Tag Archives: story

Tell me a story

I tweeted the other day (ok several months) ago, that I had come to a realisation about why I just don’t like some stories.  Everyone raved about Anita Heiss’s Tiddas, and was talking about how they related to the story about a close knit group of girlfriends.  I love Anita and bought the book to read, but sadly I couldn’t finish it, and I thought over the course of a few weeks why that was.

It certainly wasn’t the writing, Anita is a fantastic author, her writing is superb and her senses of place and character are powerful, so it wasn’t that.  Eventually I realised it was because of the key essence of the story – secrets.

It’s not that I don’t mind a book where the characters have to keep things from each other to keep each other safe, or because there are far more important things to do than discuss how a careless comment hurt their feelings at breakfast, but in a book where there appears to be no other reason to keep secrets from each other than to drive dramatic tension, I have a problem with that.

I’m not sure why this is a specific thing that bugs me about some stories.  I’m sure part of it is being a person who is open and honest with those I care about, and that I don’t like keeping secrets from those I care about unless they’re fun secrets like surprise presents or parties.  That said, I also hate surprises, so maybe that’s part of it too.

Stories are often told where an event happens and that drives the plot, or where conflict between people happen, and that’s the plot, or there is a journey or a game or things.  Stories where someone is fretting about whether or not they should tell someone else this thing that is going on in their life, when for all the history as far as the reader knows of this character and this other person is that they would have told the other, irritates me.  I believe it’s huge in romance books (another genre I don’t read).

It’s one thing that annoyed me most about [Rowena] Cory Daniell’s series The Last of the T’en (and now I discover she is also from Brisbane), sure initially the main character has absolutely no reason to trust the invader who demands she marry him, but they begin to understand each other, and there are all sorts of non-reasons for them to stop communicating.  The romantic tension is driven by them failing to communicate and it annoyed me.  The world, ideas, clash of cultures, rebel alliances, etc are all great, but why can’t they just talk to each other?

Really this is me having a whine because my I value openness in my relationships over many other things, and when I see fictional characters fail to communicate (this even happened in Glitch and that annoyed me too), I rage at them to just sit down and do the talking thing.  Yes it is hard, it isn’t always fun, and can take time, but it is necessary and the plot will happen anyway because you have built interesting characters, in interesting places, with interesting things happening to them.

I love a great “us against the world” story.  I love reading about people learning about themselves and other people.  I love reading about defeating evil, or slightly evil, or “oops we thought that was the bad person”.  I love reading about people who learn to communicate better with each other as they realise that one of them communicates in a different way to themselves.  I love most stories.  It turns out I am not a fan of stories about not communicating.

Today’s post promted by this.

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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.

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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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I have one of those faces…

You might know the one – the one where people tell you things, or if you’re on the other side, the one you look at and you think, “I know, I can tell them things and it’ll all be cool”.

I have had some fascinating conversations and experiences because of the face I carry with me (no, not in my pocket, that’d be gross).  Recently I’ve been practicing the “leave me alone, I’m busy” look so I am approached less often, but when I was younger I would have all sorts of people approach me to tell me things.

I was 15 and sitting the CES (employment) office, trying to get some part-time work.  I was minding my own business in the waiting room when one of the employees walked past me, stopped, asked if I was ok, and then launched into a personal story that I was embarrassed to hear.  I can’t remember much about it now, other than it involved tights, but it was strange, and not the first or last time I had random things confided in me.

I once asked a partner why he thought people told me things.  He said that he thought it was because I looked non-judgmental, approachable, and kind.  I judge, of course, as everyone else does, but apparently back then I didn’t look like I would.  When I asked his girlfriend why I was never approached in bars (which wasn’t entirely a bad thing), she told me that I always look like I’m really busy, and shouldn’t be interrupted.

I think I’ve been focusing on the “leave me alone” look for a while – I treasure being left alone.  Also, being fat and older now means I’m almost invisible, which is good too.

Over 10 years ago now I was in Crown for a function dinner (part of a conference I was at), and as I had arrived early I sat in a random bar and started reading my book (I had my work bag with me).  A woman sat down on the table I was on and introduced herself.  She asked me if I would join her in playing a trick on her friends by pretending to be her girlfriend.  I didn’t have anything to do for the next 45 minutes or so, so joined her in walking over to the table of friends.  We sat down, she introduced me, and the conversation continued, though a bit awkwardly.  Eventually this woman, whose name I have completely forgotten, told her friends that her name was in fact [insert male name I’ve forgotten too] here and that I was not actually her girlfriend.  This was about the same time I had to leave to go to the dinner, and I never did find out what happened to her.

I have/had that face that meant that this woman felt that she could trust me to joke about with her friends, in whichever way she wanted to do so.

I’ve had my share of strange people on public transport who want to tell me their life story, or inquire if my sisters are unmarried once they discover that I’m married and most of the time I don’t mind (well except for the guys who think that hitting on my sisters is a good idea).  There really are times when I just want to be left alone to read my book, think my thoughts or plan the eventually take over of the world.

I don’t mind engaging with general strangers provided I can opt out if necessary, generally that’s where problems arise, social contracts don’t often let you opt out.  There is a certain appeal to the idea of being a little old lady who talks to strangers though.

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Post apocalyptic story-telling

I consume a lot of post-apocalyptic stories, mostly in book format, but also in films and television.  Part of it is because I enjoy sf stories, and post-apocalyptic stories look to the future and what could happen to the world and there are elements of both science fiction and fantasy in doing that.  Part of it is also because I’m a cold war kid.

I grew up in Alice Springs, which is next door to the US and Australian intelligence base Pine Gap.  I grew up when the threat of nuclear warfare was real.  I grew up reading Children of the Dust, and it was more of a case of when the war would start than if.  This mindset is hard to shake, and so I am drawn to the stories people tell about what if the world we knew ended, and what would happen next.

That said, I’m glad most stories don’t focus on the actual transition from today’s world to the newly imagined world, because that isn’t pretty at all.  I watched bits of Under the Dome on TV, and it’s not nice to watch or read about people who need medication to stay alive suffer as their access to medication disappears, or when the water runs out and people start dehydrating or drinking unsafe water, or when food sources disappear and people start starving, or when the social order we appreciate completely breaks down and those that are deemed easy prey are expendable.  I know that this happens today in many parts of the world, and it’s not what I want for anyone.

I won’t watch Under the Dome, or even The Walking Dead, because I don’t need that level of horror in my life, but it still fascinates me. What happens with race, gender and sexuality when the world we know today fractures and becomes something different?  Do the current biases and prejudices remain? (probably yes) Will people change for the better? (probably no).

Annalee Newitz doesn’t think that the rights that women have fought for and won in many countries around the world are necessarily guaranteed.

So what does that tell us about the future? As I said earlier, it can be a fairly depressing prospect. We see that women have gained freedom and lost it, over and over again. There is no smooth road from lack of freedom to total freedom. It is, as Le Tigre sang in relation to something related, “One step forward, five steps back.”

So why this post?  I want to review some of the books I’ve read recently, looking at how women, non-white people, disabled people and sexual minorities are represented, what ended the world today, and whether the future envisaged in those stories is one that I’d want to live in.

Stay tuned as I write over the next while posts about each of those books (when I’m focused and have time obviously).  All thoughts and recommendations of other books welcome.

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Welcome to the 83rd Down Under Feminist Carnival

Hello and welcome to the Down Under Feminist Carnival – a carnival celebrating feminist writers of Australia and New Zealand, and their posts written in March 2015.  I hope you enjoy this carnival as much as I enjoyed putting it together.  Thanks to Chally, Mary, Scarlett, Cat, Ju, Ana and Sanch for making submissions to the carnival.

I’ve grouped the posts that have been submitted to me and that I have found into categories for ease of reference (and ease of putting this all together for me).  If I have miscategorised something, or if you notice any errors, please let me know.

You should also consider volunteering to host a carnival yourself if you’re a feminist in Australia or New Zealand.  It’s not too difficult, and I will help you by sending you posts of interest.  You can volunteer here.

International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month

So March sees International Women’s Day, and Scarlett at The Scarlett Woman writes, “International Women’s Day: Why I’m a Bad Feminist, or Women Can Be Misogynists, Too.

I could be accused of being a “bad feminist” for the assertion I’m about to make. After all, feminists are supposed to support all women, right? Even women doing unfeminist things, like Sarah Palin, or women in traditionally male dominated industries, like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and who throw feminism under the bus.

But in my experience women can be misogynists, too. And as I write this I’m thinking of one woman in particular.

Jennifer Wilson writes, “I don’t effing care if you call yourself a feminist or not.“:

I have a dream. In my dream every woman with a public voice just for once refuses these speaking and writing engagements and instead throws her weight behind a National Day of Mourning on March 8, for the women world-wide, and particularly in Australia because this is our homeland where we can best have influence, who are murdered and abused by intimate partners, as well as the children who witness and suffer.

I have a dream that if women with a public voice do accept speaking and writing engagements on this, our one fucking day of the entire fucking year, they will agree to speak out all day long about domestic violence, government responsibilities, and the safety and protection of women and children, and nothing else.

Commonwealth Writers hosted feminists from Commonwealth Nations for March.  Anne Else who also writes for The Hand Mirror and Elsewoman wrote, “Why are we still here?”, and Ella Henry, a Maori academic wrote, “What have we really achieved?”.

gillpolak wrote and hosted an entire series of posts in March for Women’s History Month, and as I can’t just pick two, I’m going to link to her LiveJournal and you can read them at your leisure.

Media and women

Scarlett Harris writes at Junkee, “Forget The ‘Angry Black Woman’ Problem; Does Shonda Rhimes Have a Mistress Problem?“:

Scandal and HTGAWM avoid the “lazy black woman” trope, as Phoebe Robinson writes in a recent issue of Bitch magazine, by ensuring her black female characters have stable careers — but something’s gotta give, and that would be their love lives. Vulture’s TV critic Margaret Lyons echoed this sentiment on their debut TV podcast: “There’s nothing exciting about having your shit together.”

Scy-Fy interviews Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts about their podcast Galactic Suburbia.

Carly Findlay writes, “Encountering plagiarism of my own work“:

I googled an article I’d written (to reference it for something else) and found my work plagiarised.

A disability organisation plagiarised my article. This is the second disability organisation in two weeks to steal that article (it was the article about disability and fashion) – and the third time a disability organisation has taken my work. (And it’s happened to my friends too.) While there was a link to Daily Life below the text, there was no link to my blog and the format of the article made it look like I had written for that organisation.

Generally my editor takes care of plagiarism but this time I called the organisation. The organisation was surprised to hear from me and the woman on the phone didn’t know what to say.

A.C. Buchanan writes, “Notes on Reconnaissance and the need for harassment policies at SF Conventions“:

This is one of those posts I’d rather not have to write. It’s about requesting a harassment policy to be put in place for Reconnaissance (The 36th New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention) and what followed. I’m writing it partly to provide a record for others, partly because some people know part of but not the whole story, and because I really don’t want to see anything like this happen again, and so want future convention organisers – and attendees – to be really mindful of it.

Terry Pratchett died and Mary at Hoyden About Town wrote, “In memoriam: Terry Pratchett, and a Discworld reading history“:

I then read many of the Discworld books in whatever order I came across them in my friends’ libraries (the ebook era would win here!), so I met the witches about halfway through in Lords and Ladies and was perpetually disappointed that it turned out to be about halfway through. I always wanted to know the end of Magrat’s story, when she finally, inevitably (in my opinion!) outgrows Granny and they both know it. (Apparently I always trust the designated irritating woman to grow up to win.) And what will Esmerelda the Younger become?

Celeste Liddle at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist wrote, “Impostor syndrome and its manifestations“:

It was when someone said to me that I had “impostor syndrome” that I gained a bit of awareness into what was going on in my head. The idea that someone can believe they are worthy of less space due to their position in society is something women come across all the time. And it is socially reinforced. I mean, the fact that it’s a big deal that QandA actually had an all-women panel FINALLY because they have shown time and time again that women’s voices are not as necessary (think re: their domestic violence panel) is just crazy. The fact that Catherine Deveny could have been criticised for dominating the space and interupting when she actually didn’t is even more crazy. Women are not entitled to take up space in the same way that men are according to society, and we see this played out over and over again. Whether it’s women talking in a board meeting or walking home alone, it’s the same thing. It needs to stop. Men need to create the space and not judge the comments of women as being less worthy, as being biased, as being non-neutral.

Cranky Ladies of History wrote a post on International Women’s Day about their book and particular cranky ladies, “CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: A story about the story you won’t see (and why that’s okay)“:

In December 2013 I saw that Fablecroft had sent out a call for proposals for their Cranky Ladies Anthology. I’d been stuck in a creative quagmire and depressed and one thing I had learned was that if you feel stuck do something in service of people or things you like. Then it isn’t about you, it is about the work, it is about service and you will push yourself harder and won’t give up. I like Fablecroft and I liked their concept, so I checked them out.

Scanning through the list and thinking about what wasn’t on the list I swiftly decided that Oodgeroo Noonuccal needed to be in the anthology. I had fallen in love with her poetry in high school, its ferocity, tenderness and politics. She had an unflinching power that created space for all the motions, space for anger, despair, fighting spirit and a wry sense of humour. I feel like through her work I experienced one of my first role models of a balanced fighter. She was someone who was an activist, but did not let the consuming nature of the fight tear her apart. She was a whole human being.

Ana Stevenson, an Australian citizen finishing her PhD in history at The University of Queensland, and currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, submitted her post, “Belle, Books, and Ballot: The Life and Writing of Nineteenth Century Reformer Lillie Devereux Blake (1833-1913)“:

These early novels were influenced by the sentimental literature of the era, but they also challenged the literary conventions with which this genre was associated. Echoing Laura Curtis Bullard’s Christine; or Woman’s Trials and Triumphs (1856) and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “The Two Offers” (1858), Southwold and Rockford demonstrate the consequences of ill-suited marriages. In addition, these novels featured a plethora of complex female protagonists and experimented with challenging heroines. Medora, Southwold’s defiant heroine, explicitly embarks upon securing a lucrative marriage when faced with destitution. Zella Dangerfield, a character in a later novel, Forced Vows; or, A Revengeful Woman’s Fate (1870), had “an American girl’s independent spirit”; in demonstrating that “coercion was not for her,” however, Zella was perfectly happy coercing others.[5] Personally, Lillie believed marriage should be “an equal partnership with no thought of mastership on either side,” and she found this with second husband Grinfill Blake, whom she married in 1866.[6] Blake’s growing literary focus on marriage and women’s rights, and the fertile storytelling these themes provided, belied her developing interest in women’s suffrage.

Wendy Harmer writes at The Hoopla, “THE HOOPLA … LAST DRINKS! ALLEY OOP!“:

It is with sadness that co-founder of The Hoopla, Jane Waterhouse and I tell you that this will be the last edition of The Hoopla in its present incarnation.

From today we will be presenting a “best of ” from our archives and then ceasing publication altogether very soon.

For almost four years The Hoopla has taken great pride in bringing you the best in opinion writing and the daily news seen through the eyes of Australian women. “Smart with heart,” has been our motto. Always independent. Calling it without fear or favour.

Since 2011, The Hoopla has published some 5,000 articles, 300 writers and more than 100,000 of your incisive and thoughtful comments – and has been very proud to do so. Thank you all for taking a seat in our Big Top to watch the daily acrobatics and spectacle.

Bodies

Cat Pause at Friend of Marilyn writes, “On fitting in (t-shirts and stuff)“:

Throughout my life, I have loved music. I love listening to music, I love making music. I love live music especially. I love the energy of the crowd, and getting to see the performers in person; catching the occasional unguarded moment. In all my years attending concerts, however, I’ve been denied the opportunity to be the audience member sporting a tour T (or, Madonna forbid, a T from the last tour). Merchandise booths never carry sizes I can wear; they rarely go past a 2x. I still stand in line though, picking out a programme or a keychain – something tangible I can keep with me or gift to others. And I still ask, ‘What is the largest size you have?’ of the t-shirt or hoodie that catches my eye while I wait in the queue.

At one particular show in Dallas a few years back, an amazing thing happened. The concert hoodie went up to a 5x. I couldn’t believe it. It made my mind race – how have I missed this before? HAVE I missed this before? I decided that I hadn’t, because I’m always looking for clothes in my size. Even when I know it’s for naught, I keep looking (the result of an emerging adulthood devoid of fashion options). Perhaps as fat concert goers get louder about what we want, marketers are beginning to pay attention (it is one of the golden rules of capitalism, right? Sell the people what they want?) It may also be gendered – larger sizes are made with men in mind, and the hoodie I bought was definitely masculine. I didn’t wear it that night, but I do wear it often, and I experience a bit of glee each time. It makes me feel delightfully normal (but that’s another story for later).

Jackie Wykes and Cat Pause write at The Conversation (with some really beautiful photos), “The ‘dancer’s body’ is fat: Force Majeure’s Nothing to Lose“:

This is not to dismiss those conversations entirely; normative ideas about health, beauty, and self-esteem have very real implications for material bodies, after all. They create a culture in which fat people’s very right to exist is contingent on whether or not we can approximate normative ideas closely enough to be deemed acceptable by the mainstream.

But even then, such acceptance is always contingent; never full membership, this is a visitor’s pass a best.

Blunt Shovels writes, “All about able women“:

I wondered how they could dismiss the one in five women who have a disability. I wondered if they knew any of the kick-arse disabled women I knew, and start collecting a list, just to be helpful. Women who work in advocacy, women with experiences of living in institutions, women who use wheelchairs or sign language, women who write, women who dream, women who love. Surely I was mistaken, and I would hear from the curators before too long.

I was told I needed to ask about accessibility in private, out of the public eye. Perhaps I am not part of the public? A disabled woman couldn’t possibly be made welcome by publicising how easy it would be for her to take part. That was quickly fixed, but I wondered why it had taken some minor Facebook agitation to make it happen.

Kath at Fat Heffalump writes, “Each and Every One Of Us“:

No fat person is unacceptable in fat activism.  It is important that when we take up the challenge of demanding dignity and respect for fat people, we need to include ALL fat people, especially those people who aren’t considered “valuable” to society.  Because human value isn’t about being pretty or fashionable or worthy.  All humans, by right of their existence, are valid, valuable people.  Fat people shouldn’t have to prove that they “contribute to society” to be included in fat activism.

Parenting and families

Boganette writes, “Thank you“:

I had a terrible pregnancy. I vomited every day for 25 weeks. Then I vomited every second or third day for the rest of my pregnancy. But my midwife was always there with me. She cheered us on. She kept me excited even when I was exhausted and overwhelmed. She more than tolerated my tears of frustration in her office. She was more than my midwife, she was my counsellor too.

I felt so guilty that I had wanted a baby for so long but I absolutely hated pregnancy. I didn’t feel in touch with my body, I couldn’t stop puking, I felt unhealthy, exhausted, overwhelmed, I sure as fuck wasn’t glowing. She was so patient and caring and gentle with me. She always made me feel like I was strong and she gave me so much confidence. She never denied my feelings.

Stephanie Convery writes at The Guardian, Comment is Free, “Don’t be fooled by the language of ‘choice’. Deregulation is bad for women“:

Children are not commodities, but a predominantly privatised childcare sector cannot help but treat them that way. Child/carer ratios exist to provide a safe and attentive environment in which to appropriately support children’s development, learning and socialisation. The importance of qualifications for workers in the sector reflects the importance of children being supervised by workers who are adequately trained. But the wholesale deregulation of the industry will drive down quality of care by bringing in lower-skilled workers. It will also drive down wages for the (mostly female) workforce, and there is no evidence to show that it will have any effect on lowering the cost of childcare at all.

Shae at Free Range in Suburbia writes, “Missing out“:

So we signed up for all of the things the kids wanted to do and tried to squeeze in some set bookwork time. We went on all the camps we could, all the meet ups, all the play dates. We have spent this term running around and now I see what we are really missing out on.

Free time.

QUILTBAG (queer, undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, asexual, gay)

Brocklesnitch writes, “David v Goliathomophobia“:

Some of the reaction to this, like the reaction to the suspension of the rugby league player, was disheartening. Pocock has been accused by certain people of grandstanding, attention seeking, or horror of horrors – placing his morals above the untouchable game of Rugby.  As if that isn’t exactly the kind of thing we should be applauding athletes for. As if professional team sport doesn’t often foster sexism, sexual assault, homophobia, and violence against women. As if we shouldn’t be encouraging athletes to be decent humans, as well as good at sport. Part of this is not only NOT being sexist, racist, or homophobic yourself, but also saying something when you see it happening. All Pocock did is walk the walk, after football codes have been talking the talk for a long time about trying to combat homophobic culture.

Chrys Stevenson writes at Gladly the Crossed-Eyed Bear, “Christians Supporting Equal Marriage“:

On a day when it’s just been announced that the Senate supports the call for a conscience vote on marriage equality , I think it’s very appropriate to remind ourselves that the majority of Australian Christians  (and those of other faiths) are not homophobic. Most Christians support marriage equality, and politicians like Fred Nile, political parties like Family First and Rise Up Australia, and lobby groups like the Australian Christian Lobby represent only a fringe group of right-wing fundamentalists.

Race and Racism

Stephanie at No Award writes, “indigenous business: bundarra sportswear“:

There is some crap going on, and it’s all important, but maybe you’re thinking about how you want to do something that’s not rallies and writing to your local member. And that’s okay! So once a week here at No Award, we’re going to showcase an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander thing. “Thing” is a bit inexact, but we don’t want to limit ourselves – we’re talking businesses and not for profits and designers. Things. We here at No Award still want you talking about injustices and and rallying if you can! But things are important, too. (If you can think of a good name for these posts, please let us know)

Megpie71 writes at Hoyden About Town, ““Country”“:

This is part of why I feel angry and upset about the WA state government’s decision to close a number of remote communities.  I would not want to push that feeling of displacement, of always being in the wrong place, on anyone else.  It would be a wrongness, an evil, a wicked thing to do.  I am angry the government of Western Australia is doing this in my name.  I am upset the Premier, Colin Barnett, is implicitly claiming he has the support of white Western Australians to do this.  His government does not have my support, or my consent.

Natasha Guantai writes at Overland, “‘Are there Black people in Australia?’“:

My experience of being Black in Australia is also different from that of migrants of African descent who were born in other white-dominated countries such as the US or UK. I have not been racialised as Black within the context of another country. There are Aboriginal people who tell me that they use ‘Black’ as a way of highlighting their experiences as a result of, and in contrast with, white Australia. Similarly, I am Black primarily due to my relation to white Australia. My experience, while obviously different from that of Indigenous Australians, is nevertheless of an Australian Blackness.

Celeste Liddle at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist wrote, “Parliament House is an unviable political community“:

Finally, the educational services they’ve provided just seem to be diminishing and it’s clear that this government is simply unable to keep a higher education sector properly funded, maintained and running.

Feminism

Celeste Liddle and Roxanne Gay were interviewed on ABC Radio National in, “I’m a feminist, but….

It’s so good to see the Boganette blogging again.  In this she writes, “Accepting help“:

I now know that accepting help is so important. When I started accepting help (or at least trying to) I stopped feeling so overwhelmed. I stopped feeling so isolated. I stopped feeling so scared. So alone. It’s really, really hard to ask for help. Harder than it is to accept I reckon. So when it’s offered – take it, even if it feels weird.

And if you’re in a position to help a new mum, maybe just give her stuff (especially if it’s food) even if she doesn’t expressly ask for it. It can be hard to get past that “I don’t want to be a pain” reflex that a lot of women have. Women are taught to always be the provider, to always help instead of being helped. It can be really hard to overcome all that social conditioning to allow someone else to look after you. I’m grateful to my friends who just said “I’ve made you some dinner, when can I bring it over?”

Rachel Hills writes, “Who does she think she is? (Part deux.)“:

As of the last couple of months, though, I don’t have to ask any more. I get it now. Right now, I ask people to pay attention to my work every day: always sending out emails, setting up coffees, forever dreaming up ideas for possible collaboration, partnership, ways of spreading of the message. Because now, finally, I am at a point where my desire to share what I’ve created outweighs my fear of overstepping an invisible line by asking people to pay attention to it.

Mindy writes at Hoyden About Town, “Please don’t liken yourselves to Rosa Parks“:

Rosa Park’s actions, which went well beyond refusing to give up a seat on a bus and started well before that day, forced society to see black people as people deserving of a seat on the bus and as members of American society. Regardless of whether Tattersall’s finally do allow women to be members, it will still be a small number of elites who make the cut. Rosa Park’s was fighting for all black Americans, not a privileged few who enjoyed lifestyles and riches well beyond that of ordinary folk. To invoke her name for such a ridiculous reason, not to mention having no idea of either her history of that of the US civil rights movement*, diminishes her actions and the outcomes of her work.

Andie Fox writes at Daily Life, “Why are married couples afraid of the newly divorced?“:

I have not been longing for change or adventure – there is plenty of both when your life relationship comes to an end, and you follow that up with a few more relationships and break-ups. I have, instead, craved contentment. I thought that fixing or solving or finding or knowing would ease my mind but by the end of last year I finally saw that it was about comfort with self, and that this therefore wouldn’t be located outside, but within.

misc (I couldn’t think of a category and I liked these posts)

Steph at No Award writes about being a cyclist with, “reasons why i, a cyclist

Liz Barr at No Award writes “No Award’s Print, Cut ‘n’ Keep Folk Festival Bingo Card“:

Bless their peace-loving hearts, but the only thing worse than a hippie is an upper-middle-class suburban hippie wannabe.  Think the Morgendorffers.  Think Homer Simpson’s mother, although she was actually pretty great and who wouldn’t leave Grandpa Simpson?  Yes, all of our examples are cartoons, but that doesn’t change the fact that any folk festival is going to contain at least some of the following…

Violence (The posts in this section carry trigger warnings for violence)

Scarlett at The Scarlett woman writes an indepth discussion regarding the WWE’s lauding of men convicted of violent crimes against woman, but won’t induct into the hall of fame a woman who is now working in the sex industry, in “World Wrestling Entertainment Will Never #GiveDivasaChance As Long As It Prioritises Bad Men.

Austin also asked Levesque if he thought Chyna—a pioneer in the world of wrestling, both women’s and otherwise—would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. (Again, that’s a decision Levesque would have a lot of sway over.) Despite Chyna’s (real name: Joanie Laurer) status as Levesque’s ex-girlfriend, she’s also found a post-wrestling career in porn, which severely limits the likelihood of her induction. Levesque said:

“I’ve got an eight-year-old kid and my eight-year-old kid sees the Hall of Fame and my eight-year-old kid goes on the internet to look at, you know, ‘there’s Chyna, I’ve never heard of her. I’m eight years old, I’ve never heard of her, so I go put that in, and I punch it up,’ and what comes up? And I’m not criticising anybody, I’m not criticising lifestyle choices. Everybody has their reasons and I don’t know what they were and I don’t care to know. It’s not a morality thing or anything else. It’s just the fact of what it is. And that’s a difficult choice. The Hall of Fame is a funny thing in that it is not as simple as, this guy had a really good career, a legendary career, he should go in the Hall of Fame. Yeah… but we can’t because of this reason. We can’t because of this legal instance.”

Helen Pringle writes at ABC Religion, “Disempowered Men? Tanveer Ahmed and the ‘Feminist Lynch Mob’“:

As he waded, Ahmed says, he was “treated to an orgy of abuse, threats and complete mis-representation.” Nurses at his hospital took him aside to ask him how he was doing, articles and letters were published on the net in support of him, unnamed (because trembling presumably) academics approached him on the sly to share how difficult it is to speak openly about “this issue” and Dr Ahmed was invited to speak at a Toronto conference “all expenses paid.” To be sure, all this so very much resembles the “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks, who in any way deign to think for themselves” shamelessly cited by (Justice) Clarence Thomas when he was asked to explain his behaviour towards Anita Harris.

Astha Rajvanshi writes about students who have survived domestic violence at Honi Soit, “Behind Closed Doors“:

The students I interviewed for this article share two things in common: they are all women, and they have all endured long-term abuse, social stigma, and shame from people they loved.

I suppose if I were to try and make sense of it all, these are the 1 in 3 women across all socio-economic backgrounds who tolerate, on average, 35 assaults before telling someone about it. They are an extension of the 950,000 young Australian women who reported in 2005 that they had been sexually assaulted before the age of 15; of the one in four children who witnessed violence against their mothers or carers; the 22% of women under 20 who have experienced dating violence.

Jennifer Wilson at No Place for Sheep writes, “Vale all the dead women. IWD 2015“:

I’d attend a dawn candlelight memorial service for women and children all over the world murdered by violent partners, but I don’t think that’s caught on as an International Women’s Day ritual. It’s alarming that it hasn’t, really. So, at the risk of raining on the self-congratulatory feminist talk-fest parade, here’s where my thoughts are at, and who IWD ought to be for.

No celebratory event should begin today without first acknowledging the women and children who’ve died, and those who live and suffer often for their whole lives, from the violence perpetrated against them.

LudditeJourno writes at The Hand Mirror, “Three Strikes, you’re out NZ Police“:

The Police need reform, they need improvements in sexual violence practice to be measured and reported on, they need more training.  They need to take sanctions against officers who treat sexual violence so cavalierly – if they want this to stop being a systemic problem.  Top quality investigation of sexual violence cases need to be a key performance indicator at a District level, so the hierarchy take it seriously.  Until their officers actually understand and implement the law, they should be reporting on their improvements to an impartial group which has the power to hire and fire.

LudditeJourno also writes at the Hand Mirror, “Undoing rape culture, one sports field at a time“:

Men consistently overestimate other men’s use of and support for gendered violence.  Related to this, men consistently underestimate other men’s willingness to stand up to gendered violence, which limits their own willingness to intervene.  Put together, these two planks of what men think masculinity means make it harder for men to stand up to other men when they behave badly.

Mindy writes at Hoyden About Town, “‘It’s my right to get hellish’…Orly?“:

The singer claims a right to act ‘hellish’, whatever that means, because he still gets jealous. I don’t believe jealousy gives you any rights actually, apart from the right to STFU and deal with your own shit. The relationship between the person who he is getting jealous over and himself is never clear. Is he husband/boyfriend/partner or ex/stalker/fan for whom the distinction between friends and fans does not exist? Even the film clip doesn’t make it any clearer. He doesn’t like how this person posts stuff on social media, he admits to being possessive, passive aggressive and puffing out his chest to defend what he sees as his territory. All this in a pop song. On high rotation. The overtones of control and violence are really worrying.

 

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