Girl Jedis and Pink Widow

Ever since The Force Awakens’ release, many smart people of the intarweebs have been asking the same question: Where’s Rey? Why is this film’s protagonist not represented in more of its tie-in toys and other merch? She’s on a few things, especially items aimed at adult customers, but, she’s conspicuously absent from most of the things meant to be taken out of the box and played with, rather than gathering dust on a collector’s shelf. What gives?

Disney, which now owns the Star Wars brand, doesn’t produce this stuff themselves—they license other manufacturers to do it—and the most glaring fail on the Rey merch count has been in items produced by Hasbro. (Interestingly, this company is also Disney’s new partner for products based on their princess line, which does raise the question of whether their lack of Rey merch is in any way deliberate on that count: Could it be they’re not supposed to be marketing anything to girls, because that’s what the princess division is for, and they’re not supposed to poach those customers?) The uproar about this has been loud enough, however, that Hasbro’s been forced to issue some statements explaining themselves, and promising more merch to come. Their excuse—that including her would’ve been a spoiler—is pretty ridiculous. It could be argued that some of the pre-release marketing was designed as a red herring—leading us to believe that Finn would be the one in whom the Force awakens—and thus a reveal of Rey holding Luke’s lightsaber would’ve been too revealing, but let’s be honest: That’s ridiculous. There was no reason at all for them to make stuff with her that included the lightsaber. There’s a ton of promo images and even a fair amount of other merch that has her with the staff she uses on Jakku, so they could have done it that way instead of holding back. Indeed, they could have actually made more money by making Rey-with-staff stuff, and then issuing new Rey-with-lightsaber stuff, so people would buy both.

This absence definitely isn’t because of spoilers or sales, then, so what’s the real reason? Well, the short answer is sexism. So’s the long answer. Especially when one considers that Hasbro is also the company that seemed to forget that Black Widow is a member of the Avengers (in fact, she’s been in more MCU titles than any other team member except Iron Man) and that Gamora was one of the leads in Guardians of the Galaxy. So yeah. Sexism. But how? Exactly what kind of sexism is at play here? Continue reading

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About those guys in Oregon

I admit that my first response to this news was basically Picardfacepalm.jpg. It still kind of is. But since a lot of well-meaning people have been coming at this from a race/media coverage angle, I feel like I need to get into this a little more. Basic gist: Yes, these guys are terrorists, but what they are at heart is a bunch of playground bullies showing off to try to prove how manly they are. We of course need to take them seriously, but not so seriously that we feed their fantasy that they’re noble soldiers fighting a large-scale war.

First, let’s understand who these people are, what they want, and why they took that building. Continue reading

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SWTFA and Box Office Records

First off: Hi! Long time, no blog. More on that in another post. For now, I want to talk about something that’s gone around the intarweebs in the past few weeks, as The Force Awakens has become a pretty big box office, critical, and fandom juggernaut since its release. (Note that the below contains some spoilers!)

Folks on the side of inclusiveness in SFF have been pointing to the record-shattering monetary take of this film as evidence that yes, people WILL go see a movie whose three main characters are a woman, a black man, and a Latino. (Not to discount the presence of the old-favorite characters; I’ll address that further below.)

Meanwhile, the tooth-gnashing on the “SFF IS, TOO A (cishet, white) BOYS’ CLUB, YOU EVUL INTERLOPERS” has been largely aimed toward discounting this film’s box office performance because, as they argue, there’s an enormous built-in fanbase for this franchise, and the presence of characters from the original trilogy makes it even more appealing to folks who have been fans for decades. People are going to see old friends Han and Chewie again; naturally that’s going to mean more ticket sales, and even more than the prequel trilogy, because it didn’t really have any of our original characters (save Yoda, Baby-Wan, and baby C3P0; the less said about baby Anakin the better.)

Both sides are right, to a degree, but both sides are also operating from a set of inherently flawed data: The idea that current-dollars box-office records have any real value in measuring audience. Let’s therefore get that out of the way before we go analyzing why this movie is making bank, and whether that has anything to do with the race and/or gender of its most-prominent characters. Continue reading

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Oh, hey, I have a blog!

This summer has been a whirlwind of meatspace-life chaos, and I’ve barely had time to keep up with Twitter, much less any media that takes a longer time to consume/create.

I haven’t been completely idle, however! In July, I released Bryn’s Folly, a short story set in Harper’s Mythic universe.

At the end of that month, I also managed to get away from the domestic hurricane long enough for a writing retreat. The net result of that was another ~6,300 words on Harper’s sequel, bringing the total to about 12,800 so far. Haven’t been able to do much writing (except in my head!) since then, but I’m hoping to get back to it within the next month or two. Either way, I expect to release that one sometime next year, with Worlds Away, the sequel to Tesserae, to follow soon after.

Will attempt to post more here soon (oh goodness, do I have a lot of political commentary to make!) but for now, I hope folks enjoy what I already have out.

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Realized I forgot to post about my new book here!

Tesserae is my third novel, and the first of a two-part story (the sequel will be released later this year.)

Basic gist, if you don’t want to read the back-cover blurb below: Wormholes! Aliens both cute and scary! Bisexual love triangles! Poor life choices and family drama! Sarcasm, creative profanity, and gratuitous handwaving of physics!

If that doesn’t sell ya, read on: Continue reading

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Subtext and Subversion: Update

The Vikings season finale just aired this week, so I figured it’s time for an update on the show’s amazing, and in my opinion groundbreaking, central male/male relationship, which I commented on last summer. Our pair, Viking king Ragnar and his constant companion Athelstan, a former Christian monk captured in a raid in season one, have been through a great deal over the course of the show so far, and this season only upped the stakes–to a significant degree.

Will get into the spoilery details below, but the short version: The narrative of this relationship continued doing what it did all through the previous seasons: hitting trope after trope of a kind almost always found solely in stories of romantic love. While still maintaining a tiny shred of plausible deniability for those drowning in heteronormativity, it even crossed lines I never expected a show like this would cross. I have to give showrunner and sole writer Michael Hirst a lot of credit. There are things about this season that I really, really hated, but he did actually Go There in a lot of ways that we simply never see for shows in this genre. For that, he deserves a lot of respect. More on this–and a detailed analysis–to come. For now, allow me to illustrate the greatness.

With the same episode-highlights format I used before, here’s a rundown of what happened for Ragnar and Athelstan in season three:

Continue reading

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Woman’s world

This piece on about writing female characters is terrific stuff. Go read it.

It also, however, makes a good jumping-off point for something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while: How the boring reality of everyday life is often at odds with progressive goals for creative works.

In my many years of discussions about feminism in creative works, it’s been more or less accepted wisdom that women should be allowed to be heroes, warriors, politicians, business leaders, etc. Women should, in other words, be allowed to have power in the culture/era in which they reside, whatever currency that power comes in. In a society that is ruled by violence, women must be allowed to engage in combat. In a society ruled by money, women must be allowed economic autonomy.

In recent years, however, that’s been countered by a quasi-essentialist perspective insisting that we’ve marginalized or denigrated the importance of more-traditional women’s roles, particularly in the domestic sphere and in conventional performance of gender presentation (adornment, etc.) In giving our most-prominent women characters the power currency of their culture, they argue, we are overvaluing things that are supposedly inherently masculine, and therefore making them become men.

I could write an entire post on why essentialism in itself is sexist hogwash (power does not belong to men and is therefore not inherently masculine, folks!) but instead, I’d rather focus on the less-contentious aspect of this argument: The uncomfortable fact that domestic life is inherently boring unless acted upon by a dramatic outside force, and therefore poor ground in which to sow a story. Continue reading

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