Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Folks in the DC area–I’ll be at Capclave this weekend so if anyone wants to meet up for a meal or whatever, let me know!
- Why I’m calling on all university faculty to refuse to write letters of recommendation to TFA
- No, This is Detroit: Anti-Ruin Porn Photographs of the Nice Things in Detroit
- 9 Strategies For Oppressive Polyamory
- Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark
- Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate I never thought I’d feel sorry for roaches. Instead of making cyborg roaches how about a Little Robot Friend? Or a Dinopet? (Full disclosure: I backed both the Little Robot Friend and Dinopet Kickstarters because I am a sucker for this sort of thing.)
- What’s Your Animal Personality Type I thought this was funny–and it avoids “spirit animal” nonsense.
- The People of Whole Foods
- Instead of celebrating a man who started an ongoing genocide, how about we all get on board with Indigenous People’s Day?
- A Comedy Favorite: How The ‘Act Blacker’ Sketch Has Evolved
- Phoenix Television Dodges Sexual Harassment Suit From Unpaid Intern Because apparently if you’re an unpaid intern, you don’t have the same protections against this kind of nonsense that you would have if you were an employee.
- Let Them Eat Pie
- Genres and Cake
- Texts From the Outsiders
- Themes of Pedophilia in the Works of Piers Anthony Warning, there are extensive quotes in this piece and they are skin-crawlingly disturbing.
- Here, have a nice poetry chaser: Jo Walton’s The Love and the Oath.
- Daniel Radcliffe’s Next Trick Is to Make Harry Potter Disappear and Daniel Radcliffe: Prankster, Trivia Nerd, Laundry-Sorter
- One Year In—Writing The Novel
- Blinded by Brilliant Buttons, 1777 Gotta say, that when I read this I totally thought of bling in Second Life.
- Video game sexism bingo card
- Indiana Jones and Wicca
- Once More in Defense of Fantasy: A Response to Joanna Trollope
- The Blog Post that Lost Me Half My Audience
- Tama Janowitz on Male Reviewers, Passing Fame, and the Satire of Bad Luck
- Vera Nazarian, publisher of Norilana Books, apparently hasn’t paid out royalties since 2010. Just from looking over the events of the last 5 years, it looks like there’s a good chance she hasn’t been keeping her business and personal funds separate. It’s a shame she’s had such a difficult time, however that does not excuse financial malfeasance. Dierdre Saoirse Moen tells it like it is–with links.
And hey, we still don’t have a federal government here in the US!
- “A Federal Budget Crisis Months In The Planning” I can’t even read the linked NY Times article because when I tried I got a rage blackout.
- There’s a Major Foodborne Illness Outbreak and the Government’s Shut Down
- BUG: Government occasionally shuts down
- Fuck You Congress
- Drunk Dial Congress (as of this writing, this link wasn’t working for me)
- WIC and Shutdown: Where to Get Baby Food and Formula
And finally: David Duchovny and a tea pot.
I wasn’t sure how Eloisa James was going to pull off a Rapunzel story in Once Upon a Tower, since she doesn’t normally write books about women who get locked away by their parents; in this case, the heroine chooses to lock herself away (but not until near the end).
The night Lady Edith–Edie–makes her debut, she is feverish and more than a little bit out of it. However, her spacy demeanor utterly enchants Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross–so much so that he betroths himself to her the very next day. Gowan thinks he’s getting a demure and mild-mannered duchess and proceeds to lead town.
Edie is neither of these things. An accomplished cellist, her music is everything to her. While she doesn’t perform in public to protect her father’s sensibilities, she is incredibly talented and music is her passion. Betrothed to a man she doesn’t even remember, she decides to get to know him a bit better and writes him a letter. A really, really blunt letter.
Gowan , while a bit shocked that his bride-to-be has a brain and opinions, is also enchanted by her letter and writes her back. And eventually heads back to Town to get to know her better in person.
There’s a lot to like about this book. The way James deftly deconstructs the stereotype of the brawny Scotsman is one of the things I loved the most. Gowan is repeatedly compared to a tree, his legs like trunks and his chest is impossibly broad and, of course, he wears a kilt:
Surrounded by these sleek and silly Englishmen with covered knees, his bare legs felt twice as strong for being free of the hindrance of breeches.
He was getting sick of deflecting lascivious glances from women who appreciated his kilt for all the wrong reasons–and appeared curious about what he wore under it.
Read enough historical romances and the passionate Scotsman trope gets pretty old pretty fast. James also takes aim at the “hot-blooded Italian” trope, too.
But the main trope she–ahem–punctures is the one about virgins having amazing sex right out of the gate. There is bad sex in this book. Lots and lots of bad sex. And painful excruciating sex where Edie wants nothing more than for Gowan to just finish already. And it’s all entirely believable.
Both Edie and Gowan are virgins (yes! virgin hero!) and Edie is advised by her stepmother to fake orgasms in order to keep Gowan happy and Gowan approaches the marriage bed as he does everything else in life: methodically and with a list that can’t be deviated from.
And there is, quite possibly, the best description of an erect penis ever in a romance novel:
He looked huge, like a giant pink mushroom stalk, which was accurate, though not a very romantic metaphor.
Dear Eloisa James: Thank you so much for that description. Just thank you.
Of course, the bad sex is a metaphor for their inability to communicate with each other and once they get over the Big Misunderstanding (which results in Edie shutting herself in a tower) and learn to actually talk to each other, they’re on track for their happily-ever-after.
However, there is one thing that bothered me about this book and I find it deeply ironic that it bothers me since historical inaccuracies tend to not bother me. And what bothers me is the ahistorical use of poetry. Specifically, the poetry of William Butler Yeats. There are direct quotations from “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” and “Brown Penny” as well as a glancing allusion to “The Second Coming”. Apparently this is my particular historical kryptonite–and I find it ironic because this series isn’t intended to be historical at all and is, in fact, explicitly set in a quasi-Regency Fairyland.
There are also references to John Donne which, while plausible, isn’t tremendously likely since at the assumed time of the book (1820-ish), Donne would have been relatively unknown and, if known, considered crude and unfashionable. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that his poetry and prose started to become more fashionable. Although it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Edie’s stepmother, Layla, would have been able to lay hands on a copy of Donne’s early poetry which is just full of sexy-times. (Lest you think I am making this up: Elegy 20: To His Mistress Going to Bed.) But I also wonder if there were something more likely for her to be able to pass along to Gowan–engravings or something.
On the other hand, I thought the Romeo and Juliet bits were wonderful and I found Edie’s lack of knowledge of Shakespeare sadly plausible–between her focus on the cello and the kind of reading that would have been considered appropriate for a young lady–especially with a father as uptight as hers was. References to Shakespeare in this period always make me think of Mary and Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which simplified Shakespeare for children and which, I imagine, was many young ladies’ only exposure to the texts. (Fun random fact: Mary Lamb stabbed her mother to death in 1797.)
Overall, I think that Once Upon a Tower is a really fun read with more serious undercurrents for readers who are interested in that sort of thing. There’s a lot of satire and gentle fun poked at lots of tropes, too, which I found enjoyable but which may not be to every reader’s taste. I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue to read this series. I loved A Kiss at Midnight and When Beauty Tamed the Beast, loathed The Duke is Mine (due to a beyond offensive depiction of a character with a cognitive disability), and was pretty neutral about The Ugly Duchess. This wasn’t as great as the first two books, but was better than the third and fourth, at least for me.
- Ursula K. LeGuin reviews Jo Walton’s Among Others
- The My Little Jhereg and Lunch of Locke Lamora Bartender’s Guide
- So the Hugo nominations came out last weekend. I like that we’re seeing more diversity on the short list but I still think there’s a long way to go.
- Can we stop talking about the Hugos now? There are some good points here and some not so good points–definitely some condescension towards female-identified nominees that obscures the excellent points about the fan writer and fanzine categories.
- Hugo your own way
- Hugo Nomination Reactions or Why the Fuck is this Controversial This includes a nice breakdown of what’s so problematic about my first link here.
- And another perspective here from World SF
- Bogi Takács crunches the numbers
- Adventure Kitten Gear!
- FUCK CANCER: Rest in Peace, Roger Ebert and A Personal Statement from Iain M. Banks And Jo Walton captures it perfectly: On the Impending Death of Iain Banks: “Go hug your friends, and sing, or paint, or write, / Now while we may, against impatient night.”
- Wealth, risk, and stuff
- NPR joins liberal attacks on disabled people
- Having fucked up shit vs. saying fucked up shit
- Trigger Warning
- Romero’s Wives and Women bring down the house at GDC.
- You Didn’t Make the Harlem Shake Go Viral–Corporations Did
- Ten Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Startup Success
- Feminist is One Side of a Shape
- Carrie Cuin on Barbie, Burquas, April Fool’s Jokes, Writer’s Advice: Small Failures Hurt Us In Big Ways Yes, yes, yes. And yes.
- Ice Age Art and the Female Gaze
- April is: A Poem a Day for National Poetry Month (in the US)
- The other thing of note that’s been going on in SFnal circles is the sale of Night Shade Books’ assets. My heart goes out to all the authors who have work caught up in this fiasco. This sucks on any number of levels and it’s a damn shame because Night Shade published some great books. I really dislike the strategy employed here–“if you want people to get their royalties, you’ll agree to these contract terms or else we might go into bankruptcy…” It’s troubling and I would urge anyone affected by this to talk to an attorney if possible.
- Night Shade Books Pushes Asset Sale (PW link)
- Another indie publisher on the ropes: Night Shade Books plans an asset sale (io9 link)
- Justin at Staffer’s Book Review with an interesting analysis of what went wrong.
- JABberwocky Literary with another analysis of the deal–this is seriously a must-read.
- Michael A. Stackpole on why he’s passing–with more analysis.
- Phil Foglio on the asset sale and contract changes–which he also thinks is a bad one.
- A copy of the contract.
- An open letter from Jeremy Lessen, co-owner of Night Shade Books.
- Late addition! Kameron Hurley lays it out: Deal/No Deal: Writers Aren’t Totally Stupid
And because it is National Poetry Month (in the US), have a poem! By someone who is not American!
I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.
It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.
I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring
the memories of love.
before they punished you
you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,
who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.
I am endlessly fascinated by bog people: Tales from the Bog in which it is revealed that Windeby Girl (the body which was the inspiration for “Punishment”) was no girl and probably died of natural causes. SCIENCE.
- Minimal Pairs and Gaze This is an important post. And it’s something I’ve noticed when reading submissions. A lot of times it’s clear that the person doing the submitting hasn’t bothered to look up anyone’s name. Although my favorite cover letter so far addressed me as “HEY GIRL HEY” (I do not recommend this strategy unless you’re a friend of mine).
- Malinda Lo has been ON FIRE lately. Here she is on the cover reveal of David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing. And here she is on how to curate your online presence as an author–it’s full of good advice. And an awesome picture of Isaac Asimov and his sideburns.
- Hey Amazon, Where’s My Money Amazingly enough, having an self-pubbed Amazon bestseller does not guarantee a swimming pool full of money. Imagine that.
- 5 Moments that Prove Mr. Rogers was the Greatest American
- Imaginary Internet Friends
- Am I Making Excuses for Gaudy Night? (via)
- Lots of amazing discussion this week on romance and feminism.
- Beyond Bodice Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism This is the article which kicked off the whole discussion, the next three links follow on from it. (I would suggest not reading the comments on this article; the other comment sections should be fairly safe.)
- Cecilia Grant has some further thoughts on feminism and romance.
- Then Liz McCausland got in on the act with a link round-up and some thoughts of her own.
- Finally, Janet at Dear Author declares that everything old is new again–and brings up a lot of important points about the history of this genre that so many people love.
- On a more depressing note, we were also treated to a display of rape culture in action with the verdict in the Steubenville rape trial in which a number of news “journalists” expressed their deep and abiding sympathy for the rapists. Because when a young girl is passed out and raped by amoral young men, we really should feel sorry for the young men. OR MAYBE NOT. Trigger warnings galore for these links.
- Black Girl Dangerous: On Rape, Cages, and the Steubenville Verdict. This is extraordinarily nuanced and talks about the prison-industrial complex.
- Steubenville is Rape Culture’s Abu Ghraib Moment
- Henry Rollins on the verdict and the media coverage. This is the line that’s stuck with me since I’ve read it: “If it’s a man’s world as they say, then men, your world is a poorly run carnage fest.”
- FBI says it has identified the thieves in Gardner Museum heist; paintings’ location still unknown. So this is my very favorite art museum and this fills me with such hope that these paintings can be returned to their rightful place. And then I can visit them.
- Myke Cole on PTSD. (via)
- Literacy Privilege I thought this was really interesting–and something I hadn’t thought about before. It’s sparked a fair bit of interesting discussion on my favored forum over on Ravelry, too.
- Nature is weird, y’all. Resurrecting the Extinct Frog with a Stomach for a Womb
- Jennifer L. Amentrout signs a six figure, three book deal for Wait for You. The book was written in 20 days in January. We’re not even out of March. So basically it’s a first draft? Brie had some problems with the book.
- Vandana Singh on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 and why it’s a failure on multiple fronts.
- Star-Gazing Girls of Georgian England Hey, look! Another article in which a traditionally feminine pursuit is only interesting because it tackles what, at the time, was primarily a male pursuit. This makes me grind my teeth because the piece in question isn’t even finished–if it were a half-complete sampler of Bible verses no one would care and, in fact, there is an example of a much more technically accomplished piece in this article that is basically held up as yet another boring sampler that all the ladies made. To me, something like the Plimouth Jacket is much more interesting than a half-finished sampler of the solar system. They had to reverse engineer spangle manufacture for the jacket! Textiles are a mostly invisible technology which sucks because they’re the root of so much of our modern society–including the computer I’m using to write this.
- Finally, a mesmerizing video of ball bearings rolling around on a table.