Magical Mondays: Fantastic Cryptids and Where To Find Them

A frame from the famous (in cryptozoological circles) Patterson-Gimlin footage of what’s supposedly a Bigfoot walking through the woods. (via Wikipedia)

This may or may not be a known fact to our readers, but in case you missed it, I love cryptozoology. I think it’s a fun and harmless interest, and while you won’t catch me out in the woods doing Bigfoot calls, I won’t pass up the opportunity to watch a “documentary” about someone else doing just that. But despite the efforts to make cryptozoology seem like a serious branch of science to tie Sasquatches to a missing evolutionary link and lake monsters to dinosaurs who never went extinct, I think a lot of people, myself included, are interested in cryptids because they offer an element of somewhat fantastical chaos into a world in which it sometimes feels that there’s not a ton left to discover otherwise—especially if you’re a layperson without a handful of science degrees. Anyone can go sit on the edge of Loch Ness and hope to spot a monster. And hey, isn’t it hubris to assume we’ve discovered every known species when we’re constantly discovering new and bizarre creatures in remote areas?

That said, the general belief is that people who take chupacabras, skunk apes, Jersey Devils, and the Mothman too seriously are stubborn, stupid, and naïve. But though cryptids themselves are often fantastical creatures, the attitude we have toward them in the real world seems to be exclusive to the real world. While some fantasy stories do feature cryptid-esque animals, they’re never treated with quite the same sense of dismissive derision—by either the narrative or the people involved—that real-world cryptids and cryptid enthusiasts get. In fact, the farther you get from realism, the more likely it is they’ll be celebrated rather than mocked.

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Throwback Thursdays: Dove Isabeau

Dove Isabeau Cover

(via Goodreads)

As with many families during the 90s, my family was a Disney family. In my eyes, though, there were fairy tales far more enrapturing than The Lion King or Pocahontas. My mom had this stash of fairy tale stories that I’d never heard of before—it was from this stash that I’d first learned about The Snow Queen and got a head start on my Frozen disappointment. Fairy tales don’t tend to age well under a critical eye, but I remember there being one story in particular that seemed outwardly feminist, even to my tiny baby mind, which had no idea what feminism even was. Jane Yolen’s 1989 Dove Isabeau doesn’t manage to escape all of the not great fairy tale tropes, but the agency given to its heroine and the rejection of typical masculinity saving the day is enough to make me forgive the tropes the story does hold onto.

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Magical Mondays: True Love’s Kiss + Princess Doesn’t Equal Story: Frogkisser! and The Frog Prince

I’ve been a fan of Garth Nix for a long time, as you may know if you’ve followed my Old Kingdom ramblings on this blog for a while. However, I was a little disappointed by one of his more recent children’s offerings, Newt’s Emerald, and only picked up his latest, Frogkisser!, with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried. Frogkisser! ended up being a humorous, sometimes-satirical take on The Frog Prince, and had all of my favorite things — badass women of color, a rambunctious talking puppy, and absolutely zero romance for the fairy tale princess. But surprisingly, unlike other revisionist fairy tales, it reclaims some of the spirit of the original fairy tale, while subverting some, though not all, of what we believe The Frog Prince to be about today.

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Sexualized Saturdays: The Life-Changing Magic of Being Not Like Other Girls

As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.

It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.

The cup of a carpenter is not like those frilly other cups. (via indygear)

However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.

This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading

Throwback Thursdays: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the story’s frightening relevance in Trump’s America has led to a resurgence of interest in the original book. I read it back in high school, but watching a couple episodes of the show rekindled my interest in reading it again. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to a copy of the audio book. Atwood’s magnificent prose delivers a chilling, timely tale of a world where women have lost all control over their own lives and bodies. Despite its 1985 publication date, the book engages with numerous issues that remain relevant today, especially in light of current events.

Warning for discussions of slavery and rape below. And, of course, spoilers through the very end of The Handmaid’s Tale novel.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Bingo Love

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Tee Franklin when we both attended a Gail Simone comics signing. I had no idea who she was at the time, but when Gail greeted her with an excited exclamation, I figured they might know each other through the comics business. (As it turns out, they did both work on the Love is Love anthology, which raised money to support victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.) After learning who she was, I also found out that Tee was definitely doing some important work for comics: she is the author of the delightful-sounding graphic novella Bingo Love.

I took home a postcard advertising the story and looked it up right away when I got home — and immediately decided this was something I needed to get my hands on. To let Tee describe it:

Bingo Love is an 80 page graphic novella that revolves around Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two thirteen year old Black girls who, in no time, become the best of friends. As their relationship grows, they discover their deep love for one another, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Two girls in love are bound to be star-crossed in 1963, and their families forbid them from seeing each other again.

Not only do the young women have to endure the pain of separation, but they’re also both married off to men they don’t love. They seem destined to live apart, permanently cut off from one another, but fate — and bingo — have another plan for them. Nearly fifty years later, Hazel and Mari once again see each other across a bingo hall, and all their feelings come flooding back.(x)

So you can see why I might be hooked.

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Minor Character Appreciation: A Song of Ice and Fire’s Margaery Tyrell

There are very few things I like better in the television adaptation Game of Thrones than in the original source material. And when such a rare improvement does occur, the show has proven time and time again that it is more than capable of messing it up. One such thing is Margaery Tyrell. Although she has a large role in the show, her A Song of Ice and Fire counterpart features significantly less often. We never see the story from Margaery’s perspective, only from the perspective of others, and it’s from them that we are left to interpret her character.

(via wiki)

Game of Thrones made her much more active in the story. This allowed the show to imprint on her a fascinating and cunning personality. I know I’m not the only one who was blown away by Margaery when Game of Thrones first introduced her—she’s a proponent for gay rights, sexually active, sure of herself, and smart enough to play the eponymous game of thrones. Of course we loved her. Unfortunately, this is still Game of Thrones. Margaery seemed amazing on the surface, but when you dig deeper, it’s clear she’s just another victim of Game of Thrones’s terrible misogynistic writing. Making her more active in the story is all well and good, but it came at the expense of Cersei’s characterization, because once again, the show completely failed to realize the original purpose of Margaery’s character.

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