salinea: the Huntress brooding (sad)
Another meta on tumblr I'm reblogging, about the ending of Journey into Mystery from a meta perspective:

spoilers, duh. )
salinea: Emma Frost, sitting comfortably (chill)

Like with other issues of sexism in comics, the problematic narratives revolving around female characters becoming dangerous and insane / evil (the insane=evil thing in itself would be very much worth the examination and could be easily seen as worse than gender issues, but I’m not sure I’m up to it) as a result of their power was something I’d heard of before I started reading comics; mostly revolving around Jean Grey, and a little bit around the Scarlet Witch with Disassembled and Decimation. Now that I’ve just read the X-Men storyline Inferno, I found it interesting to see how many characters are present in it which plays in various ways along those lines, and how really fucking bad it looks.

Now most of the characters in Inferno have more to do with a theme of corruption by evil than by insanity (though again, the two are too often seen as nearly equivalent), but power, though in not an obvious way, definitely plays a role in each one of those.

Those characters are Madelyne / Goblin Queen, Illyana / Magik, Lorna / Polaris & Warren / Angel. Two of those, Madelyne & Illyana, are placed right in the center of the story; whereas Polaris and Warren are more peripheral but still make an interesting counterpoint.

Read more... )
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For archiving purpose...

In the Beginning: Themes of Season Four: Or how there were a lot of good ideas to begin with that weren't too well executed
Etrangere - June 11 2002

Thanks to Lady Starlight and Wise Woman for correcting the translation mistakes and general copy editing.

I remember having read an explanation of the name of the Initiative based on the irony to apply such a word to people that didn't know much but who simply followed orders. I propose another one: Initiative comes from initiare, the Latin for "to begin." That word of beginning is the one that starts a well known book and gave its name, in the Hebraic tradition, to the first chapter of this book, Bereshith, or in English, Genesis. A Season Big Bad isn't named Adam by coincidence.

cut for length, spoilers for Buffy S4 )

Now to decide if it's worth archiving my old Buffy/Spike shipping essay given how much the pairing makes me wince nowadays XDD
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Back when I first finished watching Utena and joined the utena usenet group, I wrote a short essay on some of the themes in Utena. Anyway at some point I decided I wanted to repost such things on my journal so I searched back for it, but when I reread it it looked all horribly vague and badly written, so I ended up rewriting it entirely and it thus became much, much longer. Some of the stuff on this essay are of the painfully obvious variety, and some are me reaching a bit. It's definitely written for an audience of people who have watched the series and is quite spoilery. Anyway I hope you guys will like it. If someone feels like correcting my bad English, I won't resent it and will be quite thankful instead.

Utena's Revolution or la Fin de l'Ancien Régime Romantique

One of SKU's most fascinating feminist critique is the study of the role of power and inequity in human relationships – especially but not only romance between men and women – and the harms it cause to people. Some of it is explored through the core political concept of Princehood and Revolution.

tl, dr on SKU )
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I've been thinking about intent and interpretation, in communication and art especially, seeing a lot of things popping on my friendlist and journal related to the same thing.

Writer's intent is why people like [ profile] thecorbie think there might be a case against fanfics.

Intent is something that might be or might not be gotten, with a responsability that may or may not be rested on the writer, as per [ profile] mithrigil's question here.

Intent is what shippers who ship a non canonical pairing are entirely disregarding when they ship still, as per [ profile] a_white_rain criticizes here. (NB: spoilers for Avatar the last airbender's final at this link)

Intent of deconstructing the "Nice Guy" was probably part of what Dr Horrible was about, as [ profile] curtana points out here, but which I've seen a lot of people misinterpret as a genuine nice guy whose manpain is oh-so-tragic. (NB: spoilers for Dr Horriblle at this link)

Intent is what doesn't really matter when people say they hadn't mean to be racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, ableist, elitist... if this is what is read by the people who have the best reason to complain of it. Intent, there, is only a way to claim their own priviledge, very often.

In terms of information, when we communicate, there is
1/ what we mean to say, what we intent
2/ what is actually said, in words, in text, in ink on the page, lines on the paper
3/ what is heard and understood by other people, how they interprete it, text and subtext - which is of course as multiple as there is different people.

2/ the text does not have intrasec meaning. There is a platonician ideas tied to it, of pure meaning, of true message. Information is only information because it's interpretated by someone with a brain and there is always always variations, minsinterpretation of intent within it. Because context is something that always infer on the interpretation, and nobody's got exactly the same context at the same time.

1/ intent I think doesn't matter all that much. In our culture, perhaps because of its moral value under Christianism, intent tends to be extremely valued in terms of responsability. However intent is something way to fickle to judge by : first because we don't know other people's intent, we just have to trust their word for it (in which there is yet another pitfall of misinterpretation), second because people may not know their own intent entirely, third because regardless of intent harms can be done as a result in any case. Also, for all of that, it is rude and disrespectful to presume of someone else's intent. It also shifts any discussion of blame from discussion of action/text to discussing a person themselves, which is offensive and often results in wank much more quickly as a result.

So we're left with interpretation.

Are all interpretation equal? Are some more legitimate than others? What makes one interpretation more legitimate than any other? And who's to blame for possible unfortunate (racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist, elititist, etc.) interpretations?

For all that all interpretations are in parts subjective, I don't think they are all equal. If you've spent any time in fandom, you'll have noticed that some extremely extravagant interpretations are sometimes brandied (with or without seriousness). For all its subjectivity, any interpretation is still based on the text, so there are criteria to judged how acurate to the text it is. (No, I'm not going to go at length about the tools to judge that accuracy.)

However the nature of an interpretation also matters. Not all kinds of interpretation pretend to accuracy. Some are merely humouristic (crackful parodies and the like) for example.

Narrative interpretations as in fanfics are also something very different. They don't usually pretend to accuracy (since they're obviously not the original author). Narrative interpretation's legitimacy is based on its own artistic worth. Is it a compelling interpretation. Does it lend itself to a complex, rich, aesthetically-worthy story? This is what gives a fanfic, as interpretation, its legitimacy - the sheer richness of a culture of narrative dialogue and artistic creation.

Likewise with shipping. Historically the biggest backlash against specific non canonical ships (Harmony in Harry Potter and Zutara in Avatar the last airbender) have been because some of their shippers were pretending to some kind of accuracy. I don't think there's anything wrong in itself to make the pro Zuko/Katara interpretation [ profile] a_white_rain mentions in the link above, however if such an interpretation is done while saying it is more accurate than any other interpretation there is a problem.

Of course some fanfics do work as criticical interpretations - only done in narrative form. They function as a meta commentary pointing out gaps in the text, or exploiting specific themes. (Some works as a commentary of other fanfics too! Ongoing dialogue that it is). When that is done, accuracy becomes again a criteria.

So what about the moral responsability? Who's to blame for dodgy interpretations? Well if an interpretation pretends to accuracy, and can judged as mostly accurate in consideration of the text, then the responsability sides more on the author's side. If an intepretation pretends to accuracy, but is mostly not accurate with the text, then the responsability is more on the side of the reader. If the interpretation doesn't pretend to accuracy, the author's responsability wasn't ever called in question in the first place.

This is not taking context in consideration, and context matters, does it ever.

First, I've been talking about what an interpretation pretends or does not pretend, but that pretension isn't always made explicit. That is to say, for example, most fanfic writers know they are not pretending to accuracy and know that most of their readers used to fanfics know this as well so they don't usually bother spelling it out. Which, I think, is in parts why outsiders seem to be much more worried about misinterpretation due to fanfics and mistaking the writer's intent for the fanfic. However a lot of fanfics do have a tradition of disclaimer, usually done in terms of "therse characters and settings are not mine". Close enough for me but I haven't been an outsider for a long time.

Second, of course, there's how context infers any unfortunate interpretation. Having a story where a lesbian dies and her girlfriend goes crazy isn't in itself homophobic. It is because there's a history of the very same trope being used overwhelmingly any time lesbian characters are featured, and because of the history of institutionalized homophobia that has been going for a long time in Western culture. So in terms of responsability the quest is, is the context from which the text originated is similar enough to the one from which this interpretation is done? At least it seems to me that this way that can work.

Done now. I hope that wasn't too anvilicious.
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This is a subject I almost posted about a few months ago, during the latest HP racism merry-go-round (not the Christmas and antisemitism one which I was too busy being swamped under work to properly follow which is a shame because it looked pretty interesting and I missed some excellent post and could link to only one of them), and eventually didn't because I wasn't too sure of myself. Then today [ profile] lodessa just polled her flist, among other things, about : "Do you consider Jewish people to be White/Caucasian?"

1,000$ question.

Now before I go further, I must give you some context on how I see things. I'm French. In France, a few weeks ago there was an attempt to pass a law to actually let people do statistic studies using ethnic categories. That law was among other things asked by anti-racism groups in order to actually measure racism and its prejudice against people. (It was of course, also asked by big compagnies which would like to be able to do market studies about products like ethnic hair care and skin scare products... but never mind that). The law was eventually rejected after being voted for being anti-constitutionnal.

Classifying people by "races" isn't being looked up very nicely in France. There's some good reasons for that. History, for one : there's this little story about the French state, circa 1939, asking Jews to sign up on list so they could be protected against Nazis, and then a few month later this same list being used to gather up Jews and deport them. As a child, I was taught that racism was, before everything, believing that there are such a thing as human races. Then, there's the whole thing of hierarchizing those "races" or associating specific traits, personnalities and abilities to those "races". But before that, you actually have to pretend that categorizing Humanity according racial lines has an actual scientific ground. Which it doesn't, it's total bullshit, ask any good genetician.

But "races" (and even there I have to use those quotation marks around the word) as used by anti-racist people, in the US or elsewhere, isn't so much about that as it is about the social groups formed around the visibility of cultural/ethnic differences. Being black-skinned is pretty visible, and that's got an effect on the practical life of people who are Black and live as minority within larger group, as well as with the cultural identity they self-identify, and I understand that.

But it still makes me go twitch.

So, chronologicaly, the first time I passed a quizz/test thing on the internet and they asked me my "race", I kind of frowned, and scratched my head. But I wanted to see the result of whatever it was, so I scanned the list : of course they didn't have "Jewish" on it, so after a while I clicked on "Other". I think I did that a few times over the years (not many internet quizzes ask you that).

Then I saw a few racism discussions in fandoms. I read, I learned, eventually I participated too. Among other things I learned about the concept of priviledge, and realized there were some I enjoyed, and some of which I was deprived. And once, I saw a link to a little .pdf pamphlet (which I wish I had kept a link to. ETA : this one : I can fix it, by damaliayo! thanks to [ profile] cryptoxin for linking to it), which was giving white people some advice about how to not be racist. One of the first advice was owning up to the idea that we have race, and that this race was White.

Of course I had a little problem with that.

I don't self-identify as White, first because I still think the concept of "race" is stupid and wrong even if it's useful to fight against racism; and I don't really identify with the White culture (even though it's an obvious influence since I live in it) or the White agenda (as someone said over at [ profile] lodessa's post) since I'm Jewish. And I went away from studying Anthropology with the firm belief that you can't go around and tell people what they should identify as. Identity, complex thing, voluntary basis only.

Then again, that wasn't that pamphlet point. Because If I had been Black, Asian or Native American or whatever, would I have identified as a Person of Colour? Hell, yes. So, not identifying as White, in this configuration, does that mean I see white skin as "default"? Well... kinda. Hello me own skanky race issues.

However, I'm still not happy using racial categories as if there were, you know, actual human races out there. So that's still stopping me.

But an important point remains : I enjoy white priviledge. I know I enjoy it, even if I don't know and might never know how it is to live without enjoying it. I know I've never been called an "immigrant" even though I'm just as 3rd generation immigrant as your average Maghrebin youth from the Parisian suburbs who would typically be called that, with all the insidious racism going with it.

When talking about the Jews overall, there's another issue. The majority of the Jewish population in the US is, I believe, Ashkenazi, who look very "white" overall. However there are Black Jews (both the Ethiopan Jews and from conversion and mixing), and there are big population of Jews from the Mediterranean region and the middle east who can look pretty dark skinned (My mother who was born in Algeria has been confused for Arab at least a couple of times). So you can't really treat "Jewish" as a whole as a racial category separate from the others.

Then of course, people should be aware that there are physical characteristics which have been historically associated to Jews by racist people. Someday I might even properly rant about the way it disturbs me that JKR could describe Snape as sallow skinned and hook nosed, and a master of potions; or, even worse, the goblins has having very similar characteristics as well as being, you know, money-grabbing bankers; while still co-opting the history of antisemitic opression to write her story.

The bottom line is, I think, that those racial categories the US (and a few other countries) use can be a useful tool to fight racism, but they're also problematic. I think neither the US nor France have the best approach about them. US condones too much the idea that "race" is relevent in an essentialist way, and France blissfully ignores issues of priviledge as well as removing the tools to actually know how much racism is a problem. Those categories when used do not represent any essential truth about people, but social classifications which happen and reflect society's basic racism. On the one hand, most Jews enjoy white priviledge and are therefore White/Caucasian. On the other hand, Jews, even in the US, don't exactly enjoy perfect tolerance and integration, and belong to a cultural group which is often separated from the WASP culture that "White/Caucasian" means. Maybe another way to think such system would be better able to represent both those truths at the same time.

IMHO, I'm simply looking at what I understand of American culture through a foreigner's eyes and via the internet.
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While browsing, today, I happened onto a link to this essay on Why do fanboys hate fanfics, especially slash and This is Our Garden. We Like It.. The article fits in a context of several commentaries a few weeks ago about the exclusion of the female experience of fandom by the majorly male fandom - some of which I saw at the time, some of which I missed.

[ profile] cupidsbow's essay How Fanfictions makes us Poor which I already linked to was part of it too, I think.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff on these discussions that made me angry as a woman against the systemicized sexism in fandom... but there's also something about the issue of gendered fandoms that really upsets me.

I've spent a majority of my "fandom life" within male dominated fandoms - first generalist Science Fiction newsgroup then Roleplaying Games clubs and forums. The kind of places where women make about 10 to 20% at most of the overall population. I've had to suffer to a lot of sexism, outright misogyny and sexual teasing. I went along with it because I wanted into the fandom and I didn't know anywhere else to get it and also because I'd been ostracized and bullied enough previously that the attention as the token girl and object of sexist and sexual jokes seemed actually an improvement.

Later on, I found some previously more mixed fandoms. ASOIAF has got, I think, about 40% of women at Ran's board. The part of Buffy's fandom I frequented, Masq's awesome ATPoBtVS had, I believe, a majority of women with a very significant male presence as well.

But it's only when I joined the Clamp's Tokyo Babylon/X's fandom in 2004 on Livejournal that I really found myself within female dominated fandoms. Fanfics as a fandom is extremely majorly made of women, I don't think men make more than 5% of it. In many ways the resulting dynamic rather surprised me. There's a lot I enjoyed from it. The welcome of feminist and queer-friendly values for one, and the warmth of people. No more dissing the female SF writers, or fantasy as a whole, or other ridiculous stuff.

There's also some things I disliked, such as the frowning upon any kind of disagreement/non positive comments, and all the things people sometime characterize as the "Cult of Nice". I'm not sure I'm so much more a fan of the Cult of Mean either, which is often horribly self-entitled, but I love debate, and I love getting helpful constructive criticism, and sometimes I'm being an ass in a discussion and I need someone to point it out to me politely (after which I can cool off then appologize). I also miss a bit of the obsessive mapping out details and powers and worldbuiling elements and stuff. Actually screw this, because people do it just as compulsively in female fandom, what I do miss is obsessive symbolical and thematic analysis which seems to catter to specific fandoms regardless of the gender makeover. What I do occasionnaly miss in female fandom is the way people don't seem to get the inherent kicking-ass awesomeness of ninja and pirates (unless talking of Jack Sparrow I s'pose) and Kung-Fu Jesus and heroin-pissing dinosaurs*

So when I get annoyed with that side of fanfic fandom and want a little bit of the other side I miss, I get back to lurking at, say, the board, where I can see someone explaining his dilemna about one of his player telling him "No bitches at the table"

Insert visual of me face palming.

Lately it feels like I've seen more and more people talking in terms of fangirls and fanboys. The categories were new to me, but apparently they come with specific, different stereotypes where the fanboy is your everyday Dork and the fangirl squeals a lot about characters/actors being hotties. I've seen at least one person say she wouldn't like to identify as a fangirl but that it was okay for the fanboy because the stereotype had somewhat mellowed and become more hype and cool since big geeks like Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and Tarantino started taking over Hollywood or something whereas the fangirl stereotype was still depraciated as hell which rather rejoined the whole point of the essay I mentionned at the start of this post.

But behind this I also get the impression that it's true to people. That women and men are whole different brands of fen, that they want something radically different from the text, that they play differently with the toys. That they don't fit in the same sandbox.

I'm not a fangirl. I'm certainly not a fanboy either. I'm a fan. Period.

I'm a fan who likes fanfics and roleplaying games, obsessive symbolical analysis, sociological meta, compulsive reviews of details and powers and worldbuilding stuff, and occasionnaly even fanart and fanvids and of course, the books/shows/texts too. It's all one for me.

It's not that I disaprove of what the essay talks about, about the whole fact that women said 'it's a big internet', took their stuff and the toys given by the text, and used them to play with it in their very own female space. I think that's really cool and proactive and awesome.

It's the fact that what I'd like to call my garden would be a place with equal parts of male and female point of views and welcome them all - just for the sake of diversity. (And gays, and non Americans, and gender queers, and Blacks, and people who don't have always a very correct syntax, and, and, and, too)

There's the question of whether it'd be even possible. If being just an even fraction of "regular" fandom would mean that the female part be co-opted and the female experience of fandom end up marginalized as it's once more 'All about the boy'.

I'd like to believe that it is. I've known places on the internet that were at least a little bit like this. That doesn't mean that they should not be female spaces as well...

But I'd really love to belong, myself, to a non-gendered fandom. I think that's the place where I'd be the more at ease.

Is that a bad thing to want?

* this is an obscure reference to the Role Playing Game Exalted which has canonically dinosaurs who eat Opium and pisses Heroin. It's a lucrative business. Exalted isalso an awesome game where homsexuality, gender queerness, bestiality, incest, and reincarnated magical bonds are all canon. It's a bit like the Harry Potter fandom of roleplaying games that way.

ETA: -- Spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire - A Storm of Swords in the comments --
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So I was reading today a great many posts and essays about writing sex and the nature of slash, and that was reminding me of something I wanted to say about what I liked in fanfics (slashy or not, though always of the transgressive kind) which was non-romantic sex, or sex as metaphor, and which is, in great part, why I love the kind of fanfics and pairings that I love.

By sex without romance, I mean a great deal of stories that explore situations that are sexualized,without there being a couple in the most classic sense of the word,where there may be 'love' by the wide definition of the term but not something that is necessarily romantic love with all the tropes, roles and assumptions that go with it, or when, if there is indeed romantic love, it is associated with feelings supposedly contrary to it - such as hatred.

Antagonistic pairings are popular. In a way, it is a popular trope in and of itself. However, the majority of Antagonistic stories are more likely to be focussed on the star crossed lovers theme, on transforming such a relationship into romance, than into exploring the relationship as hatred, as rivalry, as a power struggle through sexual means - which is more accurately what I mean though borders may be blurry.

Beyond hatesex and hate/love pairings, there are other ships that meet for me that button. Just today [ profile] bramblyhedge was talking about her love for boss/employee relationship, a relationship where it is also usually considered improper to sexualize. Another obvious case is incestuous pairings - of which I don't have many but I do have some. In some cases (though less often) cross gen may apply, and even friendship sex (though because it's such an obvious fodder for romance in slash fanfics it must be written with the specific purpose of not crossing that boundary at least for one of the two character - and that's how I love me James/Sirius).

My point is that sex is a rather wide spectrum of interacting with people. In a way, we are consciously or unconsciously sexually aware of everyone we meet. It's got little relevance to how many people we actually want to fuck, but it is nonetheless there. Because sex is, as this, an almost universal subtext of all relationship it can be used as the form through which to explore any relationship whatsoever. Which is where I reach the idea of sex as metaphor for the action of being in an intense relationship, even if the relationship isn't by nature romantic.

Sex is handy as such because it's performative. If you click to a non romantic relationship, familial, friendship, enmity etc. and want to explore it, you can build scenarii to make it into a story where it reaches a climax, where the relationship is consumed, yes. However such scenarii can feel incomplete, or too little intense, or overly cumbersome. Fact is we have very few rituals that express the intensity of relationships as strongly as sex does. Nobody doubts that sex expresses something strongly (no matter how casual it may be!) because it takes you, body and mind, to a different place of interacting ... while declaration of eternal friendship lack a certain something.

There are other solutions, still. And actually a lot of these solutions are used by fandom while still through the shippers goggles : such as the saving each others' life trope, hurt/comfort, sacrifice, self sacrifice and killing.

But even with these alternatives, sex is still a favourite of lots of people. It may accompany a story in a wonderful way.

And, this is something I was realizing as I was reading the first links about the writing sex... these are the kind of sex scenes that I like. Not necessarily the non romantic ones (though I do love them in general); but the sex scenes that tell a story, that are an intraseque part of the narrative and where something happens through them. I don't care for PWP - gratuitous sex - but I don't mind a story which is only comprised of sex as long as the sex actually is a story, where something happens through it which leads to a little more than an orgasm. This, I find mightily hot.
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I've come to several discussions lately, about the interactions between "loving a character", moral judgment of a character, and finding a character sexy. Mostly there were discussions were the people were seeing this as melding categories.

Liking, judging and being attracted by a character )
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(in case anyone wonders, this is inspired by several people's essays here, here and here)

As often in such cases, people are trying to analyze things along a paradigm that directly opposes religion to technology. *picture me wincing*

I'm not going to try to define what I mean by religion, I'm going to avoid the term altogether.

Actually there's quite a few rituals and ritualistic behaviours being part of the WW culture. And, Voldemort's resurection in GoF aside, quite a few of them involve magic.

We haven't seen Fidelius casted on screen but there's a feeling of ritual about it. The Unbreakable Vow casting is definitly a ritual as well. They're both very legalist kind of rituals. But then again law and justice is often very ritualized, isn't it ?

I think one of the thing I find interesting in both those spells is the attribution of roles to specific people. The Secret Keeper in case of Fidelius, and the Binder in the Unbreakable Vow. A tierce person who serves as catalyst the whole point of the spell and onto which rests its success and failure. A witness.

Witness is another classical key concept to the form of Magical Duel we're introduced to in CoS. Now duels by nature are rituals. It involves specific behaviours, limits, and serves to settle wrongs of a personnal nature. Again, a very legalist kind of ritual.

Another very important ritual to both the WW and the HP fandom is the Sorting Ceremony.
The Houses themselves are ripe with symbolical meanings which is often used (and overused) by the HP fandom. The colours, animals, virtues and flaws associated by each House, the belonging to a community aspect, and the formalization of relationships between specific Houses (like the Slytherin vs Gryffindor rivalry oft mentionned in fanon if not canon) are all elements that makes me want to talk of it as an rite of passage.
The Sorting Ceremony of course resides not on specific actions to be done by the new student, but on the decision of a supposedly omnicient mystical hat, deposit of the wisdom of mythical founders.

Likewise the Tri-Wizard tournament rested on the judgement of another mystical object : the Goblet of Fire. And added the idea of magically binding contract for another bit of legalist ritual fun. In itself the GoF is a symbolical object, underlined metaphorically by the cauldron into which Voldemort is resurected and the Champion and metatextually by references to the Graal and the Cauldron of Dagda.
Like the Sorting Hat, it's a relic, an object charged with history and intent as a result of it, one that is trusted implicitely. One that judges and chooses people.

All sorts of sports and tests of course can be again seen as ritualized. The Tri-Wizard tournament's three tasks certainly are. Quidditch is also. But another interesting case is the different tests made in obstacle to the Philosopher's Stone. The way that Harry passed them, testing specific qualities and types of knowledge each time, the progressive discarding of his friends as they helped him, until he's faced to the Mirror of Erised and Quirrelmort is a whole sequence ripe with symbolical meaning and mythological resonnance which makes it another interesting rite of passage. Of course this is not actually a ritual within the Wizarding culture, but a metatextual one.
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You know, with A Feast For Crow being there any days now, I'm realizing something. Something grave and daunting. There's much too few people on my flist who are into A Song of Ice and Fire. Much too few. Oh of course, I've got at least three friends from my ancient ASOIAF fandom days, and all my exalted buddies I convinced to read it. And there must be a couple of others, surely (surely ?) But, given the amount of squeeing and rabid fangirling and possibly random analysis after each chapter (if I manage myself to stop reading, unlikely as it is) I'm planning on doing, this is much too little.

And of course I always love to share my joy at reading book by reccomanding them to my friends and to innocent bystanders. So I think it's time for some unabashed advertisment and review.
Hear, hear :

Why A song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martins is the best fantasy serie
and why YOU should read it now

no spoilers but for the very first chapters )
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When I was about 15 years old and I was just getting seriously into Science Fiction and Fantasy and into the internet active fandom side of them, I read Roger Zelazny's Amber cycle serie and loved it. When I was finished however I felt frustrated. The ending left too many issues hanging, too many threads untied. And they would never be completed because Zelazny had died. I wanted more; I wanted to keep exploring this universe, to keep shedding more light onto the other characters' side of things and all the countless possibilities glimpsed from the text, so I went ahunting on the internet, and...

From where I started with this you would think I would find fanfics, wouldn't you ?

Well, actually what I found was Roleplaying Games, specifically Eric Wujcik's Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. Imagine, make up your own Amberite Prince character, and start exploring this world all by yourself, interacting with the other characters etc. I was thrilled ! As things went, it took me two years to actually get into the RPG crowd and start playing regularly. But my point here is : the reason I got into RPGs were exactly the same I find Fanfics so interesting.

Given how obvious the similarities of the pull for both seem to me, you can imagine I was surprised to see how little the actors of either cross over to the other. At first glimpse at my flist, I can find only about 5 or 6 people I know who are interested and active in both Fanfics and RPGs* (over a flist of 110 with lots of people into fanfics). Why were the two so uninvolved with each others ? Is it a case of 'parallel evolution' ? Are there more truly different than they look to me ? Is it merely a question of male fen vs female fen ?)

* : (By RPGs, for the purpose of this essay, I'm going to mean merely Roleplaying Game featuring rules, how light they are, and often a setting, either commercialy published or amateurs, and meant to be played in live in small groups involving one or several player and a game master.
The other kind of roleplay, that is indeed pretty popular among the fandom crowd, which involves the roleplay of existing or original character set in a fictionnal canon world with little to no rules but politeness and mostly played online, I'm going to call Freestyle Roleplay or FRP.)

cut for the extremely long and rambly essay )
salinea: (Default)
I miss old boards and forums. I miss newsnet. It's not that livejournal is a bad medium, it's an amazingly powerful, versatile a tool, that allows you to customize so many things. You don't have to bear with the clunkiness of Ezboard or the unbearable slowness of Voy. You don't even get popups, but you get lots of place for graphics, even without paying. It's incredibly rich in possibilities.

But I still miss all the other kind of boards. I miss being able to relate to a specific space where there were specific rules, a specific usual crowd, some specific moderators, and, above all that, a specific topic of interest that brought all of us together. I miss the context.

LJ is context-less. No matter where from your friends are, no matter how you relate to them (are you reading them because their close to you, because you like their fics, for the purpose of fandom, because you like their political commentary, etc. ?) they appear the same on your friend page. You can filter them (though i'm too lazy to do that) but you can't fix the fact that the paradigm of your interactions isn't structured at all. And you never quite now at what distance the people you're talking to are.

I also miss the treshold aspect of it. You get in a forum, you get in discussions with everyone, and everyone can see your post. You can answer to anyone without wondering whether they'll fill you're intruding into a private space, and even if you're totally unknown, there's a good chance you will be answered if what you say is relevant and interesting. You participate in group interactions. Along the way, you get to know people, and from conversations to conversation, you get to consider them as friends, merely interesting partners in debate, or people you don't especially like but that are part of the collective background.
With LJ, you have absolutly no clue what does it mean to friend someone. Usually if you meet someone on LJ, you find them interesting and you want to get to know them better because you wonder if maybe you could become friends.... well you friend them. Which brings you at once to the most private and intimate possible way to interact with them, and in an "official" way. (Of course, again, you can use filters to keep a gradation of how close you are to people... provided you're willing to go into friend only, which I am not) If you find out eventually that any interesting person isn't for any reasons likely to become your friend, you can only "break up" with them by unfriending them. So very awkward.
Of course, people have tried to address that in many ways. They call "friend list" "reading list"; and they use several journals for several kinds of interaction (one private journal, one fandom journal etc.) However, once more, I'm too lazy to do that (and I find logging in and logging out much too annoying too)

Fact remains that LJ remains a very twisted mix of private and public and semi public interactions. On one hand, it's a place which is your journal, YOURS to tell about your life or anything that strikes your fancy. On the other hand, you are published on the friend list of anyone who wants to read you and that you don't specificaly filter, and they might call on you for bad formatting, flaming things they like and general wank.

Not to mention that LJ are so cliquish in its very nature that you don't even notice that it's cliquish because the wild troll flaming the place doesn't even exist in your eyes unless they start flaming your own journal. Sometimes it's a good thing, because it diminishes abrasive arguments. Sometimes it's a bad things, because you don't even see the possibly legitimate criticisms addressed to a fandom. We all live in our own little world, and we never see what we don't want to see.

Now, of course, one of the value of Internet lies in its anonymousity. You can take much more liberty with revealing personnal and private things to people, because you're dealing with strangers and are likely to remain so. That makes you more free of revealing different aspects of yourself. You're not doomed to a specific identity because everyone knows you already as such. Different place, differenty space, different situations, different attitudes. Different personna (personnae ?). Why, yes, that's interactionnism.
And that's exactly the place where LJ is failing. With previous media, my attitude changed. I didn't act the same way in ATPoBtVS (mixt crowd, rather older than I, very cultured); as I did on roleplaying game Exalted forums (big male majority, about the same age as I) or as I do in the Clamp fandom (big female majority, younger than I, different lingos)
That doesn't mean that I'm lying in any of those fandoms, only that I adapted my behaviour to the context and the situation of each forum for a maximum enjoyment of the interactions.
No such possibility with LJ. Entries that are serious and reflexive in tone sit next to the ones where I'm making rant or laughing silly about a private joke. Parts of my flist (as an audience) will always miss part of the context of everything I will say. And many times I'm afraid i'm going to bore them to tears / freak them out / disapoint them because of it.

And likewise, I have nothing to say in answer to part of what people on my flist (as performers) are saying.

Which leads me to the third part of my rant, reciprocity. In away, recriprocity is made an even bigger part of relationships between people on the internet. In fandom, your status is directly relevant to how much you contribute to the fandom, be it in the form of discussions, admnistration, essays, fanfics, graphics, programs, ressources and of course, reviews. (I'm not going to mention the clientelist relationship between a BFN and their worshippers :p)
By making comments so much easier and simpler to give, LJ welcomes much more direct interaction. And indeed, the duty of readers to provide feedback to a writer they like has become almost seen as a civil duty (at least in ideal, obviously in fact many many people don't bother), and lurking has become a habit looked down upon. (Or at least it seems to me that such a shift has occured, but it could be only because I moved to different fandoms that worked in a different way) That's globally a good thing. But it does have some less nice consequences. I have not waited to be on LJ to start posting because I wanted people to answer what I said. However what gets me the most comments on LJ is unfailingly the post to which I wanted the least. Such as personnal entries where i talk about problems in my life and general moodiness, or memes where I offer to say things to the people answering the comment. In a way, it's sweet : one case shows that people care for me (despite the fact that I hate when people worry for me and that I'm generally very uncomfortable with dealing with people as person and not around some random kind of abstract subject); and the other is one of the perks of LJ : you give people things by answering memes, and they give you the same in exchange. That's how you form bonds isn't it. However, it leaves me craving for other kind of interactions, more topic centered or abstract, the ones that are less emotionnaly based (regardless of the fact I adore people from my flist) and I don't really know how to find them on LJ (and participate to them).

But there's people on my flist, actually, lots of them, which I read because I'm interested in what they post (be it commentary, recs, essays, fics or random quotes) and not at all in them as a person, and I usually do without warning them. How can those people know what i want when I friend them ? What does it mean what they reciprocate (still as wordlessly). What kind of relationship is it that we have ? I'm not either against eventually considering them as friends, however lots of people did that with me, and we still have the same lack of interaction.

In a different fashion, I have lots of people on my flist which I have friended because we were close pals in fandom a long time ago. However, as iour nterests diverged, I hardly ever finds anything interesting in their entries, but I still care for them as a person. However, I have nothing to say to them, they have nothing to say to me.... and at some point i'm getting sad/angry at the whole situation because in the absence of mutual commenting there is no more relationship, and I start to wonder why they keep me on their flist, and why I keep them in mine, no matter the fact that they're people I genuinely like.

Of course, LJ has got Communities which are closer to classical forms of boards. However due to the linnear nature of LJ, I've seldom seen the kind of collective atmosphere on any LJ similar to that of any forum. Posts get burried under other posts pretty quickly and seldom get digged back. They don't get back up like a threads where a new answer has just been posted. And more often than not the interaction between the poster and a serie of people who answer them, and seldom between groups of people all participating to one discussion. (Indeed, when two commentors start discussing between each other in answer to another post, they will often appologize and start a new post somewhere else to continue it if they're polite)

So, those are most of the things bothering me with Live journal. That's why I'm missing the old boards, even though LJ spoils us with some many good tools and possibilities that i might never bear going back to their clunkiness.
salinea: (Default)
Downloading 39 episodes of a serie is way too fucking slow. In one month and a half I'm only at 36% of getting the whole of the Utena serie and it frustrates me extremely. Can't go all over and it and analyse it properly until I can watch it again, and fully.

[ profile] coffee_and_ink compared the Utena ending to the FMA one. Of course I'd rather she had compared it to Buffy.

Obvious similarities between the two series : the reversal of gender roles, feminism, overuse of symbolism and metaphores. But Utena in general is I think more extreme, more indepth and more... well revolutionary ^_^ Though they both have the great advantage of managing to apply feminism to more than relationships between men and women.

Utena is in a way very political. Or more accurately, it talks very acutely about power as it is in every parts of human interactions, even those that could seem very innocent, and suggest a political outlook on it. We're talking about a serie where two keys words are "Prince" and "Revolution", doesn't this strike people as strange ? Those are antithesis.

Especially when you remember that Utena makes obvious references to the very old shoujo "Roses of Versaille" which was during the French revolution. I wonder if there's some essay around that explores this topic. If not I'd like to do one... grrr why is that download so slow ?

BtVS and Utena ending, with spoilers )


9 Mar 2005 12:10 am
salinea: (Default)
I feel like I've been misusing this journal terribly. Hence why I've been having so much troubles writing in it these past days.
When I started it, I didn't do it to keep tab with my friends (not that I don't want to check on what happens in all of your lives), nor did I do it to write things about what happened in my days and give the appearance I was busy and human still. Neither did I do it for fandom related subjects really, not that I mind using it as such, but not for fandom as itself certainly.

I started this journal because I wanted to put there everything that made sense to me. Not the moments but the realizations they induced. Not myself, but the trapping of my Self. I wanted to use it to help me find the Narrative of my life. All the meaning I found in a day to day basis that could help me create my identify, act within it, reach for what I wanted for myself.

But as often happens we get trapped in the way, and lost in the labyrinth of what others want to see, and what we shall provide them so that they can see us. So we try to speak their tongue, and then we don't understand ourselves anymore, and then we're only speaking nonsense. And then we don't say anything anymore at all.


That's what there is in beauty.

Magic. Power. Wonder. That's why I want to write. That's why i always wanted to write. Not to escape, but to find what was mine in reality. To make reality mine. I mean, there's no sense to feeling alienated to this world. Everything that is in it, is in us. And everything that is in us, is in the world. Is of the world. Dreams, tales, visions, fears, beauty... everything that comes from us, comes from this reality, this universe. This nature, our nature.

That's the power of words, of art, of beauty, not to create things (everything is already in the world), but to name them, to isolate them, to set them in a frame, to tie them to each others, in a storyline that gives sense - order - to it. And to do so, repetively, differently, with the same basic stuff all the time. With the same bare stones you can build a million different castles and bridges and arches.

And they don't contradict each others. They're all true. They're all of the world. Because they have meanings to us. As I never found any contradiction as a child into thinking that the world was both created in 6 days and that the earth was billion years old. Why should I have ? Both truth belong to different narratives, different frames, but they have both their own uses, their own power within it. It's the same way I understand that a scientist could consider light as an onde once, and as a particule then for the resolution of two different problems.
And the world is big, is rich enough to encompass all of our different points of views narrating reality.

Power then. Power for myself - to become what I want to be, to set myself free of all I didn't want to be. We do that, don't we ? With the right clothes, with the right rituals, actions that we do and that we give meanings to, places that we go, that we live in to make our world. With the right attributes and aspects we give ourselves power to be what we want to be - or what we fear to be as often, much too often, we get ruled by this power, by our uncontrolled chaos within of fear and vanity and anger and self-loathing instead of using it. And we trap ourselves, and let the words of others trap us. While we could use it to free us so absolutly.

And power for others. To tie myself to others. To let them see. Because that's what i loved in books when I was a child. The power to become anyone else so that you could see what it was to be someone else. Without judgement. Without bias. Empathy was what I sook into books, that one gift that I prize above any other. Utopian in a way of me to believe that, to believe that you could really see, just in a books, all of the world through the eyes of others. Of course, the world is not there, you have to bring that with you, as a reader. But the track marks are. The Frame, which tells you where the beginning and the ending are, and the cuts of chapters between them. Putting the negative space in, that's what writing is. This framing blankness around the reality that the reader brings with, so that when they walk see it, it is them that connect the dots together, them who brings the vision forth, into their mind that the picture becomes alive. It's got so much more power that way. So much more meaning to them. And that's when they can see, when they can connect with you.

That's the answer for me. I was that weird child that nobody could understand, who found things, saw things in the world that nobody else could see. I was - I am - lonely because of it. But if I don't want to wear a mask to hide beneath, to fit in and walk on the same road as everyone else, then can I do less that give others the key, the password to translate what I say and let them understand me ?

And I haven't been doing really that, have i ? I got used not to expect people to understand me. Which was the great vanity of believe that I alone could understand them no matter how different they were and love them as they while they could have not ? How foolish was that !

But if I want to do this with that journal I have to do it entirely. I have to put the fandoms and the books, the thoughts and the daily reviews. I have to put everything that is me, so I can at least connect it, build it, make sense of it in a way that would, at last, help me create a narrative for myself. Make sense of me and the world for myself and for others.
And for that I need to cut, to cut from the chaotic mass to order it. To prioritize what I want.

As I've been living this past year under the sign of the Moon.
Who I am ? Everything I dream and wishes and fears to be.
What is illusory ? Everything I cannot make true by telling it the right way.
How do I make it ? By deciding. By picking a road instead of trying to walk two, a hundred, at the same times and not walking on anything at all. I can even cut my way across the bushes for myself if I want to, but I need to do it and to follow it wherever it leads to instead of keep retracing my step to find another path.

Once upon a time...


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