Monday Morning Stepback: Trustworthy authors, asexuality in speculative fiction, and a place to sound off on ebook restrictions

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

1. Links of Interest

An interesting interview with KATHERINE A. POWERS, literary columnist for The Sunday Boston Globe, at Eric Forbes’ Book Addict Guide to Good Books (via @mathitak):

But, while I’m on the subject, I’ll just say that reading, or rather the idea of reading, has become a fetish or commodity of sorts in the U.S. Reading here carries a baggage of worthiness that is a real turnoff for the hedonist. It seems to be going the way of walking, people do it for a cause, to raise money and/or show solidarity. It demonstrates high civic purpose, responsibility, and deep-down goodness and that’s why you do it, not because you really want to. I think a better approach to encouraging people to read would be to ban more books. Look at the way the Irish used to read when they had to smuggle in the good stuff from England: people getting off the boat hardly able to bend their legs for all the books and contraceptives squirreled away about their persons. I am joking, of course, but only up to a point! …

… I don’t know what the essentials of good fiction are. When I think of the novels I really like, I can think of only one thing that unites them: their authors proved trustworthy, that is, my suspension of disbelief was not betrayed.

The first quote makes me wonder if this view of fiction is why people compare reading genre fiction to eating potato chips, i.e. not really reading. The second I love.

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From Beth Carswell at Abe Books, No Place For a Woman: Women’s Fiction, a kind of time line of the books that nurtured the author over the course of her life.

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Audiobooks are 75 years old (From The Independent):

They started as an aid for battle casualties and elderly people with failing eyesight. Now talking books are a publishing sensation, enjoyed by millions as an alternative to the printed word.

According to the most recent sales figures from the Publishers Association, downloads of audio books grew by 72 per cent between 2008 and 2009. Sales of talking books on CD, cassette and DVD also grew to an annual £22.4m, according to the sales monitoring company Nielsen BookScan.

It all began very differently. Exactly 75 years ago today, audio books were first produced as a public service for soldiers blinded in the First World War. The Talking Books Service, an audio library run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, was launched in 1935, when Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was recorded on to LPs and distributed to users, along with a large record player. Modern technology – particularly MP3 players – and a growing roster of high-profile narrators, have given the format a dramatic boost.

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Via the F-Word, A post at Shakesville with a long list of reasons a woman might take her husband’s name when she marries. Several apply to me.

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The New Yorker‘s blog has a short discussion of books about Harry Potter and Religion. (This week’s print version also has a full page Nora Roberts ad. I don’t recall ever seeing one in the New Yorker, but I could easily have missed it.)

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A while back, someone started a blog to identify and shame book pirates and author Courtney Milan is having none of it.

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From Inside Higher Ed, a Call to Defend the Humanities.

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A wonderful personal reflection on A Generation of Erotic Romance by author Pam Rosenthal at History Hoydens.

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In case you missed last week’s Cook’s Source scandal — which was truly jawdropping — and only have time to read one report on it, check out this summary at EdRants.

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The results of last week’s elections sucked donkey balls IMO. I am now stuck with a tea bag governor. Here’s a post by Ronald Dworkin on Why American Vote Against Their Own Best Interests at the NYTRB. I deny much of what he asserts but it is still interesting reading.

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A post by author Daniel Abraham, MLN on UF: Why Jayne Heller Won’t Get Raped

Urban fantasy is a genre sitting on top of a great big huge cultural discomfort about women and power. The typical UF heroine (as I’ve come to understand her) is a kick-ass woman with a variety of possible lovers. She’s been forced into power which she often doesn’t understand, and can face down any danger while at the same time captivating the romantic attention of the dangerous, edgy men around her. She’s been forced into power — either through accident of birth or by being transformed without her permission — and is therefore innocent of one of the central feminine cultural sins: ambition. She is in relationships primarily with men rather than in community with women. “Bad boys” want her, and they won’t be bad to her. Etc, etc, etc.

The thing that sets almost (and there are exceptions I’ll talk about in a minute here) all the urban fantasy heroines apart from real women as found in the real world is this: they don’t fear rape.

Huh. I’m not seeing that. What do you think?

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From iO9, Where did Science fiction come From? A Primer on the Pulps (via @thegalaxyexpress):

Pulp historian Jess Nevins, author of Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, takes you deep into the weird history of the scifi pulps, 1900-1950. Get ready for amazing science and astounding adventure! This is the first in a series on the pulps.

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love the color scheme!

Springing from a long thread at Dear author, a new website, LostEBookSale.com allows you to submit information about digital books you did not buy due to geo-restrictions, price, or format. I recently faced geographical restrictions for the first time, when Amazon would not let me purchase a Kindle edition of The Human Factor by Graham Greene I simply switched my address temporarily to a UK address, and bought it. Obviously, that’s not any kind of solution. Since the restrictions seem to be the result of a complex nonrational Borgesian labyrinth, which benefits no one, and which no one player has the power or motivation to make disappear, I don’t know what will do the trick.

It may just be a matter of an industry catching up to technology. As this post at the Idea Logical Company put it (via @booksquare),

I am one who believes that digital change will lead us to a world where there is one global publisher for most books depending on a network of alliances to execute some aspects of marketing and to maximize distribution everywhere. But I also think our wait for that change to be widespread is going to be a long one; it is many years away. In the meantime, consumers of books will find — as music consumers did in the 60s and sports fans still do today — that what appear to be nonsensical barriers block them from purchasing and consuming content that technology could easily deliver to them and for which they’d be happy to pay a fair price.

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Via @jonathanaallan, What Fictional Asexuals Say About Us from the X Factor, a blog written by a person who identifies as asexual:

The fact that many, many portrayals of asexual characters are found in speculative fiction is not, I feel, a coincidence.

Again, the message: You are, to us, unable to connect with us. You are without emotion, without love. You are, in short, inhuman. This is a stereotype. It reflects mainstream society’s belief that experiencing sexual and romantic attraction is central to emotional connection. More, it claims that because of who we are, we wouldn’t have any interest in connecting with other people anyway–and I think the discussions currently happening in the asexosphere put the lie to that.

Why is this important? After all, they’re only stories, and stories written by people who have almost certainly never heard of the asexual community at that. They’re not written for us, after all. They’re written for sexual people.

2. November is National Hospice Month

November is National Hospice Month. Geri-Pal (a blog devoted to geriatric and palliative care) has a good post. I am a hospice volunteer, and am very committed to the organization and its philosophy of end of life care. I am sorry to get preachy, but this excerpt from President Obama’s proclamation explains both why Hospice is so important, and why we must fight to keep — and expand if at all possible — the Affordable Care Act:

“During National Hospice Month, we recognize the dignity hospice care can provide to patients who need it most, and the professionals, volunteers, and family members who bring peace to individuals in their final days.

Hospice care gives medical services, emotional support, and spiritual resources to people facing life-limiting illnesses. It can also help families and caregivers manage the details and emotional challenges of caring for a dying loved one. The decision to place someone into a hospice program can be difficult, but Americans can have peace of mind knowing the doctors and professionals involved with these services are trained to administer high-quality and comprehensive care for terminally ill individuals. As many of our Nation’s veterans age and cope with illness, hospice and palliative care can also provide tailored support to meet the needs of these heroes.

The Affordable Care Act signed into law this year protects and expands hospice services covered under Federal health care programs. Prior to its enactment, the prohibition on concurrent care for Federal health care programs meant patients could not receive hospice care before first discontinuing treatments to cure their disease. The Affordable Care Act permanently eliminates this prohibition … As a result, fewer children, seniors, and families will have to make the heart-rending choice between coverage that fights an illness and coverage that provides needed comfort.

3. Personal

the father and son in question

Our house was in turmoil last week as my U11 soccer player was asked to “play up” (and if you know instantly what I am talking about, you must read My Kid Plays Up, a dead on satire of overzealous soccer parents, from When Falls the Coliseum). I find it remarkable how non-relationship and non-family centered the organizers of club soccer can be. Nary a thought is given to how playing with older kids will affect established peer relationships. How about the fact that said child’s U11 assistant coach is his father? Letting the child know at the same time as the parents prevents the parents from discussing it first and then presenting the option — if it is one, and this is for parents to decide — to their child. Perhaps this sort of thing is appropriate for older kids, but my son is ten years old, for Pete’s sakes! and a 10 year old cannot be expected to know how to balance the (greater)  importance of peer relationships and friendships and family time against enticements like “We can win the state cup!”. Grrrrrrr.

Otherwise, all is well here. No idea what I will post this week. Stay tuned!

HAPPY WEEK!

16 responses

  1. Re: A post by author Daniel Abraham, MLN on UF: Why Jayne Heller Won’t Get Raped

    I am not sure I actually get what he is trying to say there but nonetheless his train of thought implies that again, it has to do with the victim ie in this case, UF heroines don’t fear rape because they are powerful or internalised violence (or whatever) when IT DOESN’T MATTER. A rapist will be a rapist will be a rapist. Or am I getting this all wrong?

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  2. She’s been forced into power — either through accident of birth or by being transformed without her permission — and is therefore innocent of one of the central feminine cultural sins: ambition. She is in relationships primarily with men rather than in community with women. “Bad boys” want her, and they won’t be bad to her. Etc, etc, etc.

    I don’t read much urban fantasy, but from what I have read the above rings true. Even in non-UF books, where the heroines are, say, spies, it’s rarely by choice. There’s some kind of noble self-sacrifice or coercion involved.

    About the rape aspect, I’m with Ana on, “A rapist will be a rapist will be a rapist.” But that doesn’t appear to be what most people believe. It’s always about the victim. And in UF, according to Abraham, the heroines are too smart and strong to get raped. Just like real life women should be. (Yeah, I immediately thought of a certain blogger when I read that quote.)

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  3. I’ll start with the last first and work my way up. Ah, kids’ sports. Been there in a major, major way. Have learned lots and lots. Congrats and good luck.
    Hospice – speaking as a hospice nurse, I wish more people would take advantage of hospice services. To be frank, we all die and people who die on hospice tend to have a much more pleasant, easier death than those who die in the hospital or in the midst of futile treatment. But…in America, we tend to treat unto death.
    Women don’t want to be raped…period.
    I’m sorry about your governor. I hope he sweetens his tea with a little honey and gets a big dose of reality.
    I don’t view reading as a public service, although certainly encouraging literacy is a public service and a duty, IMO. Reading is pure pleasure.

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  4. Regarding reasons for taking the husband’s name, I am surprised by No. 9: Does American law really make it more difficult for the man to take the woman’s last name, or for both of them to take a new name all together? (In Croatia, which is usually very patriarchial, it’s exactly the same procedure whichever version you pick: you just state the decision you’ve made in a form, and that’s it.)

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  5. I love the opening quotes about reading and fiction (and totally agree).

    I didn’t take my husband’s name. When I immigrated to Canada, they specifically asked me if I was going to, then issued my visa with his surname anyway. Eventually I had to jump through a lot of hoops to fix that. I considered just changing my name instead, which might have been easier (plus now we have kids with his surname). I use it as a surname of convenience when making reservations, etc. because it’s shorter and easier to spell than mine. Yes, I sometimes wish I had been less doctrinaire 15 years ago.

    My son is a U13 goalie and I am starting to feel like soccer is taking over our lives. I worry my (younger) daughter will be shortchanged on the activity front, because there’s only so much I can take, and the males of the family are soccer-mad. At least it isn’t hockey. Hope that all works out for you. It does seem that people just assume you’ll want to do more and “better.”

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  6. So many interesting links! I enjoyed the name article: “Because I like my husband better than my father” — good point. I’ve never actually heard of a woman being criticized for taking her husband’s name, but have many times felt awkward about failing to do so. Def. not a popular decision in either family (his or mine).

    My 6 year old’s soccer season just ended and we had so much fun with it. I cried a little when she scored her first goal–it was so damned cute. I have high hopes for my girls to excel in sports. Great pic of your son. Can Mr R “coach up”?

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  7. Re the soccer changes. My brother coached my niece’s team and simply moved grades with his daughter, each time she upped a grade.

    Re the SF history and the pulps, they are always romances, the guy always gets the girl!

    Still thinking about Danial Abraham’s take on UF heroines and rape because Mercy and Kittie come to mind. Also anyone can be raped – there is always someone more powerful than we are. I get concerned that many UF heroines are actually blokes with boobs, just like Honor Harrington is in David Weber’s universe. This leads me to think their primary characteristic is desire for control and a sort of anti-vulnerability stance that is tied with equating ordinary women and their lives with vulnerability. I also think that one of the characteristics of UF heroine’s is isolation from others especially other women.

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  8. I definitely love my (deceased) father more than my ex-husband! I hyphenated, and all the kids have both last names; at the time of the divorce, the kids wanted me to keep the same last name they had. I agreed. Now three of the four have switched to using just my maiden name, except when required to use the legal version. I am really glad I didn’t cave in to pressure from my in-laws to drop my father’s name.

    I can’t get my head around the idea that UF heroines “don’t fear rape.” I didn’t read the whole piece, so maybe he clarifies, but the phrase made my head spin.

    I like the idea of the lost sales site; so far, it looks like geography and price are the two big issues. “Price” almost always equates to “the ebook cost more than or the same as” the print version; that’s clearly a line for a lot of readers.

    Thanks for the post about hospice. I continue to believe that achieving meaningful health care reform will be one of this president’s most noted achievements, once the dust settles and the dire predictions prove not to be true. I didn’t realize it was Hospice Month; I will spread the word.

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  9. When I think of UF and rape, my mind jumps to Mercy and Sookie. But then I jump to Damali Richards and Rachel Morgan, both of whom haven’t been raped over the course of their supernatural travails, and find the aspect of rape in urban fantasy troubling. While I think Briggs handled Mercy’s rape wonderfully, I can’t help but feel the UF heroine being raped as a way to re-assert that she’s a little woman beneath that tough and self-reliant exterior, and as a way to normalize her sexuality. I may be wrong, but of the heroines who have been raped in the fiction I’ve read, their comforter is usually a man, and her ability to have sex with the hero/love interest shows she’s “healed” from the attack. I have yet to see rape addressed as a woman’s issue, and/or as a separate issue from her sexual desire/sexuality.

    Plus, it’s interesting that when women are beaten or raped or just have their ass kicked by an adversary, the images are never as benign and made for entertainment as they are when men are fighting or violating one another–she is always a victim, and is either “I am woman, hear me roar”, or shuffles along in a traumatized state, after the incident. Granted, I am approaching this topic simply as a female reader and fan of urban fantasy, but I fail to understand why an author would use rape in this genre, which is quite synonymous with kick-ass, strong, take-charge heroines.

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  10. I took my husband’s name because it is easier for the Swiss and Germans to spell. In Switzerland, there are various options couples can choose from when deciding on their married name. They have to choose a “family name” (i.e.: the name their children will have). This can be either the woman or the man’s surname. The other surname is then the secondary name and included in hyphenated form in most legal documents. I still use my maiden name for work, and the family name for everything else.

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  11. Re: playing up in sports. It is not really necessary. My middle son never played up and ended up with a college athletic/academic scholarship which covered a huge chunk of his tuition. He played two sports and that was his ‘job’ in college – training for both didn’t leave him much time for anything else besides his studies.

    The point is – the scholarships are available without turning your homelife into one long sporting event. Sports are important for a lot of reasons; learning teamwork, how to both win and lose graciously, peer involvement, socialization, physical fitness – but family is important as well and there needs to be a good balance of time without the pressure of performing.

    Interesting post. I especially enjoyed the take on taking your husband’s name. I quite honestly never gave it a thought, not at the wedding or at the divorce. I took his name to show our unity as a family and I kept it because it was my children’s name and we were still a family even if he was no longer a part of it.

    I don’t read a lot of UF – but I think women in general, regardless of their physical strength fear rape. It is not something that controls your life, but it is something that plays in the back of your mind in any given situation. Men are larger and more powerful – they just are and rape is a scary prospect. A smart women educates herself, fears for her safety and takes precautions regardless of how powerful she is.

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  12. Love the reasons to take husband’s last name, and could identify with several! And I’ll add one of my own: Not too attached to the maiden name and spent years being frustrated by other people’s inability to pronounce or spell it correctly.

    @Milena – I can’t speak for all states, but in many states it is more difficult to take the wife’s last name or for both parties to pick a third, shared last name. If a woman wants to take her husband’s name, it can be done simply by filling out forms. For the other two options (man taking wife’s surname or both taking third name), the states whose laws I’m familiar with (admittedly, not even close to all 50 of them) will require one to file a Petition for Name Change with the appropriate court and have the name change approved by a judge. In some states, this will require a court appearance to explain why you think the court should grant your request. One of my friends and her husband actually went through this process and while the judge was happy to sign off on the papers, preparing them was still kind of a pain. And, unlike women taking husband’s last names, it isn’t free; you have to pay filing fees to the court.

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  13. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: The Return of Linkity!! Now with even more linkity!!

  14. @Ana: the comments keep referencing his “thesis” but I cannot figure out what it is. I think he overgeneralizes about both the genre and women;s experiences. I also don’t like the assumption that powerful female urban fantasy protagonists have internalized masculinity.

    I also think he would do well to consider the romance roots of UF, and the ubiquity of rape in the romance genre as an important factor.

    @Las: I do agree that a lot of the time — Buffy being perhaps the archetypal example — women UF protags are ordinary women thrust into positions of power. But I also see that as a common and longstanding feature of the literary landscape, period.

    @Liz:

    My son is a U13 goalie and I am starting to feel like soccer is taking over our lives. I worry my (younger) daughter will be shortchanged on the activity front, because there’s only so much I can take, and the males of the family are soccer-mad.

    Thanks for this. As I type this, my husband and U11 player just left for a tournament in the southern part of the state. As usual, I had to decide whether to keep the family together for the weekend, or drag my unwilling younger child along. I chose to stay home this time. Luckily, this is the last tournament until March.

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Can Mr R “coach up”?

    Nope. U12s already have a coach. but we’ve decided my son will play U11, and play games with U12 when it does not conflict with his U11 duties. I fear we are just postponing the inevitable painful choice, but right now everyone seems ok with it. This means, of course, that he will play 8 hours today with the U11s and then again for the same time with the U12s. I just have to make sure he is not exhausted or overwhelmed with it.

    @Merrian: Such interesting points about UF! I don’t read much in that genre, but what you say seems very on the mark.

    @SonomaLass:

    I like the idea of the lost sales site; so far, it looks like geography and price are the two big issues. “Price” almost always equates to “the ebook cost more than or the same as” the print version; that’s clearly a line for a lot of readers.

    Yes, and it got a lot of play in the bigger lit/publishing blogs, so it may have impact beyond the numbers of entries.

    @Evangeline Holland:

    While I think Briggs handled Mercy’s rape wonderfully, I can’t help but feel the UF heroine being raped as a way to re-assert that she’s a little woman beneath that tough and self-reliant exterior, and as a way to normalize her sexuality. I may be wrong, but of the heroines who have been raped in the fiction I’ve read, their comforter is usually a man, and her ability to have sex with the hero/love interest shows she’s “healed” from the attack. I have yet to see rape addressed as a woman’s issue, and/or as a separate issue from her sexual desire/sexuality.

    What great points.

    @SarahT: I took my husband’s name for a number of reasons. I use my maiden name as a middle name. My publications have it both ways. But a huge practical benefit is that my 5 letter Italian maiden name was IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to spell – or pronounce — correctly, and my husband’s name is one of the most common and easiest to spell names around.

    @Lynn Spencer:

    Not too attached to the maiden name and spent years being frustrated by other people’s inability to pronounce or spell it correctly.

    Amen sister.

    @Daisy:

    Re: playing up in sports. It is not really necessary. My middle son never played up and ended up with a college athletic/academic scholarship which covered a huge chunk of his tuition.

    Thanks for this Daisy!

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