I read Jekyll. Now I learn about Hyde

I’ve been a fan of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books (and her better known Mists of Avalon) for years.
That said, I’m somehow not surprised that in addition to covering up her husband’s pedophilia, her daughter recently stated that MZB herself was an abuser (quoted at the link), both sexual and physical.
I’m not surprised because I know just from watching the world that being a good writer or editor (she gave me a brutal critique of a piece I’d submitted to her fantasy magazine, but it was quite accurate) doesn’t mean you’re not a horrible person. Being charming and funny doesn’t mean you’re not an abuser. I’ve known three women over the years whose husbands were abusive. There was only one where I thought on learning the news “No, that doesn’t surprise me.” (I didn’t think he was abusive, but he was kind of a dick). It surprises me a lot less now. Mr. (or Ms.) Hyde) can present a positive face to the world and be a beast when behind closed doors; that’s just the way people are.
As with Woody Allen, I’m not sure efforts to find the kink in her books are really practical. It doesn’t have to show. Mr. Hyde can … hide. Though as with Allen, it’s hard to not think about this when you read an author’s works (I’ll see what I think when I reread them some day).
All that being said, radishreviews points out that a lot of people did know and did nothing. If not the kind of overt cover-up I’ve just written about, it was a similar impulse: The abuser’s one of us. Are we going to turn our backs on him? Let’s just keep the kids away and everything will be fine. Only it wasn’t.
One final note, on this story about Bradley: comparing her to Lewis Carroll (AKA Charles Dodgson) is ridiculous. There’s never been any evidence that Dodgson had any romantic/sexual interest in Alice Liddell (the prototype for Alice in the books). There is no evidence that Dodgson was interested in children at all (he photographed adults as well as children and had relationships—friendship at least—with many adult women). Nor were there ever any accusations. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened … but unlike MZB there’s no reason to think it did (the Smithsonian article the Guardian links to makes that clear).

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New And Column out

On cover-ups, why they seem to make sense when people try them and why they’re wrong.

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I apologize, I really do

I didn’t want to spend more time on John C. Wright so soon, but I really hate it when people spew nonsense about comic books.
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As you may have heard, Marvel has announced a new Thor, who will be a woman. Which as the John Buscema cover above shows (all rights with current holder) has been done (albeit in a parallel world setting). And it’s long-established that anyone who holds the hammer, if they’re worthy, can take on the Thunder God’s mantle (starting in the 1980s, we’ve had Beta Ray Bill, Eric Masterson, and Darrgo, a Thor of the future). So I don’t find it that surprising.
Wright, whose views on women are … old-fashioned … is outraged. And so he explains this is just the kind of political correctness that has led to once-mighty Marvel becoming a failure: “Name a major character invented by Marvel in say, forty years, since 1974? Do you buy his title?”
Well I don’t buy anything from Marvel but that has more to do with my budget than quality. And for years I did buy characters created post-1974, like that one book with Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler in it … oh, nobody’s ever heard of it, why do I even mention it. They’ve also had success with Guardians of the Galaxy, Elektra, the Thunderbolts, She-Hulk, Ms. (now Captain) Marvel. So I don’t think PC broke the back.
Wright goes on to argue that “Marvel says the way to attract the female fans is not to have more romance, or more love stories, or more Loki, but instead to have beefy females who look like Soviet-era lady weightlifters smashing trolls in the tusks with a honking big hammer. Really? I thought girls LIKED Loki? I am not sure why. Just because he is a Bad Boy and rebel who plays by his own rules but is tormented by inner demons and has dreamboat eyes blue as laser beams shot through sapphires? Girls! Who can figure out what they like?”
Obviously not Wright. Yes, a lot of women fans like Loki. That doesn’t mean they can’t like big, hammer-wielding female Thor smashing things with brute force (if that is how her adventures go). Just like I can enjoy Robert E. Howard and Jane Austen, or HP Lovecraft and PG Wodehouse.
This may turn out to be a horrible idea, or a good idea horribly executed. And the endless switching out of established heroes for short-lived substitutes is a trick I’m pretty tired of (there was a time legacy heroes actually replaced the originals. Now we know the originals always come back). But that would be true no matter who they put in the suit.

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Sex is a beautiful cathedral that liberals want to demolish. Who knew?

Jonah Goldberg’s new piece on women voters actually includes a good insight (as pointed out at the link, which is not direct): “In a relatively short period of time, legal and cultural equality has expanded — albeit not uniformly or perfectly — to blacks, women, and gays. We are a more heterodox society in almost every way. As a result, many of our customs, norms, and terms no longer line up neatly with lived-reality. Remember customs emerge as intangible tools to solve real needs. When the real needs change, the customs must either adapt or die … You can call it ‘political correctness’ that Americans stopped calling black people ‘negroes.’ But that wouldn’t make the change wrong or even objectionable.”
That’s an encouraging acknowledgment, even though it’s stuffed into a mess of a column that runs as follows:
•Liberals are liars. Everything they say is just a cover for the real agenda, whereas conservatives are completely upfront and straightforward. For example, liberals quote a lot of science because that’s the new voice of authority, not because they believe in science (so presumably conservatives who believe birth control is abortion even if it’s not scientific are on some higher plane).
•Because society has changed, liberalism and feminism now look like they make sense: “Democrats recognize this, which is why they’ve cynically exploited changes in family structure, female labor participation, and reproductive technology and declared that Republicans have declared war on women. It’s not remotely true, but it is effective.”
•As part of this scheme, the left rejects traditional male-female relationships, even though they have nothing better to offer: “Progressives are steadily dismantling the beautiful cathedrals of traditional manners and customs, arguing that they’re too Baroque, too antiquated. They use the sledgehammer of liberation rhetoric to destroy the old edifices, but their fidelity to liberty is purely rhetorical. In place of the old cathedrals they build supposedly functional, modern, and utilitarian codes of conduct. But these Brutalist codes are not only unlovely, they are often more prudish than traditional approaches.”
•The solution for right-wingers is to preserve the cathedrals but “why not argue for some long overdue updating and retrofitting? I guarantee you more women prefer a modified version of the traditional process of wooing, courting, and dating before sex than the “modern” schizophrenic system of getting drunk enough for a same-day hook up but not so inebriated to forget to get a signature on the consent form. Traditional notions of romance and respect are far better tools than the mumbo-jumbo campus feminists have to offer. The problem is that the mumbo-jumbo feminists are fighting largely uncontested.”
As pointed out at the link, it’s hard to see how this plays into actual politics as Goldberg is so vague and metaphorical. I’m inclined to take the subtext as a suggestion that Repubs should stop dumping on the “Beyonce voters” and demonizing single women for having sex—but that’s actually a controversial position so I can see why Goldberg wouldn’t come out and say it. If he is saying it.
Then again, maybe he’s trying to sound like he’s open minded while recyling usual right-wing cliches about there being no war on women, drunken hookups (the George Will view of campus sex) and that feminists are just screaming mumbo-jumbo. His point about those stately cathedrals sounds a lot like the mutterings of Suzanne Venker and other antifeminists about how feminism has made us all miserable by rejecting chivalry (or about how Downton Abbey was a better era for women). And how suggesting that people actually get consent before doing the nasty is a Bad Idea.
And then there’s the point about the duplicitous liberals and how they’re catering to women out of self-interest (another staple). To which I say, so what? If Democrats are willing to protect women’s rights to win votes while Republicans vote against them out of high-minded principle, then Democrats are still the better bet for people who support women’s rights.
The issue isn’t whether right-wing Repubs are sincere or not. The issue is, they support bad policies either way.

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Boston, continued: Ten Days in the Museum (#SFWApro)

Okay, not ten days. But we did put in a lot of time in the Boston Museum of Fine Art and still didn’t see all of it.
The first trip was the Saturday of our vacation. I’d emailed some friends of mine who live outside the city (one about two hours away, the other two maybe a half-hour) and to my delight, they were able to schedule with us.
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The Museum is awesome. In addition to the stuff I posted yesterday we saw Hittite cups
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Cool 19th century quilts—
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Paul Revere’s silverwork-
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And some antique instruments—
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And that’s not even counting the paintings. As TYG says, it’s the kind of museum where a Botticelli that would be highlighted and trumpeted in a smaller museum just sits on the wall in a hallway (below)
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We also hit the Isabella Gardner Museum, which regrettably didn’t allow photographs. It’s an old house stuffed with Ms. Gardner’s private collection which includes paintings, antique gold work, tapestries, sculpture and a Titian painting that really impressed TYG (she has an art history minor). Oh, and a sedan chair, the first time I’ve ever seen a real one. There were also several blank frames, the paintings stolen around 20 years ago; apparently Gardner’s will says they can’t change the collection so there’s no replacing the pictures or moving the frames.
We also hit the Museum of Science which was a bit of a disappointment: TYG had guessed it might bea little too kid-centric, and she was right.
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Beyond that, we also visited Boston Commons and the neighboring Public Garden (very beautiful) and walked part of the Freedom Trail. This is a path (marked out in red brick on the sidewalk) that leads to various famous Revolutionary sites: The Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house (above), a couple of famous churches. We got as far as the North End, the Italian neighborhood of Boston. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant and it was excellent. However I was too darn full to eat a cannolli (I’ve heard they’re excellent in that neighborhood).
We also walked through graveyards with various 1700 celebrities such as John Hancock buried there.
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Plus we took the “duck tour,” a ride on an amphibious vehicle. It goes up various streets showing some of the prominent landmarks (lot of overlap with the Freedom Trail) and then out onto Boston Harbor. It was a blast.
And then Thursday we left early in the morning. And came home with lots of photos and some awesome memories.

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John C. Wright attempts to explain beauty

But as this shades into politics, I’m not tagging it for SFWA’s twitter feed.
Wright’s thesis is that beauty uplifts the soul, but modern art has rejected objective standards of beauty and therefore sucks. And this is part of the left-wing attack on America because it weakens the human spirit and gives power to the oppressor: “Imagine two men: one stands in a bright house, tall with marble columns adorned with lavish art, splendid with shining glass images of saints and heroes, mementos of great sorrow and great victories both past and promised. A polyphonic choir raises their voices in golden song, singing an ode to joy. The other stands in a slum with peeling wallpaper, or a roofless ruin infested with rats, hemmed by feces-splashed gray concrete walls lurid with jagged graffiti, chalked with swearwords and flickering neon signs advertising strip joints. Rap music thuds nearby, ear-splitting, yowling obscenities. A bureaucrat approaches each man and orders him to do some routine and routinely humiliating task, such as pee in a cup to be drug tested, or be fingerprinted, or suffer an anal cavity search, or surrender his weapons, or his money, or his name. Which of the two men is more likely to take a stand on principle not to submit?”

Oh, and we leftwingers also object because ” To have taste implies that some cultures produce more works of art and better than others, and this raises the uncomfortable possibility that love of beauty is Eurocentric, or even racist.”

Having spent several hours in Boston’s Museum of Fine Art I can safely say that love of beauty has nothing to do with European culture. Check out Egypt. Or below, Iraq (from centuries past) and Japan.
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He also brings up Marcel Duchamp’s notorious placing of a urinal in a museum. But Duchamp wasn’t holding it up as an example of beauty, he was making a point about how placing something in a museum automatically makes us see the item differently—even a urinal.
Now, as for his specific example of the two individuals, I agree they might have a different reaction. But that’s going to be because the guy in the fancy house is apparently a wealthy, powerful man (judging from his house) with the attorneys to stare down crazy government demands. The poor man in the gutter doesn’t have that option and quite possibly he’ll need to be drug-tested to qualify for unemployment or food stamps (something conservatives are very keen on. Whereas if the guy in the beautiful house were a government contractor with a million-dollar deal, they’d be outraged at the idea of testing him).
Nor have I noticed much conservative enthusiasm for, say, funding museums so poor people can get in cheap or free (Boston MFA is $25 a pop). Or in general doing anything to help the poor person (who you’ll note is surrounded by rap music. Dang, it’s almost like Wright is implying the person is not er, Eurocentric). Or even working on giving us a functional economy.
More generally, Wright’s argument that lefties are all anti-beauty seems based on nothing but stereotypes. As the excellent art history Visual Shock points out, the New Deal promoted a lot of attractive public art. Stalin despised modern art, as did Hitler. The Vietnam Wall, I think has an undeniable beauty but it was condemned by a number of conservatives. Art doesn’t track politics terribly neatly.
I’d argue with his views on art more generally, but I’ve better things to do (there’s plenty of discussion in the comments at the link, which is not directly to Wright). So I’ll link to another post ripping into Wright’s advice on great sex:
•Me Tarzan. You Jane. If Tarzan not dominant, sex bad. Wives want to submit to their husbands, honestly.
•Using birth control means it isn’t real sex.

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Some Writing Links (#SFWApro)

Advice on how to ask for an extension if you’re going to miss the deadline.
•Ways writers can use Pinterest.
•When someone refuses to pay for your work, what do you do? I’ll add one more, based on an experience I had: if you have a regular client who stops paying you—especially if you know they’re in financial trouble—don’t keep doing the work. I figured he’d pay up eventually, including all the added work, but he didn’t.
•An editor of The Toast writes about how not to review women’s writing, using a New Yorker piece as an example.
•Ways to bust out of a creative rut.
•Is paying for fake Twitter followers to boost your profile a good idea?
•To contact a tough interview subject, write a letter.
•A good discussion of changing white comics characters’ race in other mediums. And I agree with the writer, there’s no reason Dr. Strange couldn’t be black. I’d be much more upset if the planned film eliminated his backstory as a brilliant dick of a surgeon.
•Good advice about reselling nonfiction to multiple markets by changing the slant slightly. I’ve never been successful with that myself, alas.
•An article in Atlantic argues there’s a constant anti-colonial theme in SF. Unfortunately I think the author pushes the argument too far—arguing the Terminators are a reflection of the colonial peoples rising up against their masters strikes me as ludicrous (they’re much more in the tradition of Computers Are Evil, a long vein in SF). I’m also not convinced that “aliens conquer us” is always a metaphor for colonialism rather than other types of wars of conquest humanity has engaged in for so long.
•No, Shakespeare’s England wasn’t lily-white. This article argues that the English didn’t even see themselves as white people. And here’s more about representations of blacks in European art. And still more about blacks in England.
•Following up on the topic of strong female characters (or realistic female characters or complex female characters), Shannon Thompson asks why we have to phrase it that way instead of just “strong characters.”
•This post complains about creating strong female characters who don’t actually do anything (“Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?”). I had that feeling about last season’s The Tomorrow People: They establish the hero’s mother is one of the psis, but then do absolutely nothing with that development (I half-suspect they only thought it up as a twist to get several characters out of a fatal situation.
•This post discusses whether cities are better to live for freelancers than others. For example, even in the Internet age, being able to connect face-to-face with an editor gets better results. I suspect that’s true.
Another aspect is credibility. One writing book some years back said that if you’re in the backwoods of wherever, just by location you look less credible if you’re writing on national affairs, fashion, etc. I’ve always assumed there’s some truth to that too.
•As someone who spent the first 10 years of the century freelancing while I was a full-time reporter, it was interesting to read this discussion of balancing the two. I worried a lot less than some of the interviewees in the article did: I don’t see the slightest problem with writing in the office during lunch hour or using my work computer. Of course, my editor was fine with it as long as I got my writing done—if he’d been pickier, it would have been different (I think being pickier would be unreasonable, but it’s his call). The only time there was an issue was when I did some work for a regional magazine that targeted some of the same advertisers as us. Editor said that was conflict-of-interest, I admitted he had a point.

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