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"Going Native" sf, anthropology and colonialism by [ profile] coffeeandink

There's a recent survey done by the Anti Defamation League about antisemitism in Europe,7340,L-3669706,00.html
A lesson in modern antisemitism and this other post by [ profile] chopchica talks about it and about her own experience with antisemitism while travelling in Europe. As a French Jew, it's a little bit odd for me to see a post talking about this from the experience of an American on a trip, but actually it's a bit of an eye opener because there are many things I taught myself not to pay attention to just because I'm used to them. I'm also used to see my concerns dismissed and being treated like a pain in the ass when I insist on complaining about the lack sandwich with chicken rather than three different choices of pork or cheese at local RPG conventions.

Over at the westeros board (yes, I still read it, just lurking, shut up), Scott Bakker insists on showing his ass to the public in a thread (and its sequel) about the treatment of women in his books and people who think it's sexist (and people who think any reading about sexism and misogynism in a book is a grave insult that should never be done because it's so awful!! yeahhhhhhh right). On the same thread, several people, especially Kalbear, Maia and needle are being awesome.

There's a Celia Friedman interview at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist with some interesting discussions about sexism in fantasy as well, especially in the comments.
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So, I've been wondering for a few weeks now, how much I hate Bakker's answer to this interview (led by Pat of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, Larry of Blog of the Fallen and Adam of the Wertzone; three SFF review blogs I follow). And each time I go back to it, I see, that, yes, it is that bad, and even worse.

- Are you baffled by the fact that, though you have pleaded your case several times, some readers continue to interpret your writing style as misogynic?

‘Disappointed’ would probably be a better word than ‘baffled.’ It’s human nature to mistake depiction for endorsement, I think. And I actually think the criticisms of more sophisticated readers, that negative depictions reinforce negative stereotypes, have a valid point to make–one that I would take quite seriously were I writing after-school specials. You know, stories about an Elfen child having difficulty growing up in a Dwarven home.

On the one hand I understand that many readers require overt ideological fidelity to enjoy books–why else would there be religious bookstores? People find agreement agreeable–full stop. On the other hand censoriousness is simply a fact of human nature, no matter where a person falls on the political spectrum. Since we all implicitly understand the power of representations, we often fear them as well. And of course, we all naturalize our values. So you have well-meaning fools like those behind the hate-speech legislation here in Canada, who have no real sense of just how prosperity-dependent democracy is, and so design legal tools to illegalize the public expression of bigotry, all under the daft assumption that those tools will always be used the ways they want them to be used.

I mean the question isn't asked in the most intelligent way in the first place, of course, but there's just no excuse for Bakker's patronizing superiority in his answer. It's simply disgusting to see him dismiss any critical reading of his text along sexism as well-meaning idiocy, that even what he calls the "most sophisticated" readers get called daft and dismissed as wanting afterschool special. It's insulting to all his readers.

And, you know, I love those books. I read them twice, now, and I find them fascinating and intriguing, very well plotted and with some deep explorations of power dynamics in relationships, the impact of philosophies on societies, and some great characterisation.

I love those books, but when I read this answer I wonder if I want to buy the next one. Sometimes writers should really learn to STFU if they don't know how to stay classy. :(

See previous entries on the sexism in Prince of Nothing here; and my overall review of the series here.
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Still from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, interview of R. Scott Bakker, about the Prince of Nothing epic fantasy series which I reviewed here.

- The genre exhibits a strong (albeit recent) tradition for subverting gender stereotypes by presenting worlds in which strong, independent female characters are plausible or even expected. Yet your world is as patriarchal as the reality that inspired it. I expect that this theme makes up for a good part of the discussions you have about your creation, possibly detracting from what you actually want to talk about. Is it difficult to resist the temptation to put something like a bad-ass tomboy warrior-princess with snappy dialogue and a heart of gold into the books?

First, let me say that I think I should be called out on the carpet on this issue, simply because I cover some pretty troubling ground. I certainly don’t believe in "quota characterization," either to be politically correct or to broaden the "gender appeal" of my books. Leave this for the after-school specials. I also don’t think that depiction automatically equals endorsement. The question that people should be asking, it seems to me, is one of whether I reinforce negative gender stereotypes or problematize them. If the books provide enough grist to argue this question, then the answer, it seems to me, automatically becomes the latter.

But the fact remains that a lot of people get hung up on my female characters: On the one hand, I self-consciously chose the harlot, the waif, and the harridan for my female characters, yet some seem to think a kind of unconscious moral defect chose them for me. If so, it would be a truly colossal coincidence that I would happen to pick the three misogynic types - I mean, isn’t it obvious that I’m up to something critical? On the other hand, I wanted my fantasy world to be realistic, to temper our yearning for premodern times with a good look at how ugly things got, particularly in times of war. When bad things happen to my female characters, it’s the circumstances that are being criticized, not the characters themselves!

But people get hunches while they read, and once they do, confirmation bias goes to work (and this is simply one among many reasons why we always buy our own bullshit), and the text, I think, possesses more than enough ambiguities for people spin any number of self-validating interpretations. It’s when they insist their interpretation is the only interpretation, or even worse, that it captures what’s really going on in my bean, that I become baffled.

Now, I'd argue with the form of the question (it's arguable whether it's a genre convention "to subvert gender stereotypes by presenting worlds in which strong, independent female characters are plausible"...), but the subject of females characters in that series is certainly interesting.

For those who haven't read it, the world presented is indeed inescapably gritty and brutally violent, especially against women and there's a strong sense of realism to it.

Of the three characters that Bakker mentions, though, I'd say that only Esmenet, the "harlot", is a real success, she's the only one that can be seen as sympathetic and strong, and her story is compelling. The two others serve more as plot device than anything IMHO. The "harridan" doesn't even have a PoV and is intensely creepy (not that creepiness is exceptionnal in those books ^^), and the "waif", Serwë, is victimised, shallow and stupid enough that despite the sympathy I felt for what she lived through, I would never say I found her interesting as a character.
I do agree about Bakker's point about "problematizing", which is worthy enough, although in this case one should also take into consideration the context of the genre, because if every story is one of gritty realism, then the problematization may be more of a reinforcement than he would think.
Then there's the issue which he fails to mention, which is the treatment of sex and sexuality, and of the bad guys of the setting utilisation of sex in extremely creepy way, and how it relates to his treatment of gender.

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I've finished reading The Thousandfold Thoughts by Bakker, third volume of the Prince of Nothing serie, which closes that trilogy but not the serie as the writer still plans two duologies. Grrr.

TTT closes two plots lines : the Holy War between the two main religions of the setting, and Kelhus' mission to find and kill his father. Which leaves us with an impeding Second Apocalypse to deal with.

I was very unsure at first whether I liked or not these books. They are very well written, the characterisation of most characters is deep, complex and coherent. The world building is extremely good and intricate, exotic and believably, with a rich and intriguing history and interesting magic metaphysics. The plotting could be at time made more smooth but is overall a very masterful epic story.
The Prince of Nothing's flaws are not so much flaws as features. Rather than recommend it, I'll describe it to you so you can know whether it's your cup of tea, or not.

some spoilers if you're very wary of them, but nothing we don't learn in the beginning of the first book )
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yesterday I finished downloading the 39 episodes of Revolutionary Girl Utena.

That's a download I started up in March, or was it February ?

I'm pretty happy. Now I need the time to watch it.

Fic rec for you : Poppy's Bonfire Spread
Sionnain writes the best Black fics, especially the ones dealing with Bellatrix and smut. This one has Bella and Regulus but no smut whatsoever. However, it's just made me cry and its an absolute delight of darkfic to read.
Go and read it.

For [ profile] wingblossom who asked me my top five favourite fics of any fandom :
I'm going to pick Tokyo Babylon, because it's easier for me. I often read fics without keeping them, and it's hard to remember which I read and how to compare them. I've been involved in TB deeply and long enough it's one of the few fandom I can do this :

1/ Sakura and Snow, by Nathalie Baan
Because there's very very few people who can write a Subaru I consider totally IC and because that fic spells Subaru as the Hanged Man to me

2/ In My Line of Work tied to Crucify My Love both by Leareth
I'm a sucker for deathfics and sadomasochist smut. Then again, i'm also a sucker for ships seen from the outside and pseu-detective tone

3/ Twilight Incarnadine by Xyn
I just said I was a sucker for deathfics

4/ Northern Light by Kelsey
Deathfics, 3rd take

5/ Anarchy by Ariseishirou
Because that's the other fic with what I consider an IC Subaru

Yeah, those are very conservative choices. That's what made them easy.

I finally finished reading the Warrior Prophet, tome 2 of Prince of Nothing yesterday. Oh look, another hanged man figure, those things turn up everywhere in books. 'Nyway. I'm starting to rather like Achaman. Given how much those books are written for you not to like... errr anyone in it, it's nothing short of miraculous. They're interesting, they're epic... and they're getting heavy handed with the philosophy. But fun. In the way that watching a bloody trainwreck is fun.
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After being depressed, which matured into agressive bad mood and festered into cold and scornful amusement at the world and myself, it seems my good mood has finally come back. Yay, cheer !

Told my parents about not wanting to finish how much I've been bored in classes and maybe not wanting to finish the MBA. That went better than I expected. From now on, when i want to negotiate something with them, I have to take them separately. It works much better than when they're together.

Books, I finished reading Bakker's Prince of Nothing during the vacations, as expected. It was pretty cool. Very similar to Erikson in many ways : the sheer exubrant exoticism of the setting, the decadent empires and barbarians conflicts, the sheer amount of power of some of the characters, the brutal In Media Res approach without any explanations or introduction to the world, the epic breath though on a lessened manner than Erikson. As I was warned, most of the characters are very difficult to like. Even those who are somewhat sympathetic are often portrayed as being hesitant and foolish. Despite that it's quite enjoyable, though I'll wait to read the second volume before i'll say I consider it a great serie. I did find one character to love, but he's a very minor one whom I fell for only because of two one liners that made me go "Oh, I cannot not love this man" : Krijates Iryssas (Xinemus' nephew). Poor guy isn't even listed in the annex... I hope he at least makes an appearance in the second XD Otherwise I did found myself rather rooting for the Emperor and his nephew, despite how ridiculously arrogant, foolish and petty they were. Probably because at least they're not zealot (did I mention a big part of the plot turned around a Holy Crusade and the crucial matter of who would manipulate well enough to use it as a tool ?) The actual main character of this book is however, in a completly uncharming manner, a twink, a munchkin of the worst terrible sort... and he doesn't even fight with two katanas. Horrible.

My appartment is currently being painted. My future bedroom is a light mauve. I love mauve <3

Finally bought Tori Amos' new CD. Looks cool so far. Need more listening.


princess bride quizz )

Because Princess Bride was part of my mood getting better. I also got my father to watch it along with me, and then spent some time trying to tell him that the duel between Oberyn Martel and Gregor Clegane was referencing to Inigo Montoya with the repetition of "Elia Martel. You killed her. You raped her. You killed her children"... alas it turned out my father had forgotten all about th Red Viper... How can you forget about Oberyn, the sexiest man of the Seven Kingdoms ? it's beyond me O_o


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