We’re in the middle of the so-called dog days, i.e. the hottest and most unpleasant days of summer, ruled by Sirius, the dog star. Of course, this year it’s not hot at all, at least in Germany. Today, the highest temperature was around 16° Celsius.
Years ago, I read somewhere (I think it was V. by Thomas Pynchon, but I can’t locate the quote right now) that the so-called dog days were also a time when more horrible disasters happened than at other times. I even set out to disprove this by collecting the number of disasters and the death toll for the dog days period of July 15 to August 15, for the Christmas period of December 15 to January 15 (because my mother swears that more horrible disasters happened around Christmas) as well as for a neutral period in spring. Since it was the pre-internet days, I basically collected newspaper clippings and jotted down disasters mentioned in the TV and radio news. The study was anything but representative and I don’t think I ever came to any conclusion.
But this year the dog days are certainly turning out to be a time of tragedy. And as if the attacks in Oslo and the island of Utøya, which left at least 94 people dead, most of them teenagers, weren’t depressing enough, we get a load of infuriating media stupidity. Such as this fear-mongering interview with a “terrorism expert” on the late news on German TV last night. Almost everything this guy says (it’s most likely not a single terrorist, it’s very likely Islamism, Germany is very likely in danger as well) turned out to be totally wrong, as was already becoming clear at the time the interview was broadcast, since the terrorist turned out to be a white Norwegian right-wing Christian fundamentalist. Yet the pundits and experts (not just this guy either, every news program had its own expert on air) still blathered on about Islamism, peddling the very same xenophobic prejudices that drove the terrorist to murder at least 94 people.
And this is German TV. I shudder to imagine what CNN or heaven beware Fox News must have been like. In fact, I’ve avoided all international news sites today, because I don’t want to see nasty comments about gun control and multiculturalism and socialism. In fact, there was already some of that in the comments at Nick Mamatas’ livejournal of all places.
Talking of tragedy, exactly one year ago 21 young people died during a mass crushing at the Love Parade techno music festival in Duisburg. The Love Parade incident both shocked and infuriated me, because we know how dangerous the combination of crowds, closed quarters and inadequate entrance/exit routes can be. The Hillsborough disaster was what came to my mind first, but the phenomenon of fatal crowd crushes is much older, as the Victoria Hall disaster shows (Warning: The links are potentially triggering). So why is this sort of thing still happening?
Singer Amy Winehouse has died at age 27, joining the ranks of talented musicians self-destructing much too early due to drugs and alcohol. Just a few weeks ago, there was a report about her on TV following the canceled concert in Belgrade. At the end, the commentator said, “She’s 27 now. The same age that Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison were when they died.” In retrospect, this seems almost eerily prescient.
And now for some non-tragic links:
Sherwood Smith responds to the Max Barry post I linked to yesterday and wonders why all-boy (with maybe a token girl) bands of brothers are much more common than all girl (maybe with a token boy) bands of sisters.
There are stories about groups of girls/women, quite a few of them in fact. If you’ve been a kid in the 1980s, you probably watched Jem or She-Ra, Princess of Power, both of them band of sisters stories. Contemporary German kids have Cornelia Funke’s wonderful Wilde Hühner series.
As for adults, Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives are very clearly band of sisters stories, though none of them ever appealed to me. You also have plenty of romance series focused on a group of friends, all of whom find love in subsequent volumes of the series. There are both male and female friends groups, though it is telling that the men tend to be Napoleonic spies, bad-ass vampire brotherhoods or Navy SEALs, while the women tend to be women running a bakery/antique store/wedding planning business or Regency misses with dismal marriage prospects. In short, the guys get to have adventures in addition to male bonding, the women not so much. There are a few paranormal romances focusing on a group of women, for example The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, three interlinked novellas about three supernatural sisters, by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart. Lisa Childs also had a Harlequin Nocturne trilogy about three witches. But the vampire brotherhood is still a far more common model than the witchy sisterhood.
SF Signal has a mindmeld about favourite international authors.
The Wall Street Journal has an article about the links between the western and science fiction genres. I know that the western/SF link is a very common claim, though I personally rarely see it except in very obvious cases like Firefly or the old Braveheart cartoon. It’s probably because I have never liked westerns (even though I wrote one), while I love science fiction, particularly the sort of space opera that is most often compared to the western. So the idea that my favourite and my least favourite genre might be related is difficult to parse for me.
The Wall Street Journal offers this article about a hand-on seminar on Victorian dress and particularly underwear aimed at writers of historical romance.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in New York has an unexpected downside, namely that gay and lesbian couples are being pestered to get married by pushy parents, mothers mostly, who love organizing weddings.