Tag Archives: review

Welcome to the first DUFC of 2017 (#104)

Well technically it’s posts relating to feminism from December 2016, but let’s celebrate the end of that dumpster fire of a year and hope that we can find the strength and love to fight the creeping fascism around our region and the world for this year.  May all our favourite celebrities, friends and family members live at least another 5+ years and we get all the cuddly animal love that we want.

If you enjoy this collection of feminist+ posts from around Australia and New Zealand AND think it might be cool to host yourself, please volunteer.  Hosting is actually quite easy, I and other people will send you quite a few blog posts for inclusion, and all you need is a bit of time to list them and a blog in which to include them.  Some of us might even loan you our blogs if you don’t have one of your own, but are interested in putting one of these carnivals together.  We can talk about that later.  Information is available here on how to volunteer.

Without further volunteers the carnival, which has been going for a long time, will fail, so please form an orderly queue and volunteer.  It’s fun, interesting, and not a lot of work.  Volunteers are needed from the end of this month (January 2016) onwards.

Thanks to Chally, Ana, Mary and Jessica for sending through submissions for this month.

To the carnival!

LGBTIQ+

The ACL were fire bombed, and then they weren’t and Chrys Stevenson wrote about it at the Stirrer, “ACL Perverting The Truth“:

Shelton blamed left-wing politicians and activists for inciting the ‘attack’. Our sin? Accurately describing an organisation which dedicates  millions of dollars and the vast majority of its time towards attacking the LGBTIQ community as a ‘hate group’.

What has since transpired is that the ACL’s building was not “rammed”. The vehicle appears to have been parked neatly outside in a parking bay.

Nor was it ‘attacked’. After speaking to the driver and his family, Federal Police confirmed the incident was neither politically, religiously,  nor ideologically motivated.

“Cartoonist” Bill Leak attempted to draw yet another cartoon vilifying the LGBTIQ+ community in Australia, and it made little sense.  Rebecca Shaw attempted to explain it to us at SBS, “A lesbian tries to figure out what the heck Bill Leak’s latest cartoon is about“:

Ah yes. Get it? Perfectly clear. You see everyone, there is a gay boat. I would say ‘gay cruise’ because that is much more funny and clever, but I highly doubt Bill Leak knows about cruising, considering the only depiction of gay men he seems to know is based entirely on the Gimp from Pulp Fiction.

Tyrone Unsworth suicided in November 2016 and Rebecca Shaw penned this thoughtful post some days later. “Tyrone.“:

There have been my own words, and all of the words from people in my community, voices blending into a chorus of rising up and shouting out. Not as one, because they have come from every perspective you can imagine, but all with a similar pursuit. A diverse community forced to reason, goad, justify, explain, bargain, plead, protest and demand that they simply be given the freedom to live as they are. A community full of people who have had to fight to be allowed to live. Not live as in Laugh, Love, Live. Fight to literally live. To survive in a world that has made it difficult, if not often impossible, to exist in. And with each concession, with each tiny step toward the place we should have already been from the start, with each ‘victory’, we have had to keep fighting, mired by the world around us.

Lucinda Horrocks shares oral histories of the Gay Liberation Movement in 1970s Melbourne in the Culture Victoria exhibition, Out of the Closets, Into the Streets, “Out of the Closets: A homosexual history of Melbourne“:

So to understand what was at stake for lesbians and gays to take to the streets, we need to cast ourselves back into an earlier mindset. If you were queer, Melbourne before Gay Lib was an intolerant world. ‘If we found ourselves catapulted back to the 1950s it would be kind of a nightmare,’ says Dr Graham Willett, historian and author of Living Out Loud – a history of gay and lesbian activism in Australia. As Graham explained when we interviewed him for our project, while a camp scene (the term ‘gay’ was not used before the 1970s) had flourished in Melbourne since at least the 1920s, it was hidden, coded and discreet. ‘Mostly what [gay and lesbian] people had to put up with was the discrimination, the sense that they were disgusting in the eyes of lots of people or somehow flawed’ says Graham.

Feminism

Chris Kelly, Chancellor of Massey University, said some very sexist things and then didn’t quite apologise, and then resigned.  Stephanie Rodgers has all the detail at Boots Theory, “Massey Chancellor: women graduates only worth 40% of a real veterinarian“:

Does this actually need unpacking? Are we actually on the cusp of 2017 and I have to spell out why it’s so insulting, small-minded and frankly bizarre to be write off women’s professional abilities and value because they might have babies?

What about women who don’t want to have kids? What about women who enjoy more practical study than theoretical? What about women who don’t just go into veterinary science because (as implied further on in that godawful article) they love puppies and kittens and ickle babby wabbits?

Natalie Kon-Yu and Enza Gandolfo recently attended a conference and the plenary speaker was incredibly sexist, “Embedded misogyny: the academic erasure of women“:

Outside Natalie was joined by several other academics who had quietly walked out of address, and some who were too smart to go in in the first place. The academics Natalie spoke to included men and women from several different ethnic backgrounds. No-one could believe that at a conference in a creative field in Australia in 2016, a plenary speaker could be so blind to gender (and to race, for that matter – but that’s a whole other paper).

The world lost many great people in 2016, including Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  Anna wrote about them both on Hoyden About Town, “2016 Hoydens: Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher“:

Instead of doing my own inadequate round-up of commentary on Carrie in her role as General Leia in the Star Wars verse, I suggest heading over to The Mary Sue to browse through their terrific series of articles. Most people posting early footage of Debbie have chosen Good Morning from Singing in the Rain, which I freely admit is irresistible, but we must remember what a long-term, all-round star of the golden age she was, so I have put something more obscure but no less joyful below. Though people think of them both first as actresses, they also gave us a model of the possibility of a textured, mercurial yet utterly solid relationship between mother and daughter (plenty of re-watchings of Postcards From the Edge going on around the place this weekend), and Carrie was an absolute lion in the crusade to make it acceptable and understandable to live a rich life while negotiating mental illness.

At Flip That Script, they’re dreaming of a feminist Christmas, “Women: mothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmothers. Here is your ‘not to do list’ this silly season.“:

It is not a women’s job. We are not natural at it. We don’t necessarily ‘like it’. Social conditioning is a thing.

Women (girls) are taught to run events and functions, and men (boys) are taught to enjoy them. Christmas is no exception. Christmas is the peak. Sure, everyone needs to chill out more on Christmas. To slow down, pull back on the consumerism, and to just have fun times with friends and family. But everyone has to eat, and everyone has to get together in the first place – and those things require careful, considered planning. Logistics are hard work.

Tangerina writes about how women already do lots of unpaid labour that asking us to volunteer to raise the profile of the unpaid labour and the pay gap seems a little off, “Female Dancers Needed“:

But volunteering and ‘joining movements’ are one in the same. We have always given generously of ourselves and our skills, we’ve always handheld our friends and family through emotional labour, hit the streets with pamphlets, cared for our elderly, chaired meetings, hosted (and fed) fundraisers and then got up and went to our lower paid jobs afterwards. And the level of generosity and corresponding pay gap only gets higher and wider for Women of Colour.

Ana Stevenson reflects on how Ms. Magazine disrupted the masculinist language associated with the Christmas season in 1972, ““Peace on Earth Good Will to People”: Holiday Reflections on Ms. Magazine“:

The message itself was controversial. Taking the deep red and forest green associated with Christmas and tweaking these colours to hot pink and fluorescent green, it simultaneously reframed a phrase with foundations in Christianity and emotive resonance surrounding the holiday season.

The phrase Ms. sought to redefine is derived from the King James Bible. Luke 2:14 relates the annunciation to the shepherds, an episode in the Nativity of Jesus. After an angel tells of the coming of the Messiah, more angels appear, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Politics

Celeste Liddle writes at Eureka Street about discovering her grandmother was a member of the stolen generations, and how Aboriginal workers have been exploited forever, “Aboriginal workers still slipping through the gaps“:

It would be nice to think that free Aboriginal labour is firmly rooted in the shame of the past and as a nation, we have moved forward. Yet in 2015, the Federal Government decided to roll out the ‘Community Development Program’ (CDP) in remote areas of the country. The CDP is a remote Work for the Dole program and has been widely condemned; not just by the Australian Council of Trade Unions but also by recent Jobs Australia report which shows how harmful it is. People engaged in the Community Development Program are required to work 25 hours per week year round for only their Centrelink payments and if they fail to comply, they can be cut off. Reports show a community-wide decline in purchase and consumption of fresh food as participants are cut off from their payments leaving other impoverished family members more financially-stretched.

Luddite Journo at The Hand Mirror writes about the disturbing research that suggests that “science” can predict whether children are going to grow up to be criminals, “Three year olds, “science” and burdening society“:

The problem here is not that people without enough are a burden on society.  It is that we have structured our society so that many people do not have enough but the rich can thrive.  Finding ways to blame three year olds for intergenerational, entrenched poverty and racism is a quite the side-step, even for the most vicious of benefit bashers.  I wonder how well Professor Poulton’s test predicts white collar crime?  I’m sure it takes into account the institutional racism which study after study has identified in our criminal legal system.  And I’m certain he found a way to pay attention to the fact that the children of rich people may not need to access social services in the same way because they are well-protected by the wealth of their parents.

Brigitte Lewis examins the roots and impact of feminist digital activism, both online and off, “Feminist Digital Activism: The revolution is being streamed, snapped and tweeted“:

While the internet is undoubtedly a cesspool of sexual harassment, it is also the site of digital activism. With the creation of digital activism, a feminist and female-led revolution, once pronounced dead – has been reignited. As Gil Scot-Heron famously said, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” (1970); somewhere, on the internet, it will be streamed, photographed, tweeted and then turned into a meme.

Mary over at Puzzling.org writes a continuation of a series, “Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: discrimination, violence, and activism“, this time covering Indigenous dispossession and oppression, refugee rights, worker’s rights, racial equality and anti-racism, LGBTI rights, women’s rights, disability rights, and sex work.

2016 in review and looking forward to 2017

Andi Buchanan’s year in review.

Ariane wrote two pieces for the end of 2016, “Word for 2017” and “Happy New Year!

Tigtog at Hoyden About Town wrote, “Open Looking Forward to 2017 Thread

It almost fits, blue milk wrote about what December looks like in her part of Australia, “What December 2016 looks like (in the subtropics)

Reproductive Health and Choice

After Catherine Deveny had thoughts about men opting out of pregnancy, blue milk posted, “On the idea that men should be able to ‘opt out’of parenthood“:

Men can ‘opt out’ already. Don’t have sex with women, get a vasectomy, take lots and lots of responsibility for contraception. Oh.. you mean not that kind of “control over reproductive choices”.

Cristy Clark wrote about Catherine Deveny’s article at Overland, “Deveny’s ‘financial abortion’ is a form of coercive control“:

But if ‘pro-life’ campaigners were genuinely concerned with the preservation of life, they would do more than fight to deny women access to abortion. They would spend their time actively working to create an environment in which women are genuinely supported to carry their pregnancies to term. Instead, these anti-choice campaigners are the exact same people who lobby for legal and economic policies that create poverty and ongoing systematic disadvantage for mothers (particularly in terms of workplace and public life participation).

So what does motivate anti-choice activists? The available evidence seems to indicate they are more concerned with controlling women and undermining their bodily autonomy – a conclusion supported by their participation in denying basic human rights to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Examples of this include the widespread denial of birth rights (such as free and informed consent prior to invasive medical procedures) and the pervasive shaming and exclusion of breastfeeding women from public spaces.

Emmaline Matagi writes at Spinoff, “Positive: A mother’s abortion story“:

My stomach drops. I haven’t even realised I am seven weeks late. I’ve been so busy with life; three kids, teaching full-time, studying for a Masters part-time, being a wife, a volunteer, a woman. When was my last period? Last month? The month before? I don’t even know.

My health history is a complicated one: three children, three emergency cesarean sections, two resuscitations and a nine-week premature baby.

I tell my husband the news. He’s devastated. “There’s no way we can do this, we just cant lose you,” he says. “Look at how sick you are! Look at you, this is happening all over again we just cant lose you!” His words stick in my mind for days. And so I finally get up the nerve to see a doctor.

Families

Emily at Emily Writes, feels guilty about abandoning her blog given she’s been writing elsewhere.  But she has some snippets for us, “Assorted tales from a stairway covered in shoes“:

Oh poor neglected blog. Now that I have abandoned you for a better, brighter, more scintillating and stimulating lover (The Spinoff Parents) I barely see you anymore.

I keep trying to come back to you but I don’t have much to say here. I have been noting things down, not particularly interesting, but they’re things I can assure you.

Race, racism and representation

Emmaline Matagi writes at Spinoff, “Representation matters: A mother talks about what Moana means to her and her daughter“:

As a mother to a six-year-old daughter of the Pacific I can honestly say that this film will stay with my child. She won’t ever forget it. Nor will I let her. Moana is a young brown girl, with long, thick black hair, thick brown lips, big brown eyes, thick black eyebrows and a love for the ocean and her family. I see my daughter in Moana. More importantly however, is that my daughter sees herself in Moana! Why is that important? Because never before in her short six years of life or my longer 30 years have we Pacific people ever been able to say we truly see ourselves as the hero of an animated movie – EVER. Moana represented her, her family, her people, her ocean and her story. The history of our ancestors (albeit a tiny glimpse into our amazing history) is our history nonetheless and it’s on the big screen now. My children, like many others, adore Disney movies. They love watching the animation, love the stories, and they love getting dressed up like the characters and pretending they are in those fantasy worlds. Moana is different for them. This time they got to see themselves and they don’t have to dress up, they don’t have to pretend they are in a fantasy world, this is their world.

Book Reviews

Stephanie at No Award is attempting to justify buying a book.  I also need to justify buying this book because it aligns with my research interests, “book review: asia on tour: exploring the rise of Asian tourism“:

This is an academic book; however it’s very accessible. Even the chapters that include ethnographic studies and academic definitions are lacking in dense language. Published in 2009 it’s a little old, but as an introduction to talking about Asian tourism in Asia, and post-colonial travel regionally, it’s a great one. It’s also a good introduction to tourism studies in general, if that’s a thing you’ve been vaguely interested in but never tackled before.

Violence *All posts in this section contain trigger warnings for violence*

Rosie Dalton writes about the concerning study which showed that women were more likely to tolerate stalking like behaviour after watching rom-coms, “New Study Shows Rom Coms Make Us More Tolerant of ‘Stalking Myths’“:

Only in the land of romantic comedies are stalking narratives somehow portrayed as less dangerous than they actually are. Take There’s Something About Mary, for example, where the creepiness of Ben Stiller hiring a private detective to track down his high school crush is somehow glossed over. These kinds of subtle narratives in rom coms can have real world impacts though, as a new study by gender and sexuality expert Julia R Lippman, of the University of Michigan has found. According to The Guardian, Lippman’s report I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You found that rom coms featuring men engaging in stalker-like behaviour can make women more likely to tolerate obsessiveness from prospective romantic partners.

Vera Mackie explores women’s experiences of militarised sexual abuse during the Asia-Pacific War, and the survivors’ campaign for acknowledgement by the Japanese government, “The Grandmother and the Girl“.

Lisa Durnian examines patricide prosecutions where children killed their mothers’ abusers, demonstrating how it is not just the immediate victims of violence who suffer in abusive household, ““Mum will be safe now”: Prosecuting children who kill violent men“.

Dianne Hall discusses how gendered familial roles in early modern Europe institutionalised family violence and influenced its treatment in the courts, “Domestic violence has a history: Early modern family violence“.

Joanne McEwan delves into legal responses to wife beating in eighteenth-century England, and its resonance with contemporary discourses, “The legacy of eighteenth-century wife beating“.

Jane Freeland looks at the spirit of survival women demonstrated in the face of domestic violence at other women’s shelters – this time in Cold War Germany, “Writing their stories: Women’s survivorship and the history of domestic abuse in divided Germany“.

Mary Tomsic explores cinematic representations of physical and sexual violence against women in We Aim to Please, a 1970s Australian feminist film, “We Aim to Please: Cinematic activism, sex and violence“.

Lisa Featherstone reveals the controversies that dogged the campaign to criminalise marital rape in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, “Rape in marriage: Why was it so hard to criminalise sexual violence?“.

Senthorun Raj discusses how pop culture stereotypes about homosexuality enable bureaucratic violence towards refugees, “Are you really gay enough to be a refugee?“:

What do Madonna, Oscar Wilde, Greco-Roman wrestling, clubbing at Stonewall, and having a lot of sex have in common? Not much really, other than the fact that Australian refugee decisions are saturated with these stereotypes – stereotypes that have been used to determine whether a person is “genuinely” gay and subject to a “well-founded fear of persecution.” As a gay man who some politicians would class as “elite” because I live in the inner city suburb of Sydney and prefer investing in books than mortgages, I could tell you very little about Oscar Wilde’s literary contributions. Yet, for same-sex attracted refugees, the demand to prove “gay identity” is no joke. The bureaucratic violence perpetrated against queers who seek refuge leaves more to be desired.

Jessica Hammond writes, “Runner’s Guide to Rape Culture” where she rightly picks apart an author’s “safety tips” on how women can  avoid being assaulted while running.

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Post-Apocalyptic Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Book: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Format consumed: Ebook, also available in hard copy (Fishpond, Booktopia)

Plot summary (Goodreads):

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed or sterile and raised in the Shell. As, one by one, the survivors grow sick and die, Pete and the Six struggle to put aside their anger at the alien Tesslies in order to find the means to rebuild the earth together. Their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings. Suddenly her predictive algorithms begin to reveal more than just criminal activity. As she begins to realize her role in the impending catastrophe, simultaneously affecting the Earth and the Shell, Julie closes in on the truth. She and Pete are converging in time upon the future of humanity—a future which might never unfold.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

I don’t think I agree with the plot summary in Goodreads.  I’d rewrite it as follows (unless I read a completely different book).

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed and sterile and raised in the Shell. The original survivors are growing old and sick, and some have died. Pete and the Six blame the alien Tesslies for the end of the world and their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool, and supplies to make their lives more comfortable.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings and thefts. With each new data point her predictive algorithms are more accurate and she can predict where Pete and the Six will appear next.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

This novella was nominated for several awards and won some too (Goodreads):

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2013), Nebula Award for Best Novella (2012), Locus Award for SF Best Novella (2013), Endeavour Award Nominee (2013)

Type of post apocalyptic story: This one is interesting.  It’s written both immediately before the world as we know it is ending, has the moment the world is ending, and also in a now that is the future.  The chapters swap between the past and present, working towards the moment the world as we knew it ended.

Review

This story is certainly ambitious, and the writing is of high quality.  The characters were all equally unlikeable, and I think that’s why it rates so poorly.  Pete is an obnoxious, aggressive, sex obsessed teenager with entitlement issues and Julie is a determined loner who wants to do it all on her own, bugger the consequences.  I certainly didn’t feel any empathy for either of them, mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to grow up.

I did like the story mechanic.  I would have much preferred that the story followed one of the survivors versus Pete, but the gradual collapse of all the time lines to the main event was done really well, and the urgency was surrounding the events was well captured.

World Building: Basically the world is Gaia, a self regulating mechanism, and she/it gets pissed off with humanity and wipes us all out.  The book is set in the Northern Americas which is convincingly wiped out.  I’m still not sure Australia was affected.  We’d be protected from Yellowstone exploding by trade winds, and any resulting tsunami from that event would wipe out the Pacific Islands and PNG, but Australia would be mostly ok.  The tsunami from the Canary Islands collapsing in the Atlantic wouldn’t affect Australia.  If a major earthquake happened off the coast of Chile, then Western Australia would still be ok.  Australia is special that way.  I’m not sure anything happened in the Indian Ocean either, so all the countries in that part of the world are probably ok too.  However, there is another element to the plot which means that humanity would die off regardless of what continent they lived on.

I’m nit picking, and really when the end comes, it comes quickly enough that news about what is happening doesn’t have time to spread.  So I’ll just say that everyone but the survivors died, and the story went from there.

Character Building: I didn’t like any of the characters.  I didn’t like their motivations, I didn’t connect with them, I thought they were all insufferable.  This is not a ringing endorsement.

Women: So Julie is really smart and capable.  The women survivors are resourceful and have worked hard to build a new life for themselves with the male survivors in the Shell.  The survivors are a bit 2 dimensional because they’re not main characters in this novella.

Non-white characters: So they’re there, but most are not central to the plot.  The survivors in the Shell were all the the US at the end of the world, but are not all white.  There is a Chinese man, someone with Latino/a heritage, and Julie’s surname suggests that she has South Asian heritage.  It’s a good reflection of the diversity of the US.

Disabled characters: So the Six have various birth defects, for undisclosed reasons, which have meant that they all have a disability of some form.  The story does not go into this in much depth, but Pete is described as having a head too big for his body and a weak shoulder (which is wrenched from time to time when he’s kidnapping children or fighting).

Queer characters: There is no mention of any queer characters in the book at all.  LGBTI people do not exist in this world.

Final thoughts

Pete is such an obnoxious character.  He really ruined the story for me as he was so self obsessed and entitled.  I find it rather weird that he grew up that way given the survivors had the choice to change the ways they did things (including raising children).  Pete wanders around with such a huge chip on his shoulder, and believes that he should get what he wants in relation to sex.

Oh and the angry sex he has with one of the Six makes him even less palatable. I don’t recommend this story at all.

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Post-Apocalyptic Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Book: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Format consumed: ebook, also available in hardcopy (Fishpond, Booktopia, etc)

Plot summary (from Goodreads):

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The world ended many years ago, possibly over 100 years ago. It’s very vague as to how that happened, it could have been disease, global climate change, or war, but there were a lot of injured people and music was found to soothe and heal them them – so music became a tool to control the population and maintain behaviour.  There is no mention of other countries or population centres outside where Anthem lives in the story.

Review

I picked up this book as it was nominated for a Bisexual fiction award.  Anthem is bisexual.  In this book he is interested in one of the female characters, but he is still friends with his ex-boyfriend, and they spend a fair amount of time clubbing together in the book.  For a story about a bisexual man, I recommend this.  It was good on many other elements. too.  I read this a while ago, so my memory is a little rusty.

World Building: Apart from no mention of other population centres, the world is believable.  There are ruins of the world before surrounding the world as it is today in the story.  There is a police state that is working on getting things done, maintaining their own power, and control.  There is a class system of the haves and have nots based on current wealth, and it is almost possible to move between them, but not likely for most people.

The technology is incredible, the ability to encode music with subliminal messages/beats that makes it addictive, as well as controlling mood and improving people’s ability to heal.  The ability for people to be bio-generators of power to power the city, the ability for people to record their lives so that after they die others can still see them, like the way we record things on our phones.

Character Building: So the main character is male and bisexual, a combination which is really rare in a book.  Also, everyone else is pretty much ok with bisexuality (nice), and queerness in general (also nice).  The characters have different motivations for doing things, they have their own back stories and women are treated as equally capable as men.  When Anthem believes that the woman he is interested in has betrayed him, he doesn’t believe that it is because she’s a woman, or that she’s weak.

Women: So Anthem’s love interest in this story is a woman and she’s a fully rounded character, with multiple depths to her.  There is also Anthem’s … handler (I’m really not quite sure what the correct word is) at the bio-generation plant who ensures that he is plugged in correctly and has something to read/occupy his time while he’s there.  There are several baddies who are also women.  None of these characters are single dimensional, and none of them are sex objects.

Non-white characters: There are a range of non-white characters in the book.  Anthem is blond-haired and blue-eyed.  Haven, his love interest, has olive skin.  Another one of the characters is described as being so dark, that in the darkened, disused space that they’re performing music in, he’s difficult to see.

Disabled Characters: Although there are no visible disabilities mentioned, there is the theme of addiction and the ruination that can cause throughout the book.  Anthem lost his mother to her addiction to the Corp’s music, and is in the process of losing his father.  There is an acknowledgement of mental health issues, and the characters are familiar with depression and anxiety.

Queer Characters: Anthem is bisexual, his ex, Scope, is gay, there are other queer characters in the book.  There are straight characters.  Orientation isn’t an issue in this version of the future.  It’s nice to see a future where who you are attracted to is not an issue and nothing to be ashamed of.

There were no trans characters that I am aware of in the book.

Final thoughts

There is a reason this book was nominated for an award. It does a lot of things right, and I really enjoyed it.

Related Posts:

Post-Apocalyptic Book Review: Damnation Alley – Roger Zelazny

Book: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Form consumed: ebook, also in hardcopy about the place (Booktopia, Fishpond, etc)

Plot (from Wikipedia)

The story opens in a post-apocalyptic Southern California, in a hellish world shattered by nuclear war decades before. Several police states have emerged in place of the former United States. Hurricane-force winds above five hundred feet prevent any sort of air travel from one state to the next, and sudden, violent, and unpredictable storms make day-to-day life a mini-hell. Hell Tanner, an imprisoned killer, is offered a full pardon in exchange for taking on a suicide mission—a drive through “Damnation Alley” across a ruined America from Los Angeles to Boston—as one of three vehicles attempting to deliver an urgently needed plague vaccine.

Type of post-apocalyptic story: The current world has ended, the story starts around 30 – 40 years after the event.  Society for the most part has stabilised and is now focussed on survival.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book, for the most part, however there were a few gaping issues.  Let’s do all the good things.  There will be spoilers

World building: I really liked the way Zelazny put the world together for this book.  The main character was not alive when the current world was destroyed and the new world was formed.  He doesn’t know most of what happened, and doesn’t care – so neither does the reader for the most part.  During the story the main character, Tanner, finds out a bit more, and still doesn’t care, as living in the world as it is, is his current struggle.

The fantastical way that the world has been reshaped due to radiation, storms, and people, the way people survive day to day, and how government continues (or doesn’t) to operate is all very interesting and I can see why a lot of people were inspired by the story to create works in homage.

Character building: There is only one real character, the rest are there to drive the plot but are in essence completely unimportant.  Despite Tanner supposedly being a complete and utter arsehole (and he is a bit), he’s really just a guy who wants to be left alone, and safe – though his version of left alone and safe tends to be one where a lot of other people end up dead.  Granted many of those other people have attempted to kill him at some point.  He’s not completely unlikeable as a character and you do find yourself rooting for him.  I’d say he is lazily written because he’s not really one thing or another, and I think he should be given how he is introduced.

Description: I’m a big believer in using words to their fullest effect so I can build a mental picture of what the author is describing.  I found that this book was very successful in that, but not so successful that I wanted to stop reading after describing some mutated horror, or yet more violence.

And now the badly done bits

Women: So there are three main female characters in the book; two are sex objects and one is a mother.  The book would have worked completely fine without them, and I actually would have preferred that to be the case.  I haven’t read much Zelazny so I don’t know if he cannot write women, or whether he is actually sexist, but the three characters were really pointless to the story, and appear to be a lazy attempt at inclusion.

The mother was there in a farming household, and she was intimidated by Tanner – which isn’t surprising, he’s a force of chaotic nature and I’d be scared of him.  She didn’t drive the plot, and did nothing than be a mother to some children Tanner was interacting with, and the husband of a farmer.  She wasn’t badly written, just an illustration along the story.

The two sex objects were awful.  Zelazny clearly cannot write a sex scene.  The first woman, Cornelia, is a member of a gang that attacks Tanner.  Tanner is effectively driving a tank, and he takes out pretty much everyone in the gang, and avoids killing Cornelia by chance (he doesn’t know she’s there initially).  He picks up her, patches her wounds and she joins him.  She clearly doesn’t care that Tanner has killed her entire gang (and probably family), and happily comes along with him.  They hook up, have sex, she gets killed by another gang, Tanner buries her and continues on his way.

The second woman, Evelyn, only exists to drive the plot forward.  She lives in the plague infested Boston and is meeting with her beau who believes that he is infected with the plague but wants to see her one last time.  Then ensues one of the most awkwardly written sex scenes I’ve read for a while:

They moved to the bed and did not speak again until after he had ridden her for several minutes and she heard him sigh and felt the warm moisture come into her. Then she rubbed his shoulders and said, “That was good.”

Evelyn, her beau and most of Boston aren’t likeable.  You don’t care that they’re dying of the plague, and the world would probably be a better place if they did because then a whole lot of annoying people wouldn’t exist.  Badly written characters like this really don’t help the story.  If Tanner wasn’t such a strong character, and his determination to just keep moving forward, you really wouldn’t care about what happens to Boston.  Because Tanner cares (though even that seems to be out of character), you care.

Non-white characters: I don’t recall any being described in the book.  Evelyn is described as having red hair, Cornelia is described as having brown hair, and an obvious red burn to her face (from Tanner’s self defence flame-thrower).  The mother is described as having red cheeks.  Tanner really doesn’t have that much of a description other than having dark eyes, a beard, and being a biker.

Disabled characters: Despite the world pretty much self destructing there are no mentions of disabled characters. Given the current state of the world, there would be some, and you’d expect there to be a mention of them.

Queer characters: None are mentioned.  It wouldn’t have been too hard to include one in the story, Evelyn’s beau could have been a woman, or bisexual, or even trans, any of the other characters that Tanner briefly meets could have been queer.

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Linkspam – sadly not on holidays edition

Now back from holidays, and a final post on Cologne is yet to be written, but is percolating around my head, I have much linkspam to share.  And as always, this is a fraction of the cool stuff I’ve read this month.

Clem Bastow (who I adore), wrote a great piece on periods in Daily Life:

Back in the good old-bad old days of being fully immersed in social networking, I became known for my propensity to talk about periods: mine, my friends’, my family members’, other people’s, periods on television, periods and advertising, periods, periods, PERIODS.

(It reached a crescendo when some dude on Twitter whined that it was “gross” and I drew this smily face for them in response in mother nature’s own brick-red ink.)

The reason for such menses-mad tweeting was, in part, because I think the continued taboo about menstruation is one of the most depressing aspects of our allegedly enlightened society.

Chloe Papas writes “Speak Up About Partner Abuse” in New Matilda *trigger warning for discussion of partner abuse*:

Partner abuse has become a disturbingly normalised aspect of everyday life in Australia and internationally. There’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way from the hush-hush ignorance of decades prior to the 50s and 60s, but it’s still something that we often choose to not discuss, to sweep under the rug. Many see it as a private family matter, as something that should be dealt with within the home and not talked about publicly. But if it is never discussed, never acknowledged, how can the cycle ever be broken?

Rebecca Solnit writes a great piece, “The Problem With Men Explaining Things” in Mother Jones:

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about Al Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to Al Qaeda and no WMD, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)

Arrogance might have had something to do with the war, but this syndrome is a war that nearly every woman faces every day, a war within herself too, a belief in her superfluity, an invitation to silence, one from which a fairly nice career as a writer (with a lot of research and facts correctly deployed) has not entirely freed me. After all, there was a moment there when I was willing to let Mr. Important and his overweening confidence bowl over my more shaky certainty.

Corinne Grant at The Hoopla writes about how Tony Abbott is in fact “A Hootin’, Tootin’ Good Ole Boy“:

Tony Abbott is a good bloke. He’s a good Aussie bloke. He’s a good Aussie bloke who is fair dinkum on a bike.

He’s exactly like John Wayne if you replace the twelve gallon Stetson and six shooter with lycra tights and a Consumer Safety Standards approved bike helmet. He’s a hootin’, tootin’, rootin’, good ole boy who knows what he knows and knows it’s right because he knows it. (And by rootin’ I mean he thoroughly enjoys barracking at the cricket – not doing dirty grown-up things that would make the baby Jesus cry.)

Libby Anne writes at Love, Joy, Feminism “Christian Patriarchy to Men: You don’t have to grow up!“:

What are the qualities we generally associate with maturity? The ability to see things from others’ perspectives? The ability to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that things don’t always go the way you want them to, and that you just have to deal with that? The ability to cooperate with others, to communicate and find compromises that everyone can be happy with?

Yeah, under Christian Patriarchy, a man doesn’t have to do any of that. Because he’s the head of the family, dammit!

What he says goes! God speaks to him, after all, and everyone else should listen and heed what God tells him! He’s the one who gets to make the decisions for the family, and for the children! Period! In other words, a man is allowed to act like a willful, spoiled child who always expects to get his own way. And if he doesn’t get his own way? Expect a reaction of confusion mixed with anger and righteous indignation.

N.K. Jemisin (who I love heaps) writes an excellent review of Dragon Age, and about how to write oppression and privilege well in, “Identity should always be part of the gameplay“:

So basically, the DA creators have had the sense to acknowledge that the non-optional demographics of a person’s background — her gender, her race, the class into which she was born, her sexual orientation — have as much of an impact on her life as her choices. Basically, privilege and oppression are built in as game mechanics. I can’t remember the last time I saw a game that so openly acknowledged the impact of privilege. Lots of games feature characters who have to deal with the consequences of being rich or poor, a privileged race or an oppressed one, but this is usually a linear, superficial thing. The title character in Nier, for example, is a poor single father who’s probably too old for the mercenary life (he looks about 50, but via the miracle of Japanese game traditions he’s probably only 30), but he keeps at it because otherwise his sick daughter will starve. His poverty is simply a motivation. No one refuses to hire him because they think poor people are lazy. He meets a well-dressed, well-groomed young man who lives in a mansion at one point, and the kid doesn’t snub him for being dirty and shirtless. (In fact the kid falls in love with him but that’s a digression.) His age and race and class don’t mean anything, even though in real life they would. So even though I love Nier — great music, fascinating and original world — I like the DA games better. Even in a fantasy world, realism has its place.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion in the SFF writing world about how to write “the other” — i.e., a character of a drastically different background from the writer’s own. It’s generally people of privileged backgrounds asking the question, because let’s face it: if you’re not a straight white able-bodied (etc.) male, you pretty much know how to write those guys already because that’s most of what’s out there. So right now I’m speaking to the white people. One technique that gets tossed around in these discussions is what I call the “Just Paint ‘Em Brown” technique: basically just write the non-white character the same as a white one, but mention somewhere in the text, briefly, that she’s not white. Lots of well-known SFF writers — Heinlein in Starship Troopers, Clarke in Childhood’s End, Card in Ender’s Game — have employed this technique. I’ve seen some books mention a character’s non-whiteness only as a belated “surprise” to the reader (near the end of the book in the Heinlein example). The idea, I guess, is that the reader will form impressions of the character sans racialized assumptions, and therefore still feel positively about the character even after he’s revealed to be one of “them.”

This technique is crap.

Chris Graham at Agenda Tracker has detailed a very damming piece regarding the ABC’s role in the creation of the Intervention in Indigenous communities, especially Lateline’s role in “BAD AUNTY: The truth about the NT intervention and the case for an independent media“.

An article about Courage to Care travelling exhibition (in Australia), featured in Australian Mosaic: the Magazine of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, “Have you got the Courage to Care?“:

Courage to Care aims to empower the people who are usually overlooked in situations involving prejudice and discrimination—the bystanders. Many social tolerance programs are directed towards the victims or the perpetrators. By contrast, Courage to Care focuses on the majority—the bystanders—encouraging them to take action and to confront incidents of discrimination, bullying and harm.

The program uses one of the most significant events of the 20th century to teach a universal concept: one person can make a difference. The Holocaust, the systematic murder during Second World War of 6 000 000 European Jews by Nazi Germany, is the most extreme example of how far racism and discrimination can go if left unchecked by ordinary citizens. Courage to Care uses living historians as well as text, objects, memorabilia and interactive discussion.

By exposing students to the personal experiences of Holocaust survivors and the remarkable stories of the people who rescued them, the program promotes learning and understanding. It does this through enquiry, discourse and critical reflection on personal values.

It does not seek to impose values, but rather encourages students to question instances of racism, intolerance and discrimination. It challenges the bystander who turns a blind eye, rather than stand up for what they instinctively know is right. It thereby challenges indifference.

 

 

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Racism masquerading as science

*Trigger warning for extreme racism*

A peer-reviewed journal by the name of “Personality and Individual Differences”, published a paper in March 2012 titled, “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?” (full paper available at link), by two psychologists.  The psychology bit is important, because the paper is essentially looking at biology, and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of qualification in biology that the two authors of the paper have.

I strongly caution you regarding the racism in this paper.  It is abhorrent and awful.  The commentary below delves a bit into who the authors are, my WTF in relation to the contents of the paper, and how fucked up the whole thing is.  The paper is a hard read, and this whole post may be triggering.

Continue reading Racism masquerading as science

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Greenwing – a TV series to watch

I don’t know how many people who read this blog have watched Greenwing, but I’m currently rewatching it with my house guest and it is such an awesome – and very wrong – TV series.  I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched it, so this post will be quite brief.  One thing I wanted to point out about the series is it’s interesting critiques on gender roles.  The show is set in a hospital, and the characters are either doctors or administrative staff in the hospital.  Thankfully not all the doctors are men, and although for the most part the staff in HR are women – that’s not too far away from reality.  The gender of the character is important in relation to the stereotype they are assigned to play, but whether the character is admin or professional is irrelevant.

You have the competitive, objectifier of women who believes that you have to, “play them mean to keep them keen”, and who really doesn’t understand people or emotions at all.  You have the mouse who is frightened of everything and is cowed by his more aggressive male colleagues, who he just wants to be like.  You have the man who wants to be powerful and sometimes thinks he is, but is generally disliked by everyone because he’s either sleazy, incompetent, offensive or exceedingly eccentric (and sometimes all at once).  You have the character who is affable, well liked, sometimes rude, generally caring and who isn’t particularly open about how they feel.  You have the boyish character who likes to challenge authority, loves a joke, loves supporting those who needs it and is sexually voracious (which is completely fine in the series).  You have the IT guy who is cute, charming and wanted by everyone.

You have the slightly eccentric, but well meaning woman who doesn’t know what she wants exactly, but has an idea and is willing to experiment a little to find out more.  You have the female equivalent mouse character.  You have the woman who is lovely but stressed with her personal life and keeping track of her children.  You have the sexually voracious and generally nice character who likes to be silly (in fact all of HR are silly) and whose sexual nature isn’t an issue.  You have the fat woman who at one stage is picked on by the objectifier and who tells him to “fuck off” (oh and he’s a little scared of her too), she’s also happy with her body and her attractiveness.  There is the scheming, eccentric and rude woman who is one of the best characters on the show.  The perfect woman who everyone aspires to be – beautiful, competent, intelligent, cheerful and always perfect.  There is the rude, sleazy, incompetent, offensive and really wrong character who makes me cringe every time I see her on screen – though she does it SO well.

Extra internet points if you can name all the characters I’ve described in order.

I love this series.  It has many moments of wrong, but is beautifully written, fantastically directed, has an awesome cast and makes me laugh every time I watch it.

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