Links: Tuesday May 6th

May 6, 2014 Links 7

A Renaissance-era painting of the Madonna with baby Jesus. He looks like a miniature, wrinkled old man as he cranes his neck oddly to look up at Mary.Ugly Renaissance Babies

  • Reading Desire: “Dark Notes on Paper” – Liz has a great post on sex scenes and desire in romance and why much of it bores her. As usual, the comments are as insightful as the post.

    When I first discovered romance and erotica (both when I was younger and when I began reading them again a few years ago) I found the explicitness and openness about sex liberating. Now, I’m increasingly bored. Even when sex scenes are not gratuitous, when they develop the relationship, they are often rote and familiar. And sometimes it seems like sex and the desire for sex are the main way the relationship gets developed. There are aspects of romantic relationships and feelings that cannot be explored through sex, or that could sometimes be explored in other ways, and I’d like to see more of that. Don’t tell me in a sentence that they talked all night and then toss them into bed for 10 pages. What did they talk about? (Besides sex). Will they still be talking in 30 years?

  • May the Box Office Be Ever in Your Favor: How Divergent and The Hunger Games Avoid Race and Gender Violence – The current rash of dystopias reminds me of “discrim-flip” fiction in that they seem to be telling readers that a world where white people are treated poorly would just be the worst kind of injustice. I haven’t read Hunger Games or Divergent, but this post seems to confirm my hunch.

    As violent and militarized as these books are, the violence in their worlds bears little to no resemblance to the violence of the real world we live in. In Divergent, Tris is, briefly, sexually assaulted (an experience that she later, somewhat disturbingly, describes as not “really” being sexual assault), but otherwise women, while they’re executed or beaten up on the regular, do not seem to experience gendered violence of any kind. There is no overtly racialized violence. As readers, we can be horrified by the bloodshed—nobody wants to see kids die—without being implicated in it. Our tax dollars aren’t at work here; nor is the fact that, every day, in the world we live in, we watch children die on television already. As writer Zetta Elliott pointed out in a Bitch conversation with Ibi Zoboi, “In the white imagination, the dystopian future involves white people living through the realities that people of color have lived or are living through right now!”

  • Mills & Boon announces ‘totally new’ digital storytelling format – I’m just going to say that I think this sounds ridiculous. Not only does it feel a bit like they think romance fans are unsavvy media consumers with no standards, I hate checking my own email, so I want nothing to do with reading story characters’ inboxes.

    Mills & Boon hopes the project will be a new evolution for the series romance novels for which it is best known. “Welcome to a world of style, spectacle and scandal,” says the Chatsfield website, which went live this week. “The Chatsfield has welcomed, captivated and entertained the fabulously rich and famous for almost a century.” Readers can follow the characters’ real-time Twitter and Facebook account, watch their video blogs, and even check characters’ emails.

    “A digital story isn’t just an ebook or an ebook with hyperlinks or video added,” says the publisher. “Harlequin has taken traditional storytelling and turned it on its head, to get the attention of their audience in the digital spaces where they are already hanging out and being entertained.”

  • When Gay Meets God: Faith in M/M Fiction – Author Tim Bairstow is at Brandon Shire’s blog with an interesting post on religious belief and gay fiction.

    In the two of my novels dealing with this theme, The Shadow of Your Wings and Cloven Tongues, I thought it was important to take the faith part seriously. It would be too facile just to say that someone’s faith is deluded and set out to expose it as such. Better to accept the fact that faith in God is a deep, genuine and compelling part of someone’s life. That way, it’s possible to explore the internal and external conflicts that happen when this compelling instinct collides with the deepest need of any human: to love and be loved as they are.

  • The Largest Vocabulary in Hip hop – Anytime I hear some deluded fool praise Macklemore for “rapping about more than guns and hos,” I’m going to link this article then demand they listen to Wu-Tang. DEMAND.

    Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.

    I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

    35,000 words covers 3-5 studio albums and EPs. I included mixtapes if the artist was just short of the 35,000 words. Quite a few rappers don’t have enough official material to be included (e.g., Biggie, Kendrick Lamar). As a benchmark, I included data points for Shakespeare and Herman Melville, using the same approach (35,000 words across several plays for Shakespeare, first 35,000 of Moby Dick).

  • This Town Needs a Better Class of Racist – Ta-Nehisi Coates breaks down why it’s so much easier for white people to condemn the Bundys and Sterlings of the world than notice any of the subtle racism that makes structural inequality work.

    The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state’s rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s singularly segregationist candidacy.

    Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.

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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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7 Responses to “Links: Tuesday May 6th”

  1. Meoskop

    I blame the Lizzie Bennett Diaries for reviving the concept of interactive fiction. My life doesn’t lend itself to immersive experience anything, much less fiction. I assume they’re aiming this at college age readers or younger, because that is where I’d be trying to build market.

  2. willaful

    I was impressed by the dystopian world created in Marie Lu’s Legend series. It’s a future in which racism, sexism, and homophobia seem to barely exist. The remaining issues, which are significant, are poverty and classism. I think it’s cool that someone imagined a future in which certain aspects of life improve and didn’t backslide when disaster struck.

  3. Nu

    @willaful: That actually disturbs me a bit because some people do believe those things have been overcome and only classism is left, so I don’t like that premise. We’ve conquered racism! Now, observe these white kids saving the world, lol.

    Divergent et al. Appropriating struggles while excluding the actual people since 2000. Lol. Needs a plaque.

    Also, re: rap: Nope! Jean Grae has the biggest vocabulary! That’s the general consensus. I don’t see her or any female rappers other than Minaj on that chart. F.

  4. willaful

    They’re not specifically white kids though. And I’d much rather see a future that envisions progress than one in which women are constantly in fear of rape or expected to use their bodies for barter.

  5. Nu

    @willaful: The protagonist’s white. Her love interest’s blond and blue-eyed (but half-Asian! *rolling eyes*) Not impressed. The supporting characters may be POC. That’s nice. I know Lu’s Asian, and to each her own, but it’s not exactly departing from the popular narrative.

  6. willaful

    I agree, the blonde and blue-eyed part is fucked-up; I thought at first that was one of his disguises, but it stuck. :-(

  7. Nu

    Yeah, on film, it might have worked. I get going for a striking visual. Blonde is common in Korean and Japanese pop, but on paper, that signals white, particularly if his Asianness is mentioned only twice and he’s half-Asian.