Friday, 24 July 2015

Things and Stuff #19

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: utter loathing, a silver lining, and three random nice things

Thing 1: I hated Only Ever Yours, and here is why

[Trigger warning, and spoiler for what I'm about to say: fictional sexual and emotional abuse, but mostly self-image problems and fatshaming, so much fatshaming I can barely breathe, so much I swear it has given me an actual crick in my neck from spending so much time recently feeling furious and upset.]

Only Ever Yours is The Handmaid's Tale for teenagers, so you know it's going to be pretty grim. And it is: this is a universe in which terrible, terrible things are completely normal. This is a universe where girls are groomed literally their entire lives to be perfect, submissive, blank slates. When they turn 16 they will become either wives who are killed at 30, or sex slaves who last less long than that, or sexless teachers who impose these same things on younger girls until they drop dead...

And the absolute worst thing the main character or anyone else in this world can imagine happening to them is to end up looking like me.

KILL IT WITH FIRE (c) Louise O'Neill. This is presented out of context by necessity, but also I think reading it out of context may be the closest you can get to experiencing it the way I did...
I understand that the book is meant to be condemning this attitude, making it so extreme as to be ridiculous, mirroring the thoughts of an anorexic person onto an entire culture to show how absurd the whole thing is. I understand that it's a dystopia and in that context of course the main character would feel like that. I understand.

But excuse me if I don't care. Excuse me if I can't quite focus on the worldbuilding while reading the point of view of a character who believes I am so disgusting I do not deserve to live.

This is not theoretical. When it's as constant as this, it just stops being about the context. I don't care what the author was trying to do. What she actually did was write phrases like 'nobody will ever love a fat girl' over and over and over again. What she did was have her main character be so obsessed with her weight that she does herself an injury, and violently humiliate girls who put on a few pounds (leaving me wondering what the hell these people would do if they saw me - quite possibly have a heart attack and die, which would be fine by me). 

You are god damn right I'm taking this personally. 

I think the real problem is that when it comes to this aspect of the book, this is not some wild dystopian fantasy she's presenting here. This is what people really think.

If you are not fat, you might not know this, or might not care. But this is exactly what people think about people like me. And it's not just airbrushed supermodels in all the magazines and hateful scum on the internet: in a Yougov survey I took recently, about 70% of respondents agreed that people like me should be refused medical care until they lost weight.

Refused. Medical. Care.

I respect people, especially other fat people, who can read this book and simply see its obsession with how disgusting we are as a cautionary tale of where society could go. I totally respect people who can be disturbed by the book as a whole, and tut, and say how awful, we should feel sympathy for these girls because they are victims.

I am not that person. I hated this book and I hated all the characters, and it was a reaction of pure self-preservation, because they hated me first. If I had bought it in paperback instead of ebook I would probably burn it, not because it was a bad book that nobody should ever read, but because I feel the need to exorcise it from my life.

(I really didn't need the abrupt and shallow gay panic section either - yet another example of 'oooooh look at my fancy subtext' without anything to back it up - or the utter lack of any redeeming features in any of the female characters who we actually get to spend any time with, that is until the one good boy comes along and shows the painfully stupid main character the error of her bitchy ways. To be honest, the nihilism of it all struck me as profoundly unfeminist in places. But y'know, mostly the fat thing.)

Thing 2: the silver lining

I've read more in the couple of weeks since I finished Only Ever Yours than I have in ages. I don't know if it's because my day job and my sideline both involve so much written fiction, or what, but reading for pleasure had started to feel a bit of a chore. But in the last week I devoured The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, which I adored and which made me cry in the good way, and I'm a good chunk into Wake by Anna Hope, which is also really great so far. I think that Only Ever Yours has reset the bar for books I read so incredibly low that I'm finding a whole new joy in it now.

Thing 3, 4 and 5: three things to cheer me up after I've made myself tense and sad writing about this

I had some really good related news last week and also this video is really pretty and soothing (c) Bandana Glassworks

Good advice, Mister J (c) via alias-milamber on Tumblr, I don't know who made the image but the cosplayer is Anthony Misiano

Pure joy (c) Walk The Moon, too many movies to list and MsTabularasa on Youtube

Friday, 3 July 2015

Things and Stuff #18

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: UV2016, Sense8, Flashheart, Pride, Weather

Thing 1: Get discovered!
Submissions for Undiscovered Voices 2016 are officially open, and you should submit something! (If you are an unagented, unpublished writer or illustrator of children's books.) As a winner and now organising helper, I honestly can't recommend it enough. Also, do yourself a favour and go and read the guest blogs on the UV website - the wisdom there is better than anything I can do here right now.

Thing 2: It's a bit gr8
Listen, if you hate foreigners, LGBT people, TV with a more interesting cast than it has mythology, or joy, then Sense8 is not going to be for you. 

Literally everybody else needs to give this series a chance. It's about eight people who suddenly start being able to slip into each others' lives even though they're all living thousands of miles away from each other. The how and the why of it genuinely doesn't matter. 

Although this relatively non-spoilery clip demonstrates nicely how it works visually and emotionally and is well worth a watch.

What matters is that each one of these characters is a beautiful perfect cupcake of a human being - they mess up, they make mistakes, they spend rather too much screentime staring into the middle distance looking melancholy, Riley, but on the whole their little faces are perfect and watching them interact is an intensely joyful experience. 

The other day, I was bemoaning having to read a book featuring not one character I actually liked and wishing for something entertaining where good people did good things. My prayers were answered. The Wachowskis know us. They know how we like our relationships, our action sequences, our sex scenes (of which there are quite a few, and they're almost all queer, and it's amazing, because I'm not sure if I mentioned but this is one of the most stunningly queer shows I've ever seen. I put off finishing Orange is the New Black for this, I'm even not kidding. Some shows do this delicate little flirty dance around queer characters and relationships like ooh, don't you like my fancy subtext, isn't it pretty, and then run a mile when they see actual queers taking them at their unspoken word. Sense8 comes along and stomps all over that shit with big rainbow boots on and it's wonderful). 


I think that some people don't like it because they are bothered by the fact that it is very consciously diverse and its message of universal human experience is a little heavy handed. Those people are wrong and can sod off. I think some other people may not like it because they think it's slow or because the mythology tastes of Lost and Heroes, in that there's not much of it and it's likely that if explanations do come they will be incomplete or unsatisfying. Those people are probably right, and can also sod off. 

Thing 3: Laters, Bladder
A late entry that I spotted this morning, the tumblr 50shadesofFlashheart is perfect. Enjoy. 

Genuine Grey quotes, genuine Rik Mayall faces (c) 50shadesofFlashheart 

Thing 4: Pride
Pride happened. I didn't go to any marches. I was proud in my own way, which mostly involved sitting at home playing Skyrim (of which probably more another week). 

I was happy for the people who went to the big marches and had a great time, and I was moved by people who marched in other countries where there's less corporate sponsorship and more rubber bullets. I was really happy for Americans, who can now marry in all 50 states, and I was really happy for people in Mozambique, where homosexuality was legalized in June. 

My point is... I can believe that marriage equality in the USA is important for cultural awareness reasons, and because actual American queers wanted it, and still acknowledge that marriage is not the only thing we need to be fighting for, that this Onion article is basically bang on. And I can think that Pride as an event sounds pretty tiring and believe that there's all sorts of internalised rubbish and corporate bullshit going on, and still be proud. 

And anyone who wants to suggest that either thing precludes the other is welcome to fight me. 

Pride (c) Pride (Pathe/BBC Films technically)

Thing 5: A guide to the operation of your Rosie unit in warm weather

Brr, it's a bit chilly outside
All systems online, ready player one, receiving loud and clear

Average temperature
Systems running

What a lovely day!
Most systems running normally, stress alert activated, please monitor your unit carefully and back up any important files

Woo, summer is here! I wish I was at the beach today!
WARNING, WARNING, DO NOT ACTIVATE, TODDLER-STYLE MELTDOWN IMMINENT. Restrict access to other units. Verbal instructions will not be saved into memory. Do not allow unit to use public transport. Under no circumstances allow unit to attempt shopping. Rage venting systems online, stand well back. Public property destruction mode in 3, 2, 1...

error no rosie detected please reboot

The State of the Rosie

What am I writing? Still working away on the gay Victorian gothic YA. This month, I have discovered and put in a really cool historical det...