As far as I can tell, it’s been a slow news fortnight, though this might also be because my family just had an awful week and i have not been able to check the internet much! Either way…
Before I officially start the link round up, I want to point towards our submissions, which are now open! We’ve had some pretty awesome submissions so far and we’re really excited about where this is going with the site, so, if you are interested, please contact us! I have noticed an absence of trans women‘s submissions, as well as women of colour, so please please please send me your pitches and pieces! Again, we pay! Continue reading “link round up 10”
This week I found a free webseries that gives the viewer our favorite fanfiction trope + amazing writing, which definitely makes it a dream come true
Last week’s link round up included the link to a brazillian webseries called RED; at the time of the Link Round Up, I had not yet watched it. On Monday, I sat down to watch it. The premise of the show is two actresses play two women who fall in love in a short film entitled RED, and then, as a result, fall in love. I was worried, at first, because the show is in Portuguese, but then I found out that it has English subtitles, and I never looked back.
this beautiful ink and digital painting by artist steen is called “m’lady” and it makes me cry because its perfect (click link for original on artist’s website)
This week was a hard week to be a wlw. The week started on Sunday night with Chris Rock comparing a beautiful wlw love story to pornography, and it ended with a classic rendition of the Lesbian Death Trope by the TV show The 100. Heather Hogan wrote beautifully on why this death affects us all because the femslash community (as it is understood in popular media right now) has a shared canon of literature, and in that canon all our faves always die. Many wlw who i really respect have written on this instance of the Lesbian Death Trope on the 100, including thrace , but I have been unable to read it. Partially this is because I’ve been edging out of the 100 fandom for months, and partially it is because this entire event hit at a bad week. I’ve had too much gay pain, and I was too upset to read a lot of the discourse around it.
But I don’t want this link round up to be too upset about this. As almost always with fandom, many people have taken this opportunity to create resources and dialog for wlw. A bunch of grassroot projects popped up over night ie. websites that document pieces of media in which wlw don’t die, recommendations to non-mainstream media such as this web series (about two actresses who play characters who fall in love and then…fall in love) or this movie neither of which I have watched yet, but both of which I am excited about.
Honestly though, the best project was this post: started by tumblr user @thexfiles, this post encouraged wlw to discuss their real life happiness. Over the weekend it garnered 14 thousand notes and it has the most amazing answers. Some of my favorites.
anyway, i honestly don’t have the spoons to give u all the link round up you deserve, but being sad about gays takes a lot of #energy, also I have been working all day even though its sunday, so please, accept this carol parody as an apology
One of the main reasons I wanted to create this bookclub is because the idea of the “lesbian science fiction or fantasy novel” is so nebulous. The idea of a lesbian novel is nebulous in itself. Does it have to contain sex? Does the romance have to be explicit? Does it have to have a happy ending? These are all questions that are ultimately individual; some people consider Code Name Verity a lesbian book (I’m among them), even though the author, the sequel and the characters all don’t know it. Over the last month, I read three different novels by three different authors that could all be considered under the umbrella “lesbian sff.” Each affected me different. One I hated. Jeanette Winterson’s Stone Gods alienated and frustrated me through and through. I felt that her style, which rings so true in her other books, felt cheap and gimicky here. The other two, Malinda Lo’s Huntress and When Women Were Warriors played well off each other. Essentially, what my reaction to the book boiled down to was how was the romance between the two women treated? In Stone Gods, I ultimately felt there was no romance, only an obsession with sex. In Huntress, the romance was great until suddenly it was “unable to continue for the good of the kingdom”. When Women Were Warriors managed to hit the exact right tone, in the end, by giving me a fulfilling relationship between two women that was based on mutual adoration but the ladies had lots of great sex too.
If I were to write out all the things I loved about the When Women Were Warriors series, we’d be here for the next 5 thousand words, so in the interest in keeping it short, I started a list of all the things I loved about this book series. Bare in mind that this series was allowed to develop over three books, but I’m addressing it as a single book because I feel like it was one coherent narrative with three subsections, rather than a trilogy as it is understood in most fantasy publishing ideals:
- You know what I fucking loved about this book, which I so rarely encounter? Books about women loving women that aren’t obsessed with sex. Most wlw are hyper aware that we live in a society where f/f love is considered hypersexualized in its very existence. When Cartoon Network explained why it couldn’t confirm the relationship between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum it cited the good old “adult content” argument. Women who love women are considered adult content, in the same way that the term “lesbian” is itself usually associated with porn. As a result, a book about women who love women in which the main character was interested in sex, but primarily interested in love meant so much to me. The two main characters confessed their love for each other, and then two or three days later, they banged. Their love for each other didn’t require the confirmation of sex. Sex was a secondary act, and I fucking loved that.
- The second thing that this book did so well was discussing the lesbian continuum (yes, I’m using the Adrienne Rich term). By that, I mean that the entire first book in the trilogy is all about the important of motherhood, and how the absence of a mother creates a deepset trauma. Moreover, the book emphasizes the importance of female friendship and I loved it a lot a lot.
- I can’t believe that I loved this book so much that I only get to talk about my favorite character as point THREE, but Tamras, the protag, was Smol, Gay, and Ready To Fight. She was not ready to put the world before her own emotions and she was not the usual heroic character. That did not stop me from being in love with her, or stop her journey and narrative from being really important.
- The fourth thing I loved was the fully fleshed out secondary and tertiary characters. I love it when the book is populated with individuals that I like and understand.
- The most important thing I love? Books that don’t act as a dialog to tradition. It is so important that we have books that reply to the conversations of epic fantasy, but what I loved about the entire When Women Were Warriors series is that it never thinks too much of itself. It was entirely happy to have the main character ignore tradition and expectations and save her Girlfriend FIRST, and then save the kingdom. The book did not put too heavy a point on duty, and the book did not feel like an allegory or an important moral lesson. I loved that. I loved that this was just a story, not a story that felt like it needed to say something important.
- Lastly, I loved that the book’s matriarchal society wasn’t a reactionary matriarchical society. Its so…purely matriarichal? Essentially, its not “male warrior culture but they’re all women” which is how the Amazons are so frequently portrayed. it’s so much more nuanced than that.
main pro: everything I just listed?
main con: there are only three books. I want more. I always want more. (Also, the fact that the book is set in a world which normalizes relationships with extreme power imbalances; more of that here.)
The next book I want to talk about is Malinda Lo’s Huntress. I’m reviewing this book very late (I read it in January), but honestly, I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I was reading When Women Were Warriors. I wrote a review on Goodreads right when I finished reading it, and I don’t disagree with anything I said then, though I feel distance from the book has given me more nuance thoughts.
I think the biggest problems with both of Malinda Lo’s fantasy books for me is that by trying to write outside of conventional narratives, she sometimes accidentally plays into problems with conventional narratives. In Ash it’s the fact that a (character coded as a) lesbian is forced to spend the night with a weird stalker fairy man before she is free to go away to her girl. In Huntress, it was that the relationship is doomed. Honestly, it’s such a bad f/f relationship trope, that movies and books and historical dramas love! “These women, although perfect for each other, can not continue together for the good of the kingdom.” No thank you. I feel like that attempt to be true to the story she was trying to tell made the book falter.
main pro: it was a book small!Elisabeth would have needed so badly. The pining was beautiful and perfect. The main characters were wonderful.
main con: Although I can see what Lo is trying to do with her side characters, I never actually care for them. They all seem very one dimensional. other than the whole “not allowed to be together,” narrative, the other con of this book was that it had the “mini side quest before the ending ending” and I hate those.
Lastly, my thoughts on Jeanette Winterson’s Stone Gods. Before I address this book with harsh criticsm, I want to make sure we all know that I adored her novel “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit,” and I’m currently really enjoying her adaptation of a Winter’s Tale called “A Gap In Time.” That said, I hope she never writes science fiction again. I read the entirty of this book because I was on vacation and I didn’t bring anything else. Honestly, by page 100 I grew desperate, hoping that there was something I was missing and the book would suddenly become great. I mean, the book was recommended to me as something for me if “I like[d] robots, space, science fiction, wit, scathing satire.” I feel like I like all of these things, but this novel did not give me what was promised with these aspects. Publisher’s Weekly explains the plot as:
Heroine Billie Crusoe appears in three different end-of-the-world scenarios, allowing Winterson to explore the repetitive and destructive nature of human history and an inability (or unwillingness) of people to learn from previous mistakes. In the first section, inhabitants of the pollution-choked planet Orbus have discovered Planet Blue (Earth), and soon set about launching an asteroid at it to kill the dinosaurs that would prevent them from colonizing the planet. The second and third sections are set on Earth in 1774 and then in the Post-3 War era. Though passionate condemnations of global warming and war appear frequently, the book also contains a triptych love story: Billie meets Spike, a female Robosapien capable of emotion and evolution, and falls (reluctantly) in love with her. In each of the scenarios, Billie and Spike (or versions of them) fall in love anew while encroaching annihilation looms in the background. Winterson’s lapses into polemic can be tedious, but her prose—as stunning, lyrical and evocative as ever—and intelligence easily carry the book. (x)
Before we start, I would like to state that I’m an unfair reader. I have never liked the “history repeats itself, love always prevails” trope. The X Files Episode about this was one of the only ones that I stopped half way through the episode. I don’t care if you met in the past, I want to hear your story now. Anyway, this was not the only other problem with this book.
Actually, my biggest problem was neither the tired premise, the fake deep ideas or the prose which I felt was out of place. My biggest problem with this book was its emphasis on sex. The entire first part of the book was about a society in which men wanted to only have sex with children, and it felt so…clickbaity? This is the best way I can phrase this; it seemed to be horrifying for the sake of horrifying. And then even worse, the entire conversation between Billy1 and Spike1 was about sex. How often did Spike1 have sex? And all about Billy’s attraction to her. I was bored and frustrated by it because after highlighting the oversexualized culutre, the book didn’t try and give me a relationship counter to that. It just gave me another oversexualized relationship. Worst of all, this was the same in all three iterations of the experience. Honestly, by the third time annihilation threatened, I was excited for it. I was excited for the world to end, and for me to finish reading this book.
main pro: i’m honestly trying to think of this. I’m trying to think about one thing about this book I enjoyed. I can’t.
main con: did you read my review?
The discussion of lesbian books and their relationship with sex scenes is already a discussion
there are also a lot of discussion on what it means to “write” or “read” a lesbian novel, especially a genre lesbian novel
sf signal combined a list of “giants of queer speculative fiction” that I thought i needed to mention too
This week’s links are mainly about racism, pocs and fandom. This is not on purpose, but rather what interesting links my timeline has regurgitated over the last week. This week in particular there was a lot of popular media attention on diversity in hollywood, including an article that ran in the New York Times! My dad sent me the article, and I was genuinely incredibly pleased. Continue reading “link round up 8”
It has been a quiet week for femslash fans; our best and brightest are at the f/f convention in California, leaving the rest of us alone. It was, however, International Fan Works Day on February 15th, thus prompting a variety of articles about fandoms. Also, a bunch of important things happened in sf! So, let’s look at that! Continue reading “link round up 7”
One of the most difficult things, I think, about science fiction as a genre is balancing the science and the fiction. It’s a difficult balance to maintain; traditionalists still define sf as “speculative fiction grounded in physics, chemistry, and, to a lesser extent, biology”. In an interview with the Paris Review in 2013, Ursula K Le Guin even said that she didn’t think the term Science Fiction was a very descriptive phrase for a wide variety of very different fiction. Le Guin said:
This interviewer isn’t the best interviewer, but I feel like he’s saying some important things about what people understand as science fiction. As a writer, I’m always obsessing over what genre the texts I read theoretically fit in, and I think many people believe science fiction is a lot more monolithic than it is. The science and the boundaries that science fiction explores aren’t just biology and chemistry; science fiction also poses difficult questions in the social science, but its aim is also to give us a new light in which we can think about who we are, and what we do in society. This week’s books that I’m reviewing are a great example of this. I recently finished Nexus by Ramez Naam. I am also almost finished with The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu.
Nexus and The Three Body Problem were two very science heavy science fiction novels.
I honestly am not even done with TTBP despite reading it since Christmas because the book is incredibly exhausting in a good way? It’s scientific in a way a book hasn’t been scientific in ages: I am constantly questioning whether or not the science is real. I know, this may be because my physics knowledge all stems from my freshman roommate (an honors math and physics major) but it’s also because the world building is so solid.
The blurb of the book sells it as a book that is:
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision
As someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with Chinese fiction other than my interactions with movies like Red Cliff, I do wonder how much some of the things I find alienating about the book are just narrative conventions I am not familiar with. The lack of three dimensional characters, for example, just made it a more difficult book for me to read. I’m honestly a character girl through and through, and so not having any concrete characters on which I could focus on, or even root for, really confused me.
Main pro: everything about the book felt fresh and new to me, even though First Contact stories are far from fresh and new.
Main con: ALL THE SCIENCE.
Nexus, on the other hand, gave me the three dimensional characters that I lacked. Amazon explains it as:
In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link humans together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.
When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.
From the halls of academe to the halls of power; from the headquarters of an elite agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath Shanghai; from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok; from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.
A book I wanted to recommend to every friend I have who studies chemistry or biology, Naam is clearly very involved in the scientific establishment of this book. I felt like the elements of his worldbuilding, right down to his science, was wonderful. The biggest problem I had with the book was the casting of the female character. The main female character was given a dark and angsty backstory centered around the abuse she suffered and the rapes she endured. Although the book doesn’t do anything weird with this caveat, I was really annoyed that the book gave me a Strong Female Character, only to quickly explain to me that she was a “damaged” woman who stopped herself from having any emotional depth because it “hurt too much.” I dream of the day when I can have a female character who we can just leave the fuck alone.
In the end though, Nexus was a perfectly good science fiction thriller. I really like thrillers in which the events spiral in such a way that you, the reader, would not have done anything differently from what the protagonist does. The main character of this book is constantly faced with moral conundrums, and he almost always chooses the exact same compromise I would have chosen in the same situation. His decisions have far reaching consequences, and I really like how quickly
I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel.
Main pro: not Euro-centric, really cool fight scenes, awesome psudo-science
Main con: almost all the female characters felt like set pieces in the main protag’s developement, and although I was happy a wide variety of women were included, the amount of “women dying or sacrificing themselves for one white boy” was a little disarming.
In conclusion, both these book used science to pose fascinating questions, and ultimately this lead to a far more international and more universal book than many other science fiction authors. I really liked both these books.
“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: