Links: Saturday, April 12th

April 12, 2014 Links 12

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.

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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12 Responses to “Links: Saturday, April 12th”

  1. Laura Vivanco

    “the one James novel I read that combined ableism, racism, colonialism, a stereotypical gay man and a lying, patronizing heroine”

    So after reading this micro-review I’m really curious: which one was it?

  2. cleo

    @Laura Vivanco: I think I read that one (or a similar one) – it was one of her early ones, with Pleasures in the title (Ridley – did the hero have migraines that kept him from having some types of sex?). Ugh – the book I’m thinking of really was a train wreck. If that was my first James, I’d never have read anything else by her either.

    James is hit or miss for me – when her books work for me, they really work (even when I recognize that there’s a lot of WTFry going on), and when they don’t, they really don’t work for me. I don’t remember why I didn’t read The Duke is Mine, but I remember deliberately passing on it, even though I’d kind of liked a couple of her other fairy tale stories.

  3. Ridley

    @cleo: It was Enchanting Pleasures, with the hero who had severe migraines triggered by the physical act of sex. It was ridic x1000.

  4. cleo

    @Ridley: Yep, that’s the one I was thinking of. Blergh. That’s a pretty impressive one sentence synopsis, btw – I recognized it right away.

  5. Laura Vivanco

    Thanks. I haven’t read that one. I get the impression from the ones I have read that James is usually intending to be funny and that would fit a pattern: the offensive Sandra Hill novel, and the Bettina Krahn novel I found highly problematic, were also supposed to be humorous. Hmm. And The Rosie Project was supposed to be funny too.

  6. lawless

    @Laura Vivanco – I didn’t find The Rosie Project as offensive as the Sandra Hill and Eloisa James novels Olivia Waite blogged about. It fell more on the stereotypical/ignorant/overly conventional side of the line for me and in fact was less offensive to me (or at least easier to read) than most trad romance is. I also didn’t think it was all that humorous or comedic, though clearly Simison strove for a light/partially humorous tone.

    Was it you who DNF’d it because it felt like the narrative was making fun of Don? Or was that someone else? I didn’t feel that way, and in many ways I could see and sympathize with where he was coming from.

    As for content warnings, I am about as far from Amelia Gormley’s POV on that as possible. It’s not just a matter of our delicate feelings (and some of us have conditions that are easily triggered and will trip us up w/o warning), it’s a matter of consumer choice. There’s a lot out there I find offensive or don’t wish to read, including sexism and other forms of ignorance as well as storylines that are downers or that simply don’t interest me, so the more I know the better. If that means spoilers, so be it. I’d rather be spoiled than angry that I waste my $$ on something I don’t want. Excerpts are not a substitute.

  7. Laura Vivanco

    @lawless: “Was it you who DNF’d it because it felt like the narrative was making fun of Don?”

    Yes, that was me.

    “in many ways I could see and sympathize with where he was coming from. ”

    So did I. I felt that a lot of what Don did make sense, but instead of focusing on that and showing how other people should try seeing things from his perspective, the narrative set him up as being ignorant of what was really going on around him. Maybe that changed later in the book, but I felt manipulated by the author and didn’t want to carry on reading.

  8. cleo

    I have such mixed feelings about content / trigger warnings. As someone with PTSD, I do like to be warned about potentially triggering topics so I can make an informed choice. But honestly, a lot of the warnings I’ve seen are not that helpful – particularly the vague warnings to “sensitive readers” (or viewers) – just tell me if there’s going to be sexual assault or child abuse, don’t call me “sensitive.”

    I’m also confused by Gormley’s rant – she says she’d never publish with someone who had content warnings, but Riptide has content warnings for their books on their website (things like graphic violence and non-con / dub con). I guess she means a warning included in the blurb or on the cover or maybe she just means a warning specifically on her work.

    She also seems to conflate content warning with content policing. I don’t think wanting a warning about rape (for example) is the same as saying rape should never be written about or only written about in certain proscribed ways. I don’t feel that way (although I’ve noticed that it’s hard to have nuanced conversations about this). I just want the ability to self-protect when I need to.

  9. Tina

    Eloisa James also wrote a book where the heroine couldn’t enjoy sex because of the years of excess powder build up on the wigs she wore caused her scalp to itch so bad it was too distracting. I was actively rooting for the hero to take mistress and cheat on her repeatedly.

  10. lawless

    @Laura Vivanco: FWIW, here‘s an explanation of why I didn’t feel the narrative was making fun of Don although in some ways he was in fact ignorant of what was going on around him. YMMV nevertheless.

  11. nu

    @lawless: Haven’t read it, but re: your blog, I agree that being slave to desire or The Penis is not any more impressive than “forced seduction.” It does make women look weak-willed, unable to pilot themselves rationally -where have I heard that before?- and once again, victims (by their own bodies! The hero knows it better than her!). OTOH, why are only women expected to be above their cravings? You could see it as the ultimate reversal, since women are not usually portrayed as so sex-driven, with the same “base” instincts, vulnerabilities, etc.