caitri: (Default)
CURRENT TALLY OF COMPLETED FIC WORDAGE: 417,978
All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
All Avengers stories are Steve/Tony unless otherwise stated.
Read more... )
caitri: (bullshit)
1) My friend C. is still in the hospital and not doing well. She's turned off her phone and doesn't want to hear from anyone, and according to her niece had a conversation with the nurse to the effect of "Just let me die," while the nurse was like "....you're not gonna die anytime soon."

2) Chester Bennington, RIP.  I STILL LOVE LINKIN PARK I AM SO SAD.

Flailpost

Jul. 13th, 2017 03:10 pm
caitri: (bullshit)
 For the past week I've started and stopped composing a bunch of posts. Mostly this is just in reaction to an excess of Real Life: my friend C, for example, was just admitted to the hospital, so I'm worried about her. I also went to my doctor last week to talk about my meds, which weren't really working for me, but her solution was to try a different cocktail whose side-effects were, as far as I was concerned, way worse, so I opted to stay what I was on because all of a sudden a bit of stomache and so on were ~nothing.~

As always I'm working on several projects, trying to tie them together to get more done at once. I have a friend about to go on the job market who is flailing constantly, so I'm trying to balance useful feedback on packets with "OH MY GOD YOU ARE FINE I PROMISE!"

Really, I just want to take something like a "summer break" for myself but haven't been able to rationalize it because, let's face it, I'm a workaholic. However, I have been doing an unusually good job at saying "no" to things recently, even if only it's because I've had no real interest in the topics at hand.

I also got accepted to the course on the History of Women Printers in San Francisco next month, which I'm looking forward to. The organizers seem to be a little spacey; they had a last minute-ish venue change, so I had to cancel the hotel I had booked and then rebook another that was closer. It has been a bit of a headache, but hopefully it will all be worth it.
caitri: (Books)
 Crossposted from The Future Fire:


Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods. Abaddon Books, 2017. pp 238. ISBN 978-1-78108-519-6. $15.00.



I finished reading Food of the Gods shortly after seeing the season finale of American Gods, and while some of the entries in Khaw’s collection were previously published, it’s hard not to think about what’s in the air that draws genre writers to recast myth in terms of the daily grind. (And I do know this isn’t exactly a novel idea, but these are the two texts that are on my mind immediately right now, so please bear with me.) Neil Gaiman’s original novel focused on gods-as-immigrants to America, with all the challenges that entails, as well as being a paean to steadily vanishing roadside kitsch; the TV series keeps the immigration story, but adds the violent intersection of race in contemporary America to the story that is, frankly, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it element of the novel. Khaw is, like the younger Gaiman, a London-based writer, but unlike him she has her roots in Southeast Asia, and unlike American GodsFood of the Gods goes back and forth between London and Kuala Lumpur. Her hero/not-hero (but not anti-hero) is Rupert Wong, a former gangster who has become a chef to the literal underworld to save his karma, such as it is.

The book is made up of three novellas, all of which take place in swift chronological order. ‘Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef’ is perhaps the most straightforward story; it’s a murder mystery in which Wong is hired to investigate the death of the daughter of Ao Qin, better known as the Chinese Dragon God (who is also the patron saint of the South China Sea, a small detail of increasingly global relevance). The second story, ‘Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth,’ takes place shortly afterwards in the aftermath of that story, and sees Wong being hastily paid off to London to take up a new position as chef for a restaurant run by Orpheus and frequented by the Greek pantheon. This story is perhaps the weakest because it fills in the space between the previous and the final entries; there isn’t an overriding plot and the best moments are Wong’s interactions while traveling on a fourteen hour flight and his arrival at customs. The final story, ‘Meat, Bone, Tea,’ has a minor mystery plot and concerns what is functionally a gang war between the Greek and Chinese pantheons that Wong is determined to survive, one way or another. The book closes with a series of epilogues and endings that simultaneously tie-up loose threads and offer possibilities for future sequels.

Khaw’s sharp writing more than makes up for the occasional deficits in plot; Rupert Wong is an engaging smartass of a character you can’t help rooting for, and the sensory details of his cooking are incredibly vivid (and indeed, mouthwatering, at least until you’re reminded that he’s usually cooking that other white meat, human pork). His best moments are when interacting with his undead girlfriend Minah (who is, in case you are wondering, much more interesting and sympathetic than Gaiman’s “dead wife Laura”) and her demonic dead fetus, an ectoplasmic vampire that Wong nicknames George and regularly feeds from a cut on his wrist. Unfortunately, Minah and George are removed from the series early on, though thankfully not to fuel Wong’s arc, and the stories are weaker for it, I think. Wong is at his best when he has someone to riff off of, and it’s only in ‘Meat, Bone, Tea’ when two new characters emerge for this purpose: Fariz, a fellow human in this metaphysical underworld, and Nyarlathotep, a fictional creation of H.P. Lovecraft rendered real through the popularity of the Chthulhu mythos. This is a fascinating idea, and one I wish bumped more against our ideas of mythology: (some of) the Chinese and Greek gods appear with their family dramas more or less intact, and yet somehow still diminished. Would certain other members, like, say, Nike, not be more empowered in our capitalist and overly branded world? What about other fictional characters? Surely Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy would at least be demigods by now?

Ultimately, Food of the Gods is a fast and light read. I feel like the talk-back of Southeast Asian culture never did the work it set out to do, either in London or in Kuala Lumpur, but it nonetheless appears as a counter to the omnipresent Western narratives that tend to dominate Anglo-American genre writing like Gaiman, or more recently, Jo Walton in her Thessaly series, and that’s nonetheless incredibly useful in the ongoing conversations around representation and diversity in genre writing. Khaw’s voice is needed in our discussions of genre and myth, and I look forward to what she comes up with next.
caitri: by blue_hobbit (Don't Go Where I Can't Follow)
I belatedly realized that when you import from lj to dw internal links lose their function, so I've spent the last week fixing the links in my fic masterpost so that they are all internal to dw now. (That was fun.) (NB. It was actually not fun. Kind of headache-inducing, even when done in chunks over a week.) But anyway NOW IT ALL WORKS, or at least it should! So. 
caitri: (Default)
 Many thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings and wishes--they were muchly appreciated!! <3 

I hope everyone is staying cool (and safe) during heatwave/storm season. I've taken (possibly too much) to working later at night and then sleeping in a bit longer during the heat of the day....but I'm still getting shit done, so.

I'm trying to think if I've been up to anything interesting lately and the answer is not really. I write and I do chores. "Yay."  I did get accepted into a class at CalRBS in August, so that's something to look forward to! But otherwise it's trying to keep routine and not get sucked into news/politics and whatnot on social media (emphasis on "try"...I'm terrible at it. I have gotten to where I probably "only" check the NYT six times a day or something). I keep thinking "I should post more" and then thinking "about what?," so.

Quick signalboost: Two of my friends had books come out this month! Lisa Edmonds just released Heart of Malice and Nicky Drayden just released The Prey of Gods. They are both kind of doing their own self-promotions, esp. Lisa, so if you can pick up their books and leave reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Consider it good karma!
caitri: (Books)
 Crossposted at The Future Fire

Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass. Amulet Books, 2017. Pp 487. ISBN.978-1-4197-2484-8. $19.95.



Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass first appeared in the UK in 2012 and has only just arrived in the US this spring. It straddles the gap between children’s literature and the young adult genre uneasily; the protagonist is a preteen girl named Neverfell, who is too young to be interested in the romance or nascent sexuality that is usually a hallmark of YA, and yet she is witness to the aftermath of numerous murders, and the threat of violence is often just off-page. And yet Hardinge loves playing with language in a way that recalls some of (what I think, anyway) is the finest children’s lit like The Phantom TollboothThe Neverending Story, or Alice in Wonderland—the latter of which the author has a small homage to when Neverfell follows a rabbit up rather than down, discovering a wider and scarier world in the process.

Neverfell lives in Caverna, an underground world whose extensive caste-based society ranges from lowly Drudges to the highest members of Court. The central focus on Faces, or the ability make facial expressions, an art form which must be extensively practiced and which is limited by caste, with Drudges limited to only a small number (and none of them ever angry or dissatisfied) and members of Court with access to hundreds. Neverfell, as a girl from the world above, has ready access to numerous faces naturally, all of which ripple across her face and betray immediately whatever she really thinks. When she is discovered as a child by the Cheesemaker Grandible, he is horrified by this and has a mask made for her, convincing her that she must be astonishingly ugly. When a Master Facesmith visits the Cheesemaker, Neverfell hopes that she will help her make a Face of her own… and from there follows Neverfell’s adventures and misadventures in and out of Court, numerous mysteries around both Neverfell’s unknown origins and a series of murders, and finally, something like a revolution at the end.

A Face Like Glass is incredibly complex and sprawling as Neverfell climbs up and falls down the social ladder on several occasions. Unfortunately, Neverfell is both incredibly naive—which means that the other characters have to repeatedly explain what’s “really” going on to her, each situation’s dangers and benefits, and so on—and strangely without her own agency. She gets adopted by Grandible in the beginning; she is adopted literally or metaphorically throughout the rest of the book by other families, friends, and enemies for their own purposes, and so plot keeps happening with Neverfell usually a bystander. When she does take control in the final pages of the book, it is just before she takes an amnesia-inducing potion, so she only gets to see the effects of the successful plan, and so is rendered passive even by herself.

I had mixed feelings about this book—though I suspect they have more to do with an adult reading a children’s book than anything else. The plot is incredibly unhurried in a way that will likely work for a young reader who is reading slowly and with absorption, the better to enjoy the minutiae of description and detail that permeate the text. Unfortunately, I rather wished the characters would just get on with it, rather than telling one another their plans, explaining how the plans would work, then carrying out the plans, etc. The sprawling length of the story also meant that minor characters would be introduced briefly and only reappear a hundred or more pages later, by which time I had forgotten who they were and what they were meant to be doing; I wish a Dramatis Personae could have been provided, as it would have been helpful. On the other hand, I immensely respect the amount of thought that Hardinge put into her world, especially with its use of language and some truly memorable turns of phrase. As a side-effect of living underground, the time of day is delineated through counted hours; to be “out of clock” is to not match the schedule of hours, while to always be “on clock” is to maintain an unusually steady sleep and activity period. Other inventive elements include the True Crafts, in which True Wine, True Cheese, and so on, have properties beyond taste and smell, including the abilities to alter memories or provide hallucinogenic sensory experiences, among others.

I think young readers will get the most out of this book, but adults with sensitive children may want to peruse the volume first because of the violent scenes—which are admittedly far and few between—haunt the characters throughout. Adults will enjoy a well-told and absorbing adventure story, one without the seemingly omnipresent love triangles that have become cliche to so much of the YA genre. Neverfell is, if not altogether endearing, at least far from a cliche.

***

And a quick rec for Women in Noir Week:

Jacqueline Carey's novels Santa Olivia (2009) and Saints Astray (2011) are unlikely to be read as noir, but I would argue that they are closer to that genre than to conventional dystopia, as noir is characterized through its ethical ambiguity and fatalism, and dystopia through omnipresent degradation. In Carey's world, there is a valid escape to be had from the shitty not-too-distant future southwest US, where a queer Hispanic teen named Loup is torn between revenge for her dead brother and escaping to a better life for herself and her girlfriend Pilar. The outer world, including Mexico and Europe, has rebounded after a devastating pandemic in a way that the isolationist US has not. Loup's and Pilar's journey evolves beyond a quest for survival to one of discovery of this outside world, from tourist beaches to fashion and pop music.

Their saga concludes with their search for social justice for their home, still under martial law, and for equal rights for genetically modified humans, both of which are impeded by the complex oligarchy of the US government and military, as in this case being born, for Loup, is a crime of itself.
caitri: (Default)
I'm having a ~good week academics-wise. I've gotten two articles accepted, a conference paper accepted, revisions done on a book chapter, a book review sent off, and a blog blurb forthcoming. Also,The Unsilent Library: Essays on the Russell T. Davies Era of Doctor Who, which I had a chapter in, is going on sale at this link, and in the accompanying piece my chapter gets a special highlight:

Additionally, Catherine Coker’s chapter 6 titled ‘Does The Doctor Dance? Heterosexuality, Omnisexuality, and Spontaneous Generation in the Whoniverse’ is a vital addition to the collection. Coker contends that 2005’s ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’ are the first real doses of omnisexuality within the Whoniverse. Moreover, the essay highlights science fiction handling sexuality as an “awkward ‘issue of the week’” rather than a normality of society. Instead, Davies rejects this model and “instead chooses to address the group as part of the regular viewership of the show by allowing the LGBT population in his universe to exist and thrive”. The essay also considers Captain Jack as an ‘Omnisexual Superhero’ and explores The Doctor’s lack of sexuality. The Doctor and Rose shippers have a lot of good material to gauge on here…

This is up against several real-life frustrations I don't feel like talking about, so I'm just going to roll in good feelings for a little. :)
caitri: (Books)
Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

I seriously stayed up until almost 3am last night so I could finish this in one sitting. IT IS SO CUTE. It retells Cinderella (mostly through shades of Ever After, especially with a few names and lines) through fandom, with the prince as the newly cast star of a Trek-like reboot and Elle as a fangirl whose fandom is a way to bond with her beloved dead parents--who met at a con, cosplayed together, and her dad founded a local con. It hits all the beats of a satisfying fairy tale with some bonus witty observations on fan culture, social media, and the interaction between fandom and popular culture writ large. Also a very cute and mostly believable romance.
caitri: (Screw Subtext)
"Child of Europe" by Czeslaw Milosz, 1946

1
We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

We, from the fiery furnaces, from behind barbed wires
On which the winds of endless autumns howled,
We, who remember battles where the wounded air roared in
paroxysms of pain.
We, saved by our own cunning and knowledge.

By sending others to the more exposed positions
Urging them loudly to fight on
Ourselves withdrawing in certainty of the cause lost.

Having the choice of our own death and that of a friend
We chose his, coldly thinking: Let it be done quickly.

We sealed gas chamber doors, stole bread
Knowing the next day would be harder to bear than the day before.

As befits human beings, we explored good and evil.
Our malignant wisdom has no like on this planet.

Accept it as proven that we are better than they,
The gullible, hot-blooded weaklings, careless with their lives.

2
Treasure your legacy of skills, child of Europe.
Inheritor of Gothic cathedrals, of baroque churches.
Of synagogues filled with the wailing of a wronged people.
Successor of Descartes, Spinoza, inheritor of the word 'honor',
Posthumous child of Leonidas
Treasure the skills acquired in the hour of terror.

You have a clever mind which sees instantly
The good and bad of any situation.
You have an elegant, skeptical mind which enjoys pleasures
Quite unknown to primitive races.

Guided by this mind you cannot fail to see
The soundness of the advice we give you:
Let the sweetness of day fill your lungs
For this we have strict but wise rules.

3
There can be no question of force triumphant
We live in the age of victorious justice.

Do not mention force, or you will be accused
Of upholding fallen doctrines in secret.

He who has power, has it by historical logic.
Respectfully bow to that logic.

Let your lips, proposing a hypothesis
Not know about the hand faking the experiment.

Let your hand, faking the experiment
Not know about the lips proposing a hypothesis.

Learn to predict a fire with unerring precision
Then burn the house down to fulfill the prediction.

4
Grow your tree of falsehood from a single grain of truth.
Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.

Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself
So the weary travelers may find repose in the lie.

After the Day of the Lie gather in select circles
Shaking with laughter when our real deeds are mentioned.

Dispensing flattery called: perspicacious thinking.
Dispensing flattery called: a great talent.

We, the last who can still draw joy from cynicism.
We, whose cunning is not unlike despair.

A new, humorless generation is now arising
It takes in deadly earnest all we received with laughter.

5
Let your words speak not through their meanings
But through them against whom they are used.

Fashion your weapon from ambiguous words.
Consign clear words to lexical limbo.

Judge no words before the clerks have checked
In their card index by whom they were spoken.

The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason.
The passionless cannot change history.

6
Love no country: countries soon disappear
Love no city: cities are soon rubble.

Throw away keepsakes, or from your desk
A choking, poisonous fume will exude.

Do not love people: people soon perish.
Or they are wronged and call for your help.

Do not gaze into the pools of the past.
Their corroded surface will mirror
A face different from the one you expected.

7
He who invokes history is always secure.
The dead will not rise to witness against him.

You can accuse them of any deeds you like.
Their reply will always be silence.

Their empty faces swim out of the deep dark.
You can fill them with any feature desired.

Proud of dominion over people long vanished,
Change the past into your own, better likeness.

8
The laughter born of the love of truth
Is now the laughter of the enemies of the people.

Gone is the age of satire. We no longer need mock.
The sensible monarch with false courtly phrases.

Stern as befits the servants of a cause,
We will permit ourselves sycophantic humor.

Tight-lipped, guided by reasons only
Cautiously let us step into the era of the unchained fire.

~
Czeslaw Milosz
caitri: (Screw Subtext)
Where I am cranky and anxious for no reason. Or rather, I have reasons that overflow into one massive BLAH:

1) It's the end of the term, or rather, just past it, and yesterday I skyped with my advisor for our annual checklist/meeting I have to do to discuss my progress and whatnot. Which, I've had a good term; I've done a chapter and gotten a paper proposal accepted for a big conference next year which will fold into the next chapter. My advisor was happy and had good and useful thoughts on things, and I have a plan forward. And I also wrote several other essays this term for other forthcoming publications and sent in two sets of revisions. I am a good puppy. BUT I AM ALWAYS ANXIOUS because this is my default setting.

1a) A friend of mine has straight-up had two mini breakdowns in the last three days, the first about her diss because she has extreme burnout from writing and the other because she starts teaching two summer courses on Tuesday and the PTB raised the attendance cap without telling her. So while she has printouts and assignments and whatnot for a class of 35, she now has a class of 40, which doesn't seem like a big deal except it totally changes group assignments and the ability to read and return papers. And I'm kind of limited in helpful things I can say. Like, yeah, this sucks, but...welcome to academia? Where shit always gets piled on and fucked with?

2) I might have to deal with a IRL Troll tomorrow and am inwardly prepping. On the one hand, this person isn't as bad as others in the extended social circle, but they are still the kind of person who will go to a potluck without bringing anything or without helping in anyway, and who will purposefully try to redirect/distract conversations to themselves and their interests, and...I don't have the energy for mitigating that right now. So, wish me luck, I guess.

2a) I also tend to dislike holiday weekends, and today I braved the crowds to go grocery shopping, which was managable, but still. I just want to hunker down and do as little as possible, but I still have chores to do. *sigh*
caitri: (Books)
The Dangers of Reading in Bed by Nika Mavrody

In his history of masturbation, Solitary Sex, the historian Thomas Laqueur draws a direct link between 18th-century distress over solitary, silent novel reading and masturbation’s new status as a public menace: “Novels, like masturbation, created for women alternative ‘companions of their pillow.’” These “solitary vices,” as Laqueur calls them, were condemned for fear that individual autonomy would lead to a breakdown in the collective moral order.

...

People feared that solitary reading and sleeping fostered a private, fantasy life that would threaten the collective—especially among women. The solitary sleeper falls asleep at night absorbed in fantasies of another world, a place she only knows from books. During the day, the lure of imaginative fiction might draw a woman under the covers to read, compromising her social obligations.
caitri: (World Is a Mess)
Like on social media, the group I have to interact with irl but who I otherwise despise is all "LOL this funny article about astrology" and I'm like "I just singlehandedly rewrote the history of an entire discipline, FIGHT ME."

Gods, I hate behaving.

caitri: (Chris Vocabulary)
Writing: I've had a busy writing term: I written and turned in a diss chapter, three book chapters, and two sets of article revisions since January. That's.....not bad. Next up I have a long essay on reading, gender, and genre for a forthcoming reference book, another diss chapter, and a conference paper I need to finish.

Also, I miss fic. I keep thinking about some sort of Sleeping Beauty retelling with Finn/Poe that has to do with Poe being anxiously aware that in real life he has spent maybe half an hour with Finn and it's ridiculous to be projecting all these romantic notions onto an unconscious man in a medpod. Buuuuuut I can't seem to think beyond that.

~

Reading: Here are some books I've really enjoyed recently:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

A too-too self-aware organic-mechanical hybrid robot works security and has to protect the humans who want to project all their issues onto it. Hijinks ensue.

The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski.

This is the final novel in The Witcher series, which originally came out in 1999 but wasn't published in English until March. I have fallen so hard for these books; the same thing that makes them interesting also makes them kind of difficult to read, as they aren't actually a series so much as a single story told over five novels and two short story collections. Stuff happens and keeps happening and you don't really get any closure until the very end. There's also a lot of stuff going on politically, as these are written in the aftermath of post-war Poland, and so there are a bunch of resonances that just keep going on: reckoning with resistance under tyranny; confronting pogroms and concentration camps in other countries and the mass influx of refugees; balancing wanting to do the right thing with wanting to do the right thing in the right way. Also, Netflix just announced they are going to do a tv series based on the books and I am hella excited!!!

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

In which the half-elf, half-goblin fourth prince becomes the unexpected and hella-competent Emperor, with some straightforward commentary on what it's like when the government leader is dark-skinned and this Upsets people. It wraps up nicely, but I still wish it was a series.

~

TV: American Gods is fucking amazing and I'm glad it's already renewed for a second season, even if
it seems like there will be a massive drought between seasons. SO PRETTY. So in-your-face about racism and America.

Which, see also Dear White People. I know I'm always the person who listens because people will inexplicably tell me things, but oh my GOD, watching the show is nearly physically painful because I recognize nearly every one of the many and varied stories told. (Like, the incredibly awkward threesome-that-wasn't. I feel like I shouldn't be able to recognize that?? But ISTFG someone told me a story like that in undergrad.)

Supernatural I can't quit this show, even when I probably should.

Lucifer is still my favorite. I really want to read Chloe/Maze femmeslash but there's none on AO3 which makes me sad.

Also, just go watch Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms which is apparently the most watched Chinese drama ever. IT IS SO PRETTY. It's an epic fantasy with reincarnation, cool fight scenes, and sometimes dragons. So.

~

Uh, yeah. What have you guys been up to?
caitri: (Chris Vocabulary)
Viet Thanh Nguyen Reveals How Writers' Workshops Can Be Hostile


What Nguyen says about writing workshops I want to apply to printing and bookmaking workshops:


As an institution, the workshop reproduces its ideology, which pretends that “Show, don’t tell” is universal when it is, in fact, the expression of a particular population, the white majority, typically at least middle-class and often, but not exclusively, male. The identity behind the workshop’s origins is invisible. Like all privileges, this identity is unmarked until it is thrown into relief against that which is marked, visible and outspoken, which is to say me and others like me.

We, the barbarians at the gate, the descendants of Caliban, the ones who have no choice but to speak in the language we have — we come bearing the experiences and ideas the workshop suppresses. We come from the Communist countries America bombed during the Cold War, or where it sponsored counter-Communist efforts. We come from the lands America occupied, invaded or colonized. We come as refugees and immigrants, documented and undocumented. We come from the ghettos, barrios, reservations and borders of America where there are no workshops. We come from the bedrooms and the kitchens of the American home, where we were supposed to stay, and stay silent. We come speaking languages other than English. We come from the margins, where English is broken. We come with financial aid and loans and families that do not understand what “creative writing” is. We come from communities we do not wish to renounce in the name of our individualism. We come wanting to do more than just sell our stories to white audiences. And we come with the desire not just to show, but to tell.

But what is that art that is also political, historical, theoretical, ideological and philosophical? How is it to be taught? It must be taught not only as an isolated craft or a set of techniques. It must be taught in relation to, or within, courses on history, politics, theory and philosophy, as well as ethnic studies, gender studies, queer studies and cultural studies.
caitri: (Books)
 I'm snug in my hotel bed for a little while longer, and then I have to go catch the airport shuttle and then, home. I've been in San Diego for a very busy week at my favorite conference. I was sad because several of my friends couldn't come this year, but I still got to see some familiar faces and hang out with new friends. 

I think maybe the highlight was the morning the Star Wars trailer came out after a friend's roundtable and about eight acafangirls clustered around someone's phone, and when we saw Finn we all squeed in relief and delight.

I gave a paper, spoke on a round-table, and co-chaired an area meeting, all of which went well. I have a bunch of notes for things to look into when I get back, plus several new books in my bag (like The Fanfiction Reader!) I look forward to reading.

I'm hoping for a smooth flight today; I'm really tired and theoretically could even sleep....
caitri: by blue_hobbit (Don't Go Where I Can't Follow)
I've been crossposting between LJ and DW since the servers were being moved to Russia; I've also deactivated my auto-renew account for lj because I don't want them to have access to my financials. I don't think the recent LJ TOS statement will be legally enforceable in the US, but I also don't foresee any organizations going to the mattress about it either.  That said, if LJ ups and closes shop, all my stuff is at my DW account: caitri.dreamwidth.org. 

Good night and good luck, I guess.
caitri: (Books)
 Crossposted at The Future Fire:


Norman Spinrad, The People’s Police. Tor Books, 2017. Pp 284. ISBN 978-0-7653-8427-0. $27.99.



The very best satires have enough truth at the core of their fiction to make them uncomfortable reading, and so is the case with Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police. Spinrad is perhaps best known for his self-proclaimed anarchic ideals in his fiction, which fully come into play here: the central question asked is “Suppose the people and the police, who are so often on opposing sides in the US, actually came together for the benefit of all?” In this world, the order of government authority (and business world corruption) is at odds with everyday people and with the chaotic loa spirits, with the soul of New Orleans itself at stake: does the city belong to its everyday inhabitants or to the distant politicians and visiting tourists?

The novel takes place in a post-Katrina and post-2008 housing bubble-burst New Orleans, where the most pressing problem the police have is the unending numbers of eviction notices to be served, even among themselves. There are three main characters for the bulk of the action: Martin Luther “Luke” Martin, a former gang member who sees the police force as the biggest and best-armed gang of all; J.B. Lafitte, bar and brothel owner; and MaryLou Boudreau or Mama Legba, first mockingly and then accurately called “White Girl Who Dances With Loas” and “Voodoo Queen.” A fourth character, Colonel Terrence Hathaway, appears in the final act as a Christian and Army officer who sees a chance to do good in the world, and actually takes it. Along the way, a reality tv star is elected to political office, hurricane damage is mitigated by magic, and cooperative anarchism is a more reliable tool for governance than anyone would have expected. Things take a darker turn in the final pages of the book, which I don’t want to spoil too badly, but suffice to say that it’s an attempt to bring a little more realism into the story regarding localized American politics, especially in Louisiana, and that it works even if the romping tone that had proceeded it was more fun for the reader.

The insertion of the loas, mystical Voodoo spirits who can possess and speak through human bodies if they choose to do so, into the story introduces a fantastical element into the satire that does unsettle it a bit. Loas and Voodoo are a part of life in New Orleans and parts of the Deep South. Erzuli is the Haitian spirit of love, dancing, and luxury; she appears in the book as one of the entities that periodically possess Mama Legba. Mama Legba is a white woman, the child of hippies who live and perform in New Orleans: she’s the epitome of outsider and yet in the book she is never considered as such. When she is possessed by the loas, the African-American practitioners are surprised, but then disappear from the story in a way that made me uncomfortable as a reader: it does not make sense to bring up the fraught topic of race in America, in the South, and then immediately drop it. Indeed, engaging with it head-on would have been a service to the story, as would have been some additional scenes with Voodoo culture generally. It is clear that Spinrad did his research impeccably, and it would have been nice to see more of that, especially in contrast to the Christian character.

The People’s Police is a fast-paced, funny novel; almost a magical-realism counterpart to A Confederacy of Dunces. Nonetheless, there is a disconnect between its author and its content that troubles me: Spinrad is a white American writer currently residing in Paris, it is disconcerting therefore to read about black characters in New Orleans, whether as cops, pimps, or gangbangers (a term that is used in the text). While the writing itself is incredibly enjoyable and thought-provoking, it nonetheless performs acts of ventriloquism with a white man’s words coming out of black men’s mouths, ventriloquism I find troubling given our current discussions around both diversity in publishing and cultural appropriation. Coming from a mainstream genre publisher with a wide reach, in hardback no less, would it not have been better to instead publish a story of New Orleans by an actual resident of New Orleans, to signalboost new black writers rather than old white ones? (Lest anyone write and say “but there aren’t any!” let me point again to Kiini Ibura Salaam’s When the World Wounds (2016), which I reviewed here in February.) Further, the public is genuinely hungry for diverse texts by diverse authors, as witnessed by the furors that have erupted around the whitewashing aspects of Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Iron Fist. In 2017, we do not need or want cultural appropriation; as part of a global society, if we want kung fu dramas, we can legally download and watch the latest shows from China mere hours after their home release, and if we want to read about African-American stories and concerns, we can read books in their own words; last year, Ta-Nehisi Coates became a writer for Marvel’s Black Panther series and it was one of their most popular titles of last year. The old adage that works by diverse authors “won’t sell” is thus manifestly false. Readers can make up their own minds about how they feel about this aspect of reading and watching, but it is a topic that should at least be considered when deciding whether or not to pick up a new book.
caitri: (Books)
 I've spent the last couple days at ASECS, the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies conference; I sneak in because technically I do work in the long eighteenth century and also it has several book history-ish panels. Anyways, I chaired a panel and gave a paper, and both went well, even if the only reason I got a question at Q&A was because I had a friend in the audience; several people told me later they enjoyed my paper and my enthusiasm, and one woman said she wanted me to hurry and write a book so she can read it.

In marked contrast, I went out to dinner with a bunch of people last night, and most of them like got together and drank and gossiped and talked job market and whatnot; me and another friend had been under the impression we were going to talk bibliography instead, so that was less than fun. Also, one woman asked me about my dissertation, so I started the thirty second elevator-talk summary, and like twenty seconds in she turned to the woman next to her and started talking to her, and so I quickly and awkwardly finished up. But what even was the point of that?? And then at the reception tonight this same person wanted a group photo with some folks I was with, and I tried to sidle out but she had me stay in, like....okay, you remember my name, you'll take a picture with me, but you don't want to talk to me? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HUMANS, I SWEAR.

(But thank god I was able to talk to Youmi last night, I would have died of boredom, the food was slow and the drinks kept coming, and just. Yeah. So we got to bond and talked about kdramas the whole time, and she said if she moves back to Seoul I can come visit her and she will take me to eat all the yummy delicious things people eat on tv that I can't even pronounce!)

And then today, I got two--TWO--emails from academic presses at PCA asking me about doing a book with them!! One was the new editor at U-Iowa Press, and I'd been in contact with the previous editor there, so I'm kind of curious if the new person hasn't looked in their files or what. The other was someone from U-Mississippi Press, who I hadn't talked to before, so that's good for the ego!! (And in marked contrast to "twenty seconds is too long to listen to you" girl.)

I head home tomorrow and the pre-flight jitters are kicking in; the flight here was the bumpiest I've had in a while, and I'm pretty sure it should be smoother, but I'm still anxious, because me. So, uh, wish me luck??!!
caitri: (Books)
 #thanksfortyping has been trending on Twitter. It's a tag full of people uncovering the often unnamed wives and secretaries who are acknowledged as typing male academics' manuscripts: basically, that's literally what invisible labor looks like, folks, some poor wife typing up some asshole's book FIFTEEN times, and his editor gets all the thanks.

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