First of all, science fiction writer, terminal cancer patient and regular reader of this blog Jay Lake has the chance to take part in a clinical trial for a new cancer treatment, which will hopefully help both Jay and other cancer patients. However, there are a lot of associated costs, so friends of Jay have started a fundraiser to help him cover those costs. If you have a bit of money to spare, please consider donating.
I have been interviewed by SF writer Edward Lake (no relation to Jay Lake, as far as I know), author of the Mamluks Saga. We talk about science fiction, the Shattered Empire saga and the connection between Theodor W. Adorno and Lois McMaster Bujold. What, you mean other people don’t quote Adorno when talking about science fiction? Damn.
Over at the Pegasus Pulp blog, I also have some neat promotional images created via a site called Photofunia.
At The World in Satin Bag, Shaun Duke responds to the current debate about “masculine” writing initiated by Paul S. Kemp and points out that no human behaviours are gendered per se. Bonus points for mentioning the fascinating Zula, as played by Grace Jones in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movies from the early 1980s. Indeed, May Day, the character Grace Jones played in A View to Kill, Roger Moore’s last outing as James Bond, is quite similar to Zula and probably the least traditionally feminine of the many Bond women. Nonetheless, May Day is memorable, whereas the “good girl” character played by Tanya Roberts is instantly forgettable.
At The Booksmugglers, Kameron Hurley has a great essay on heteronormativity in science fiction and other stories and how the pervasive heteronormativity of the world she grew up in made it very difficult to imagine anything else.
Foz Meadows, who coincidentally would be another great pick for the best fan writer Hugo, has a fascinating post on gender in digital spaces and the “fake geek girl” meme. Turns out that approximately half of all players of MMORPGs play characters of a different gender and that those who engage in the sort of behaviour in MMORPGs that “fake geek girls” are often accused of, i.e. using their feminine wiles to trick men and scam them out of something, are mostly male players playing female avatars. Meanwhile, many women prefer to play as male characters, because they are tired of the harrassment and sexist crap they get when playing as women.
At Wonk-O-Mance, romance writer Ruthie Knox has a great post about how she was made to remove some of the more realistic and less idealized bits from her novels by editorial fiat. It’s a fascinating post and explains the reasoning behind many of the more infuriating bits of romance novels such as the rigid gender roles and the madonna/whore or virgin/slut complex still peddled by way too many books or the fact that no women ever seems to have any bodyhair in a romance novel or that if condoms are mentioned at all (big if, because there still are way too many supposedly contemporary romances where characters are blissfully having unprotected sex, as if STDs didn’t exist) the hero is always carrying a condom around in his wallet or jeans pocket just in case, whereas the heroine never has one (because that would make her a slut). Apparently, the editors are pushing for many of those things, because they believe that readers want them. Well, this reader would rather see a bit of realism in her romance novels.
If like me, you have enjoyed Jeannie Lin’s historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China, you will be disappointed to hear that Jeannie Lin’s upcoming novel The Jade Temptress will not be published in print, because sales are allegedly too low. Courtney Milan weighs in as well and explains exactly why print sales of historical romances are low across the board and why Jeannie Lin’s publisher Harlequin is unfair in blaming the low sales on the unusual setting.
Whatever you may think of them, the Harlequin/Mills & Boon line of historical romances is actually one of the very few mainstream romance publishers where you occasionally find something other than the same old regency romance, high on dukes and spicy sex and low on historical accuracy. Not that Harlequin/Mills & Boon doesn’t offer regencies and lots of them, but in the past few years I’ve also seen historicals set in the American West, the Roman Empire, Restoration England and – in the case of Jeannie Lin’s novels – Tang Dynasty China among their offerings. And indeed an uncommon setting makes me far more likely to pick up a historical romance, whereas with regencies I mostly stick to trusted authors like Carla Kelly. Doubly so, if it’s a non-European/US set historical romance with characters of colour and a non-whitewashed cover, because we see so very few of those. Jeannie Lin’s novels fit the bill perfectly and they’re excellent besides, which is why it’s so frustrating that they supposedly don’t sell.
Buzzfeed of all places has a great profile of V.C. Andrews, writer of gothic novels which thrilled teenagers of the 1980s, as well as of Andrew Neiderman, the ghost writer who penned the many new V.C. Andrews novels that appeared after her death. Fascinating that the publisher tried to hide the fact that V.C. Andrews had died and even managed to get away with it.
V.C. Andrews was already dead by the time I discovered her books on my cousin’s bookshelf during a visit to the US in 1988. I remember that one of the latter books in the Casteel series carried a note stating that V.C. Andrews had died, but that she had left behind several completed manuscripts, which would now be published. It was sometime during the Dawn series, that I started to wonder just how many unpublished manuscripts V.C. Andrews had managed to write before her death. It was either during the Dawn or the Ruby series that I saw a note in one of the books that the Andrews family had hired another writer to continue the series based on V.C. Andrews’ notes. Partway through the Dawn series I was rapidly losing interest in the Andrews novels anyway, probably because I was outgrowing them. I did read the Ruby series, but only because the Lousiana setting intrigued me. I never read another V.C. Andrews after Tarnished Gold, last in the Ruby series. They’re best read as a teenager.