a lot of shopping. All my clothes are too big, and a belt will only get you so far.

Looks like I won't quite reach my book deadline, but I blame that on the fact that my computer crashed and I'm now using a backup laptop whose internet connection doesn't work for some reason, and swapping files back and forth without gmail is a bitch. Wrote out the final outline for the last part of the book so I have a map that ties up all the loose ends. Should bang out a lot this weekend.

Anyway, back to Chicago, piles of half-melted snow, but at least it's 30 degrees out instead of 10. Sorely in need of sleep and grocery shopping tonight.

Because of the dead computer, things may be quiet here until I can get it fixed or get a new one.

So it goes.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Computer Death

My laptop has died.

That's the third computer I've killed in the last 5 years.

I really need to start buying those stupid fucking warranties. I'm getting ultra screwed.

Let Me Tell You About Bravery... Ah, Those Sweet Gay Cowboys

The media seem to be running with a recurring theme around this movie: (Brokeback Mountain) the “bravery” of the actors playing the roles, the “courage” it took them to do it, and the “speculation” about whether America is ready for a “gay cowboy movie.” Certainly not a position a liberal would take, so it befuddles me how the media is labeled “liberal.” Because the media has all but compared these two to war heroes for their portrayal of two closeted cowboys in a story of unrequited love and personal deception...

Now, there can be no doubt it took awhile for this movie to be made. And there can be no doubt there was a lot of fear surrounding it. And that’s what the media should be talking about. Instead of playing into the homophobia about how courageous it is to play gay, the media should be examining why it’s OK to play a rapist, a demon, a vampire from hell, a serial killer who eats his victims with fava beans and nice chianti, or any of the hundreds of sick, warped, twisted characters Hollywood puts out and we gobble up. Why do studios green-light films all the time that have gruesome plots or despicable characters, and why did this film languish for years? ...

And to all you straight actors who want pats on the back for playing gay: Until you’ve lived gay, until you’ve been denied a job because of it, or had to hide in a Hollywood closet; until you’ve had your jaw smashed or watched a generation of your friends die of a disease while government did nothing (like in the Reagan era), don’t speak to me of courage.

It takes courage to be gay and out, not to play it.

Read the rest

I was flipping through the channels last week and found a Fox "talking heads" segment where they gave airtime to some nutjob who thought Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal gettin' it on on the range was promoting "the gay agenda." When asked what this gay agenda was, he responded that it promoted anal sex and the destruction of the family.

When asked if he'd actually seen the movie...

Well, no, of course he hadn't.

But come now my fellow straight women and gay boy buddies and romantic straight boys who sigh over love stories: all politics aside, how the hell can you pass up a movie where Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are gettin' buck nekid in the tall grass?

I intend to pay money for that.

It's a romance movie, people. With hot guys. Get over it.

And I Would Just Like to Say

I'm really happy Christmas is coming up and I've got a week off work (sort of. I'm working remotely for an hour every weekday morning so I can run our daily reports. Partly because I'm too lazy to teach someone else to do it and partly because I don't have the PTO hours to take a "real" vacation. Maybe next year).

I'm very happy we're doing our family beach trip to Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast (the "Goonie" beach, you know), and I'll be really glad to get away from my weird house for a week.

I leave for the west coast from work here on Thursday. Jenn's leaving today (she's orginally from California), and K's out tonight. I'll have a couple good nights to myself at the old place, anyway.

I have a shitload of writing to do.

No, I Don't Want to Be Your Friend

Mr. Grande Latte Enema has given all the admins a bottle of wine for the holidays. When I saw the bottle on my desk, I had a surge of affection because I thought it was from Blaine or Yellow, you know, the guys I actually know and work with. Instead, it was the new mucky-muck office head sent straight from corporate who's been having a hell of a time making friends with all us cynical bastards.

As with last year, when Juan the closet misogynist gave all the admins Godiva chocolates, I am vaguley annoyed. It's like, if it was from somebody I actually had a working relationship which, it would be cool. I'd be delighted to get a bottle of wine from Yellow. But getting a gift from the office head who you never speak to is like getting a Valentine's card from the popular girl in school who you know only gave you a card because her mom made her give *everyone* a card. There's no affection behind it, no relationship, only something that feels uncomfortably like it's either obligation or a like-like-me present, or both.

Eh, at least it's red wine. I was worried I'd have another bottle of white cooking wine on my hands.

News From the Trenches

Just in time for Christmas, I got back word today that my story, "Wonder Maul Doll" has been accepted for the war anthology "From the Trenches," to be published next year.

I am really, really happy about this.

15 Things About Me & Books

1) The first time I had sex was in a bookstore

2) The first best friend I ever had was a kindergardener who sat in front of our first grade class and read us a fourth-grade level book. He read all the time during class, and our friendship was based on the books we recommended to one another.

3) The sexiest present I ever heard of anyone getting was Kelly Link: on her thirtieth birthday, Gavin Grant gave her thirty books, each individually wrapped.

4) For the last two years, I have lived with a woman who has a book fetish. She counts our books and encourages my book-buying frenzies.

5) Buying books makes me feel good.

6) I enjoy reading books as foreplay

7) The book by my bed that I'm constantly re-reading is Michael Cunningham's _The Hours_. The book I've read the second-most is Cunningham's _Flesh And Blood_.

8) The first fantasy saga I ever read was not the Lord of the Rings (which I've never read). It was the first three Dragonlance books. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing I ever read.

9) I own almost all of the Howard Conan novels. And I enjoy them. I find them deeply funny.

10) I considered trading, giving, borrowing, and recommending books to other people a bonding exercise. That is, if I really like you, I will buy you books.

11) I have never read _The Left Hand of Darkness_. But I feel really bad about it.

12) I would rather write like Joanna Russ than Ursula LeGuin. Unfortunately, this may mean I will die poor. On the other hand, if I can figure out plot, the world may be ready for bloody brutal women fiction now. You never know.

13) I would like to own at least 5,000 books.

14) I own 30 years worth of National Geographic magazines. I consider it Travel Porn.

15) I would like to buy a bouse so I can stop culling my books every damn time I move.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Off to NY

Off to NY for the weekend. Happily, as I could use the rest and it appears my household is imploding.

I need a vacation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And After All That...

Good things, for once. Morning weights, writing, gym, sensible food, short walks at work, chatting with my writing buddy Patrick, credit card minimum payments are paid, good stuff in NY this weekend, and I'll be at the Oregon Coast next week. Sweet.

Big, deep, breath.

Anyway, back to writing, then dinner.

And guess what I got for Christmas? The regional VP gave away 30 years worth of National Geographic Magazines in the collector's hardbound covers. I got all of them.

They are fucking sweet.

And fucking heavy.

I've been dragging them home one at a time for nearly a month. Almost done.

They make me very happy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It's That Time Of Year Again

Time for some Bad Sex.

(thanks, B)

Amusing Forward of the Month

An English professor told his class one day: "Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You will e-mail your partner that paragraph and send another copy to me. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back, also sending another copy to me.

"The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back-and-forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely NO talking outside of the e-mails and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached."

The following was turned in by two of his English students, Rebecca
and Gary.


(first paragraph by Rebecca)
At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

(second paragraph by Gary)
Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspaper to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through the congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the
atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid Laurie.

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, my writing partner is a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. "Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of filtered TEA??? Oh no, what am I to do? I'm such an air headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steele novels!"




Go drink some tea - filtered.

A+ - I really liked this one.

(thanks, Ian)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Uncomfortable, Isn't It?

A gallery has replaced a painting of a naked man with a female nude after it received dozens of complaints.

Sure is a good thing nobody complains about female nudes!

I mean, naked men are soooo scary.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Damn, This is Tough

Down about 15 pages from the page count goal I had for today, but hey, writing 34 pages in 7 days still isn't bad.

Stuck on some plot points, and doing some more reading elsewhere to get myself out of the bind. Should pick up again tomorrow.

Day job still sucks.

Also, it's snowing like crazy here and I have no winter boots.

What's up with that?

The CIA Sabotage Manual

For overthrowing governments at home at abroad!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Here's What's Happening

Despite appearances, I am still alive. Working a day job that suddenly has me, you know, working, which means little to no blogging. It'll be awhile before this lets up.

Finished wrapping all my Christmas presents today. It's the first year I can afford to get everybody presents, and it feels really good.

Sitting here drinking whiskey, listening to Edith Piaf, and working on The Book That Will Get done.

I've still got that Russ appreciation to write, two credit card payments to make, and a lot of books to read. Have finally made it back to the gym. I'm increasingly impressed with my arms. They are just buff. It's great.

Ah, my body project. Someday I will be uber-buff and scary. For now, I'll settle for strong.

Someday, I'll also be making my living entirely from writing.

Just you wait.

It's my New Year's resolution.

Must Have Had His Grande Latte Enema

Wow. The more time I spend at the office, the more I feel like Edward Norton.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It Happened Again on Friday

Somebody else asked me how I was "getting so skinny."

These people baffle me. I start moving into a size 14, and everybody thinks I weigh 150 lbs or something.

Weird. I haven't weighed 150 since I was like 12 years old.

It's all relative.

The Trouble With Writing

This isn't the first time my writing has interfered with my relationships. I'll spend a good deal of time doing research, writing a few pages a month, and then the bucket will tip over and for a couple of months, I'll do nothing but write, and think about writing, and talk about either writing in general or my latest book in particular.

I write on the bus, at work, at lunch, at home before and after making dinner. I think about my book, about the next scene, bits of dialogue, at the gym, just before bed, while doing reporting at work. I keep a notebook next to me so I can get dialogue down, little scenes, before I forget them.

I want to finish this book by Dec 31st, which works out to writing about 7 pages a day. I want to finish this book. I've been working on it, writing, researching, for year. I already have my next project in mind. I'm a writer, and this is what I do.

What the people close to me soon learn is that when I get like this, there isn't room for much else for awhile. I get easily distracted. I'm always somewhere else. I'm only really happy when I'm writing. It's another reason I spent six years avoiding the idea of having a lover. My writing became an issue in my last relationship. He said I never had enough time for him. I was ignoring him. For nearly six months, I stopped writing all together, and nearly killed myself.

No joke.

So this time around I want to find the right balance. I want to be able to give myself over to this passion, to this thing that consumes my life, but I don't want to neglect the relationships in my life with friends and lovers, and that's hard, that's really fucking hard.

Where Are All the Female Magicians?

Susanna Clarke does a Q&A about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

There was an interesting question about where all of the female magicians were in Clarke's book. And I have to admit, that question never crossed my mind. I felt Clarke was writing a certain sort of book, set in England during an alternate 1830s-ish sort of time and narrated in a written-in-the-1850s sort of way (I always read the narrator as male, though Clarke says that in her head the narrator was usually female). So the role of women in the book, as characters, would be pretty traditional. A male narrater wouldn't be much interested in what they did, or ask the question about where all the female magicians were. It wouldn't come up. When you have an opening about the boys' club of pseudo-magicians meeting together with the "boys only" sign on the treehouse door, you don't expect to see any women trying to knock it down when they're stuck wearing corsets and haven't had anything like a Seneca Falls convention and the entire book is about proper upper-crust sorts of people who wouldn't dare think to upset that particular status quo. Though magic may be another matter.

Sure, you'll have some female rebels in every society, but that's not what the book was about, and I think that concentrating on female rebels would have made it another book entirely, and that wasn't the book Clarke was set on writing.

So... no female magicians? Didn't bother me. She's apparently got some in a short story of hers - they just never fit in the book.

Because of the story she wanted to tell, and the way she wanted to tell it, I can forgive Clark for not going into the subject of female magicians.

However, forgiving the lack of relevant female Jedi in every single goddamn Star Wars movie? Especially the first three where there are tons of rebels, the perfect place for a rise in fighting women?

Not so much.

(via Meghan)

Because the Best Way to Win Hearts & Minds is to Make People Feel Manipulated

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 - The military acknowledged Friday in a briefing for a ranking Senate Republican that news articles written by American troops had been placed as paid advertisements in the Iraqi news media and not always properly identified.

Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after receiving a 25-minute briefing from officials at the Pentagon that senior commanders in Iraq were trying to get to the bottom of a program that apparently also paid monthly stipends to friendly Iraqi journalists.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Strindberg's Preface to the play Miss Julie

"Miss Julie is a modern character which does not mean that the man-hating half-woman has not existed in every age, just that she has now been discovered, has come out into the open and made herself heard. Victim of a superstition (one that has seized even stronger minds) that woman, this stunted form of human being who stands between man, the lord of creation, the creator of culture, [and the child], is meant to be the equal of man or could ever be, she involves herself in an absurd struggle in which she falls. Absurd because a stunted form, governed by the laws of propagation, will always be born stunted and can never catch up with the one in the lead, according to the formula: A (the man) and B (the woman) start from the same point C; A (the man) with a speed of, let us say, 100 and B (the woman) with a speed of 60. Now, the question is, when will B catch up with A? - Answer: Never! Neither with the help of equal education, equal voting rights, disarmament, or temperance - no more than two parallel lines can ever meet and cross.

"The half-woman is a type who thrusts herself forward and sells herself nowadays for power, decorations, honours, or diplomas as formerly she used to do for money. She is synonymous with degeneration. It is not a sound species for it does not last, but unfortunately it can propagate itself and its misery in the following generation; and degenerate men seem unconsciously to select their mates among them so that they increase in number and produce creatures of uncertain sex for whom life is a torment. Fortunately, however, they succumb, either because they are out of harmony with reality or because their repressed instincts erupt uncontrollably or because their hopes of attaining equality with men are crushed. The type is tragic, offering the spectacle of a desperate struggle against nature, a tragic legacy of Romanticism which is now being dissipated by Naturalism, the only aim of which is happiness. And happiness means strong and sound species."

Boys are great.

Jonathan Carroll, On Too Much Self-Reflection

Ah, there's nothing better than the book about the writer who can't sell a book!

(thanks, Patrick!)

The MZB Heroine, Or The Sword & Sorceress Generation

So, while dinner cooks and the novel prints out for the second round of line edits, I got to thinking again about the MZB heroine. You know, the Marion Zimmer Bradley heroine. The Sword and Sorceress anthologies?

Anybody who's old enough to remember MZB's fantasy magazine before it went defunct probably knows what I'm talking about. MZB was the first mag I submitted to, back when I was 15. She always gave personal rejects, which ended up being more encouraging than I think she actually wanted, and when she didn't personally comment, her back-up did a fair job.

After a couple of rejections, I decided to try to get into the S&S anthologies. I mean, shit I was *writing* strong-women-heroines-with-swords fiction, why couldn't I get into these anthos?

I tried my best to ape the style of the S&S heroine. That means spunkiness as illustrated by her desire to kick someone, tug her braid, chew her lip, and lesbianism, if not an outright no-no, shouldn't come up much. She should have been through a Profound Emotional Experience that she needs to get over. And there should be some sort of earthy psuedo-magic god or goddess that she either worships, scorns people for worshipping (and is later converted), or she's a priestess in some kind of snake cult.

My problem with getting trying to get accepted into that antho (besides the major one - I was fifteen and couldn't plot my way out of a paper bag), is that I never really liked the anthologies. Hated them. Bought two of them, tried very hard to mimic the style, generic setting, generic plot, never really came away with anything. This may be because I've only recently learned how to write anything at all like a plot.

I had a tough time.

As I've gotten older, I've stopped reading a lot of the generic female-heroine fantasy and opted for Russ (who will smash your face in), and Martin (whose characters will all smash your face in, regardless of sex), and deadly courtesans like Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel (or Louise Marley's books). I've tried very hard to read people like Elizabeth Haydon, Kristen Britain, Sarah Zettel, and other women writers with purportedly strong female heroines.

But I just couldn't get into it. Setting falls away in favor of a thin but workable plot, and the interchangeable female heroine can just sort of get dropped into any of these worlds and chew her lip and kick somebody if they irriate her without changing much about the plot (you could also make the argument that this is what many of the Robert Jordan heroines have devolved into, though he gets points because at least the setting's pretty rich). The worldbuilding often feels so thin that I'm uncertain as to why or how these women rose to power in their respective societies except that these are books written in the 21st century, and women running around with swords in feudal societies is considered the Thing to Do. Now, I love myself a good sword-weilding heroine, but you better be really clear about what you're doing.

There have always been women crossdressers in armies, and women are great for making up the ranks of rebel groups (just remember that, historically, once the fighting's done, they're pressed/invited/feel good going back into their more traditional roles). So if you've got a feudal society that's shown as being no different than, say, ancient Greece or Europe circa 1100 ad, I want to know how your woman came by her sword and kept it. And don't give me the cop-out by changing all the names of the countries and saying, "But it's fantasy!" when you've changed absolutely nothing about your pseudo-medieval world except the names and the fact that your woman gets to lead the warrior life baby-free without having access to reliable contraception.

Make me believe you. Please, try. Fantasy or no, worlds have rules.

This is the problem I ran into while reading Naomi Kritzer's Freedom's Gate. Our Heroine, daughter of a freed slave, works for a guy as his errand-runner, basically. She learns to ride and handle basic weapons, self-defense. But I have no idea if she's some kind of anomoly in this society or not, which is called "Greece" and has some djinn and alternative historical bits to it that make it not-Greece. But, basically, it's Greece.

She goes on to join a group of, basically, amazons. An all-female group of rebel fighters, which worked for me. I'm not sure why we needed to get 100 pages of filler in the middle of the book where they spend a bunch of time training without having much to do with the plot, but I guess you have to get a three-book series out of this plot somehow. Extended training scenes help.

The feel of the book felt very familiar to me, and I hopped over to her site and saw that she had, indeed, sold a story or two the S&S anthologies.

And that got me to thinking about how MZB may have nurtured a generation of women writers who all write the same sort of heroine, the same sort of plot, the same sorta-like-X-but-not setting. The same heroine-finding-her-inner-spiritual-strength plot.

No doubt these are quick read books with likable characters and a solid if simple plot. They're marketable. But they're quickly forgettable. I've actually forgotten the main character's name in Freedom's Gate already. I will never forget Martin's Arya even if he ends up killing her. She's that dynamic. And she's a part of a dynamic, complex setting and plot.

Maybe that's the difference between candy trilogy fantasy and true epic fantasy: depth and complexity of setting and character. When I read, I want a whole lot more going on than sorta-like-but-not-really. I get bored with the generics. You can give me a classic trope, you can give me a scullery maid or plucky horsewoman, but she better be *more* than "the plucky horsewoman."

I've already read that book, and it bored me the first time.

I think it's a matter of pushing a book, a plot, characters, concepts, to the next level, and not settling for the easiest way to write the story. It might be comfortable, but it's not memorable.

Finally, the Fucking Weekend

Wow, the day job is shit right now, as my lack of blogging all week aptly illustrates.

Anyway, moving on.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I Wrote 100 Pages of Fiction Last Month

This month, I want to double that.