- Why Games with Female Protagonists Don’t Sell and What It Says About the Industry Riffing off the Penny Arcade Report link from last week’s linkspam, this goes into more detail about the problem.
- Nature’s Sexism Nature takes a look at itself and finds itself wanting–and adds an additional step to help combat unconscious bias.
- One Shade of Grey A really lovely piece on Nicola Beauman and Persephone Books.
- Reviews with ‘All Guns Blazing’ In defense of exuberantly negative reviews from the public editor at the New York Times (“Why does the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?”).
- The Cost of Opting Out Thought-provoking piece on how movements that ask people to opt out or slow down without criticizing the capitalistic system as well are by nature elitist. I had a recent argument on Twitter with someone who didn’t quite understand this.
- Artisanal Baby Naming
- Creating the Innocent Killer I re-visited this essay by John Kessel on Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game earlier this week and it remains an interesting and thought-provoking read.
- The Joke is on Us: The Two Careers of Robert A. Heinlein Eh. I am not convinced.
- Simon & Schuster Opens Self-Publishing Service It is never a good thing when a traditional publisher moves in the direction of vanity publishing. Here’s Victoria Strauss on the subject.
- How we read, not what we read, may be contributing to our information overload For me, the interesting bit here is that e-readers can contribute to feeling overloaded when they are much less interactive than Twitter or Facebook. The article does note that the survey took place in 2010, before e-readers had gotten quite as popular as they are now (although I wonder who they were surveying; I got my first e-reader in 2010 and I felt a bit behind the curve on that front).
- Former OED editor covertly deleted thousands of words, book claims Iiiiiinteresting.
- Heternormativity, fantasy, and Bitterblue Two part-post from Malinda Lo on one of my favorite books of the year. And a book recommendation for people interested in the history of heterosexuality: Hanne Blank’s Straight.
I tried. I tried so hard to finish Heinlein’s last book, To Sail Beyond the Sunset and I just couldn’t.
…let me back up. Why was I reading this book anyhow?
Because it was the first Heinlein I ever read (given to 14 year old me by my father) and I thought it would be interesting to re-read it. And I suppose it was, but not in the way I thought it would be.
There are some good things about this book. Heinlein definitely had a way with both dialogue and narrative authority–what I mean by the latter is that as you’re reading, you want to believe what the narrator is saying. There’s an authenticity to it that is really compelling. Structurally, there’s not much wrong with this book.
Content-wise, well. I’ve been calling this book “The One Where Lazarus Long Travels Back in Time to Fuck His Mom” and that’s pretty much accurate. What I’d forgotten is all the other fucking of family members that goes on in this book, too. And that’s pretty much what made me decide that no, I didn’t need to read any more of this–the way that incest is portrayed as a normal and even healthy thing, particularly father-daughter incest. In fact, here’s the bit that made me stop reading:
Thirty-odd minutes later she closed her eyes and opened her thighs and for the first time received her father–then opened her eyes and looked at Jonathan and me, and grinned. I grinned back at her; Jonathan was too busy to look.
What this world needs is more loving, sweaty and friendly and unashamed.
No. No. NO NO NO NO NO. This is not the sort of thing that should be portrayed as normal and healthy. Because it isn’t. Not to mention the weird objectifying that’s going on here and the way that Nancy (the daughter in this passage) is never really fleshed out into a real character. Her only purpose in the narrative is as a sex object for her father. Which is gross and wrong and it makes my skin crawl.
So what’s this book about other than incest? It’s basically the memoir of Maureen Johnson Smith, the mother of Lazarus Long. Born in late 19th century Missouri, the story starts when she’s 14 years old and continues through the rest of her life in the 20th century. Like her son, Maureen and her husband are members of the Howard Families, a genetic experiment intended to extend human life. In this volume, it’s less about life extension and more about spouse-swapping–in between long, nostalgia-tinged digressions into How Things Were Better Back Then as well as discussions of how Maureen didn’t meddle with her husband’s decisions about how they were going to spend their money or have any desire to do anything but be the best darned wife and mother she could. And, of course, since Heinlein has that knack of narrative authority, it all sounds perfectly rational and not problematic at all.
There is a shell story which, frankly, sounds a lot more interesting that the main narrative–Maureen wakes up naked in a hotel room with a dead body. And she’s trying to figure out what the hell’s going on and by the time I decided that I was done with this book, that was the only story I cared about. I didn’t care about Maureen’s inappropriate lust for her father, her clumsy attempts to seduce him, her idealized life as a wife and mother, her constant thinking about sex, the pro-war rhetoric that permeates the book, the out-dated even in 1988 gender roles, or the fact that Maureen’s son thought she was so awesome that he decided to travel back in time to fuck her before rescuing her from a bus accident and bringing her forward in time.
I know there are people out there who think this book is wonderful (take a look at the Amazon reviews if you don’t believe me), but they’re wrong. This book is a piece of crap and I can’t recommend that anyone read it, not even for the lols (as the kids say). There are so many good books out there, I can’t imagine why anyone but the most ardent Heinlein fan would waste their time on this one. If I was hoping to exorcise any remaining affection I had for Heinlein, I certainly succeeded with this re-read. I can pretty safely say that I have no desire to read anything else the man has written ever again.
Linkspam is a bit light this week due to me getting distracted by Hurricane Sandy and spending way too much time looking at weather websites and not as much time trawling for links.
- New Yorker trolls the nerds or Triumph of the State Nick Mamatas on this article.
- An Open Letter to E-Book Retailers: Let’s have a return to common sense
- Doing Justice to Desire A wonderful discussion of an older Mills & Boon novel that I may have to try to find a copy of. I know that I am often dismissive of category romances and I need to be better about giving them a fair shake.
- The Curse of the Sympathetic Character Interesting perspective on sympathetic characters and how, so often, female characters are forced into a sympathetic mode even if hurts the story. The comments are worth reading, too.
- Something else like…Heinlein Jo Walton starts a new series at Tor.com that is all about the recommendations.
- Writing sex: Who’s your horny reader? Jennifer Stevenson on different kinds of sex scenes.
- Amazon is deleting reviews of “competing products” I’m assuming this has to do with Amazon wanting to eliminate the practice of authors reviewing each other’s books. Seems a bit ham-fisted to me, though.
- When Contemporary Romance Goes Wrong: Some DNF Reviews
- A Zombie is a Slave Forever “[The zombie]…is a New World phenomenon that arose from the mixture of old African religious beliefs and the pain of slavery.” This is fascinating.
- In Defence of Twilight Absolutely brilliant analysis by Kit Whitfield. Her most recent novel, In Great Waters, is also brilliant.
And if you can, a monetary donation to the American Red Cross is money well-spent–they are one of the few charities with the know-how and supply chain in place to provide relief in situations such as Hurricane Sandy.