Friday, January 25, 2013

Steampunk, People of Color, Imperialism: An Observation

In reading this (warning, you may have to increase your browser resolution due to the tiny, tiny font) I came across mention of the standard criticism of steampunk, which is that it glorified the British Victorian period and imperialism and is, therefore, a defunct genre that should be abandoned. But as the post linked above points out, lots of non-white, non-Western people who are no way inclined to glorify the British Empire (mainly because said Empire did untold damage to most of the non-white, non-Western people on Earth, damage the effects of which are felt to this day), are fans of steampunk. And with good reason: Europe isn't the only place where people were innovative and made mechanical things. There's no reason for there not to be, say, a Chinese civilization with steam-powered mechanisms in a fantasy novel. Or if it's the European dress and design of the era you are into, there's no reason for a "Victorian"-inspired civilization that didn't consist of white people throwing their weight around all over the world, but was... different. I mean, it's fantasy. Brass goggles, steam-powered airships, and corsets don't cause imperialism. Imperialists do.


Sigh. Why do I even think I can write? Now here's a story. That's what fantasy should be like. It's a bit Tanith Lee, a bit Dunsany, only better. (See what I mean by "can I even write" because clearly I can't.) Anyway, I need to do a post with links to good stories that I've found, this isn't the only one, but I've got them scattered all over my browser bookmarks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Putting away childish things

I wish I could endorse this article about the "childish men and the women who love them" trope in media. I wish I could because of this passage:
It’s weird that we don’t have media where women are rewarded for developing the courage to walk out on disappointing, terminally-adolescent screw-ups. Movies about men prize taking risks, being resilient in the face of life wrinkles, learning new things about yourself, embracing and appreciating life, discovering adult values, stuff like that. Movies about women prize diplomacy, self-sacrifice, the dogged pursuit of love and kindness above all things, ‘turning into a butterfly,’ becoming more sexually liberated (because of men), being self-effacing and patient, basically stuff that makes her more conventionally appealing, less threatening or ugly, more marriageable.
That's a good paragraph, a yes yes YES moment and yes again, yet... it's missing the one element that is really irritating and makes the rest of the article a teeth-gritting chore for me to get through, and that is the way the author uses "like" throughout the rest of it. Like so:
But, like, I finally watched The Devil Wears Prada
And, like, I really believe the part of Girls where Hannah has low self esteem
Those are part of the same paragraph. Here's some more:
I have seen like nine million movies
The rise of the ‘manic pixie’ or ‘quirky girl’ in recent years is sort of like, the closest we can get to a subversion of this
And articles asking about the terminal adolescence of men, and like, how we embraced feminism and did everything required to be admirable self-actualized heroines and now what.
I understand that the author is using this Valley-speak signifier of air-headedness as an ironic tactic to illustrate how useless and stupid shit the crap coming out of Hollywood as regards women is, but it's still, like, really, like, annoying, and, like, pushes me away from full endorsement of this article as a commentary on sexism in the media. Perhaps we should just put the "sarcastic dumbing down" literary technique out to pasture. It is, at base, as childish as the attitudes writers using it mean to criticize, and plays in too much to our culture of adolescent snarking about serious things.

Friday, January 04, 2013

how to make your alternate medieval fantasy story both original and not shitty

Oh gosh yes, please stop rewriting Tolkien. Hell, Tolkien himself is a lot less hackneyed than his hordes of imitators; at least his main character was small, weak, and insignificant in comparison to all the royal humans and "high elves" and shit. (I seem to remember, though, reading a couple of these LOTR rehashes with hobbit knockoffs ("halflings" was apparently not copyrighted) and they fucking sucked, so yeah.)

Gray vs. Grey

Back in the ancient days of vinyl records, there were these people called "audiophiles" who used to obsess over details that most people (like me) couldn't even perceive: sound levels of "gold" recordings vs., um, non-gold ones, and so on. They had super-high-end stereo equipment and kept their vinyl LPs in archival protection, and etc. To be fair not all of these people had the actual musical taste of a piano bench (I'm thinking of this one guy who introduced me to his snazzy one-thousand-plus 1984 dollars stereo system, only to put on Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight"), but still, audiophiles were people with either a level of perception above that of the average human, or else they were simply obsessive cranks, possibly both.

That's what Apple fans remind me of: those audiophiles with their specially-imported master pressings of some jazz concert or whatever. Case in point, this extremely detailed review of the iPad mini, which isn't really that much different from any obsessive review of any Mac product (or any other computer product, to be fair). There's just this one difference: when comparing the Mini with the Nexus 7, the author says going from the Nexus to the iPad is like "getting out of a Toyota and getting into a Lexus." And that made me laugh, because for one thing, Lexus is just Toyota's higher-end (read, "more expensive") luxury car brand -- I'd like to say it's specially set up to get more money out of rich assholes but that would be mean, so pretend I didn't just type that. The other thing is, the last three cars I've owned have been Toyotas, and I'm a fan -- and I've also been in a (new at the time) Lexus, and let's just say I wasn't impressed. I used to move my boss' Lexus for him at my old job in Miami (our parking lot was smaller than the amount of cars that needed to park in it), so I know what it's like to at least drive one around a parking lot. I mean, it was okay -- it was decently put together as far as I could tell. But a few years later I bought a new Toyota Echo and except for having cloth seats instead of (rather ugly mustard-colored) leather there wasn't any difference in the "feel" of the car. So it's just another of those fine details that I guess my blunt senses can't perceive.

And to tell you the truth, I don't much care for the "feel" of Apple products. Too glossy, or something. On the other hand, I've held a Nexus, and soon, one will be mine, oh yes -- come to Andrea.

Another reason to not see the Star Trek "reboot" movie

Apparently there's some icky baby-birthin' scene in it. Yeah, no, this female Star Trek fan doesn't do baby-birthin' scenes or any of that other "woman" shit women are supposed to like. Also someone throw Damon Lindelof off a bridge. Oh, sorry, was that unwomanly of me?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Someday, Paywalls Are Going to Kill Blogging | Mother Jones

You know, Mr. Drum, you could do what I and millions of other bloggers do, and eschew the whole "professional for-pay blog on a professional Old Media publication's website" and just blog on some free site for the fun of it. But that's not really what Drum is grousing about here, is it? No, he's complaining about how "paywalls" are going to kill sweet gigs like the one he has at Mother Jones -- the above-mentioned paid blogging gig for a professional publication. And quite frankly doesn't that kind of blogging deserve to die?

Blog Name Change

I decided the previous name of this blog ("An Unimportant Woman") was still too self-aggrandizing. So now it is named after a small asteroid in the Main Belt.

Yep, that new blogging project is steaming right ahead.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

I do not love you

I followed a link the other day to one of those reblogged Tumblr things and it was all about how we need to Love(tm) each other and Open Our Hearts(tm) and Be Vulnerable(tm).

I guess my feelings about those sentiments are obvious.

I'm here to tell you otherwise: it's okay not to love everyone. It's okay not to "open your heart" and be loving and tender and nurturing and available and so on. It's okay to protect yourself first before worrying about other people.

Maybe if we lived in a perfect world we could afford to be vulnerable, but we don't live in that world. Instead we live in a world where people are taught to prey on each other, and that we are entitled to love and if we don't get it from the person we have decided is supposed to love us we have the right to make that person miserable. We also live in a world where the burden for being open and vulnerable and being ready to drop psychic barriers on command is placed on women. Women get told to "love or die!" 24/7 365 days a year. Men get the occasional article in some rag like Psychology Today proposing that men chillax every now and then and let themselves feel an emotion other than "kill the opposition." (And nine times out of ten men react to timid efforts like these as if they are being asked to decapitate themselves with rusty butter knives. "You want men to wear cardigans and cry and be wimps!" they'll bluster, with bonus "girly feelings are icky" misogyny.)

Not everyone is able to love you and you have no right to command them to do so. Just because I don't love you doesn't mean I hate you. Rather, it means I respect you and your boundaries and know that I have no right to get my feelings all over you without your permission. I respect that you might have only so much strength and a demand that you add "love everybody" to your long list of burdens might do irreparable psychic harm. I see you as a different person, one who has different psychological needs than me at the very least, and in any case I have no right to assume you feel about things the same way I do.

So this is my gift to you: no love. You're welcome.


Well I was going to write today, but instead my uterus decided it needed my full attention. The year is off to a lovely start.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

OK this is the blog

Okay. Yeah. This is it. This is where I'm going to blog. From now until I just don't give a shit, which could be tomorrow, or could be ten years from now. Who the fuck knows.

I'm an individual, just like everyone else. I'm a special snowflake, just like all the other snowflakes melting into a blob of dirty ice. I am the captain of my own fate, until the admiral shows up. Quick -- hide the booze!

Seriously, I'm back on Blogger, after an eleven-year somewhat hiatus (kept an emergency blog here for my paid-for, big deal, "ooh I've got a domain name of my very own!" website, kept the archives to other blogs, fucked around). But Blogger has finally gotten kind of okay to use, and I'm also over the need to "brand" myself with domain names and crap. I don't want to be a brand. I don't want to be locked into an identity based on something I thought clever ten years ago. The name of this blog means nothing. The url means nothing. (It's the name of a planet in an obscure Jack Vance scifi novel: Maske: Thaery.) That's not what I want to be important.

My name is Andrea Harris. I'm going to be fifty years old this year. A few months ago, I decided to finally try to be a human being. I'm still learning. This is the chronicle-- oh hell no it's not, it's just a blog. I'll post here on things that interest me and stuff I want to get off my chest in public. It's no big deal.

There were a bunch of other posts here, test posts mostly. I deleted them. You didn't need to know that, this is just a reminder to myself why those posts aren't here any more.