Matchday Linkdump

I actually did watch tonight’s Germany vs. Ghana World Cup match – the interesting part of it at any rate. I missed the first twenty minutes or so. Afterwards, I watched Fantasia, which just happened to be on TV tonight.

One thing I noticed – aside from how fabulous Fantasia still looks 74 years after its first release – is that Fantasia is basically an attempt to convey what visual music synaesthesia feels like. Now I’m heavily music synaesthetic, so the film speaks to me. The person I was watching with is not music synaesthetic at all and has little affinity for music in general, so the movie didn’t work nearly as well for them. In fact, I suspect they would have preferred watching NCIS reruns.

But that’s all the football and Disney cartoons for today, so let’s have some other links, mostly about gender and SFF, because that’s one debate that never dies:

Ann Leckie has an interesting post about swearing and power differentials and what it says about power regarding who is allowed to swear in front of whom. Now I swear quite a lot and with impunity, as do my characters. And yes, there are people who don’t like that. Though interestingly, the people who are most likely to be upset by me swearing are older women.

Kari Sperring has a great post about living as a woman in a science fiction future and how problematic it is never to see yourself reflected in SF books, films, TV shows, etc… I share her sentiments in many ways, especially since I was also initially drawn to SFF, because it offered better roles for women than the mainstream stuff of the same era, only to end up feeling betrayed by the sexism inherent in much of the genre.

Not that everybody disliked the inherent sexism in the genre. In fact, Sandra Newman laments that science fiction isn’t as gonzo, bizarre and sexist anymore as it used to be in the good old days of Philip K. Dick and Cordwainer Smith at The Guardian. Now I’m not at all sad that the sexism and creepiness in the genre has declined somewhat, but if sexist, bizarre and offensive SFF is what Ms. Newman wants, we might have a few tips for her.

Jenny Gadget wonders why female readers and reviewers are expected to put up with books by (male) authors containing all sorts of sexist and blatantly offensive content, while male readers and reviewers whine that it’s so much work to find books by women. The post is a response to this post by debut SF writer Jon Wallace talking about writing “real women” who just happen to be sexbots (no joke) and this debate at where some male book bloggers and reviewers go on about how hard it is to find books by women, when publishers mainly send them books by men and they’d rather read books by men, too. Now I have zero problems finding interesting books by women to read, especially since a lot of the dude-written and dude-focussed stuff doesn’t appeal to me. Writers of colour and QILTBAG writers require somewhat more effort, but again it’s not that difficult, if you’re willing to do the work.

Regarding Barricade by Jon Wallace, the SF novel with real women sexbots (at least the cover is sexbot free, unlike the monstrosity Tor forced on Charles Stross’ entry into the sexbot subgenre), the SFF genre’s resident curmudgeon Christopher Priest thoroughly savaged it in this review at Arcfinity, the harshness of which angered quite a lot of people. Meanwhile, Damien Walter believes that the genre needs more cruel and nasty reviews.

Now I’m not sure if the genre needs more nasty reviews and I haven’t read Barricade, nor am I likely to, but as I’ve pointed out before (also in response to a debate involving Christopher Priest coincidentally), Germany has something of a tradition of harsh and snarky reviews. The late Marcel Reich-Ranicki regularly served up much harsher fare than Priest, while German critic Denis Scheck once called a book “a literary abortion”, so I’m used to “reviewing as performance art”. Besides, it’s not as if US/UK genre critics are always gentle. For example, John Clute had very harsh things to say about one of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville stories in this 2011 review at Strange Horizons. Oddly enough, there was little to no outrage on behalf of Carrie Vaughn, probably because she’s a woman writing urban fantasy and not a guy writing about sexbots and climate change.

Finally, here is the best headline ever: Firefighters rescue man from stone vagina in Tübingen. The gist of the story is that a guy tried to crawl into a sculture depicting a giant vagina and managed to get stuck, so firefighters had to free him.

ETA: There’s also an English language article about the incident available at SMH Australia as well as at Huffington Post UK. Well, that headline is irresistable.

Finally, enjoy these photos of flowers in my garden:

Orange lillies

Orange lillies in my garden


I’m not sure what these colourful flowers are called, but they’re sure pretty.

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  1. A Big Dump of Mixed Links
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12 Responses to Matchday Linkdump

  1. Did you see Kari Sperring’s follow-up post to that? In many ways it spoke to me even more, being a 47-year-old female reader (and for other work-related reasons this year).

    • Cora says:

      No, I didn’t see that one yet, but it’s a great post. I totally agree with her. It is infuriating that Katherine Kurtz or Barbara Hambly or R.A. McAvoy are apparently too old, while George R.R. Martin or Terry Brooks are okay.

      Sorry to hear you’re having work-related troubles BTW.

  2. Mark says:

    Den Patrick’s “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” is really the standard writer response to a negative review, and I couldn’t disagree more with that statement. Priest’s review may be harsh, but his points sound very plausible. Whenever these discussions come up (the last time in a German non-genre book forum, and involving female authors) my reader response to that is that it is also a form of love for literature to look at the bad examples and to analyze them. To take literature seriously. It’s not about spoiling things or bullying other writers at all.

    • Cora says:

      If you’re a writer, then negative reviews are part of the job. Every writer in the history of literature has gotten negative reviews, including hatchet jobs. I completely understand that a writer may not want to read negative reviews of their work (and I don’t read the low star reviews of mine at Amazon either). But reviewers are not critique groups (where hatchet jobs can be problematic) and bad reviews are not bullying.

      As for that German forum, I wonder if they have ever watched Das Literarische Quartett or Druckfrisch. Now it can be problematic, if a reviewer always reviews e.g. books by female writers or certain genres/subgenres negatively, but then that strikes me as an issue of “The reviewer is obviously not the target audience”. For example, I’m not angry at Denis Scheck for slagging off Twilight or Vampire Academy, because he’s clearly not the target audience. Nor can I be angry at the German reviewer who seemed disappointed that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was not a sequel to The Horse Whisperer, even though it also starred Scarlet Johansson and Robert Redford. If anything, that review left me shaking my head, since the reviewer had obviously no idea what he was dealing with to the point of illustrating the review not with an actual still from the film, but with a somewhat pudgy cosplayer dressed as Captain America.

      • Lindsey says:

        So, I think that bad reviews can be bullying but they certainly are not by default. But things like reviewers complaining more harshly about books by women is/has been a thing, such as Nicola Griffith being criticized for Ammonite being “too autobiographical.” Usually such reviews are pretty clearly aiming at the author rather than the work, but it’s still insidious. Many of these Baen True Heirs write reviews in such vein, to hate the Other out of “their” genre.

        There’s also been cases where Amazon reviews have been used as targeted bullying by groups of authors–this was small press and I can’t find the specific reference. For smaller-name authors, it doesn’t take a large circle of enemies to reduce one’s reputation, though Amazon made some changes such as ‘verified purchaser’ reviews. They have not historically been very big on enforcing their review policies generally, however, unless a specific threat was made.

        That said we definitely need a healthy critique and review environment to bring out better works and speak up for what we would like to see–reviews are one way to call out lazy stereotyping in works, and makes authors accountable to more than ‘sales’, a fickle and often uncountable number.

        • Cora says:

          I agree that some reviews can cross the line to bullying.

          Though the Heinlein’s true heirs brigade clustering around Baen engages in very little actual literary criticism. Mostly they just pick apart blogposts they disagree with and call people they disagree with all sorts of names. The closest we get to actual attempts at literary criticism is calling books by authors they disagree with “boring political message fiction” and calling Rachel Swirsky’s Nebula Award winning short story “gay dino revenge porn”.

          I’ve heard of authors receiving malicious one star reviews on Amazon, often after speaking out about their success, as well. Not sure how much truth there is to this and at least some of the authors had a bullying streak as well. I’ve stopped putting much trust in Amazon reviews in general, since so many, whether high or low star, are just silly in general.

          These days, I mostly listen only to reviewers I trust, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them.

  3. SMD says:

    Do you have pictures of blue flowers? I like blue 😛

  4. John Scalzi says:

    Nitpick: Saturn’s Children was published by Ace in the US, not by Tor.

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