Undead sexist cliche: good women are nice

So far this year I’ve talked about nice people with ugly beliefs and nice people in fiction. Now for a discussion of the pressure on women to be nice, to be decorous — in short to shut the hell up and not question the menfolk.

For example, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren started questioning Jeff Sessions’ fitness for attorney general, Mitch McConnell invoked a procedural rule to prevent Warren speaking ill of another Senator.

Or we have Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown who during an abortion debate referenced her vagina. For actually using the word, the majority leader (Republican) declared Brown had violated the “decorum” of the State House (another Republican declared the word was hideously offensive — nothing that should ever be said in mixed company).. The leader barred Brown from speaking on a subsequent, unrelated bill and did the same to Barb Bynum for suggesting the state ban vasectomies unless needed to save a life.

And now we have Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s response to a Native American woman who confronted him in a recent dispute: he wagged his finger and told her to be nice.

In my piece on niceness in fiction, I pointed out that writing a nice character doesn’t mean writing them as a doormat. The guys in these accounts confuse the two (probably intentionally). The nice, polite, unfeminine behavior they’re demanding is behavior that doesn’t challenge them or threaten their goals in the slightest. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that while pols may bristle about how unfair male critics are, their response is rarely “be nice.”

Likewise, antifeminist snowflake Suzanne Venker has a new article on the Fox News website about how what men want most in a woman is niceness. A woman who’s soft, gentle and nice. A beta female. They don’t want someone who’s going to fight them. Whereas women don’t want nice, they’re attracted to a guy who’ll take charge. Venker says that Of Course she’s not telling women to be a doormat but yeah, she is. Nice = submissive. Which is her usual take.

There are times it’s good to be nice. Times it’s good to appear nice. And times to drop any pretense of niceness and stick in the shiv. I’m sure Zinke and Venker know that, they’re just not going to admit it.

In other sexist news:

•A neo-Nazi rant declares that casual dating is cheating, proving that what we need is white sharia.

•Alaska state Rep. David Eastman is convinced women are getting abortions because it’s an opportunity to travel.

•The Oklahoma legislature has passed a resolution calling abortion murder.

ªLots of women live in states with anti-science forced-birth laws (abortion causes depression! Breast cancer! Etc.)

•Then there’s the right-wing enthusiasm for women getting married and popping out babies. Which prompts one writer at the Federalist to declare people who have pets instead of babies are insane. Literally. Don’t we realize dogs are actually savage predators at heart? Yeah, like human beings aren’t?

•Fox News bigshot and alleged sexual harasser Roger Ailes is dead. I’m not crying. I’m crying even less because if he’d died just a year ago, Fox would have saved the $45 million it’s paid in the past nine months to settle harassment lawsuits against him.

•In more good news, the New Hampshire politician who founded the Red Pill misogynist Reddit sub-site has resigned from politics.

•Frontier flight attendants say the airline won’t let them pump breast milk at work.

•Apparently the military community has a new female target for its wrath: dependas, women who supposedly marry military guys for the wrong reasons.

•A man hits on a woman working retail, then waits in his truck to talk to her again when she gets off work. He’s stunned people thought the waiting outside was suspicious.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Southern cops, British cops, Lumberjanes, gods and Grail quests: books read (#SFWApro)

Although I’m not a fan of crime comics, SOUTHERN BASTARDS: Here was a Man by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour was pretty good. A military veteran, son of a small town police chief, returns home to bury his father. When he discovers the high school coach is also the local head of organized crime, he can’t quite resist trying to clean up the mess; suffice to say, it doesn’t go well.

WHO KILLED SHERLOCK HOLMES: A Shadow Police Novel by Paul Cornell is the third in his Shadow Police urban fantasy series about a squad of London detectives who’ve reluctantly found themselves tasked with monitoring London’s supernatural underworld. In this book, they find a series of Sherlock Holmes actors getting whacked, plus the spirit of Holmes himself is found stabbed to death in 221B Baker Street. So who is the killer and what exactly does he gain by replicating murders from the Holmes stories? Cornell does a good job showing the squad growing into their roles, and resolves one plotline from the previous book (the other, the Smiling Man taking over the afterlife, will presumably be the series’ big arc). While the Holmes stuff is fun, and Cornell clearly knows his stuff (though I’d disagree with the idea of Holmes as an agent of order) I do wish he’d done more with the idea of how many variant Holmes are out there (everything from supervillain Holmes to drug addict Holmes to gay Holmes). Still, the book is definitely a thumbs up from me.

LUMBERJANES: Beware the Kitten Holy is the first volume in the series (by multiple writers and illustrator Brooke Allen) about a group of young teens at a Lumberjane summer camp who discover there are some strange things in the wood, from three-eyed deer to Jekyll/Hyde Boy Scouts. I’m definitely not the target audience, but even so I found it delightful lighthearted fun. And that’s always nice.

Commercial Suicide, the third volume of THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE is apparently filler to compensate for artist Jamie McKelvie not being able to collaborate with writer Kieron Gillen this time out. So rather than following up on events at the end of Fandemonium, we get spotlight issues covering the various gods (“What idiot let Sekhmet loose? Especially sober!”). But don’t worry, this is good filler, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

EXCALIBUR by Sanders Anne Laubenthal (cover by Gervasio Gallardo, all rights remain with current holder) is the only Grail fantasy set in Mobile, Alabama, involving a Welsh archeologist (who’s also Arthur’s descendant) hunting Excalibur, a local scholar going on a Grail Quest and Morgan leFay and Morgause, who have their own agendas. This blew me away when I originally read it, first for the novelty of the concept (inspired by the legend of a Welsh colony on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico), second for introducing me to the idea of Morgan as a Celtic priest and one of the good guys. Even without those surprises, this still works well, with poetic language, a distinctive setting, and good fantasy elements (though the Otherworld is very Tolkienish). It is a little odd that the most outrageous declarations — yes, I’m the real Morgan leFay! — never startle anyone, they’re just accepted. But it still works (though it’s annoying the female lead, for all her talk about wanting more out of life, ultimately can’t do more than choose a man to marry). A shame Laubenthal died before working on more books in the same setting.

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Westworld: I like the movie more than the series (#SFWApro)

Due to a slightly crazy last weekend (I donated blood and TYG had multiple demands on her time), the only film I caught was WESTWORLD (1973), which is probably Michael Crichton’s most influential work besides Jurassic Park. Influential in the sense that it led to one film sequel (Futureworld), a TV series (Beyond Westworld) and most recently HBO’s Westworld (which I finished up shortly before watching the film.

The movie’s premise is simple. The Delos corporation runs a trio of theme parks (Westworld, Romanworld, Knightworld) where most of the people are automatons. Guests can cosplay to their heart’s content, engage in gunfights in the street, participate in Roman orgies, then go back to their regular life. And the computers regulating the automatons keep everything nice and safe.

Unfortunately, as you might guess from the catchphrase at the bottom of the poster, it doesn’t work like that. We learn early on that a glitch is causing the robots to act outside their programming, and apparently spreading from automaton to automaton (it shows the film’s age that there’s no mention of computer viruses). Westworld vacationer Richard Benjamin sees gunslinger automaton Yul Brynner gun down Benjamin’s buddy James Brolin, then has to flee for his life from the relentless killer (it gets very Terminator). Like Jurassic Park, the people in charge assume they can control everything, but it turns out they can’t. Another way the film shows its age is that the subtext is Computers Cannot Be Trusted; today, we seem to accept similar possibly lethal glitches as a fact of life (the nature of the glitch is never explained). It’s still a neat little thriller. Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, it isn’t based on a Crichton novel — it started life as a screenplay.

Futureworld and Beyond Westworld go in a different direction, with a bad guy using the robots to replace important, powerful people (I covered both in Screen Enemies of the American Way). And then we get the HBO series, which charts a new direction, and clearly aspires to Serious Deep Thoughts. I wasn’t impressed.

Foz Meadows covers everything I disliked about it — gratuitous rape (and an implication that in context, the rapes were a good thing), a whole lot of hookers (though the Westworld staff gives us more female representation than we got in the original film), and catering very much to a white male gaze (we have brothel owner Thandie Newton aggressively hitting on female guests, but no male prostitutes available). I like it much less than Meadows, though. It’s got excellent acting but preens too much on exposing the human id (suffice to say, people are much more vicious to the robot “hosts” than in the film) and offering recycled thoughts about AI and human existence. The ending makes me think the second season won’t be anything but a cliché. So I won’t be back. I’ll pick a light thriller over an ambitious but clunky Serious Series any day.

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Filed under Movies, TV

OMG, I’m writing the raunch werewolf comedy! (#SFWApro)

My standard joke about not having a multi-book contract with a major publisher (for example) is that it does at least leave me free. If I choose to write a magical realist story about Dadaist ghosts in Zurich rather than sign a contract to write a big-budget werewolf raunch comedy, it’s unlikely to affect my bottom line.

But in a sense, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing lately? This time last year I was focused overwhelmingly on fiction (95 percent of the time, say). The past two or three months it’s been predominantly nonfiction, which pays the bills, but doesn’t satisfy me. With the exception of my movie books and Screen Rant lists, but they’re still not as fun as fiction.

However, I like having money coming in, so I’ll have to find a way to make it work. Faster work on the nonfiction (my Screen Rant columns take less and less time to write as I get better at them). Forcing myself to squeeze in fiction time — I worked late Thursday just to get a little more done Southern Discomfort in (my own fault. I’d run out of steam and gotten next to nothing done on the book that afternoon). This is hardly a revolutionary plan, of course, but time management really isn’t a field where new discoveries shake things up.

So in addition to finishing two Screen Rants this week (one of them will be out next week) I did get several thousand words in on Southern Discomfort. And that was pretty much it. If push comes to shove, the novel has to take top priority behind the paying gigs.

The book is progressing well (over 40,000 words as of today), but I’m getting to the point where I need to make big, big changes, and I’m not sure what those are. I can sort of sense the path I want, but “sense” is a long way from actually having an outline. I did figure out one major plot point, but I’m not sure if it’ll make sense when the book is written. I’m beginning to think my goal for this draft should be to put in the stuff my beta-readers wanted, take out the stuff they hated and make sure the plot hangs together. Then go back and make it all seem coherent in the next draft, like I knew where I was going from the first.

Oh, and I talked to a publisher about a possible new film-reference book. More details if I go ahead with it.

I put in well over 35 hours thanks to waking up early most days. That more than made up for the time we spent Thursday taking Trixie and Plushie to the groomers. The new looks are revealed below

We don’t usually cut Trixie this much, but she seems to be shedding a lot.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

My dead heroes Screen Rant article is live (#SFWApro)

Specifically heroes who died and came back within a few issues, or just one issue. That includes Warlock during his early religious allegory phase, Superman, Iron Man, the Metal Men and Spider-Man.

Art by Herb Trimpe (Warlock) and Ross Andru/Mike Esposito (Metal Men). All rights remain with the current holders.

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Mental static (#SFWApro)

I’m increasingly frustrated lately by not being able to focus when I’m reading.

I do most of my reading in the evening. Downstairs with TYG (if she’s home) and the pups, then upstairs in the bed. If I wake up early and I’m not under deadline pressure for anything, I’ll read for a half-hour before starting work. Sometimes that’s enough to put me back to sleep.

I’m finding, though, that I’m getting all monkey-mind during the evenings. My mind wanders and I don’t focus.  Not because of the quality of the book, either, or because I don’t want to read. There’s just too much static in my head and I find myself checking the computer or doing something else that isn’t reading.

(Don’t worry, she’s just squishing against my leg. My photo, please attribute to me if you use)

Part of it is that there’s a lot to distract me lately. The dogs have been needier for some reason (in Plushie’s case it’s because he needs to lose weight, so fewer treats). We have some eyedrops we give Plushie in the evening. Throw in a couple of other distractions and it slices and dices time so I can’t really sit for very long. That said, there are lots of nights where I have an hour or ninety minutes to read. I think even then, my mind may be conditioned to not focusing on the reading.

Another aspect is that I spend most days sitting in the living room with the dogs, then I spend the evenings sitting in the living room with the dogs. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m off work and free to relax. I’ve used various tricks to relax and mark the end of the work day in the past, but they don’t work with the dogs around (taking a walk by myself, meditating, stretching out. Trixie takes stretching out as body language for “sit on me immediately please.”). That works against relax-and-enjoy, much the same way they say working in bed all the time makes it hard to feel it’s a place of rest.

I could solve the problems by going upstairs and reading alone, but I really prefer to be downstairs with my family.

A possible solution might be to do more reading during the day — morning break, say. Shifting my schedule so I take an hour off in the day to read, then work at night would be fine, but I don’t want to work if TYG feels like talking. That’s why I do most of my work when she’s at work.

This has been a problem for a while, but I think it’s getting incrementally worse. So I’d better work on a solution. Life without reading is miserable.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

I know when I’m licked (#SFWApro)

Because I’ve been successfully posting every day for a while now, I can’t bring myself not to. However I’m also quite wiped, so this will be a brief cover-art post.

First we have Gervasio Gallardo’s cover for Sanders Anne Laubenthal’s Excalibur, which I reread recently (review will follow soon).

Then we have Gray Morrow’s cover for one of Thomas Burnett Swann’s mythological fantasies.

Lou Feck did this one.

And here’s a comic-book cover by Ruben Moreira in the Stupid Fool, Why Don’t You Believe The Absurd Superstition category.

All rights to images reside with current holders.

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