Harry Dresden–no, just no

I’m only in chapter two of Storm Front and Harry Dresden has used the word “cheerleader” to describe two different women. Because cheerleaders, evil witch bitches, and women who need doors opened and their chairs pulled out for them are obviously the only two or three types of women Dresden believes exists.

I read Jim Butcher’s 2014 National Novel Writing Month pep talk about two years ago when I participated as I have been for the past couple of years. At the time, I thought Butcher was witty and decided to take the time to read some of his work. I thought the same thing about the character of Harry Dresden…at first.

Unfortunately Storm Front is my first exposure to Butcher’s novels and I can say plainly that, two chapters in, I am not impressed.

Grown men who constantly point out that their sexist attitudes are a product of their upbringing while knowing full well that their views/thought processes and behaviors are wrong and unfair to women (the women who don’t think men are God’s special gift to women) only do it because they have no intention of changing. They enjoy letting everybody know that they think of women a certain way and are secretly confident there’s no reason for them to change and that it makes them “more of a man” instead of a rotten human being. (Mostly because…penis.) Dresden’s attitude is, “I know I’m a bigot. I can’t help it and I’m going to constantly remind you that I simply cannot contain myself”. With a shrug, too. He’s probably the kind of guy who secretly thinks this b.s. is charming and all women love it somewhere deep inside.

I had intended to read the whole book despite Harry Dresden’s (and maybe even Jim Butcher’s) abrasive attitude towards women. But I’m not going to be a “good woman” and stick it out with this schmuck. I deleted Storm Front off my tablet the moment I read–

Classic lady in distress. For one of those liberated, professional women, she knew exactly how to jerk my old-fashioned chains around.

–Jim Butcher, Storm Front

Deal breaker. Last straw. With every annoying little dig that proceeded it, that is the end of the entire story for me. I could vomit.

My tablet is reading the page number I’m on as 307 out of 3712. I. Will. Fucking. Not. Do. This. To. Myself. I can only predict from experience with first person narratives and, you know, observing men for most of my life that this crud isn’t going to change, no matter how much of the Dresden files I try to read.

“Because you can’t do something like this without a whole lot of hate,” I said. “Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This looks like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.”

–Jim Butcher, Storm Front

I can almost ignore that Dresden/Butcher has the same prejudice against fat characters/people that J.K. Rowling has or that he described “Monica” as having a “hoarse cheerleader” voice over the phone. But Dresden’s ingrained idiocy against women is not acceptable.

Why would I want to spend time and energy reading a book about a fictional guy who’s admittedly sexist? There are plenty of real ones to deal with.

Some books, even if they potentially have redeeming qualities…somewhere in there…a lady’s just gotta put it down and walk away.

Race-naming in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’

I was talking with my friend over the phone about how weird it is that in Tolkien’s world that it is totally legit to address people by their race. Weird because, in reality, outside those pages, people don’t commonly do that–

And with good reason.

A lot of people fail to understand why its not okay to address a people (and by this I mean primarily POC,who don’t even really exist in the LOTR universe–a telling sign) by a racial identifier (whether its a slur or what appears to be a simple “race name”), particularly one that they themselves or individually have not given you permission to address them by.

In The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, its completely commonplace to address somebody as “my dear hobbit” or “Master Dwarf”. Usually, race-naming is used in only one of a few different ways:

  1. to refer to the great accomplishments, blessings/abilities, and skills  known of that race (es. Elves are “fair”, immortal, and wise or Dwarves are great craftspeople and miners).
  2. to point out a characteristic that seems to be shared among many members of a race (ex. Dwarves are stubborn or hearty or Hobbits appear as children to the eyes of Men because of their size),
  3. and, most of all,  it seems that race and race-naming is specifically built into the entire cosmology of Tolkien’s universe, the way things turn out.

I am not a Tolkien scholar, I have not read all of his work, but I find race-naming in his writing and its effects on generations of fiction/fantasy writers to be bad news. That’s almost a different post though.

I just don’t live in that world, or society rather, where race-naming between races is usually positive. I don’t want a Japanese person calling me “nigga”,  someone Spanish-speaking to call me “the [insert adjective] negro“, or white people to address me as anything other than what I give them permission to call me (they can even manage to turn that into a disaster). With the amount of ignorance and hate hanging around, its detrimental that race should be treated as a practiced way of labeling peoples, whether its because they are known for their negative characteristics, deepest failures, or their greatest accomplishments. Homogenizing races and cultures is…a touchy business. In my society, I don’t think its possible to address somebody by their race and have it be a simple thing because social interactions and history are so much more complicated than in this fictional world.

When have the Elves ever enslaved the Dwarves? When do ents go around sneaking into the Shire and murdering Hobbits because they’re shorter? My point is that race and racism does not manifest itself  in Tolkien’s world in such a way that it does any real justice to how racism and oppression operates in reality, much like Rowling’s Harry Potter. And that is why race-naming and racial homogeneity is presented as commonplace and usually presented as harmless or unoffensive.

Its the same problem I have with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: there is no one “Enemy” to unite against as there is these stories. In my understanding and lived experience, the problems between races lies in their shared violent and oppressive history, not at the root of some common enemy. We are not the Free People” of Middle Earth, we are the constantly divided peoples of Earth.

Scar & the Rockbells

Its no secret that Japanese manga artists are apparently well-entrenched in glorifying eurocentricism and whiteness.

That being said, as much as I enjoy the nuances of the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood storyline/plot, I’m just at a loss for how Scar and the Ishvalans are treated. There are very clear racial messages and undertones in this series, most likely inspired by real-life historical atrocities and realities.

Scar and the Ishvalan race are consistently described and set apart from the Amestrians in appearance as having “brown skin” and “red eyes”. By comparison, Winrey Rockbell–for all intents and purposes, the epitome of a well-off, blue-eyed, blonde-haired white girl–deserves total vengeance/justice for the murder of her parents but the genocide of a huge chunk of Scar’s entire race, including his family by the military of her country, is swept under the rug continuously.

I know–Scar killed Winrey’s parents; even he feels he has gone against the teachings of his people and wishes to pay for his wrongdoing. However, the trauma that caused him to do something so horrible is blatantly ignored, even by Scar himself, who refuses to even try to tell Winry exactly what happened. I’m sure that if he hadn’t been in a state of rage, confusion and unbelievable agony after the trauma of waking to realize what happened to him and his family, Scar never would have willfully killed two innocent doctors who were helping his people.

Just goes to show that two white people’s lives are still valued as worth more than the lives of an entire race of brown folks, even in fiction written by someone who isn’t even white.

And I am still confused on whether or not “full metal” is a compound word or not. Never mind, I’m sure its a compound word….

Issued: Lynne Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series

I really enjoyed reading the Daughter of the Moon books by Lynne Ewing as a teenager and this is what I have to say about them in retrospect.

  1. Ending? WTF is this?: The ending was definitely whack and rushed. The series is like twenty books long and it ends like that? Don’t want to put spoilers here but it was really lame and cliché….
  2. Shimmery Lights = a Girl’s Power???: Why is it that the only power that women and girls have is this shimmery metaphorical light? Women who use force are looked down upon, even when it’s to save their live and other people’s lives; these women are looked at as aggressive or animalistic. Ewing portrays the goddesses as pacifist and their powers are pacifistic. I understand that there’s a message of non-violence, but why does a woman’s goodness and worth have to be aligned with a gentle, motherly demeanor and nonviolence when the world demands that a woman know how to protect herself and her daughters even if she must sometimes use violence to protect. It’s the difference between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. It’s the reason I have issues with Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. Ewing’s biography states that she is also a counselor for ‘troubled’ teens. I don’t understand how she came up with the girl powers =  non-violent powers theme, knowing that we live in a violent world. I feel the same way about Sailor Moon to a somewhat lesser degree. More to come on this topic in later posts.
  3. Jimena, the only sista in the crew: With the exception of Jimena, there are no girl goddesses of color. The first racial/ethnic group that white writers select from for the magical girl genre is Latin@, because in my opinion they view them as tan versions of themselves. Not too dark to be disassociated with the purity of white femaleness, not too white that there’s no difference between them and other white character. And Jimena adds spice and a flare of color to the all-white cast of this girl power series. The only young woman of color, of course, Jimena.  I shouldn’t be surprised.
  4. Inspired: Like with Sailor Moon, when I was growing up, Ewing’s Daughter of the Moon was a real source of inspiration to me, combining the magical/supernatural with slice of life and girl power, even though there aren’t many people of color involved. It’s difficult to completely identify with a series when people who look like you aren’t present, as a young woman of color. Still, the series wasn’t a complete loss and I still look upon it favorable in some ways.
  5. Heterosexist obsession with boys: Are all young girls really obsessed with boys or are they this way because we keep writing them into existence. Ewing doesn’t crack down any barriers or break any molds on this front. The only thing that saves the goddesses from being read as total boy-crazy airheads is their internal and external struggle with the antagonistic forces in the series and the building of their characters. That’s saying a lot.
  6. Followers?: Sounds like Twitter and Google Reader… There is a lot of metaphorical meaning in the symbols surrounding the Atrox but also some passive commentary on teen culture.
  7. Dressing, Club scenes, and Dancing: I love the way Ewing describes the clothes, hair, makeup and the club and night scenes. I love the way she talks about the goddess girls’ strut!
  8. Ewing would pick Latin and goddesses hailed and propagated by Eurocentric academia: ‘nuff said
  9. Sons of Dark: …well that ended pretty damn quickly and she killed them all off!!! I keep wondering if, in addition to the crappy, rushed ending of Daughters of Moon, it was a publishing issue that caused Ewing to write these bad/cliché ending for the Daughters and the Sons.
  10. The Choice: Why did she make it so that the girls either had to ascend to some higher plane or lose their memories and their powers and remain on earth? That kind of took me out of the story.
  11. Hunger for something more intense: Someone described Daughters of the Moon as “lackluster”. I think there is something about the style of writing and third person omniscience that I find to be “lackluster”. I had just convinced my sister to read Harry Potter with me and we took turns reading out loud with each other until we did the whole series. I wanted to push it a bit further and read Daughters of the Moon. As I was reading it out loud to her, I realized that there was something almost boring about reading it out loud, something too PG-13, or something. I just couldn’t figure out what was turning me off from it where in my teen years, I was enthralled and couldn’t get enough. Maybe because I know the end, it just isn’t filled with as many possibilities for the new and exciting to me.
  12. Using their powers: As always with magical girl stories, I always like to see them use their powers in the given situation. That’s exciting for me.
  13. Gender binary: Gotta bring it up, it must be done. Everybody in the books fits neatly into ‘male’ or ‘female’. It’d have been nice to see some queerness up in this series.  I’m finding more and more that my own sexuality and gender identity leans away from the male-female binary.
  14. Body positivity: I always loved how the goddesses were so comfortable with their bodies (or became that way). I felt like in order to be a goddess or goddess-like, like these girls, I should look like that. Too bad I’m not white or particularly thin…and I don’t have long flowy magical pony hair….
  15. Cover art: I love the cover photos for the original hardbacks of the series and I own all of them. Like I said, it’s difficult for a Black girl in the white dominated media but I always loved these covers and thought the models were beautiful and ethereal-looking.

Most Recent Bookstore Trip

Nowadays when I enter a bookstore, presumably Borders, I’m just terrified of what I might find there. That’s no way live, especially as a writer and otherwise artist, but nothing suits me anymore in a way that I find fulfilling. The book publishing industry has failed me, I feel. I fear being unfulfilled and that is why I hesitate to purchase books. Luckily, I escaped fairly unscathed during my most recent book trip.

During my most recent trip to the bookstore, a Borders in Downtown Decatur that was closing (lawd, help us all if Borders goes down even though they said they’re not. Borders is my preferred location for all things surrounding books, magazines, and Paperchase), I purchased several books and I’ll write my thoughts on some of them as I embarked on reading.

  • Vassalord, Volume 4 by Nanae Chrono

What I hate about a lot of the yaoi that I’ve read is the latent and overt misogyny that I’ve noticed is sometimes exhibited among men in the queer community. The presentation of Eva or Eve, better known as Rayfell, is particularly disturbing although I understand the biblical connections and implications. The story and the guys—Rayflo and Chris intrigue me and their story is very sweet when they’re attitudes towards women don’t smack of misogyny.

  • Never After by Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Majorie M. Liu, Sharon Shinn

I don’t want to judge these writers solely by what I read in this book but here’s what I think: I actually had to go dig this book out of the box of stuff I’m giving away to the Salvation Army. I’m sick of this 1-2-3, A-B-C white-princess-heroine bullshit. It’s just not my cup of tea these days. I read Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?” contribution in the anthology and I liked what she was trying to do with the story and paused over her skill, but all-in-all I wasn’t in the mood for the heroines in the book, no matter how unconventionally contrived they were.

  • Finder: Finder in the Target, Volume 1 by Amano Yamane
  • The Book of Murray: The Life, Teachings, and Kvetching of the Lost Prophet by David M. Bader

Loved it! Laugh out loud hilarious for me. I love this biblical parody. I haven’t experienced anything this funny concerning the Bible
since, like History of the World (film).

  • She’s On Top: Erotic Stories of Female Dominance and Male Submission ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel

The story I enjoyed the most so far (admittedly I’m not done reading yet and have been skipping around) is Room 2201 by N.T. Morely. Something about that got me going, I’ll tell you. I’ll finish reading this and add more comments later. I guess I haven’t finished reading yet because I want the getting to stay good.

Reading on,

Ms. Queenly

Concepts of Vampires

DISCLAIMER: I know that vampires are a fad right now but I’ve been thinking about this for years.

What I’ve noticed about portrayals of vampires in media and fiction-writing is that most writers choose a type of vampire to portray. Over the years, after having read and seen much paranormal fiction, there is a common concept of a vampire and what that means and looks like; most of the time, pale, pasty, white, European, blood-sucking, holy-object allergic, coffin-dwelling, sunlight-evading,vicious, below-normal-body-temperature, and sometimes bearing varying levels of preternatural powers/abilities.

Offhand, I can think of several blood-drinking varieties that I am familiar with and what works they hail from: Christine Feehan (her Carpathians novels and related works), Laurell K. Hamilton (primarily the Anita Blake stuff), Anne Rice (my first cover to cover was Vittorio the Vampire), the ones in Night Prayers (by P.D. Cacek); Young Adult (YA) stuff like The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, Look for Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde; manga and anime like Vampire Hunter D, Blood the Last Vampire, Vampire Knight, and Vassalord (one of my favs); films like 30 Days of Night, Queen of the Damned, I Am Legend, Underworld, Cirque du Freak,  Dracula 2000, Bordello of Blood (maybe I shouldn’t mention it…), Bram Stroker’s Dracula, a host of the classics thanks to my mom, and, I hate to mention it, Twilight (haven’t seen or read it, I refuse to actually, but I did watch Vampires Suck, lol, lol); and some from historical romance and contemporary paranormal romance novels too numerous to name (including but not limited to Teresa Medeiros and J. R. Ward *ewws*). You cannot forget that among the greatest vampire movies, I must add, are the Blade movies (though I have my issues with that Wesley Snipes after I found out about him abusing Halley Berry during their relationship, so disappointed) if only because the main vampire is Black and so very badass. Also there’s Vampire in Brooklyn, with Eddie Murphy (another problematic Black male celebrity/actor/comedian) though it seems to me that this movie is often forgotten (and maybe for good reason…?).

Laurell K. Hamilton’s ABHV series is probably one of the most interesting and ongoing paranormal series I have ever read though portrayals of people of color lycans and vampires and women frustrate me to no end; Hamilton is in no way free of guilt  in typecasting Black characters or excluding them altogether from the ABHV books in her heavy-handed exaggeration and perception of overrated white beauty. With the exception of Blade, most of the Black vampires I have ever read or seen are portrayed as villains or sidekick-movie extra-flunkies; this is true of both Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn and Aaliyah as Akasha in Queen of the Damned (in the case of villains).

The only book I own that is about Black vampires is an anthology entitled Dark Thirst edited by Angela C. Allen. Out of fear of being disappointed, I never finished reading it and have had it for years. The tag on the front is by Tananarive Due and reads, “A shot of blood with a twist… Vampire mythology has crossed the color line for good.” I don’t really know how true that is and I have my doubts. Not enough published Black writers are on the market producing quality paranormal fiction. Paranormal fiction just seems beyond the Black imagination and as a paranormal/general literary fiction writer, I find that disappointing. At least it’s not very common or popular in the community as I know it. Are Black characters so poorly portrayed by writers like Laurell K. Hamilton because we as Black people do not imagine ourselves in this realm, or do we as a community view vampire stories as for “white folks” like so many other genres of writing and art? Are some things just plain anachronistic and countercultural to Black people that it manifests itself in their work which floods the writer’s market while Black writing remains a small, underrepresented, underfunded, and neglected niche? Or do most white writers just have a screwed up racist perception of Black people? I’ll write another in-depth post about this soon.

I am fascinated by all the types of vampires I’ve read about and seen, both the classical/quintessential and the newly crafted. I am particularly interested in the ones I myself am developing. I hope someday not to have to choose between the types when writing paranormal vampire work and am crafting a world where they all exist simultaneously. Sounds exciting, complicated, and like a lot of pints of blood, yes? ^_^

ever more creative,

Ms. Queenly

Why Historical Fiction?

Elia's Diamonds

There are many American writers who make a conscious choice to write historical fiction. My area of expertise or experience is historical romance so I can’t really speak to all genres. But the question remains.

Why is that? Why do they choose to do this?

It is just so interesting to me how some artists wish to remain confined to antiquity. In the worlds that these writers build, I would ask who is excluded, alienated, and marginalized by them? For example, who is backdrop scenery in romance novels that take place on plantations? Usually, its the Black and African and Afro-Caribbean peoples. My ancestors are the backdrop, the trim, the exotic locale of some European-descended person’s romance and happily ever after or drama. You too often in many circumstances see the same thing with many minorities or marginalized peoples.

This dates back to early writings in America and before it was even America, with European explorers like Christopher Columbus and John Smith, both of whom were responsible for countless atrocities against the humanity of Native peoples.

One reader’s literary escape is another reader’s marginalized hell. I’m sure that the Native peoples did not view “America” as the “New World”. They were already here, living their lives with their own sets of cultural ways.

So much of what we know about history is distorted. So much of what we do know about history is written by the victors of wars fought to instate and maintain oppression and commit genocide and to promote the agendas of the few in power.

What is this obsession with the socially alienating past? Why aren’t there more writers trying to write about these things but with a more focused social commentary?

Why is it that historical romance writers choose to write about women in patriarchal societies? Why is it that they choose to write about women who are practically, by their own societal laws, under men’s feet? Why is that they choose to write about women who were often coerced into sexual relations with their husbands and sometimes men who weren’t their husbands? Furthermore, why would they choose to make it sensual? What is sexy about that? Why is it that they choose to write about a time when women were considered property in their societies? Why do they choose to glamorize the institution of marriage? Why is it that they choose over and over and over again to continue to support a market built on the backs of oppressed women? Who would choose to give something like this to the world of the arts?

Is the past just safer and easier to write about, for white writers in particular?