Cooking the Books Roundtable on Strange Horizons, with Elizabeth Bear, Gregory Frost, Nalo Hopkinson, Scott Lynch and Fran Wilde. Descends pretty quickly inot a gross out, but lots of good thinky thoughts and resources for thinking about food.

How to Read Like a Writer on Brain Pickings, with link at the bottom to more books about reading like a writer. Ana @ Things Mean a Lot posted about reading Reflections, a book by Diana Wynne Jones about her writing.

How to Be a Male Ally on Ana Mardoll’s blog. It’s hard to find good articles on this topic. I read this right before Thanksgiving and I thought the first point was helpful for anyone thinking about how to navigate holiday parties/family events. My reaction to the post blindsided me. I read most of it in a kind of objective, this is not talking about me way (even though most if not all the scenarios described have either happened to me or have happened to people I care about), until I got to point 5, How to Talk Among Strangers. I lost that distance and I got really upset for a few while. I don’t know if it’s because she uses a story to make her point, but suddenly I was thinking, OMG, how much would I have loved someone to intervene when something like this has happened to me, on the subway, in meetings, at social events. It might also be that I often don’t let myself think about the level of threat I have felt when it was happening, because it interferes with making it through the situation and then afterwards I don’t want to think about it at all.

#1ReasonWhy twitter conversation about sexual harassment of women in the gaming world.

For contrast She Who Dies with the Most ‘Likes’ Wins? by Jessica Valenti at The Nation and When Men Are Too Emotional to Have a Rational Argument on The Gloss. The second one showed up in my twitter feed so many times I could almost hear women shouting “Hell, yeah!”

Right on the heels of my No Brain Bleach Needed Here post I read the Book Smugglers’ review of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. Love Laini Taylor; probably won’t be reading it.

Why Cat Sews by Kate Elliott, on worldbuilding and women characters.

Malinda Lo on Heternormativity in Fantasy and Bitterblue, parts 1 and 2. Read the comments, read the comments!

Birds on Twitter

Kitchen Sink Links

Some Tips for TV Ladies (and all others) Who Want to Go On Living

TW: violence against women, violent images, violent self defense suggestions

So you know that thing you do when you yell at the TV? And of course the TV doesn’t listen to you? Well here it is, on the epic fail of women on to defend themselves in TV land, my living room rant, brought to you. Welcome to my head.

Luther. Guilty of fail. every. single. time.

Season 1. Episode 4 (untitled as far as I can tell)

A woman unwittingly enters the home of serial killer. She has received a phone call from no less than the police telling her she is in danger. She locks herself in the bathroom (with a DEAD BODY, in case she was in doubt). The killer pounds a hole in the door, sticks his head in and laughs manically:

BBC One, image from Luther, season 1, episode 4

And she:

BBC One, image from Luther, season 1, episode 4

Cowers. Now don’t get me wrong. This is a SCARY situation. The adrenaline and the terror must be overwhelming and probably almost paralyzing. But her life is AT STAKE. And she is in a bathroom where there are many DANGEROUS POINTY THINGS. After the kitchen, she probably has chosen the best room in the house (if she couldn’t get out the front door that is) to lock herself into.

He is unable to reach her because the hole is too SMALL.

This is what she could use as a weapon based, on my own bathroom:

Toilet bowl brush — good for stabbing right down his throat (which would choke off his maniac laughter), into his eyes (if he can’t see, it’s harder for him to hit her) or into his windpipe (ditto, if he can’t breathe). Also he seemed pretty fastidious, as many TV serial killers are, so waving the business end in his face would probably freak him out. But in self defense it’s best to injure with the intent to neutralize the threat.

Deodorant spray — I imagine this would hurt a lot if sprayed in the eyes. Also is this stuff flammable like hairspray? I don’t have hairspray, but I totally remember making hairspray flamethrowers in high school (what, you didn’t do that?). Light it up. MAJOR DAMAGE.

Free-standing toilet paper holder, shelving, metal garbage can, hair dryer, etc. — all that adrenaline could be used to batter the shit out of this guy, and from a little bit of distance too

Scissors — by the time he’s close enough for her to use these, he’s awfully close. Still, last ditch effort because it’s her LIFE. Stab hands, eyes, throat, ears, etc.

Shower curtain — if it weren’t wrapped around the dead guy she could wrap it around the killer’s head and/or body to suffocate him/limit his movement (I don’t actually recommend this one, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right?)

Shoes — she’s wearing pointy heeled shoes. If she nailed one of those suckers in his eye or throat she’d do some serious damage.

Lastly, her fists, the palm of her hands, the edges of her hands, her feet, her head — everyone can use their own body as a weapon, not just the bad guys. TRY SOMETHING. IT  CAN’T BE WORSE THAN WHAT HE HAS PLANNED because he’s a sexual predator/serial killer!

His throat and eyes, two of the main areas you should concentrate on in self defense are exposed and vulnerable. She could gouge out his eyes. She could punch him in the throat with either a fist or the V of her hand between her thumb and the rest of her fingers. Any of these things could incapacitate him enough to prevent him from harming her. Since his head is so exposed, she could try hitting him in the temple. You can kill someone like that.

If he got in the bathroom, she should kick his knees to break/dislocate them, stomp on his feet to break the little bones there and aim for all the other vulnerable places already mentioned.

Instead, she waits for the police to come rescue her. And she’s lucky, they DO. But I was PISSED, because if this wasn’t the moment, with an immobilized killer with a door between them, for self defense, I don’t know what is. Another missed opportunity for a TV lady to act like a real person. Sigh.

In the search for some crumbs to make me feel better about watching TV, here are the things she did right:

She listened to her instincts/the phone call from the police and got as far away from him as possible
I think at least once she screamed for help. She knows the police are on the way, she should be giving them and anyone around a clue to where she is
She put a locked door between him and her. While a small room with no other exits is NOT the best plan, she might not have made it to the front door, so it might have been her best option.

Sooo, that was Luther. I could probably do this for every episode. Hell, episode 3 literally had a woman in a refrigerator. Instead, next time, I’ll do something a little lighter, less violent, physically or psychologically, maybe even a little family friendly: Once Upon A Time.

Serious part here. I am not a self defense expert. I have taken three different kinds of self defense classes as well as karate in my life, which I think were of differing usefulness. One of places I took self defense, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, teaches self defense to kids. One of the things they teach the kids is that EVERYONE has the skills to protect themselves, either by avoiding a dangerous situation, getting out of a dangerous situation or telling someone about a bad thing someone they are supposed to trust is doing to them.

Women can protect themselves, but we are socialized not to trust our instincts and into victimhood by the depiction of passivity in the media (among lots of other things). If all you see on TV and movies are either women as victims or women as superheroes (ala Buffy, which we can’t possibly imitate), why would you believe you could? If you never take a self defense class or a martial arts, why would you believe you could?

Kitchen Sink Links

Malinda Lo and Forever Young Adult had my favorite blog post responses to the LA Review of Books newest “What about the menz?” oh no! opinion piece by Mesle. Kate Milford and Saundra Mitchell had the best comment responses.

I discovered Ana Mardoll‘s deconstructions some time ago, maybe through Foz Meadow on twitter (who also hit it out of the park this week with her comment on Scalzi’s blog on When Gut Boys Attack, a response to another sexist idiot blathering about women/comics/cosplaying). I always find Mardoll’s points, and the comments from her readers, fascinating, especially this one Twlight: Removal of Agency.

I’m still trying to think about things I believe to be true because I read them in books, even though I should know better, after reading I was not told about this on Jenny’s Books. Don’t miss the comments about eating bear meat.

The Literary Omnivore analyzes yet another sneering at genre opinion piece in Genre Fiction and Feelings.

This is from before the election, Ending Rape Illiteracy, by Jessica Valenti, but just because the rape apologists mostly lost office (or didn’t win) doesn’t mean we can forget about all the bullcrap people believe. Some post election stuff: Another Year of the Woman? Not So Fast, NY Magazine and Women and People of Color Will Be a Majority of Democrats in the House, Colorlines, with the observation that you can literally see the party lines now.

Some Thoughts about Gender in YA Dystopias on Crunchingsandmunchings.

Books of Wonder, NYC’s children’s and YA bookstore has an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to meet their rent shortfall after losing their subletter. Because of Books of Wonder I’ve met so many readers, authors and wonderful people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, plus they have the best children’s and YA events in the city. If you give to the campaign, my friend, author Alison Cherry will send you a vampire story. I’m sure it will be quirky, odd and funny.

Literary Genre Syndrome or How The Elegance of the Hedgehog Ruined The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Cover of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower...

Cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is my experience of reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower; it’s not a review and there will be spoilers.
The last “literary” book I read was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery in 2009. A friend loved it, she gave me a copy. To be a good friend, I read it. It was slow going at first, but I liked Paloma, I liked the references to Japanese culture and I even got some of the philosophy references. Then the end happened, like, well like getting hit by a truck. Or rather, the other main character, Renee, was killed in a car accident, just as she was escaping from her dismal isolation and learning to enjoy life.

And once again I felt betrayed by the literary genre’s insistence that a sad ending (usually death) is the only true ending of worth there is.

What does this have to do with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky? Quite a lot, at least in my mind.

See, there are quite a few mentions of car crashes in Perks. The death of Charlie’s aunt in a car crash when he was young affects him throughout the book. In the middle, there’s some risky behavior involving standing in the bed of a speeding pick-up truck while driving through a tunnel. (My adult self says “risky”; I wouldn’t be surprised if my child self is shouting “Yes! Fun!) Towards the end there is some discussion of whether various characters are sober enough to drive and my genre signals got crossed. (A little. Perks has been called a “modern classic” and we all know how much they love sad endings and death too.)

My pattern-seeking mammalian brain was shrieking “Someone is going to die in a car crash, maybe even the main character!” and I dreaded that anticipated ending so much I barely saw the story that was there. A “literary” book almost demands death; a classic approves of death; but commercial books are the best at planting clues so the reader can guess and anticipate and feel invested in the story. (I know my biases are showing, it’s my blog.) Death seemed inevitable.

I guessed wrongly and I didn’t get the payoff of investment in the book until very late, almost too late: the last two chapters actually, when I figured out that what was going on had nothing to do with car crashes and everything to do with abuse.  Maybe this was intentional slight of hand on Chbosky’s part. “Look over here while I do something tricky over there with the cards.”

Unfortunately I was distracted by a few other things. Recently, as in after this book was originally published, there have been a few books with main characters with Aspberger’s so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if that was what was happening with this book. I did not get the “intellectually gifted but maybe emotionally damaged” vibe I think the book was going for. (Maybe this is a terminology problem? Wallflower for me doesn’t equate with Charlie’s extreme lack emotional interaction with others.) And early on, there is a scene with another character that Charlie interprets correctly as rape. Adult, educated feminists often stumble over identifying coerced/forced oral sex as rape so it struck me as very odd that a 15 year old boy would do so. Especially since his fumbling towards feminism older sister doesn’t (unless I’m getting confused with a different scene).

All this adds up to me feeling a little sad that I formed so little connection to a book that so many people love and frustration that I was thinking about The Elegance of the Hedgehog and trying to decipher signals instead of reading the book in front of me.