c.e. taillefer

November 11, 2016

Couldn’t Bear It: Interactive Film

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I’ll be honest, the only game I’ve played that used quick time events at all was Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – there was one that let Ezio hug Leonardo da Vinci, and I always hecked it up. JUST LET THEM LIVE, UBISOFT!

On the flip side, if by interactive film, we’re talking about things like Bear 71, then I suppose one major difference is I’ve never cried during the first thirty seconds of a game. So thanks for that, NFB! I’m exactly the kind of asshole who gets hit right in the feelings by “narrative is done by animal” stories, right down to when pet finder ads are written from the perspective of the dog who assures me he is a “very good boy, who loves cheese.” I feel like interactive films can be more effective than a game for stories like this one – if they’re meant to evoke a sense of helplessness despite bringing the player closer to the story than a traditional documentary. I’m not responsible for the things that happened to Bear 71, but by linking clips and narrative to my actions, it sure feels that way.

Horror games occupy a similar place for me – I love horror movies. I like to be scared, and I like they’re often one of the only filmmaking spaces where women can tell whatever story they like (and it comes closest to our own experiences despite – or maybe because of – being horror). I devoured a Let’s Play of Amnesia over a weekend night shift, and it was great. I downloaded the free demo, played for about five minutes, and then closed the program, deleted the game, and shut off my computer. Just in case. And bear in mind, I already knew it was impossible to encounter the monster for the first part of the game. It didn’t matter! Just the act of controlling my character was too much stress for my poor tissue paper heart to handle. Same kind of helplessness with not enough distance to protect my feelings – in this case, abject terror as opposed to just helpless sobbing.

Donald Glover yelling "My emotions!"

It’s just a bear but like, bears are chill. They like blueberries. They usually didn’t get mad at you like moose (those bastards). It’s like watching a huge dog get tranquilized! I can’t even spoil anything but the first five minutes or so of Bear 71 because I got too upset. So Spoiler Alert, I guess: they tranquilize a big bear in Banff, and put a tracker on it, and you can use the interactive map to track the bear’s activities, but Mia Krishner keeps talking in her serious voice as the bear and I had to stop. Sorry. I am terrible at games. But really good at emotions!

Actual spoiler beneath the jump:

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September 15, 2016

Where the Devil Don’t Go: Preacher, Season 1 (Part 3)

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(Part 1 and Part 2)

Aka Angel-Demon Baby Daddies and The Bad Stuff.

I left talking about Deblanc and Fiore till the very end for a few reasons – to give more people time to catch up (have you watched Preacher yet? HAVE YOU?) and because I love them so obviously, I saved the best for last.  In the comics, Deblanc and Fiore are barely there cardboard standouts that exist to provide some more jokers for Jesse to beat up in his search for God.  They come to Earth to look for Genesis, but give up fairly early on in favour of the pleasures of doing cocaine and masturbating. Oh, Garth Ennis, you wacky scamp.

Beware the spoilers for all of Season 1 below, as well as a trigger warning for discussions on suicide & racism.

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April 3, 2014

Goat Simulator is So Important

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I want to take a sec and thank everyone on Facebook, Twitter and here for their support during the aftermath of Gary’s death.  It hit both me and Chris really hard, and even people from around the globe who’d gotten used to me posting his mug all over the place were saddened by the loss. Even a month later, I’m still really struggling to cope, but I can mostly write about it without crying now, so if you want or need to talk to someone about their first experience with losing a beloved pet, I’m your gal.

But the past month wasn’t all bad.  You know what I’m talking about. Goat. Simulator.

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January 31, 2014

It Shall be So: A Review of National Theatre Live’s Presentation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

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Or “I saw Tom Hiddleston kiss a lady, a dude and a lady again”

I had sort of known, in theory, that there were certain operas and live shows that you could pay for a ticket to view in a theatre.  I am a huge theatre fan.  My graduating major in high school was drama (Drama’s still my major, heyo! *swings a golf club*) and I have a little Sears festival Stag Management award I’m very proud of.  Having limited experiences with deer, I’m unsure of my abilities to handle stags, but I was a pretty good stage manager.  My first trip to Stratford was magical.  (Literally. We saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

So when I found out that National Theatre Live was going to be airing Coriolanus at a nearby movie theatre, on account of a million voices crying out at once “Tom Hiddleston!”, I grabbed a couple of tickets.  The tickets, and pre-show info said this was a live streaming via satellite, but since it was 7PM EST, I don’t know if that was wholly accurate.  It would’ve been around midnight in the UK.  (If anyone can confirm, that’d be awesome!)

The screening opened with a brief history of the Donmar warehouse, where the play was being performed. THIS SHIT IS MY JAM, okay.  The Donmar is a sparse, industrial theatre in the round, and director Josie Rourke knew what she was about in staging the play in this space. (She’s also the owner of the Donmar, which probably didn’t hurt.)  In keeping with the industrial feel of the space, the props and costuming are sparse: a blend of Roman graffiti and modern chairs; denim jeans with padded leather armor. 

Aside: for one of my senior level drama courses, I had to design a theme and costume for a streetcar named Desire.  My end result was one in which Blanche’s costumes, as she grows more unsteady and abused, regressed through periods of fashion: sultry 60s diva, 20s flapper, 1890s Victoriana, and so on.  Stanley, conversely, sheds more and more clothing.  This gets a little awkward when you remember Ned Flanders playing Stanley.  Anyway, the point is this thematic stuff is my key interest when watching plays. Romeo and Juliet in period dress? Meh. Romeo and Juliet with hawaiian shirts and guns? Now we’re talking my language.

The story of Coriolanus is fairly familiar to anyone who is familiar with the fickle nature of Roman citizenry.  It cleaves fairly closely to Julius Caesar – man wins great glory for himself through battles, man rises through political sphere, man bungles it in advocating tyranny.  The difference is in their downfall, only. (And come on, this is Shakespeare we’re talking about, there’s going to be a downfall.)

With all that said, the casting was incredible.  I was in it for the stage setting and music but the cast is what brought the whole thing home.  Not a single person was out of note: not Tom Hiddleston, not Mark Gatiss, not my boy Mark Stanley, or Deborah Findlay.  Birgitte Hjort Sorenson, who played Coriolanus’ wife Virgilia, was criminally underused, but that’s a fault of the original material and not of the director or cast at all.  The fact that the small handful of people who made up the minor parts or the senators held their own, against the likes of Mark Gatiss and Deborah Findlay speaks volumes, to their acting ability.

The best thing that great Shakespearean actors understand is how to conduct the flow of prose so that you’re not straining to hear and understand. Like reading A Clockwork Orange, the first few minutes of any performance is an acclimatization period, but for the most part, you can follow the plot and people. Theatre is naturally a great deal more expressive than film or TV, which lends itself to being clearer and better understood. (For example, props to Rochenda Sandall in her mastery of sarcasm.) 

No doubt Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss have a great deal to do with the show selling out, and continuing to sell out, the first day tickets are available, but word of mouth on how good the performance is as a whole will have done the bulk of it since.  Even without actually being in a theatre with the performers, the energy and passion is so high that it still touched the people in the audience of the cinema thousands of miles away. That’s talent, folks. You can’t fake that.

Of course, now I want to run away to Stratford and work for the stage again, but I suppose it can’t be helped.

 

October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Have some Thoughts on Working Through Gender & Friendship Through Writing

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If you want an idea of how fast my brain moves from IDEA to REALITY, I got the inspiration for this post from this one by the lovely Miss Lora, which was written two weeks ago, and I’m only just now sitting down to write my own version.  First of all, read hers though. It’s very good. I’ll wait.

I wholly understand where she’s coming from. I daresay a ton of us women do.  I was helping facilitate a “Find your Feminism” workshop last year, and was struggling to lead our groups discussion after we ran down the assigned questions.  Finally, I asked them all, “How many of you have said before, ‘I prefer to be friends with guys, over girls, because it’s less drama’?  All of them – including me – put their hands up.  Then I asked them, “How many of you had those drama-free friendships end because the guy wanted to be more than friends, or put the moves on you, and made you feel really uncomfortable?”  All of us put our hands up again, and we moved the discussion forward from there.

What’s wild is we all had the exact same experiences and, until someone wiser than us pointed it out, never made the connection between the two beliefs.  What’s even wilder is that even after leading that workshop last year, and asking those two questions, and drawing a link between them, I didn’t draw the connection between those experiences and how Grace’s main relationships play out in Paucity (and later, in the unnamed sequel).

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Paucity opens with Grace finding the dead body of one of her neighbourhood friends in the mines they both work in.  She’s upset, but it seems mostly like she’s mad that they survived the system for so long, and having Rose die so close to retirement freedom is just an extra kick to the gut. Grace’s acknowledged best friend is David, though.  He’s the one who tries to follow the guards to Rose’s burial spot so they can leave flowers there, he’s the one who finds out they plan to execute Grace. He’s the one who’s with her when she finds the thin spot in the worlds that brings them both to Uberrime. He puts up with her obsession with old movies, and her close relationship with her parents, and her sarcasm.

But –

He’s also the first one to put down any idea she has in this new world they find themselves in.  He’s the one who gets mad when she has conversations with their captors.  He’s the one who takes out his frustrations on Grace, rather than on the people he’s really mad at.  He’s the one that makes jokes or overtures that are just slightly too sexual.  And he’s the one that runs away when Grace chooses her own path over being with him.

In a post titled, “Describe your Novel in One Sentence”, I ended up writing, “After surviving a parallel universe, a deadly magical disease, enslavement and a bloody civil war, Grace realises her best friend, David, is kind of a dick.”

And that’s really what it’s about, in the end.  Lora’s post made me realize that the driving force/internal conflict for Grace isn’t her desire to overthrow the work camps she slaved in, and Rose died in; it’s not to free herself from the enslavement she finds herself in; it’s not even really to help overthrow the government of Uberrime – it’s her attempt to outrun and redeem herself from the fact that her real best friend died alone, and it took all these above things for her to realize what she had in her friendship with Rose that she lost when Rose died.

I’m lucky in a lot of ways, most especially because I don’t live in a laissez-faire dystopian environmental wasteland, or have to cope with a destructive new magical talent.  But I’m also lucky that all the women I’ve been friends with growing up are still around. I can still message them on Facebook and say, “Hey, being friends with you has been more valuable than I can say, so thanks.” I might be driven by my failure to acknowledge how important female friendships have been to me to say, write this blog post, or this novel, but it’s not a permanent, unfixable failure goading me.

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Oh, and it’s a nice chance to reverse the whole “the best friend was the perfect guy ALL ALONG” storyline. (And yes, I know that both Dawson’s Creek & Hunger Games only avoid this by having some other guy be the perfect guy.)  Having David slowly turn into a weird goose-man is only second in satisfying narrative revenge to Grace friendzoning him over and over again, until

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Of course, I’m the first one to say that “authorial intent means very little in the end product” and that’s true. But a lot of Paucity was created as a result of my frustrations with certain stand-bys in genre storytelling – the awkward quest love triangle, the medieval stasis magical country, the subjugation of women as a requirement for “authentic” fantasy – that it was easy to forget that beneath all that are my real-life experiences and revelations, and not just my literary ones.

PS: I’m starting on Paucity’s sequel this Nano, so I’m willing to take suggestions for a title. The currently operating one is Plenty because I’m an uncreative dork.

August 26, 2013

Let’s Do Deluxe Disney Dining: Part Two

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Part one is here!

Nevermind the preamble, where’s the FOOD?

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August 23, 2013

A Triumphant Return!

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I’m back from Disney World! Ten days of sun, storms, more sun and of course, this little beauty up top.  This was our first time trying out the Deluxe Dining plan, so I’ll be splitting my review into a couple of posts, covering the dining and the rest of the trip separately.  By popular demand, I’ll be starting with a food post. 

June 7, 2013

Jawbone Up – One Week In

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Last week, a friend of mine was telling me about her new Fitbit One that she was using to track her activity. We both have sedentary jobs, and due to weird work schedules (her own and in my case, my husband’s), meals were sort of sporadic. After doing some online research, I settled on the Jawbone Up rather than a Fitbit, although Fitbit also has a wristband tracker, the Flex. From the looks of things, the Up app software looked more useful to me, particularly in tracking my sleep, which I know is a massive problem for me.  

Home Screen

The Up’s Home Screen on the app. From left to right: Sleep, Movement, Food.

Set-up from the box is pretty easy.  Download the app, plug in your band using the headphone jack on your phone, and the start up wizard process walks you through set up.  Some marked the Up down on its lack of wireless sync, but for me, the improved battery life is worth the trade off.  Tip: sometimes the app will hang up while syncing – I’ve found this typically happens because the volume has been turned down. Turning it back up should allow the sync to complete.

The materials included with the band are minimal – most of the information you need is going to be contained in the app, although the directions are not always as clear as I would like. For example, I’m a huge napper, so the power nap feature was very appealing – if only I could get it to work!  Thankfully, google has been pretty helpful so far when I’ve run into a snag – some Up bands have a blue moon, rather than the green mentioned in the app, and in order to recognize different modes, you have to press the button fairly rapidly. So to enter power nap mode, hit the button three times fast, holding down on the last press.

Mint Green Band

My Up, in mint green.

When going to bed, enter sleep mode by holding down the button until the moon flashes. When getting up, do the same until the sun appears. Easy!

The band on the Up is quite a bit thicker than the Flex, and it was one of the reasons I was worried about making my choice, but I got used to it quickly.  I wear it on my non-dominant hand, though, because the one area it was obviously clunky was hand-writing.

Tracking:

So how do the various tracking modes hold up?

Sleep Tracking

A sample night’s sleep (plus nap)

I like the detailed sleep tracker. The Flex only tracks when you wake up and when you sleep – but the Up tracks deep sleep versus light sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and what times you wake up. It uses this info to run the smart alarm, which wakes you up in your light sleep mode prior to the time you set. If you’re sleeping deeply, it goes off at the time you’ve set. (For example, I’ve set my time for 7AM, and you can see my alarm went off at 6:41.) At the moment, there is no snooze feature, so if you’re not prepared to hop out of bed right away, you might want a back up alarm, just in case.  You can also set up to four different times of alarm, so you can sort of build in your own snooze, as well.

Movement tracker

Today’s movement, so far

You can see the spike in today’s movement where I walked to work. It also tracks your idle time, your calories burned (I take this with a grain of salt, personal) and total movement time.  Tying into this is the Idle alert feature, where you can set your band to vibrate after a certain amount of time where you’ve been idle.  Mine is set at the lowest number, 15 minutes, and I use it to remember not just to move, but to stretch, or to drink some water.  I found at even 30 minutes, I was getting up just enough during those times to check mail or use the washroom, it wasn’t going off enough to remind me to rest my eyes or stretch my legs.

Trends

Trends: A comparison of sleep and movement.

The trends page lets you see your sleep and movement on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Not much data there yet!

Food tracking

Food tracking – Don’t be alarmed by these numbers!

Meal summaries are maybe one of the failings of the Jawbone Up, which can be easily remedied with how it syncs with other apps, like MyFitnessPal.  I am using mine strictly to track what I eat so I can easily identify patterns where things like sleeplessness or migraines are concerned.  The database for food with the Up is somewhat limited, so you may prefer to use another app with their baseline to track food. That said, you can also add food to your own personal library to have things you eat regularly in an easily accessible list, as well.

Mood and Food

I feel this a lot!

Another cute aspect of the app is the mood tracker. You can select it manually, or you can set up a recipe in If This Then That to set something automatically – for example, if I get less than 4 hours of deep sleep a day, it sets my mood to exhausted.  There is a lot of exhausted in my timeline already.

As I mentioned above, Jawbone does sync with other apps to work in tandem – MyFitnessPal is one, IFTTT is another (and obviously, one I use!).  IFTTT is a neat one – in addition to the recipe above, I can have my phone send me a text if I haven’t logged a workout in X days.  It can track your sleep and movement in a google drive spreadsheet for you.  I personally really like this one. You can also create your own recipes.

Up is an investment, and a pricey one at 129 CAD.  I am lucky to afford the investment, and I’m glad it will give me solid data at doctor’s visits about how poorly I’m sleeping or eating, so we can continue to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with my gross bod. It’s a nice curiosity alleviator – apparently it’s ~7000 steps round trip from home to work, or I don’t wake up in the middle of the night as much as I thought I did. I can find out exactly how much you really do walk at Disney World. 

I look forward to seeing new updates from Jawbone and how far this band can go.

 

May 30, 2013

For They Were Afraid

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I don’t normally make a habit of blogging in the middle of the night, but sometimes an idea grabs you in its teeth and won’t let go until you’ve done something about it. In this case, it’s my relationship to the women of the passion narratives of the gospels.

I can’t, and won’t, make the intellectually fallacious arguments that the bible is in any way feminist or progressive.  It isn’t, and I find most feminist theology tedious and hard to digest.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the stories we do get of women in the bible – particularly the new testament – don’t grab me in a really visceral way. They do – possibly precisely because there is nothing intrinsically feminist about their stories, but rather they mirror my continued struggles with sexism today. In each of the passion stories (save one), despite large theological differences, there is one common thread: the women were the first to know, and the men did not trust them.

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Martha and Mary Magdalene – Carvaggio

Mark 16:

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

In Mark’s version (the earliest attested gospel), three women go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint the body: Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Salome.  When they find the tomb empty and hear the astonishing words of the angel, they flee. They’re the first to hear of the resurrected Christ, and yet say nothing to anyone.  These are the last words of Mark’s gospel. Obviously, at some point, someone must have cracked, or otherwise Mark’s gospel wouldn’t have been written. All the same, I understand exactly why it was written this way.  How often do women, armed with a powerful truth, keep silent because of fear? I know I’ve done it. I’ve probably done it this week. Fear of being laughed at, fear of being ignored, fear of being disbelieved, fear of silencing, often in very permanent ways. 

Mark has always been my favourite gospel to read, probably because it’s very human. The women at the end have shouldered a heavy burden of grief – they know it, and they’re getting on with their lives, even if it means handling the body of a dear friend, because someone has to do it. They’re not hiding in a locked room somewhere, like Jesus’ male disciples. 

You go on, because you must. I can’t stop myself from seeing misogyny anymore than I can stop myself from blinking. It’s a bad bargain, because when fear stops up your throat and locks your tongue, the truth festers inside until you can’t help but scream it or perish. If you manage to say out loud, “That’s a sexist thing to say,” or “That attitude is hurtful to women,” or even just a flabbergasted, “You fucker, why would you do something like that?” you’re met with resistance. Anger. Fear. Silencing. Worse, you’re met with nothing. No acknowledgment whatsoever that you’ve done anything other than bow your head and go on. Because you must.

Luke 24:

Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

“We know it’s true because a man did it.” Sometimes, as a feminist, you’re so grateful that someone put it into words other men will listen to, you’re willing to forgo the frustration that countless women have attested to it already. Stay silent, because you’re afraid.  Speak up, and they don’t believe you. In the game of he said, she said, he prevails. 

Though Matthew and Luke stem from the same sources (Mark and an unwritten, theorized Q gospel), their passion narratives differ. Matthew’s gospel has a punchier, action-movie feel to it. An angel appears to the women, telling them to tell the others that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Why, we don’t know, because Jesus himself immediately appears to them, and says the exact same thing. (A big budget picture, this one.) 

The eleven do go to Galilee, where Jesus meets them, as he said, but the consistent flow is lacking. For one, there’s an anti-semetic little interlude where the high priests and elders bribe the soldiery to tell everyone the disciples stole Jesus body “(a)nd this story is still told among the Jews to this day.” Which is darkly funny when you consider that all the passion narratives save this one are about how you can’t believe everything you hear. So while Matthew’s gospel makes no mention one way or another of whether the disciples when to Galilee because they believed the women’s story, or they went because they had nothing to lose, it’s easy to see why the author wanted to avoid conflating the silly, non-Christian Jews who believe any old lie they’re told with the followers of Jesus who believe in the resurrection. From a narrative standpoint, the omission makes sense. From a comparative reading standpoint, it stands out like a sore thumb. It’s entirely possible the disciples just ended up in Galilee independently of anything the women might have said – we don’t know. 

I can’t put my finger on why this version unsettles me. Erasure, perhaps. Every other passion narrative takes such pains to mention, however briefly, the women’s actions and reactions to the empty tomb, that this one rings extra hollow. It’s possible I just really hate Matthew’s gospel. (I do.) Maybe the author’s favourite drum to bang was the rather infamous anti-semitism (this is also the gospel that has the Jewish people claim the blood of Jesus on their heads), it super-ceded the cultural norm of ignoring and erasing women. Not a terribly comforting thought.

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Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (I was unable to find information on the artist of this one. If you know, please tell me!)

John 20:

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.

 

Peter is a dope, it is known. But similar to the story in Luke, he has to see what Mary said to believe it. And all he really knows is the body is gone. Later:

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 

(Author of John, don’t think I don’t see you reusing Matthew’s wording about the Jews.) Basically, it’s like the author couldn’t decide which to use: Luke’s story where the women are not believed until the men see it for themselves, or Matthew’s where the women ostensibly tell the disciples something, but Jesus takes it into his own hands and appears to them just to make super sure they know it’s true. 

Here’s the craziest thing about all these, and why these stories are keeping me up tonight: this is about someone LITERALLY COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD. The women did not speak because they were afraid, or they were not believed because their story was so flipping crazy-sounding. That’s shitty, in and of itself, but not unusual. But Jesus appears to the men, and they believe and speak in tongues and hug snakes and all sorts of cool things I am given to understand happens after the resurrection.

For us – for me, anyway – we can speak openly about sexism. We can give examples, name facts and statistics, tell our stories. Violence against women can literally happen in front of people – some of the things i have experienced were not without witnesses. It’s not a once in a lifetime occurrence. It happens all the time, in public and in private. Everyone can and should be able to see it, at least once in a while.

And yet.

Somehow, the thought that there still remains violence against women, slurs and sexual harrassment, and disbelief in competence, and wage gaps, and the feminization of poverty, and continued internalization of misogyny BY women is more incredible than someone coming back from the dead is mindblowing. People, good people as well as terrible ones, think this.  It keeps me awake at night.

They did not tell anyone, for they were afraid.  God help me, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to speak up, and I’m afraid to remain silent. 

 

March 2, 2013

REVIEW: World of Shell and Bone by Adriana Ryan

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I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked up World of Shell and Bone, to be honest. The blurb makes it sounds like most post-apoc/dystopian YA: devastating war, weird obsession with young women procreating, overthrowing fascist government. I don’t think I could have anticipated what I actually got, though.

The writing is passable, if flowery. It’s obvious there’s been some editing there. It feels weird to even mention this, because editing/decent writing is like that one feminist ally dude who feels like you should salivate over his progressiveness because he thinks rape is wrong, you know? But in the world of self-pubbing, this causes the book to stand out.  Same with the cover – it’s flashy and nicely done, and I appreciate that. (David Dalglish sucked me in the same way.)

But…

Vika Cannon lives in a world where sixty five years ago, a nuclear war devastates the world (barring most of Asia, for reasons unexplained except Because China), so that the depleted populations of North and South America band together and form one country known as New Amana, run by a feminist regime, because Men Like War, and War is Bad. 

There’s a number of problems here with the time line and world building.  For example:

Religion is not allowed any longer, although my mother can remember a time when she actually went to church as a young child before the practice was abolished…Churches and temples still stand, but they’re used for educational purposes now, to show how religion clouded people’s thinking before the War.

Vika’s mother is still alive in the course of the story, making her ~75 years old (and 55 years old when she gave birth to Vika). At no time is religion really ever mentioned again – no older people viciously clinging to their beliefs, no cultural memory of worshipping, or gods, or anything.  Just completely wiped out, except as a historical relic, in a mere 65 years.

Even more glaring is her description of race and ethnicity:

People in New Amana have interbred so the distinct ethnic groups of my grandmothers time are no longer in existence among the young, mainstream population. Now, almost everyone is some shade of medium brown with hazel or brown eyes, and hair that ranges from chestnut to soot.

Assuming the idea that In the Future Humans Will be One Race is even possible, having it happen within 65 years – ONE generation – is so outside any plausibility it just reads like some utopian wishful thinking. For what reason is unclear, given what a crapsack shithole New Amana is and how often the author reminds us of it. Under a feminist regime, women are still basically walking wombs, but at least there’s no race issues anymore? Jeez, who knows.

The whole underpinning of Vika’s story is the problems she faces under the New Amana government comes completely undone the more you learn about the world she lives in.  There’s a huge focus and pressure on women to procreate, despite the nuclear war creating a continent-wide nuclear desert and scarcity of food and resources. Women who currently haven’t had children are forced to wear red armbands with big zeros on them, for… some reason? It’s never really made clear why, even when Vika gets pregnant and gets a new armband (with a golden tree heavy with fruit!).  Given how much of your life rides on being able to give birth and emigrate to Glorious China for a life of hard labour/soldiering, armbands seem like an awfully flimsy protection.

Or how about the fact that the government, which the book solemnly makes clear to us Is Bad And Wrong, desperately wants women giving birth, but they are only allowed six months to try and conceive (reduced in the book to three months, due to emigration bottlenecking), before they are arrested and gassed to death. Why a world scarce in resources wants more children is beyond me, but it’s the motivating factor for most of the book for Vika and her peers, but why they gas the women (and not the Husbands) under a feminist regime is beyond me. 

Oh, sorry, did I say women? I meant “females”:

A Husband must have utmost faith in his female at all times.

 

“The Rads have some terrorist females,” Moon replies.

That is some Save the Pearls shit right there.  Men are subjugated, lesser, more or less indistinct from one another – but at least they have NAMES. They have titles!

The Radicals? Legitimate, lifted from the pages, redditors:

Rads are dissastified with the feminist angle of the government, and oppose nearly everything it does… they wear black to symbolize their oppression.

 

The Rads have always been vocal about “their” daughters being taken away, even though they know full well going into the Match process that the children belong solely to the female.

 

In order to force the men to break up their protest, they are sprayed with acid by the maintenance crews – lavender acid! Misandry is real here, you guys. Oh, by the way, though Guards and Escorts are women, for some reason, Maintenance crews are the enforcer types, and they’re all men. Confused yet? I sure am.

The Radicals main objective is to destroy the Asylums where the Defecteux – the Defective – are taken “for the good of the people”.  Ostensibly, the excuse is that unfit children should be studied so that people can stop producing kids with developmental disabilities or in the case of Vika’s sister, epilepsy.  Of course, there’s no scientific advancement involved, they’re just giant rape factories! Which… again, why do they exist then? If something serves no utilitarian purpose in a place so strangled for resources, why do they have it, especially when they are gassing perfectly healthy women?  The stakes are way too high for women alone in this feminist regime, and it makes absolutely no sense to me.

Vika and her Husband, Shale, witness a neighbour’s son be taken to an Asylum for being sickly, and he begs her to help but Vika refuses, nervous at the retaliation SHE might suffer. Later that night:

I part my legs. There’s a pause. Shale adjusts himself, puts his knees on either side of me. I wait for the starting words, my eyes trying to search his out, but it is too dark in the bedroom. Finally, he pushes off me. “I’m sorry,” he mutters, “I can’t tonight.” And he disappears into the bathroom again.

Look. I do not want to see the main character force him. Rape is awful, and it’s impossible to cheer for a protagonist pro-rape and coercion.  BUT Vika is the one who dies if they fail! It’s her life on the line! I would hate it, but at least with the world-building, it would be consistent for her to make him stay. In fact, if house husbands are so important to women in this world, why they aren’t consistently doped with viagra and/or calming meds (as we’re regularly reminded by the narrative, men might be lesser, but they are Biologically Stronger than women still, and we need to be careful not to anger them.) The fact that Vika just lets him go was the point where a strangled “waak??” came out of my throat.

Via Shale’s connection to the Radicals, he convinces Vika to help him (when she does, he shows her his appreciation by buying her a bunch of cooking utensils on the black market! Because she likes to cook! But she can’t, because it’s unfeminist!) She comes with him to a meeting, because she wants to be a part of a plan to break into the Asylums and free the children there (including her sister):

The door opens wider and the man steps out. He’s dressed in the Rads’ black uniform, a black bandana around his mop of curly hair. He thrusts his chin at me. “Who’s the cunt?”

 

When we enter, I stand still a moment, allowing my eyes to adjust to what is all around me.  The most taboo of le marche noir material is slathered on the walls. Twentieth century style posters of women in compromising positions and skimpy outfits are everywhere.

Wow, I can’t imagine why charmers like these are hunted by the feminist government! It’s because they’re scum. Why on earth I am meant to swallow the idea that a uniform race exists and religious memory mostly obliterated within 65 years but “bitch”, “cunt” and porno mags still exist is beyond me because it’s impossible.

The second half the book is mainly a blurry mess. Vika and Shale leave Ursa to go to Toronto to rescue her sister, they’re betrayed, she leaves Shale behind and finds a refugee camp full of Nukeheads and asylum escapees including her sister, who is thirteen and raped into catatonia basically. Vika is captured by a Rad and she is raped. The book ends with Vika and her sister on a boat, and Shale magically alive.  The only passage of any note once leaving her city is the magical makeup scene, part of an idea to help her sister by throwing a birthday party for her and the other Asylum escapees:

Soon I am braiding a whole group of girls’ hair. After that, I decide to work on their clothes. Yellow coveralls aren’t very becoming, we decide, so I loop some twine around their belt loops on either side of their waists and string it in tight to cinch in the waist. Some of the girls make flower cuffs out of wildflowers and grass. Others grind red and pink flowers into a paste and use it to stain their cheeks and lips. I watch in wonder as they are transformed from lost little girls into graceful young women.

And of course, then the girls have no problems dancing with men at the birthday party! Hurray, they’re healed from their aversion to men! Take that, feminism!

If this book was written by a dude, I would just be all over tearing him up one side and down the other.  Internalized misogyny is one hell of a drug, though, and it’s a bit more complicated than Victoria Foyt’s white supremacist fantasy world. The “feminist” government is clearly not written with any kind of feminist theory in mind, which, okay, ideologies can be perverted, maybe even within the short time frame set up in the book.

The hell of the whole mess is that this idea could have maybe worked with a little more research, a little more honesty and a little less desire to cash in on this whole concept of reverse oppression. Don’t make the male radical dude the hero! Don’t make the main character a loathsome, braindead obey-o-bot. Start with a main character who already knows the problems New Amana has caused in perverting the feminist ideology, who has access to stories about what feminism actually is about – people live to old age in the society, are you telling me she couldn’t track down ONE secret feminist?

All the problems listed above would be cast in a completely different light if Vika had been questioning them from page one. She doesn’t start asking why until her radical husband teaches her too – and they have magic, excellent sex. Somehow.

The fact that this same issue is plaguing stories about feminist leadership since Pamela Sargeant who was writing in the throes of second-wave feminism, where some backlash was a little understandable, is depressing as hell.

If you’re breathless to read a story where women are in charge and men are scarce and unimportant, at least in A Brother’s Price, women are given equal screen time and the Wild West setting is mildly interesting. Not so much here.  Perhaps between now and whenever the sequel is released, Adriana Ryan will do some much needed reading of feminist thought. 

Dear god, I hope so.