when the status quo frustrates.

Sucker Punch Review

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

A couple of weeks back, Hubby and I went to go see “Sucker Punch”. The movie has a pretty involved plot line for something that is at its heart an action fest. For the people who haven’t seen the movie, this trailer does a pretty good job of explaining the feel of the movie. I don’t normally do this, but heavy trigger warnings.

The rest of this post after the fold is going to be heavy on spoilers, so it goes after the fold.
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It’s Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I love Banned Books Week! Some of my favorite books of all time are banned books…I mean, check out this list of classics! Admittedly, a lot of the banning action took place decades ago, but lest anyone think we’ve relaxed our deathgrip on the minds of our children in this new millenium, here are a nice collection of more recent incidents to sneer at:

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger: Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck*: Banned from the George County, Miss. schools (2002) because of profanity.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Foley, Alabama (2000) because of the depictions of “orgies, self-flogging, suicide” and characters who show “contempt for religion, marriage, and the family.” The book was removed from the library, pending review.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

If you’re interested in the most up-to-date reporting on the 2008 open season on communication of unapproved ideas, the American Library Association puts out a yearly list of the books that are challenged, restricted, removed or banned–see if your favorites are on there too!

Leaving you with the bittersweet taste of irony, from January of this year. Enjoy!

*I might sympathize with an attempt to ban it from required reading lists–yes, it was on mine in high school–based on the fact that it sucks ass and there are at least one hundred more interesting and compelling novels that could immediately and happily replace it…but no, I have to defend John Steinbeck’s biggest load of crap evar based on principle. A shame, but there you have it.

Make Your Case

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I’m Agnostic, and have been for quite some time. I don’t think that God exists, but I’d be willing to look at any new evidence.

Right now I’m reading “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement” by Katherine Joyce, and I keep running into a problem- I cannot understand these people at all. I can understand them as well as I understand gyroscopes: I can describe to you what they are going to do, but for the life of you I can’t wrap my mind why.

For those of you who don’t know “Quiverfull” is a blanket term regarding people who are believers in a Biblical Patriarchy (women submit to their husbands or fathers- and I do mean “submit”), and more importantly, who are staunchly anti-birth control; no condoms, no pills, no sterilization, no rhythm method, nothing but “God’s Will”. The phrase comes from Psalm 127:5 “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them(children). They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” Quiverfull people believe that they are in a cultural war with liberal secularists, and they intended to win through demographics alone. They believe that these roles and behaviors are “god’s will” and that they are on the side of righteousness. Frequently, they are into seriously modest dress and homeschooling.

I keep running into the same problem with these beliefs- I don’t understand why they would want to worship this god. I’m fairly anti-authoritarian: I want to choose which authority I follow, and at the end of the day I think I am ultimately responsible for any action I take, whether or not someone in power over me told me to do it or not. I don’t want to risk my health and my life. I am drawn towards debate, and I am occasionally smarter than my husband. These proscribed roles, in other words, would make me MISERABLE (and my husband miserable too). So, if the Quiverfull people are correct, and there is a god, and he made me the exact opposite of what I’m supposed to be (indeed, a lot of Quiverfull talk about how women have an inherently rebellious nature because of Eve), which sounds like a recipe for misery, then god’s a dick. Why should I worship a dick? The general answer of “because of heaven and hell” is 100% unsatisfying to me- I’m supposed to toady up to a bully just to avoid getting beat up? That’s not moral- that’s cowardly.

So, this post is for any lurking Quiverfulls. Heck, if you’re just a person who thinks god cares more about what we do with our genitals than whether or not we hurt people, you can post too. I’ll leave off the “prove that god even exists part”- for this exercise I’ll just go with it for now. I need support for “if god exists, why should we worship him?” Make your case.

EDIT: Like all things I want to know, I had to search google to see if it had any knowledge. The first website had a post that made exactly zero sense to me, but the answer was

We worship Him because He commands it. We worship Him because He alone deserves it, knowing what He is and what He does. We worship Him because without so doing we cannot rise to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

So…yeah, worship a bully because a bully says so? Even though he’s a bully? And I don’t want to be a bully?

I really wish I knew someone in real life who held these views and would talk to me. I’m missing something important here- something that’d snap it into place.

A Literary Agent Offered Me a Contract!

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I am signing the contract today and woot! I will then be a (drumroll!) Officially Represented Author. Heh. Hard to believe, honestly…now all I have to do is (1) finish editing the novel and (2) send her the edited version and (3) wrestle with it til we both love it (but she ALREADY loves most of it! which is why she wants to represent me) and (4) wait for her to sell it to a publisher, assuming she can. Uncertainty still abounds, see..?

But you have to admit, this is still several pretty damn cool steps in the right direction.

Socrates Nosferatu

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

This story is not about vampires.

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The Passion of Ayn Rand

Monday, April 27th, 2009

That is the title of her biography, written by one of her ex-adherents who also happened to be the wife of a man Ayn had a long-term affair with–given all that, one would expect the tone of the book to be rather more unsympathetic than otherwise. However, that’s not really the case. I read it over a decade ago for a college class–the one and only women studies course I ever took required us to choose and write an in-depth paper about an influential woman of the first half of the twentieth century. I chose Ayn Rand, for three reasons: first, because she fit the criteria as presented; second, because I have a rebellious streak and knew full well that we were expected to choose a feminist, regardless of what the criteria explicitly stated; and third, because I was genuinely interested in the woman behind Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

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Damn, That Was Good.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Jessica at Feministing has a new book out called The Purity Myth, and she’s posted a link to the intro. I read the intro, and it’s awesome. Count me in for a copy the next time I hit the bookstore.

We are the eggmen

Friday, February 20th, 2009

…and Humpty Dumpty built the wall.

Over some very valid objections, Haruki Murakami decided to travel to Israel and accept the Jerusalem Prize. His speech really resonated with some thoughts I’ve been having lately. If you’re a fan of his work, the whole thing is well worth reading. Here is a short excerpt.

This is not to say that I am here to deliver a political message. To make judgments about right and wrong is one of the novelist’s most important duties, of course. …

Please do, however, allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: Rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this: 

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.” 

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be? 

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Happy Happy Happy Joy Joy Joy!

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

So one of the agents I queried has written back and said she would be “VERY HAPPY!” to review my novel!!!

Later I will sternly remind myself that she may still totally hate the thing in its entirety and the fact that she is expressing interest in it really doesn’t mean that much–the agency has a blog where they say they receive over 150 queries a week and only accept 25 of them at the most, which means I did hit the good end of the odds already! BUT this is still no guarantee that the novel itself will catch fire with them, so to speak. So, no getting overexcited here, folks–calm, cool and collected, that’s me.

Ha! Who am I kidding? I’m E-C-S-T-A-T-I-C!

Really, though, I won’t lose touch with reality. This may all turn out to be nothing much in the long run.

But it’s still pretty neat. :) And it is a step in the right direction!

I Promised, I Swore that I wasn’t gonna blog until my novel was Done, D-U-N DONE.

Monday, January 12th, 2009

But I lied, because I just can’t resist this. A while back, I wrote a post about True Blood, the new HBO series based on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire books, plus a little bit about that explosively popular semi-new genre urban fantasy. (Twilight, anyone? ::snork!::) I mentioned one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, Carrie Vaughn (who is also represented in my blogroll)–I don’t just love her writing because her book titles are so droll, seriously. And one of her latest blog posts is too irresistible to pass up.

It’s called “Carrie’s Analysis of Urban Fantasy Part II: When Things Go Wrong” . So really I should entitle this post, “Lisa’s Analysis of Carrie’s Analysis of Urban Fantasy etc” but that’s too long even for my long-winded, 50+ word-sentence-loving self. So, see below for my takes, and feel free to share your own if you’ve got ‘em!

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Adult Urban Fantasy Hits the Lil’ Screen

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I’m talking, of course, about True Blood, set to premiere on HBO tonight at 9 pm. I am sorta embarrassed to admit that I actually went and got HBO added to my cable package just so I could see the thing. Worse and worse, this is the first television show in about, oh, ten years that I actually am making a point of trying to watch, myself, on purpose. I feel incredibly peculiar, like I’d suddenly gone out and bought a stack of bridal magazines or something. Maybe I’m mutating! and this is, like, the first sign.

As anybody who reads fantasy knows, the urban fantasy subgenre is The Big One and has been for several years now. I can stick my nose up in the air a trifle about the phenom and say that I was an urban fantasy reader loooong before it became the “it” subgenre–I was a Sonja Blue fan in the early ’90s, which most people, even those who obsessively read urban fantasy, still don’t know about, and I knew who Laurell K. Hamilton was before the first Anita Blake book was ever written. Nowadays it’s hard to find fantasy that isn’t urban fantasy, and folks that you wouldn’t ever really imagine penning a word of the stuff, such as Robin McKinley, she of the generally quite lyrical and decidedly nonsexual fantasy prose, have cranked out at least one urban fantasy novel. For anyone who doesn’t know what urban fantasy is, it’s set in modern times, usually in the city but not always, featuring most often (though not exclusively–Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files are one notable masculine exception) a strong female protagonist speaking in first person, who spends the entire book kicking ass and taking names and generally being lusted after by any number of incredibly hot dudes who are usually (but not always) supernatural in nature. Men have been pumping out this type of fantasy for themselves for decades, identical in most respects with only the genders reversed and the bulk of the protagonist’s abilities not necessarily of a magical nature as they are for the females–it’s pretty obvious from a psychological aspect why women have concentrated their own characters’ ass-kicking abilities in the paranormal rather than the sheer muscle or specialized combat training. As it turns out, which should surprise nobody but the sexist, the desire to be the toughest, coolest problem-solver on the block while being hotly desired by multiple drop-dead gorgeous members of your preferred sexual orientation is a universal human desire, not a gendered one.

So anyway, the True Blood series is based closely on one of my favorite urban fantasy offerings, a series of books called the Southern Vampire Mysteries by an author named Charlaine Harris. The protagonist is Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town Southern barmaid who is uncontrollably telepathic, in a world where vampires have “come out of the closet” just a few years before after a Japanese biotech company invented workable synthetic blood. As it turns out, Sookie can almost never hear vampires’ thoughts, which she finds madly attractive, half-nuts as she is from listening to the endless cacaphony of mindless noise and outright malice from her fellow humans’ brains day in and day out. It’s one of my favorite urban fantasy series for the following reasons: (1) Sookie is genuinely comfortable as a single adult woman. She’s also normal–she gets lonely and horny just like everyone else, but though she has multiple opportunities throughout the books to compromise her independence and personal preferences in exchange for having a reasonable specimen of manhood around full-time, she never does. Refreshing. and, (2) the characterization of small-town Southerners is just too hysterically accurate (do keep in mind I grew up in Hicksville Kansas). and, (3) the author is a good writer–great dialogue, flawless grammar, more than just surface characterizations of even secondary characters–in short, everything that author Laurell K. Hamilton, who is half responsible for the explosion of the subgenre in the first place, lacks. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, of course, responsible for the other half.)

In case anybody’s interested, either in getting his or her feet wet or as an already seasoned reader, here’s a quick list of some of the notables of the urban fantasy subgenre, with of course my opinions appended. Others’ opinions are always welcome!

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Maybe we’ll stop silencing them next year.

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I wanted to honor Aisha and all the wives of Muhammad by giving voice to them, remarkable women whose crucial roles in the shaping of Islam have so often been ignored — silenced — by historians. I guess maybe someone will give them a voice next year or something. — Sherry Jones, You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad

This quote may not be entirely accurate.

Asra Q. Nomani has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal talking about Random House’s decision not to release The Jewel of Medina, Jones’ novel about Aisha, the youngest wife of Muhammad.

Their reasoning?

[Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry] said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received “from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” … After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Mr. Perry said the company decided “to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel.”

So that’s… interesting. Random House has taken to avoiding the publication of books because brown people”sorry, a small, radical segment of brown people—might do something dangerous if they’re provoked. And, of course, the thing that’s meant to be doing the provoking is a fictionalized (perhaps highly fictionalized) account of a woman’s life.

For some reason, I wanted to write: “I’m torn,” but actually, I’m not torn, I’m with Asra. This is stupid, and it’s sad, and it’s more-than-slightly racist. It’s stupid on multiple levels, in fact. It’s stupid that writing about the women of early Islam as if they were actual people provokes such a chillingly negative response. It’s stupid that a western publisher reacts to fear of violence from vague, scary Muslims (who assuredly are just waiting for this book to come out as an excuse to blow up, I dunno, Los Angeles). And it’s an icy blend of stupid and colonialist that the author, the professor who took issue with the book, and—I’ll hazard—everyone handling this case at Random House is white, and not Muslim.

And that last point is why I felt maybe a bit ambivalent about this particular instance of corporate insanity. Unlike Nomani, I haven’t read the book. I don’t know if it’s shite or if it’s ridiculously offensive, and in any case I’m not particularly well-positioned to determine the latter. I do absolutely believe that misogyny—some of it particular to Islam, some of it not—is driving some of the outrage against the text and the publisher’s fear of promoting it. At the same time, this is one work of historical fiction by one white author, highlighted against a background of millions of living Muslim women—artists who are alive right now and whose voices are not silent but rather conspicuously muffled. I want Jones’ work to be published, I do, but I think there’s danger in letting it define the discourse, or become the extent of the Islamic feminist canon.