Links: Thursday, April 17

A sepia tone photo of three women - one from India, one from Japan, one from Syria - in period, traditional dress. Caption reads "October 10th, 1885:  Dr. Anandibai Joshee, Seranysore, India. Dr. Kei Okami, Tokio, Japan. Dr. Sabat Islambooly, Damascus, Syria." Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania’s diverse student body

  • Gorgeous and Gritty: The Appeal of Gritty Romance in Skye Warren’s Wanderlust – This post by Cara McKenna is why I hate the term “gritty romance.” This book sounds like a fucking ode to rape culture. If that’s “gritty romance,” what am I supposed to think when I see romance with working class characters just living their lives called “gritty?” Is being working class on a level with kidnapping, drugging and raping people? An can we stop calling textbook dark erotica “romance?”

    The twenty-year-old heroine, Evie, is sheltered by her overbearing, abusive, mentally ill mother. Evie dreams of escaping on a road trip to visit Niagara Falls, a place she’s been infatuated with for years. She saves up and formulates a rickety plan, and she goes. But her very first night, she meets the villain. I mean hero. I mean… Jesus, I have no idea. The villain/hero is a thirty-ish drifter and part-time long-haul trucker. Hunter. Don’t let the name fool you—he’s not a typical romance hero, not aside from being handsome and hung and pushy. Make that really pushy. Make that an ex-con, imprisoned for aggravated rape. And he rapes the heroine. Not dub-con at first—straight-up non-con. He rapes her repeatedly, and takes pleasure from her fear. (I found the initial sexual encounters far more frightening than arousing, which I suspect is the reaction Warren intended; this didn’t feel like rape-as-titillation.) Then he drugs her, and kidnaps her, rapes her some more, drugs her again… Like I said, he’s the villain. Yet he’s the hero. And somehow, the story really worked for me. And it totally shouldn’t have. This book is black magic.

  • The First of These Is Love – Jackie Barbosa, whose son Julian was killed lat month, talks about tragedy and grief and why love is what’s keeping her together.

    I remember a brief Twitter conversation a week or so ago where someone (sorry, I can’t remember who; I’m totally suffering from CRS1 disease these days) asked why so many people dismiss the romance genre as “bad.” I poked my head in to say that I think this prejudice goes all the way back to ancient times, when tragedy (stories that ended badly) was considered a higher art form than comedy (those that ended well/happily). The Greeks certainly believed that tragedy revealed more about the human condition than comedy and valued their poets accordingly.

    Well, let me just say this: I am now intimately, irrevocably acquainted with tragedy. I know its landscape and its colors as well as any human being. And what has it revealed to me about the human condition? That love–in all its forms –is the only thing that matters. And more, that the most important choice we make in our lives is the person we choose to marry. Because that person is the one we’ll turn to in times of tragedy. The one who will be our primary source of support and sustenance.

  • The Anti-Nerd: Fear of a Black Time Traveler – Rafael Martinez posts on Black Girl Nerds about how time traveler characters are invariably white men and why writers are resistant to sending anyone else into the past.

    I asked myself, “Then who gets to time travel?”

    Well, white males!

    It makes total sense too. There is never a time in which it is bad to be a white male. I theorize they didn’t have overall bad time periods, just really difficult ones. Anytime in history is pretty good for them. This is something that has been reinforced too. Most period pieces (even regarding Egyptian history), the white male is expected and accepted. His travels through time are always fine. White people get to go on wacky adventures through time. We can’t! Because in most cases we’ll end up in a time period we clearly are not safe in. This is basically why Doctor Who will always be white. He isn’t burdened by years of pain and true conflict. He gets to be witty and refer to evil, prejudice people by funny names.

  • Women in SF&F Month: Ginn Hale – Ginn Hale talks about the assumptions people make based on an author’s gender and “you write like a man” as a compliment.

    Over the years I’ve received a number of fan letters that, while well-intentioned and very kind, always give me pause—especially when they exclaim something along the lines of “you write like a man.”

    Obviously, the comments are intended as compliments and I take them as such. (I’d be the last to complain about a reader taking the time to contact me. It’s always flattering and inspiring.)

    But those comments did get me wondering—is writing itself really gendered? Or is it that certain subject matter seems more male or female? For that matter, does awareness of an author’s gender affect a publisher or reader’s perception of the book’s authenticity? And why—despite the vast number of top-selling and award-winning female authors in the world—should “writing like a man” be considered commendable? If it is, then by extension does that mean that authors who “write like women” have somehow failed…even if they are women?

  • N is for Zora Neale Hurston – Olivia Waite talks Zora Neale Hurston and questions whether it makes sense to leave her off the romance canon that includes authors like Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

    Black/white, literary/commercial, male/female – Their Eyes Were Watching God always seems to end up on the wrong side of history’s divides, though nowadays it’s closer to popular literature than it once was. This unlikely resurrection is both heartening and tantalizing: I dream of an alternate history where the novel was hugely influential on the romance genre. There are plenty of connection points ready and waiting: the focus on Janie’s personal journey toward happiness and the enduring value of love, the secondary characters drawn in economically brief but vivid and memorable ways, the small-town feel of both Eatonville and the ‘Glades, the melodrama of the trial scene.Romance is an omnivorous genre and the past few years have seen erotic retellings of Much Ado About Nothing and Regency reboots of The Brady Bunch, as well as creation of entirely new subgenres like New Adult and a groundswell of interest in sci-fi romance and the 1920s as a setting for historicals. Why shouldn’t authors turn to Hurston for inspiration as they turn to Austen and Brontë? But the race line in romance seems incredibly starkly drawn: there is mainstream (read: white) romance, and there is AA romance, and the two strains rarely meet.

  • The US is an oligarchy, study concludes – Hahaha! We’re so fucked.

    Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organisations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.”

    The positions of powerful interest groups are “not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens”, but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 per cent.

One Night In His Custody by Teri Fowler

one-night-in-his-custody-teri-fowlerWhen Olivia Fitzgerald gets a bit tipsy on a friend’s hen night, the last thing she expects is trouble with a policeman. Even worse, the policeman is her ex, Michael Williams.

Michael stops her from getting arrested and insists on seeing her home. Olivia can’t resist the urge to ask the question that has haunted her since they split—why did he never have sex with her?

Michael just wants to get Olivia home without revealing that he is still in love with her. But Olivia ends up in his arms, begging him to take her to bed. He doesn’t want to reject her again, even if he is on duty, but he just can’t imagine a good girl like Olivia allowing him to do the dirty things he’d always longed to do with her.

Can he dare to hope she might still love him after she spends one night in his custody? (Short Novella)

Let’s just assume I find everything I read on twitter or Tumblr. This was another Tumblr find. After I figured out what a Hen Night was and stopped thinking about Scandal because this main character is black and named Olivia Fitzgerald, I jumped right into this cute, sexy story.

Olivia Fitzgerald is making her way to black out drunk with her friends when they cause a public disturbance which her ex Michael, a cop, responds to. The opening scene is a little chaotic and ridiculous, but after the first few pages things smoothed out and I found myself enjoying Olivia’s POV. After she narrowly avoids arrest, Michael gets permission from his superior to escort her home. During their stroll, we get a great scene that paints just how awkward, uncomfortable, and familiar it can be to reunited with an ex.

From this point, I found myself wishing the story had been written as a full length novel or at least a longer novella. Olivia’s attempt to seduce Michael feels little rushed and clunky.  Olivia and Michael have an interesting past. We get snippets of the difficulties they faced as a young interracial couple and we soon learn that Michael split with Olivia because he was afraid to share his deviant sexual desires with her. His fears come from a good place, but by that point, once I knew what the deal was, I wanted MORE! So does Olivia. They have the talk that may have saved their relationship ten years ago. Olivia then convinces Michael that she shares his kinky passions and they plan to get busy the following night. Michael is still on the clock, ya see.

The last two-thirds of the story feature the “one night” referenced in the title where Michael and Olivia have some pretty rough, but playful and loving sex bursting with declarations of love. Even though it was really short, it was enough to make me want to try more of Fowler’s work.

Final Assessment: Give it a go if you’re looking for something short and steamy. Grade: B

Links: Tuesday, April 15th

A German shepherd dog lies on its side on a black leather sofa. A fluffy gray cat stands on the plastic cone on the dog's head.Definition of adding insult to injury…

  • Can we talk about black women in stock photos? – Courtney Milan searches stock photo sites for women in wedding dresses that she can run through Photoshop for her book covers. When she went looking for a picture of a black woman, the results were disturbing.

    Of course, there is some overlap between these categories. Some photos show up in both the “African American” and the “Black” ethnicity tag. And as you might imagine, some photos are tagged as all possible asian ethnicities. But you can see what I’m driving at. 107,151 photos of brides on shutterstock, and less than 723 of them are of black women. That’s 0.6% of all the available photos, and that percentage looks even worse when you remember that shutterstock is a global site, and many of the contributors are not from the US.

    That disproportion is troubling.

  • on content warnings & courtesy – Alexis Hall weighs in on the content warning discussion. I think the XKCD comic he used in his post hits the nail on the head.

    This is approximately equivalent to assuming that including lists of ingredients on food involves treating consumers as whiny, fussy, picky eaters. There are many good reasons you might want to know what’s inside something you’re purchasing, especially if you’re vegan or allergic to peanuts. Surely, the basis of a free market, the basis of adult life and, indeed, the basis of all professional relationships is clear communication and informed choices. Ms Gormley seems to believe that readers somehow have to be tricked into reading challenging literature, that if you make the mistake of telling people in advance that your books contains controversial content they will be too pathetic to try and read them, no matter how horizon-broadening they might be. I can’t quite see how this is more respectful than the alternative.

  • Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as ‘third gender’ – India is a fascinating place. Homosexuality is illegal but they just established an official third gender for non-binary trans people. Hijras sound a bit like the indigenous North Americans’ “two-spirit” concept. So much for the West being some sort of enlightened visionary, eh?

    NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday created the “third gender” status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.

    The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward.

    The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.

    The SC said absence of law recognizing hijras as third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment.

  • What I Learned From Tweeting With A Black Woman’s Avatar For #RaceSwapExp – White, male freelance writer Christopher Carbone spent a week tweeting with Feminista Jones’ picture as his avatar and talks about the drastic uptick in hateful abuse sent his way.

    For me, #RaceSwapExp was eye-opening because it allowed me, for one week, to experience a little bit of what black women and women of color deal with 24/7/365 in all online spaces: endless trolling, racist and misogynistic hate, tactics that silence and derail, demeaning assaults on their humanity. Even so, no matter what happened to me, it was just an experiment. I was (and am) privileged—I knew that in a few days I could go back to the safety of my regular avi. For the brilliant women of color that I follow, that’s not an option. If nothing else, this experience has given a new urgency to my personal resolve: I will work to dismantle white supremacy, decenter whiteness and center the voices of black people in my work and my life.

  • Progressive? Pay your interns. – Oh, this should be embarrassing for the listed organizations. It’s bad enough to have unpaid interns at all, to have them at a for-profit working for labor rights or equality makes for terrible optics.

    When unpaid internships were a labor innovation, more than two decades ago, ignorance of their unhealthy defects might have been permissible. In 2014, it’s common knowledge that unpaid internships violate the commitments that many—specifically liberals and progressives—espouse on a daily basis. They exclude low-income youth, entrench existing systems of wealth, disproportionately affect women, lack protections against discrimination and sexual harassment, are prone to nepotism (and again), and of course, fail to pay a living wage. The contradiction between liberal values and unpaid internships, if not clear on face value, has already been spelled out extensively by the left and, recently, the right. At Vice, Charles Davis excoriated liberal media outlets for the practice; at Salon Michael Lind tore down the White House’s hypocrisy; at The Atlantic I denounced the exploitation common in the Senate. As the minimum-wage debate returns, conservative outlets like Fox, the Washington Free Beacon and old Fred Thompson have found the irony of pro-minimum-wage-Dems and their unpaid interns to be useful political fodder. ProPublica, the non-partisan investigative journalism outfit, is running a whole project on the intern economy. At this point, it’s certainly no secret that (1) unpaid internships contradict liberal values, and (2) if you’re an employer, you’re at risk of getting called out.

  • 50 Shades of Grey or Contemporary Christian Music Lyrics? A Quiz – I absolutely couldn’t pick any of the answers. This quiz is hilarious.

    Fact is, my peers and I often thought it was funny that many Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) songs appeared to be sexy romance songs where the “you” was just capitalized so it suddenly was about Jesus rather than a hot piece of man-flesh. And some CCM bands — Skillet, most of all — have lyrics that are so spiritually kinky, even actual kinksters might blush.

    So to honor this humorous memory of CCM’s steamy lyricism, I decided to create a quiz where you must identify whether certain phrases are lines from the bestselling erotic BDSM novel 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James or lyrics from Contemporary Christian Music songs. So pull out a pen and paper and keep track of your answers; an answer key is provided after the quiz.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview – Romancelandia Edition

As many of you know, I’m an enormous hockey fan. I have cable TV only to watch hockey games. I own a Bruins “blanket with sleeves”. I’ve traveled out of state to go to away games. I’ve been made physically ill by particularly stressful games. I have a disease, and I inherited it from my mother, who coordinates her earrings and glasses to be in full black and gold for Bruins games.

Starting this Wednesday are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 16 teams play four seven-game series and only one team gets to drink from the greatest trophy in sports before getting their names engraved on it. To commemorate this joyous and ulcer-inducing time of year, I’ve put together this completely objective and informative guide to the 16 teams who made the cut.

Eastern Conference

b logo

Boston Bruins

Who’s good at hockey?

Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask

Why you want them to win.

Jarome Iginla, the beloved former captain of the Calgary Flames, is on the Bruins this year and the man deserves a cup. Only a jerk wants to see Iginla lose.

Why you don’t want them to win.

Since 2001, Boston’s seen championship parades for football (3 times), baseball (3 times), basketball (once) and hockey (once). You also probably hate pest par excellence Brad Marchand.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux. Really good, but reviled by many.

 

wings

Detroit Red Wings

Who’s good at hockey?

Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall

Why you want them to win.

They’ve won the most Cups of any American franchise. They gave us the octopus thrown on the ice. Rooting for Hockeytown is rooting for a winner.

Why you don’t want them to win.

Kronwall has probably pasted your favorite player splat into the boards, and they don’t fight. Also, Todd Bertuzzi jumped a guy on the ice and ended his career.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Nora Roberts. Consistently delivers the goods year after year. This is the 23rd straight year they’ve made the playoffs.

 

pensPittsburgh Penguins

Who’s good at hockey?

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang

Why you want them to win.

You live in Pittsburgh or you’re from Cole Harbor, N.S., where Crosby is from. Literally everyone else wants a comet to hit them.

Why you don’t want them to win.

You live outside of Pittsburgh are are sick of Sidney Crosby’s face and/or you root for one of the many teams that has had a player injured by someone on the Penguins.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Anything by Catherine Anderson. Half of them have some sort of injury and I hate them with every fiber of my being.

 

cbjColumbus Blue Jackets

Who’s good at hockey?

Brandon Dubinsky, James Wisnewski, Ryan Johansen

Why you want them to win.

This is only the second time in franchise history that Columbus has made the playoffs, and they’ve never won a game. Talk about your underdog. As a bonus: they’re playing Pittsburgh. C-B-J! C-B-J!

Why you don’t want them to win.

You like to kick puppies and root against the underdog, or you’re a Penguins fan. Come to think of it, I bet there’s a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Self-published romance. Lots and lots of rough spots in their team history and very few gems. But you never know if this one might be a hit.

 

200px-Tampa_Bay_Lightning_Logo_2011.svgTampa Bay Lightning

Who’s good at hockey?

Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop

Why you want them to win.

They’re playing the Habs in the first round, so if nothing else, a Lightning Cup win means Montreal lost early in the playoffs

Why you don’t want them to win.

Hockey in Florida just doesn’t make sense. Why is there hockey in Florida?

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Liz Carlyle. Her good books are great, but her bad books are bad. The Lightning either go deep in the playoffs or they finish dead last. There’s no middle ground.

 

200px-Montreal_Canadiens.svgMontreal Canadiens

Who’s good at hockey?

P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price

Why you want them to win.

They’re the only Canadian franchise in the playoffs, so rooting for them is your patriotic duty if you’re Canadian.

Why you don’t want them to win.

If you’re not Canadian, or you’re a Leafs fan, you’re hoping Tampa sweeps them right out of the playoffs. You know the New York Yankees? Met a Yankees fan? The Canadiens are the Yankees of the NHL.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Georgette Heyer. A founding member of the NHL with a long list of successes and well known outside the league as one of the most popular teams.

 

rangersNew York Rangers

Who’s good at hockey?

Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider

Why you want them to win.

If they win the Cup, I bet there’d be pictures of a champagne-soaked Henrik Lundqvist and that sounds pretty all right. *daydreams*

Why you don’t want them to win.

Rooting for New York teams is against my religion. It should be against yours as well.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Lisa Kleypas. Consistently pretty good, but rarely knock-you-over amazing.

 

flyersPhiladelphia Flyers

Who’s good at hockey?

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell

Why you want them to win.

I hope they go on a deep run just for the return of Scott Hartnell’s amazing playoff beard.

Why you don’t want them to win.

Every team has a pest and/or a guy who plays on the clean/dirty edge. On the Flyers, that’s the whole team.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Violent, more than a little sketchy, but I’m entertained despite it all.

 

Western Conference

duckslogoAnaheim Ducks

Who’s good at hockey?

Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry

Why you want them to win.

This is the final season for the incomparable Selanne, and what player wouldn’t want to go out like Mark Recchi and win the Cup their last year?

Why you don’t want them to win.

Who wants to see a team based on Disney’s Mighty Ducks movies succeed? Not me.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

P2P fanfic. They’re a team based on a Disney movie. They used to be the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and rock this logo.

 

dallasDallas Stars

Who’s good at hockey?

Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alex Goligoski

Why you want them to win.

This is their first trip to the playoffs since 2008 and a Cup win would be a great FU to the media who rode Seguin out of Boston for having too much fun.

Why you don’t want them to win.

This is what used to be the Minnesota North Stars. If you’re from Minnesota, you may be understandably bitter still.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

New Adult. Led by 22 year old, hard-partying, tattooed bad boy Tyler Seguin, the Stars are totally the story about our hero’s redemption after leaving Boston in disgrace.

 

avsColorado Avalanche

Who’s good at hockey?

Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene

Why you want them to win.

They finished dead last in the West last year then finished second this year in a VERY tough Western Conference. Winning the Cup would be on par with the 2013 Red Sox.

Why you don’t want them to win.

These guys are an advanced stats anomaly. If you want order restored to the universe, you want these guys to lose.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. They came out of nowhere to finish second in the West this year but poor possession numbers and lots of luck point to their success being unsustainable.

 

200px-Minnesota_Wild.svgMinnesota Wild

Who’s good at hockey?

Zack Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu

Why you want them to win.

Minnesota, a proud hockey state, has had two NHL franchises and neither has won them a Cup. It’s not fair.

Why you don’t want them to win.

They employ the headhunting dickbag Matt Cooke. I want nothing but failure for anyone paying him to play hockey.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

LaVyrle Spencer. The pride of Minnesota with a bunch of American leading men.

 

sharksSan Jose Sharks

Who’s good at hockey?

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Tomas Hertl

Why you want them to win.

When Hertl scored four goals in one game this year, a reporter asked if that was showboating. Thornton cut in and said if he ever scored four goals like that, he’d take his cock out and stroke it. So, that could be interesting.

Why you don’t want them to win.

Either you’re a Kings fan or you think Raffi Torres has no business still playing hockey.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Meredith Duran. She’s never won or been a finalist for the Rita. San Jose has made the playoffs for ten straight years and hasn’t even made it to the Cup Final.

 

200px-Los_Angeles_Kings_Logo_(2011).svgLos Angeles Kings

Who’s good at hockey?

Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick

Why you want them to win.

The more games the Kings play, the more post-game pressers coach Darryl Sutter gives. He’s always a great quote.

Why you don’t want them to win.

They won it in 2012. Imagine how smug superfan Wil Wheaton would be if they won again. Nobody wants that.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Harlequin Presents. Arguably the #1 puck possession team. Nobody takes what belongs to them.

 

200px-StLouis_Blues.svgSt. Louis Blues

Who’s good at hockey?

T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen, David Backes

Why you want them to win.

Jon Hamm is a huge Blues fan. You like Jon Hamm, don’t you?

Why you don’t want them to win.

They’re playing your team? I got nothing. I like the Blues.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

Mary Balogh. Sustained success over several decades right up until the present but has never won the big prize.

 

chicagoChicago Blackhawks

Who’s good at hockey?

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith

Why you want them to win.

After the dismal, horrible, no good, Bill Wirtz ownership years, where the team wasn’t even on TV because he thought it was unfair to season ticket holders, the Blackhawks are experiencing a rebirth and it’s hard not to root for them.

Why you don’t want them to win.

They won last year and in 2010. Sharing is caring.

What romance novel or author best describes them?

An old Signet Regency released in ebook. They’re a hidden gem rescued from obscurity.

Links: Saturday, April 12th

A tortoiseshell and white cat with a short muzzle appears surprised. Behind it is a statuette of a cat with its paw raised.It’s right behind me, isn’t it?

  • J is for Eloisa James – Olivia Waite discusses The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James and the book sounds awful. It sounds as bad as the one James novel I read that combined ableism, racism, colonialism, a stereotypical gay man and a lying, patronizing heroine. Not recommended.

    As we saw with Sandra Hill’s book at the start of this week, it’s profoundly dehumanizing to turn experiences of secondary characters’ oppression into a metaphor for your privileged hero and heroine. It’s equally dehumanizing to kill off a disabled character for the sake of an able-bodied protagonist’s emotional journey. TVTropes calls it Bury Your Disabled, and it reduces the disabled person to the level of a prop for abled characters’ development or convenience. I really feel angered to have to lay this out plainly for a professor of literature in the year 2014. It’s especially frustrating in light of the fact that Rupert’s own story, of which we see hints, looks fascinating: he has led a band of misfit soldiers, several of whom are also disabled in various ways, into an unlikely and significant victory. This is a tale that would be worth the telling, a historical heist with a diverse cast and a unique plot. Instead, we are left with the old cliché of the Inspirationally Disadvantaged character, and his death becomes deeply, distressingly fetishized

  • List of Sci-Fi Romance Non-Jerk Heroes – Heather Massey pens an essential list of heroes who aren’t jerks. I love this genre.

    A few days ago, author Ros Clarke fielded the idea of putting out a call “for suggestions of books with non-jerk heroes to read next” (contemporary/historical romances). I’m guessing this was for a book club.

    At any rate, seeing her tweet reminded me of just how many non-jerk heroes I encounter in science fiction romance. In my experience, non-jerk heroes are the default in SFR. Therefore, I culled a list of non-jerk heroes from the books I’ve read!

    Here are some titles to start us off. It’s by no means inclusive and is in random order.

  • How Book Blogging has Changed Us – Oh, this post is so accurate for me. I barely remember those days where I read for pleasure and without worrying about being able to review it for the blog.

    Before Becoming a Book Blogger: I was happy take random suggestions on books to read. Hence my BFF owing me hours back in my life for reading for reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. (And Sparky is still planning epic revenge for the one who bought him the Sword of Truth series)

    And Now?: Oprah’s book, or random recommendations are not going to cut. I head straight to Goodreads and read the reviews, google the author, check out the author’s webpage and even read a sample chapter or two before committing. When you are short of time and have a pace to keep up, you don’t have time to just pick up a book because some random person thought it might be up your alley.

    And if it’s outside the genre? I don’t care if reading it causes spontaneous multiple orgasms, it isn’t clogging up the to read pile!

  • My final word on content warnings – I’m linking this as a discussion topic, not an endorsement. I happen to think content notes or warnings are a good thing and something innovative fan fiction gave us. I mean, what’s more patronizing: alerting a reader to objectionable content and letting her decide if she wants to read it or refusing to indicate the content because you think readers should be challenged and leave their comfort zone?

    But as a person who is also a reader? They infuriate me. It’s belittling and degrading to me, as a reader. How dare they assume that I, or any other person intelligent, educated, and motivated enough to pick up a book and read, need to be protected from anything, for any reason, much less protected by them? How dare they try to paint me a hapless and passive victim of the media I seek out? How dare they assume the authority to know what is objectionable and what isn’t, to designate some literature safe and other literature as something people need to be warned away from?

  • Reviews, Reviewing, Reviewers and Gender – Fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna discusses the most recent issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s journal and how 17 of the 19 authors reviewed were male. Publications really need to stop behaving as though unequal gender (or whatever) ratios just happen, they’re the result of the decisions they make. The solution in this case is easy: just seek out and review more women. Problem solved.

    This matters because while, yes, overall, every reader and reviewer will be different, irrespective of gender, there are definitely some things which male and female readers will notice differently. Two of the titles reviewed in this edition of Vector are SF novels I have read, where the female characters play into long-standing and unhelpful stereotypes and those women all lack agency to a greater or lesser extent. Neither male reviewer mentioned this aspect, either because they didn’t notice or because they didn’t consider it significant. It’s significant to me, particularly when there are fine SF writers out there, male and female, who manage to write convincingly independent women characters who initiate action and avoid such dated roles within a story. So any review of either novel which I wrote would be very different.

  • My Cane is Not A Costume – Convention Exclusions and Ways to Think About Oppression at Cons – Canadian blogger Derek Newman-Stille has a great post about con accessibility and creating welcoming spaces for a wide variety of con attendees.

    Our society seems to have become one that believes that disability means “disability perks”, that somehow because the larger bathroom stall is marked with a disabled sign and the closest parking space has a disabled sign, that this means that disabled people are getting “perks”, “extras”, things that the able bodied don’t get. I think a lot of people forget that this is because we need more space to maneuver our slightly different bodies, we need closer spaces to keep our pain levels down or give us room to exit our vehicles by chair. Rather than paying attention to the needs of bodily difference, there is an assumption that “fair” means “the same”, without understanding that my “day’s activity” may cause me debilitating pain where an able-bodied person’s “day’s activity” won’t. I may need to sit. I may need to rest. I may need to not be pushed or shoved because these cause extra pain on a body that is already stretched to its tolerance limits so that I can enjoy the same con, share my experiences with other conventioners, and maybe even give some panels that will entertain.

The Lost Girls of Johnson’s Bayou by Jana DeLeon

A decaying southern plantation with a light in an upper window is surrounded by swampland and darknessArcheologists date The Lost Girls of Johnson’s Bayou to 2012 in my TBR stack. I was going on about missing gothic romance and a friend sent me a couple Harlequin Intrigue titles to try. DeLeon was an interesting author. Her mechanics are off but the finished product reads smoothly. I’d suggest this one for the night you just can’t settle down but still want to read. The Lost Girls of Johnson’s Bayou is an undemanding read. There is an air of the older gothic with definitely modern touches.  It’s soap-tastic in it’s you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me plot details.

Ginny walked out of the woods sixteen years ago with no memory of who she is or how the school in the center of the Bayou burned down, killing the students inside. Paul is a former cop who has switched to private investigation. He has a personal interest (of course) in the mystery that Ginny has largely put behind her. Paul is woefully undeveloped by DeLeon. I knew roughly who he was but he never became more than a sketched in concept of a lead. For the purposes of the story we don’t really need more, yet filling in some of those empty areas would have made for a much richer experience. Of course Ginny and Paul team up to work the puzzle, endangering themselves and those important to them in the process.

The Lost Girls of Johnson’s Bayou is a solidly working class story. Ginny has a job and a side hustle. She and her mother work hard and count costs. Paul has a partner but no special connections or heavily financed back up. The actions they take are believable. When Paul asks Ginny out to dinner in The Big City she reminds him she has an early shift so they stay close to home. Their response to danger is reasonable as well – no one goes on the run, gets whisked to a safe house, or calls in the FBI. While the emotional punch of one plot resolution is pulled by the speed (and sheer chance) of it’s resolution, not every question is answered. I appreciated the author’s willingness to let a few loose ends lie.

DeLeon brings in some elements I was concerned would overwhelm the mystery (or be a face palm of a resolution) before setting them aside in favor of a more original explanation for the events in Ginny and Paul’s past. The red herrings are appropriately explained with enough foreshadowing for the reader to find the revelations at the end satisfying. While there is a baby in the epilogue it isn’t Ginny or Paul’s. Overall, a decent read and an author I’ll try a second book by.

Spoiler Alert: 

The Reddest Herring
The questionable element is a nod to the obsession with satanic cults and child abuse that ran rampant a few decades back. I thought DeLeon was going there, but fortunately she only side swiped it. 

Final Assessment: They would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids. B

Source: Borrowed Copy

 

Links: Thursday, April 10th

Cover image for a comic called Ducks. A rough black and white line drawing of a woman and a man sitting at a table at a job site. Ducks: A sketch comic about working at Fort McMurray

  • Why The Romance Genre Is Interesting, Relevant and Important – even if you think it’s bad – Jodi McAlister pens an excellent defense of the genre without stressing sales numbers. “By women, for women” notwithstanding, it’s an enthusiastic argument for romance as a genre worthy of both discussion and study.

    But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER. Even if you think romance is the worst genre ever and every single book published is a total piece of rubbish, these three reasons I’ve given above are reasons we need to be talking about it. Romance as a genre performs interesting, unusual, unique work. It can tell us fascinating things about culture and the way we read, and it is one of the few genres that is truly centred about women.

    Given this, how can we possibly justifying excluding romance from the greater discourse around writing and literature?

  • How Pregnancy Changed One Reviewer’s Romance Reading – Ah, the things you notice after living longer and experiencing more. Ten years ago, magical disability cures wouldn’t have fazed me. Now it’s all HULK SMASH.

    It took me a significant amount of time to get pregnant. My husband and I were just about to start looking for a fertility specialist when I conceived. During this time, I was (obviously) very stressed, and my favorite stress relief bar none is a romance novel in the bathtub. As I read, I could not freaking believe how many romance novels were full of magical infertility cures, including the most patronizing one I’ve ever read, in which the heroine’s body was “just waiting for the right man.” Because apparently my husband was the wrong man? Nothing jolts you out of your relaxation bath by being poked in the eyeball by the exact problem you got in the tub to escape, that’s for sure.

  • Female Bodies: A Weighty Issue – This is from a couple weeks ago, but it’s a great exploration of the crock of shit that is BMI and a “healthy weight.”

    We have, as a society, such a completely disordered, distorted perception of female bodies that the vast majority of people are incapable of recognising what “overweight” actually looks like on a woman, let alone “healthy”. As such, we’re now at a point where women are not only raised to hate their bodies as a matter of course, but are shown, from childhood, a wholly inaccurate picture of what they “should” look like – a narrow, nigh on impossible physical standard they are then punished, both socially and medically, for failing to attain.

    I don’t say this lightly. I say it because this is the only conclusion supported by the facts.

  • ‘Staggering’ experiment brings hope for those with paralysis – I have some mixed and complicated feelings about this, but it’s interesting research and I’m happy for anyone who finds it gives them a better quality of life.

    By coursing an electrical current through the four men’s spines, the research team, which included scientists from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia, appears to have “dialed up” signals between the brain and legs that were believed to have been completely lost.

    All four men, after being paralyzed for two to four years, can lift their legs, flex their ankles and support their own weight while standing, though only when the device embedded under their skin is turned on.

    In a response that shocked researchers, all four have regained bladder and bowel control, sexual function and the ability to regulate their blood pressure and body temperature – even when the epidural stimulation device is not running.

  • Western atheists: You aren’t illegal in Saudi Arabia – I really need Western atheists to just stop. Their Islamophobia and need to center themselves in every discussion about religious abuse isn’t cute.

    By declaring themselves “illegal in Saudi Arabia,” Western atheists co-opt an opportunity to direct attention to ongoing human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

    It’s not much of an act of solidarity to deprive Saudi human rights activists—who may or may not be atheists—of much-needed global attention.

    Instead, this decree should be viewed as a chance to remind the world that Raif Badawi could still be put to death for apostasy, or to put public pressure on the Obama administration to finally address the subject of human rights with our Saudi allies—something President Obama refused to do as recently as last week.

  • Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person… – This is definitely a anti-oppression 101 post, but it seems like it could be a handy bookmark you could whip out if you’re ever trying to explain how privilege works to someone playing the “But I grew up poor!” card.

    Years ago, some feminist on the internet told me I was “Privileged.”

    “THE FUCK!?!?” I said.

    I came from the kind of Poor that people don’t want to believe still exists in this country. Have you ever spent a frigid northern Illinois winter without heat or running water? I have. At twelve years old, were you making ramen noodles in a coffee maker with water you fetched from a public bathroom? I was. Have you ever lived in a camper year round and used a random relative’s apartment as your mailing address? We did. Did you attend so many different elementary schools that you can only remember a quarter of their names? Welcome to my childhood.

    So when that feminist told me I had “white privilege,” I told her that my white skin didn’t do shit to prevent me from experiencing poverty.

Beautiful Darkness by Vehlmann, Kerascoet and Dascher

A young girl in the forest warily hides behind a large hand.Beautiful Darkness is a French comic book. (Wait, come back.) I implore you to read it. I understand if graphic novels don’t work for you, I absolutely do. This isn’t a manga or something you have to read in a specialized manner, It’s a straightforward American-style comic book. Give it a try. I want to review this without spoiling any of the reveals in Beautiful Darkness. The story unfolds so elegantly that to disrupt the pacing would diminish the experience. Just put your library request in and come back later. Or keep reading.  (But buying it works too.)

Spoiler Alert: 

Stop! Read It Clean!
After a young girl dies suddenly in the forest the fairy tale creatures find themselves lost and disoriented in the woods. Aurora, being purest of heart, takes charge of the necessities of food and shelter while her prince forms an exploration team.

Vehlmann and Kerascoet (Kerascoet needs an umlaut on the e, but the alt text commands I know are being rejected by WordPress. forgive me Kerascoet.) have created an absolute masterpiece. (Dascher’s translations are smooth and natural.) It’s been quite a while since I read a graphic novel that stayed with me for the rest of the week. Beautiful Darkness is deceptively straightforward, even light. It’s a fairy tale in the most traditional sense of the word. Romance and quiet horror play out side by side in Beautiful Darkness while the reader considers the moral choices made within. There’s a princess, of course (Aurora) and a prince or two. There are talking animals and girls lost in a forest and quests to overcome. A page from a comic depicting the young girl having lunch with a mouse

Beautiful Darkness is like stepping into a vintage Disney piece. The deceptively simple artwork reminded me of the late 1950′s with a bit of Harriet Burns and Mary Blair mixed in. Aurora is separated from her prince by a natural disaster. The book follows her through a traditional fairy tale journey of self discovery as she seeks personal and romantic fulfillment. Like most fairy tale heroines, Aurora asks nothing for herself, she is focused on providing good for others. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Aurora shares her name with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. There are enough woodland creatures to satisfy even Walt’s mouse fetish. Not everyone in Beautiful Darkness gets their happy ending. It’s the trip, not the destination.

Final Assessment: Be prepared for heartbreak but take the trip. A+

Source: Library Copy

Links: Tuesday, April 8th

Cover of a 1950s comic book titled "Secrets of Love" in the Popular Teen-Agers series. A white guy and a white girl are in the front seat of a car making out while snow falls outside.Buried Badasses: The Forgotten Heroines of pre-Code Comics

  • F is for Fuck’s Sake, Frankly, My Dear – All of Olivia Waite’s A-Z posts have been great so far, but I can’t link to all of them. This one was just so much WTF, though, that I had to share. Avon should consider being ashamed to have published this.

    Let’s imagine you are a slave on a sugar plantation in 1845 Louisiana. Which of the following things do you think you want most?

    1. Modern makeup
    2. Aerobics lessons
    3. Group psychotherapy (from amateurs, not professionals)
    4. Cosmo-style sex tips

    If you answered 5. My fucking freedom or at least a decent working wage, you bigoted asshat, you are correct. But if you picked 5, you would be far too astute to be any of the characters in Sandra Hill’s Frankly, My Dear – not naïve time-traveling white supermodel heroine Selene, not emo slave-owning Creole hero James, and certainly not the cheerful and well-fed slaves on the Bayou Noir plantation, who are just so happy to have our heroine’s opinion on their physical attributes, mental health, and sexual adventures.

    And yes, the aerobics lesson actually happens on-page, while everyone sings “Achy-Breaky Heart.” Hand to God, head to desk.

  • Reviewing the Other: Like Dancing about Architecture – Nisi Shawl talks about identifying who a book is written for and examining your assumptions when reviewing books from outside your own culture or lived experience. There’s also a roundtable discussion on the topic. (h/t @Liz_Mc2)

    Reviewers from one culture are inevitably going to miss some things, and apply different standards to others, in their readings of literature from another culture. We won’t always get everything. Better to expect such mistakes, be open about them, admit to the high likelihood of them happening. Best of all to develop enough sensitivity to be able to point out in one’s own efforts when and where they’ve probably occurred. To read carefully and note your reactions as accurately as possible.

  • How Children’s Books Fuel Mascot Stereotypes – Aura Bogado interviews Pueblo teacher and blogger Debbie Reese about Native mascots, children’s literature and how to teach children’s lit without reinforcing caricatures or misleading children about history. (also h/t @Liz_Mc2)

    We’ve talked about some of the pitfalls, but what should people look for when they’re seeking out children’s books that fairly represent Natives?
    The number one thing that I encourage people to do is to look first at the writer. I am committed to promoting Native writers. Generally speaking they bring a sensitivity to what can and cannot be included in children’s books; there are things that tribal people protect from the public eye, and Native people know what those are. Native writers give you a measure of confidence that what you’re going to get in that book is something that can be shared, and is accurate, and something that likely reflects that author’s experience as a Native person. The second thing is that a teacher or a librarian who is going to teach that book can hold it up, and say, “This book is by Eric Gansworth, he is Onondaga*, his people are here, he is a professor.” So all of the verbs that the teacher uses to introduce that book are in the present tense rather than in the past tense. So it provides a teaching opportunity so that children can learn about where that tribe is now, where that tribe was before, they can go to that tribe’s website and see that tribal people do use the Internet! It pushes against all kinds of stereotypes when you use book written by a Native writer.

  • Redface has another big day at the ballpark in Cleveland – Cleveland Frowns blogger Peter Pattakos took a photo of an Indians fan in redface that went viral last week. He gives the context behind it in this post.

    At one point during the conversation I showed Rodriguez a copy of Aaron Sechrist’s artwork from the 2012 Scene cover story on the logo depicting a Chief Wahoo bobblehead next to a blackfaced lawn jockey drawn in the same style. I asked him if he’d ever show up at a baseball game in blackface, to which he replied that he wouldn’t. I then asked him why redface was any more excusable and he struggled to come up with an answer. As Allard notes in his piece, Rodriguez could only repeat that “he was an Indians fan.”

  • Let’s cut Yasiel Puig some slack – I’m only a casual baseball fan, but this article about laying off Yasiel Puig should be required reading for every white male sportswriter tempted to call a young athlete, who came to the country as a teenager speaking little English to play a sport, “gutless” or worse.

    In terms of style, Vladimir Guerrero’s most closely resembled Puig’s. Reckless. Raw. But so overwhelmingly skilled. Guerrero was Puig before Puig, albeit soaked in fear instead of defiance, but he got to make his mistakes pre-Internet, and more quietly in Canada. Guerrero drank from puddles as a child. He had a fifth-grade education because his mother had to put him to work in the fields.

    Guerrero’s mother lived with him as a major leaguer because he was so scared of everything new and different and awful outside, and he wanted something, anything, that felt more like home. But you have to wonder how all of that plays out differently, how we and fame would mutate Guerrero, if we had dropped him in Los Angeles and immediately demanded that he star for the city and the country and the sport beginning at 22.

  • Gawking At Rape Culture – Gawker’s tech/start-up culture site Valleywag wrote an article a while ago about a move to ship women in for workers to date and made the inadvisable decision to compare them to the “comfort women” of WWII in their headline. This piece goes into why joking about sexual slavery isn’t super funny.

    Dundes writes that one should record all types of jokes because “jokes are always an important barometer of the attitudes of a group.” Publishing a joke about Comfort Women, or to say you would completely sanction a joke about the WWII Jewish Joy Division, does in fact give us a barometer of the attitudes prevalent at Gawker’s editorial and journalistic culture. Rape jokes attempt to make light of trauma by belittling and normalizing sexual violence against women. Gawker’s replies reflect precisely how Silicon Valley’s unabashedly aggressive, racist, misogynystic rape culture has become normalized in the tech industry. When virulent sexism is systematized in social institutions, the corresponding jokes indicate how we protect white patriarchy over the bodies, minds, and lives of women — especially women marked as minorities.

To Tempt a Wilde by Kimberly Kay Terry

TTAW

After two years on the run, Althea Hudson may have finally found her safe haven. Who’d have thought it would be in Wyoming, at a sprawling ranch owned by three rugged alpha males? But it’s strapping Nathan Wilde who’s making her heart beat faster… even if the sensual cowboy has made it clear he’s not in the market for romance. Althea’s genteel manner and sweet charm don’t fool Nathan for a minute.

Stung by his ex-fiancee’s betrayal, the relationship-wary rancher isn’t prepared for the overwhelming desire his newest hired hand arouses. But the stunning belle is hiding something…and she may be too proud to ask for his help. If Althea only trusted Nathan with her secret, could they transform the heartbreak of the past into a passionate love for the future?

Just a warning, this review is about to get a wee emotional, so just bare with me while I ramble on incoherently.

    I read this because I originally wanted to read To Love Wilde (book #2), which I came across on tumblr. I love ranch romances ‘cause barn sex and cowboys. This was hard to turn down. I hate reading series installments out of order even if the couples are different so I picked up To Tempt A Wilde first. I have to say that story telling is a wee funky in that almost each chapter and several section breaks jump ahead in time, sometimes two weeks. From that point you’re in Nate or Althea’s head getting a flashback of what has happened in that time. It’s a little strange and I found that it did take away from the story because I think a lot of conversations and moments that should have been shown and not told were breezed over.

    The story picks up with Althea’s stalker watching through the window of her rented hotel-apartment. I liked this set up. Not because I liked stalkers, but because I knew Althea’s inevitable flight from Nate would be about this stalker and not just a conversation gone-wrong/not had. So, set-up? Good. Althea is hard working and with it. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, but she also knows her worth. GREAT.

After meeting two of the three Wilde brothers in her diner, and realizing the stalker may be closing in on her location, she takes the Wildes up on their offer to come make a few bucks working on their ranch. Ranch life agrees with Althea. Her father raised her around horses and she is actually a fan of sweaty work.

So our heroine is off to a likeable, interesting start.

AND THEN WE HAVE NATE FUCKING WILDE!

Nate is a dick. I don’t know any other way to say it. He’s not an alpha male who has come sort of complex. He’s just a dick. He’s also a dick who don’t want no women working on his ranch. Except the woman, Lilly, who is older and has raised him and his brothers and does all their cooking. She’s cool. But other women? Nope. No way. No how. No women on the Wilde ranch. Why? Because Nate was engaged once to a woman who left because ranch life wasn’t for her, or so the note she left says. I’m guessing she left because Nate is huge dick and she was tired of hanging out with a huge dick. Althea stays of course, because every single person on the ranch can see that she’s pulling her weight and makes sure Nate knows it. He can’t exactly fire an ideal employee.

Spoiler alert, Nate is pretty much a dick all the way to the end. Even though he does fall for Althea, there’s no courtship and even though the reader knows they both want to jump each other’s bones, This is shown mostly through internal monologues. Nate’s drove me nuts. In his head his feelings for Althea are happening to him, as if he has no control over himself. His lust rules him. Althea will be the death of him just because she’s beautiful and on and on. I just wanted to slap Nate. And then there are the parts where he talks about her likes she’s wild horse that he’ll tame.

The first 63 pages, though they are lusting after each other, in secret of course, they barely say a word to each other, beyond Nate telling her he doesn’t like women working on his ranch. Everything he actually says to Althea in the first portion of the book is mean.

And then he grabs her and kisses her. And Althea is all for it.

The rest of the book, Nate continues on with his dickiness, that morph’s only slightly as he soon realizes he does want Althea around and that he loves her. Still his language toward her and his brash actions are the same. A lot of taming, a lot of grabbing, a lot making, and staking claims. I didn’t like it, but you know what? I liked this book. I liked it a lot. The sex scenes were very well written. The appreciation of Nate’s body from Althea’s point of view was nice, as well. She did her fair share of oogling. Althea and the supporting characters were great. The truth about Althea’s life before she went on the run and how Nate, a black guy, ended up on a ranch with a white brother and a Native American brother, was well done, too. You get to witness the birth of a baby cow. Awwww. And in the end Althea really becomes the hero of her own story. There’s still that stalker to be dealt with, ya see.

I liked a lot of things about this book. I did not like Nate Wilde. I will probably read the rest of the series ’cause barn sex and I want to know what happens with Nate’s brothers.

Final Assessment: Should you read it? Yes. I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. Grade: B-/C+

Series: Wilde in Wyoming Book #1