“Hey, Elisabeth, I noticed that you missed a week on the link round up. Why was that?” asked the thirsty crowd of followers. Friends, let me tell you something. I adopted a perfect puppy from a shelter. Puppy here is a misleading term: she’s a full grown border collie/st bernard mix, so she’s heavy, big, and very smart. I am in love with her and she’s perfect. I was busy adoring her, and thus was unable to have the link round up ready, but don’t worry, I’m here to catch you up! With a LOT of stuff! First though, my dog:
This last fortnight has been really fun! I don’t know whether that’s been because I, a mentally ill mess, have been less of a mess, or whether it’s because my perfect dog is perfect, but it’s been really awesome. There has been a lot of discussion of PoCs in sf and fantasy literature which I have found super awesome, as well as some classic call-out posts when writers have been shitty.
Today’s link round up could be labeled as “sjw”-y if you use that term, and its mainly because I’ve been feeling frustrated with femslash media, femslash fandom and myself recently. As we work furiously to create a space for ourselves as women who love women, we often embrace media that can alienate and other women of color. I am specifically at fault here too: I watch problematic shows like the 100 and Supergirl because I am so grateful to have myself even the tiniest bit represented, but I am also disappointed in myself that I take that bait. Supergirl recently included its first woman of colour, only to immediately demonize her, and I got so mad.
Anyway, I’m starting my link round up off with an article by Liz Bourke over on Tor.com entitled “There’s a Counter in My Head,” which I think describes the plight of any aware person when consuming popular media. I loved every element of this article, but what struck me especially hard was that if Liz Burke and I, two white women, felt this way, then I wonder how queer wocs must feel. The anger and betrayal we feel is incomparable to their exclusion from popular media.
There’s a counter in my head, and I can’t turn it off.
It counts women present in a narrative. It counts people who aren’t men. It counts queer representation. It counts—although somewhat less strictly, due to the blinkers of its upbringing—the presence of people who aren’t white, or who aren’t able-bodied. It counts up roles. It compares and contrasts roles. It counts incidences where things follow a trend, and where they diverge. It recognises patterns. Dead women. Sexual objects. Motivating objects. Objectified. Tragic queerness. Queerness-as-a-phase. Women sidelined. Elided. Present but only significant for how they relate to a white able-bodied cisgender man.
Talking about counters, Black Nerd Girls pointed out how Arrow once again failed its women of colour, this time with their treatment of Amanda Waller.
Back to the character at hand, there are those that will say it was okay to kill Amanda off. Her presence in the Suicide Squad movie is more important. While this may be true, we have to look more closely at the situation. Waller kept villains such as Slade Wilson’s Deathstroke, Digger Harkness’ Boomerang, and the deadly Suicide Squad members within the confounds of her control. Being shot in the head at point blank range without so much as a nod any of her accomplishments was unbelievably disrespectful. Arrow is a show that gave Deadshot an honorable death. Remember Moira Queen? Though her death was brutal, she was afforded an honorable death in the protection of her children.
So, while I think about this, I donate to projects like Lightspeed, whose Kickstarter fund raiser for “PoCs Destroy Science Fiction” is going strong. There are some really awesome essays that are available for free right now. Here are all of the personal essays, though I really loved SL Huang’s essay (she wrote a short story I will be nominating for the Hugos):
The Asian-American community has a long tradition of trading our own creativity and culture for “success.” A devil’s bargain: all the success you could ask for, and all it costs is your soul.
This isn’t true for all Asian-Americans, of course. But to some degree, at least, it’s true for me.
I wonder if I don’t write more Chinese characters because my father achieved his goal too well. Despite all my best efforts to reclaim my heritage, maybe all I have is an empty space I’ll always be chasing, like a gerbil spinning on a wheel.
Or maybe, despite all my anger, I myself am subconsciously following the very same path I’ve criticized my father for laying down: ducking my head and not being too Asian, because I want to be seen as a Real American Writer.
Suyi Davies Okungbowa also has an amazing post about everything being ‘default’ white, which I think is really interesting, since it ties in with something I find fascinating: just saying “my character is black” doesn’t make your writing truer; you can write a character with black skin, but because you didn’t critically think about what you’re trying to write, you write a “white character.” I think this is why “colour-blind” sf writing really squicks me, and I think Suyi Davies Okungbowa talks about it way better than I can:
This is what happens to us.
We’re reading this blog post where a middle-aged white American dude gets fed up with SF book covers splashed over with Caucasian faces, lugs it to the nearest Barnes & Noble, and takes stock of the split between white faces versus people of colour on book covers.
The results aren’t pretty.
Scrolling through responses to said blog, we come upon a commenter who talks about how white people often don’t learn to identify or empathize with people of other races, and how people of colour are a lot more used to buying stuff with white people on them than the reverse. According to her, this prevails because both parties have had a lot of practice at it.
Hold that thought.
Here’s the thing about being African SF lovers (writers, readers, fans) living on the continent. We prowl the biggest bookshops in Lagos, Nigeria, searching for the latest SF titles from around the world. In almost all the bookshops we visit (there’re only a few good ones), there’s a section for SF. However, one thing strikes us. This SF does not include African writers.
All African narratives, SF&F or otherwise, are shelved in the “African Fiction” section.
All this kickstarter stuff actually reminded me of an older article that the Rec Centre recently dug up, namely this article entitled “the unbearable solitude of being an African fan girl” . This article reminded me of a lot of the conversations I have with my poc friends looking for good femslash fandoms – it’s embarrassing that femslash seems to be a predominantly white space, and we have the responsibility to make it a better space for wocs, honestly. Wocs femslash shippers exist, and I think we need to work harder @ giving them a space in which they can exist comfortably. Bc the worst thing is, as Chinelo Onwualu points out, is that fandom is already a “not mainstream space,” so being fringe in a fringe group is twice as hard, and I think its our responsibility as a fandom to ensure that these girls can feel comfortable.
After all, you have always existed in isolation. Your favourite books were not ones you could discuss with your friends who always gave those puzzled, pitying looks when you mentioned them. You watched your favourite shows in your bedroom, laughing into the silence while your family avidly discussed the latest Nollywood film in the next room. You go to see your favourite superhero summer blockbusters by yourself, aware that you may be the only woman in the audience who has actually read the comic book that the movie is loosely based on.
Onto other things! Natalie Luhrs did a really important analysis of all the Locus Recommend Reading lists, and it was honestly very disturbing.
Lastly, here are some books to read if you found the first episode of the X Files revival hilaribad (which, honestly, is the only way to appreciate Chris Carter @ his worst)
I, a fake geek girl, only just discovered this tumblr, but I love it? It’s so perfect? I especially like the header:
Honestly, the sf community that I follow was really upset this weekend because a sf website I follow, sf signal, posted an essay in which the author identified herself as “disabled” because she was “too empathetic” (honestly, I’m not even going to cite the original article it’s that embarrassing). Thank god Foz Meadows tore her down.
Let me put this bluntly: empathy is not a disability. Even if I take Sterling-Casil at her notably unsourced word and accept her premise here – that empathy, as a specifically defined condition, is a direct, causative (rather than correlative) factor in the suicide and/or death by misadventure of young people – that does not make it a disability. Depression, along with various other mental health conditions and disorders, can be a form of disability, but whether we define it as such depends largely on who “we” are and our reasons for doing so.
Last but not least! Half A Moon Challenge is currently running, and as always, I love promoting lady-centric and f/f challenges!
Half a Moon is a fourteen day challenge celebrating female characters in fandom, which will run from February 1 through Valentine’s Day. Fanfiction, vids, recs, art, picspam, icons, meta, fanmixes, and outside links to content fitting the theme of this community are all welcome–the only rule is that the primary focus must be on a female character or characters.
and to finish the link round up today, I leave you with one (1) image of my dog
and of my favorite tweets: