Wednesday, February 19, 2014

addendum to previous post

I brainfarted and entirely forgot about something.

There is a dream sequence in the novel, where Lyssa is remembering a party her uncle had when she was leaving home. It turns into a nightmare that ties into the events happening in the plot, but is otherwise not that important except to explore a bit more of Lyssa's mental state at the time.

Her uncle has two people working for him, one a man the other a woman. I described them wearing their fineries for this party, and the guy was wearing a fancy baldrick and a sword while the woman had her finest jewels out of the occasion. It seemed fitting, after all. Women were jewels all the time!

But then, thinking about it, I realised that it wasn't what I was going for. The man had a sword, which implied he was a warrior and a strong person, able to defend himself and fight, and the woman was on display with shinies, which implied she couldn't. As I was writing it, I didn't think twice. It was just... a thing. Only in retrospect did I see what I was unconciously doing in the subtext (and actual text).

An hour or so later, after re-reading and digesting, I went back and re-wrote it, adding jewels to the mans baldrick and sword, and changing the womans jewels for a fine set of daggers. A small change, some may say, but I think it was important. Even just a few years ago, I wouldn't even have considered that what I did was problematic. This, if nothing else, shows me how I've changed in my views of how women are represented and how the world treats them, and I took a concious choice to change that and give her the same kind of place and unspoken agency of strength and ability as I did the male character. It is, verily, little things like this which are important, I feel.

If I wanted to be a smart-ass, I'dve have shifted the sword to the woman and the jewels to the man but that's not really what I wanted to do. I wanted to show that, even in minor roles of little to no importance, a womans abilities are the same as a mans. It may be clumsy and silly, but I thought it important enough to include.

Women in fantasy

I am, on occasion, plunking away at a fantasy novel. The main character (who was originally one of three, but I've since edited my notes) is a woman. I didn't really go "I WILL MAKE A FEMALE CHARACTER THE FOCUS BECAUSE FEMINISM", but just organically decided "I'd like to try writing a female character in a fantasy setting". A lot of it is because I've explored a lot of fantasy, in roleplay and novel form, but never really saw many women at all.

A part of me did go "shit am I going to be put on the rack for trying to push this as if it was an agenda" (which, considering that male fantasy fans seem to get spontaneous orgasms whenever they engage in sexist behaviour against female authors and characters, is not really what you'd call a slim chance), then decided "fuck it, it doesn't matter. This character is forming in my mind, her adventures are growing, and I want to write this. Not because she's a woman, but because she is the main character in the story I want to write. And if anyone decides to bitch me out about it, I will devour their faces".

As a (self identified and generally cis) male, I don't have that big of an idea of what a woman goes through in life, or how their thoughts go. Thankfully, as a generally smart person who is a strong feminist, I tend to imagine that women are basically the same as men in most ways (some physiological differences aside). And, since it's a fantasy world I've made up, I can neatly avoid a lot of the social constructs that generally plague women in our world (and in many fantasy universes that are based off of reality, like G.R.R. Martins A Song of Ice and Fire, which keeps a lot of the European christian based sexism while in a polytheistic world).

There is still a lot of things I have to struggle with when trying to write her (Lyssa is her name, so I'll just use that whenever I need to refer to her). I distinctly remember one specific point, near the beginning of the story, where Lyssa was faced with escapping from a group of thugs sent after her for nefarious purposes. My original concept was to have the underlying threat of rape happening at one point, where she was cornered and near caught. At the time, it felt appropriate, cause after all these are thugs right? and that's what they do with women they're cornering, right?

Then I paused and considered the thought process that brought me to this idea. In a society where there isn't a clear Patriarchal world order following a regressive and mysogynistic form of religion and order, *would* rape be used like this? I honestly don't know. Our culture has been run from that point of view for so long, and any other social structure has been destroyed, dismantled, erased and stricken from history so that there isn't much at all to go on.

In a world with actual, functioning and intersceding Gods, of which half are female or ambiguous gender, would our understanding of sexual violence exist? In a world that was, originally, based off of a D&D campaign I wanted to run where either (and all, though I've rarely seen, run or played in a game with somebody playing a *trans or other gender) can be exactly as capable and society aknowledges it, would the male domination of power still be the same, and engender the same sort of perils for women?

The short answer is "probably not". The long answer is... Complicated. At the end of the day, I just took that entire idea out of the story because I didn't think it was relevant, it would add in a horrible little bit of possibly triggering text for people just wanting to read a silly little escapist fantasy story, and honestly the scope of the story (and my skills as a storyteller) just aren't up to addressing those kinds of questions. And, instead of trying to address it and doing it poorly and just making a mess, and fucking up the *actual* themes I want to address, I'm just going to not go into it. It's easier for me, easier for anyone who would want to read it, and just honestly better off in general.

There was another aspect that I changed heavily, as well. Originally, Lyssa had a love interest. He was a poor, simple son of an apothecary. Simple, kind, caring, etc etc etc and just about every generic "nice guy" attribute my fifteen year old (at the time I was drafting) self could put into a character. She was to fall in love with him, and have him dramatically taken away and break her heart and fuel her anger and magic to almost kill her while she took revenge for his death.

I have since grown up and calmly decided that this idea was stupid. It was fueled by basically every regressive and fairly sexist stereotype I had growing up, and was a bit of a gender-swap wish fulfillment fantasy. I got rid of the idea so entirely that Lyssa, in fact, has no love interest at *all* in the book!

As of right now, the only actual people *with* a love interest are those with whom that love interest is a part of the setting and plot of the work. Outside of them, everyone else is too fucking busy being big damn fantasy adventurers to bother with finding twue wuv. And, I honestly think it'll work out better this way.

I'm still a bit worried at times, though. Then I pause and consider the state of women in the world, and in fiction, and I tell myself "fuck it". It may be seen as me pushing an agenda, it may be seen as me being some sort of gelded-feminist-lapdog, but I'm going to do it anyway. Because, in the end, the fact that this kind of thing is so rare, and gives me such pause, is fucking attrocious. And if my one silly little book can help to make the world of fantasy fiction (or fiction in general) characters slightly less male-dominated, then it's a win.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

ugh illness

I was supposed to go to work last night, but I got a sudden attack of Gastro so that didn't happen.

The ironic thing is that I wanted to call in sick anyway to spend the night drinking and watching silly movies. But, thanks to gastro, I called in sick for real and just read Cracked articles all day.

I've been fairly busy with work and trying to not collapse into a puddle of horrible emotional depression, but I've had a couple things keep me up and not dying.

Sleepy Hollow is a surprisingly amazing little show on FOX that I hope keeps going for a while. The writing is amazingly smart and fun, and while maintaining a solid grasp of the internal logic of the world it still manages to have a sense of humour about it all. Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie are both wonderful in the lead roles (and Nicole is now my TV crush because goddamn <3 she be hot and smart and just unf tashi want). In fact, the amount of black actors in major roles in this show is great in general, and I'd love to see more of this kind of casting.

Agents of SHIELD is less fun and amazing, but still worth the hour or so a week I spent on it. I keep hoping they'll expand the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe world a bit more, but they haven't really done much to play with it yet. Hopefully, with the big names behind it, it will have more time than a Whedon show usually has these days and can spread its wings and find the proper balance of everything, and match the potential of the conceit.

Top Chef is still an amazing guilty pleasure of mine and I will never regret squeeing about it and getting emotionally involved in all of the drama and backstabbing and cooking and also Padma is my other TV crush.

man its starting to look like I have non-white-woman-fever.

The Olympics are on again, but I'm not really watching. With the whole clusterfuck of Russia and their bigot laws happening, I don't really feel comfortable joining into the whole paen of celebration and shit. The only real exception I'll make is for the Womens Hockey, once the round robin is over. Not Mens, since if I wanted to watch NHL players doing NHL hockey I'd watch the fucking NHL.

Frozen is Spectacular and everyone should see it. If Disney can continue like this (after Tangled, Wreck-it Ralph and Frozen), they're going to take the crown of Animation Superiority from Pixar.

I haven't finished a single game I was talking about playing last time. That's how it goes with me these days, I lose focus super quick on stuff. Bleh.

The meds are working, but still not 100% on the emotional front. Still missing a few things, and can't find them.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

holy shit an update

I've been lazy and tired recently. At least I don't have many fans to dissapoint?

Today, I just had a conversation about "political correctness" with someone and it veered into them basically claiming that the social justice concept of calling out bad behaviour is bad, and we should not do it. They claimed that this kind of thing will just "sweep the problem under the rug and make it harder to fix", while basically ignoring the idea that biggoted speech and behaviour helps to maintain the status-quo of social injustice and disadvantage. They even further went on to say that the Social Justice concept of calling out this speech and behaviour is censorship, and censorship is *always* wrong no matter what so we shouldn't do it. There are a lot of problems with this.

For one thing, censorship.

What is censorship? At the most basic, censorship is when an organisation or group in a position of power mandates the elimination of a particular idea or speech from media and society that it finds distasteful for some reason.

What censorship is *not* is the population in general going "this is distasteful" and speaking out against it, refusing to purchase things containing this idea, or otherwise activisting (it is TOO a word) for the elimination of this behaviour or speech in general.

When a group of bloggers or summat go "stop making rape appologising comments you assholes" they're not censoring speech. They literally *cannot* censor speech as they are not in the position of power to do so, and are GENERALLY speaking for a group that is in a disadvantaged position.

The other problems are a bit more complicated, but they basically boil down to giving the people with biggoted behaviour and speech more care than the people affected by their behaviour and speech. It is, quite literally, saying "how can you be so mean to those poor racists. They don't deserve it :("

I don't think I actually need to explain why that's problematic.

do i?