There are several controversies going on at the moment, so here is a round-up of interesting discussions and challenging links:
More on VS Naipaul:
At the Evening Standard, Melanie McDonagh wonders whether Naipaul might not be right, because in her opinion the best woman writers wrote about domestic issues and not about the grand sweep of human civilization. This article plunges straight into the double standard of content as outlined by Joanna Russ, where stereotypically male concerns are automatically assumed to be more important than stereotypically female concerns. It’s always said to see that sort of stuff coming from a woman, but then many women have internalized male values and tastes.
Also at Salon, Laura Miller points out that great writers are not necessarily good people. Which is really kind of obvious, though a reader always has to decide whether a writer’s literary quality and/or enjoyment to be found in said writer’s books outweighs any arseholish behaviour from said writer. VS Naipaul’s works do not pass that test for me, though others may well feel differently.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph offers a long list of previous arseholish behaviour by Naipaul.
More on women in SF:
Torque Control has a transcript of a recent BBC radio program on women in SF, featuring Farah Mendlesohn, Karen Traviss and Gwyneth Jones.
More on Darkness in YA fiction:
The Guardian has a round-up of the discussion here and also offers this post by Imogen Russell Williams calling out against censorship of YA fiction.
Here’s Mary Elizabeth Williams again at Salon, asking whether YA fiction has become too dark. I particularly like the bit where Williams, quoting her teenaged daughter, points out that – unlike what the Wall Street Journal article might want you to believe – the discussion is not about children’s books but about young adult book, emphasis on the “adult”.
S.E. Smith responds at the feminist blog Tiger Beatdown.
Jackie Kessler, whose YA novel Rage was singled out in the Wall Street Journal article as an example of dark and potentially morally harmful YA fiction, responds on her blog. Other authors who were accused of writing morally questionable YA fiction like Laurie Halse Anderson and Cheryl Rainfield respond as well. There are lots of wonderful responses from YA authors and readers all over the net stating how much YA fiction has helped them through difficult times in their lives.
Diane Duane takes on the Wall Street Journal article and on the hypercontrolling attitudes of many parents these days in general. I very much agree with her – I curse about those very same attitudes every time I can barely get to or from the school parking lot, because all of the parents blocking the way while dropping off or picking up their kids – kids who are teenagers and old enough to take the bus or the bike home. And Germany is not nearly as bad as the US with respect to parents controlling their kids, e.g. very few parents control reading material and films.
Finally, Sherwood Smith wonders whether the difference between dark YA fiction that is embraced by young readers and dark YA fiction that is rejected by teenagers lies in whether the protagonists have agency. Some excellent discussion going on there.
More on the Smurfs (yes, the Smurfs):
A French scholar claims to have discovered antisemitism, racism and Stalinism in the Smurf comics of all places.
Oh my God, I was harbouring a colony of racist, antisemitic Stalinists in my room for some of my most impressionable years!
That said, I wouldn’t dismiss the thesis out of hand without reading the study first, because it is certainly possible that subconscious racism and antisemitism found their way into the early Smurf comics. After all, Belgium has a very visible Jewish community, particularly in Antwerp, and was still a colonial power and a highly problematic one at that when the first Smurf comics were released.
What is more, we do have problematic visual shorthands such as blonde equals good and dark-haired equals evil in the Smurf stories, though those things are hardly limited to the Smurfs, but crop up all over Western pop culture.