Bloomsday Linkdump

Large parts of Southern and Eastern Germany are still flooded, but luckily my feet are still dry. Though I was commissioned to create a PowerPoint presentation about flood clean-up efforts, particularly with regard to oil-polluted flood waters, for a conference later this month. No, I won’t be presenting, I just did the PowerPoint presentation. Meanwhile, The Atlantic has yet more photos from the flooded regions, though their gallery doesn’t yet include the latest spectacular efforts to repair a broken dike near the town of Fischbeck in Saxony-Anhalt by sinking three cargo barges to plug the hole in the dike.

Over at the Pegasus Pulp blog, I have another post about the New Pulp fiction and links to the latest discussion on that subject.

The Atlantic asks why the West loves science fiction and fantasy, while the rest of the world doesn’t. There is so much wrong with this article that it’s hard to know where to start. To begin with, the author uses movies as evidence and points out that while most of the highest grossing Hollywood films are SFF, very few of the highest grossing Bollywood films are, from which he deduces that Indians don’t like SFF, from which he deduces that Asians don’t like SFF. Never mind that Japan, China and Korea like SFF just fine and have a homegrown SFF culture, while I have seen Bollywood movies that were clearly SFF. Or that he doesn’t take literature into account at all. Meanwhile, a lot of what the author says about India also applies to Germany. The German film industry makes very little SFF and Hollywood SFF spectaculars often underperform in the German market, e.g. The Avengers didn’t even make it into the top ten movies of 2012 in Germany.

Nonetheless, the article insists that “the West” likes SFF (even though plenty of western countries don’t), while the rest of the world, which the author defines as Asia, because Africa or South America aren’t even mentioned, doesn’t (even though plenty of Asian countries do like SFF). And how does the author explain this alleged disparity? By quoting sociologist Max Weber (who died in 1920 and never read Tolkien nor watched Metropolis, let alone Star Wars or The Avengers) and his theory of the disenchantment of the (western) world, which BTW is about the industrialisation and the rise of science as a specialized profession and not about cultural preferences for SFF at all. Not that the author cares, he just uses Max Weber’s points as proof for a theory about the popularity of SFF that is as common (usually among people who don’t like SFF) as it is infuriating, namely that SFF and the resultant sense of wonder is somehow a replacement for religion. Now this theory is not just wrong, it is also insulting both to atheist SFF fans and creators, who have no interest in religion and not just don’t view SFF as a substitute for religion*, but also to religious SFF fans and creator, who already have a religion and don’t need a substitute. Some people just like SFF period. It’s not a substitute for anything.

At the Book View Café, Steven Harper Piziks has an insightful post on how a good love story needs more than just instant attraction, it needs a reason why those two people fall in love. Indeed, this is a problem I have with some romances and even more often with romance subplots in other genres. I simply can’t see why these two people have fallen in love. And BTW, claiming that reading romance novels is a substitute for romantic relationships in real life is as insulting as claiming that SFF is a substitute for religion.

At Stacked, Kelly Jensen writes about the depiction of female sexuality in YA novels and how problematic it often is.

This is pretty amusing. An erotic werewolf romance published by Black Lace books in the UK becomes the object of a two-year court case in the US, since a prisoner really, really wanted to read the book and wasn’t allowed to, because werewolf erotica is apparently against prison rules. Of course, I think it would be vastly preferable if prisoners were to read erotica dn then take matters into their own hands, so to say, rather than taking out their frustrations on fellow prisoners. Meanwhile, Mathilda Madden a.k.a. Mathilda Gregory, author of the novel in question, is rather bemused by the whole thing, including the fact that a US court has now officially attested that her book has literary merit.

*For example, I don’t even like my SFF to become too metaphysical. When an SFF novel suddenly breaks out into theological or philosophical discussions in the middle of the action, I roll my eyes and start to skim, especially when there was no prior hint in the novel beyond a few vaguely defined priests that religion played any part in this world at all. And whenever a work of SFF is described with quasi-religious buzzwords such as “numinous”, I quickly run the other way.

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