Dystopian futures featuring teenagers seem to be the new craze when it comes to young adult fiction and movies. I am extremely happy about this turn of events; the vampire romances were getting old. The Hunger Games is currently making a crapton of money, Divergent is also making a buttload of money, and now it’s The Maze Runner’s turn to have a go at box office gold. But how will it stack up next to these other successful dystopian movies?
I’m not going to lie;
when I was reading the Harry Potter books, I loved Snape. I even have a t-shirt that says, “I trusted Snape” on the front, and on the back it says, “Oh, the cleverness of me. *smirk*”. So yeah, I really liked Snape. I mean, I’m a self-identified Slytherin, so of course I did. But now that I’m older and consider myself a feminist (I knew nothing about feminism while reading Harry Potter), I decided to go back and look at Snape from a critical feminist lens. And now I wonder if I was too kind to Snape.
World-building is one of the most important and most difficult things that an author must do. In fantasy, world-building can be anything from elaborate Tolkien-esque building of an entire universe, to simply attempting to explain how magic works in your world, or explaining the culture or political structures of certain magical creatures. These sometimes seemingly minor details can add so much depth to storytelling.
However, many times I find world-building tends to be forgotten by authors who aren’t creating a whole new world. The idea that urban fantasy or modern fantasy doesn’t need as much world-building, because these magical characters live in our world, shows a lack of understanding of basic storytelling. TV shows and movies are the worst offenders when it comes to world-building, often relying some on special effects and fast-paced action scenes to tell a story, and as a result the viewer leaves entertained, maybe, but lacking insight into the world and characters they have just visited. Even books sometimes suffer from this. It’s been said by many authors that less than half of what you write or know about the world you created doesn’t end up in the actual book, because it would distract too much from the actual plot. Obviously, TV shows, books, and movies are not meant to act like history books; they are supposed to entertain, so sometimes the world-building gets put aside for action or romance. No matter how good an author is at balancing world-building and moving the plot forward, unanswered questions about how a universe works will always come up.
“This pairing in the show makes no sense. I mean in fanfiction authors would write novel-length fic developing their characters’ relationships, but the actual show just randomly hooks them with no development. It makes no sense.”
“Wow, this fanfic is amazing. The studio should hire this author to write for the actual show. It would be ten times better then.”
Chances are you’ve heard people say things like this, or maybe you’ve even said them yourself. I know I have.
A while back, Rin talked about Fifty Shades of Green as an in-progress experiment by the Nostalgia Chick of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, and a few others, all co-writing a love story involving Cthulhu. The experimental writing story, now titled Awoken, parodies the common romance themes in popular YA novels nowadays. It is finally on sale, and though my copy has yet to arrive, it sounds all sorts of amazing.
Certainly, NChick and her friends are rather proud of their achievement, as they should be, and what makes the experience even more enjoyable are the reactions people have had to their story. Personally, I find the anger and bile for this book by people who don’t understand the joke to be quite marvelous.
If there’s one thing that appeals to me, by god, it is a queer heroine whose superpower is linked to books. That speaks to me on a nigh-religious level, and so it stands to reason that I’d enjoy Read or Die. Unfortunately, the manga series doesn’t deliver the level of awesome that you’d expect from that description.
Read or Die follows Yomiko Readman, a literature enthusiast with the power to telekinetically control paper. She’s deployed by the Library of England to deal with crimes related to books, such as rare book thefts or threats to popular authors. In the first volume, she’s sent out to protect Sumiregawa Nenene, a bestselling writer who’s also a high school student. In the first volume, Nenene is captured by a superfan who wants to rape… and… imprison her… forever? And Yomiko has to save her. Yeah, so this gets really terrible really fast. Later Yomiko gets into other problems that are less… rapey… but just as poorly plotted and melodramatic.
Although Yomiko’s queerness is never really considered to be inappropriate or portrayed as wrong, what
rubbed me the wrong way was that her attachment to books was drawn as creepily sexual. Like, the visual cues when she is holding a really rare book—the little drops of sweat, the huffed-out breath clouds, and the slightly watery eyes—make it look like she’s actually having an orgasm just from touching the book. And, like, I mean, if that’s what gets you off, then as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do your thing… but it’s like, aren’t there enough super-sexualized queer women in the world? Yomiko’s usual method of dress is a vest and button-down shirt, a long dark skirt, and a shapeless trenchcoat, so she escapes the usual problems of objectifying attire, but she just couldn’t escape being drawn in the throes of bookgasm in the middle of a battle.
Also, purely on a ease-of-reading level, the English adaptation in this manga is terrible, and it’s possible the original Japanese writing is nothing to write home about either. The sentences are blocky and poorly-worded, the exposition makes little-to-no sense, the dialogue is just super-awkward, and I’m not sure how much of it is due to poor writing and how much of it is bad adaptation.
I recall that a long time ago I watched the Read or Die OVA, on which this series is very loosely based. I recall it being significantly more enjoyable and markedly less skeevy, so if you’re interested in the concept of this story but not in this particular terrible adaptation, I’d recommend you watch that instead.
I have been thinking recently about the practice of making existing characters who are previously thought to be straight into queer characters. It’s not something that happens often, but it has been done before. In DC’s New 52 reboot, the Green Lantern Alan Scott, previously assumed straight, was revealed to be gay. Batwoman was another character who was previously assumed straight—ironically, she was actually introduced as Batman’s girlfriend to prove that Batman was straight. Now she’s a lesbian. Yay! On television Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character that is still often debated by fans. While her character’s bisexuality was definitely erased, many fans still argue over whether there was evidence in previous seasons that showed that Willow was attracted to women.
Furthermore, the Slash Madness Tournament is here again and is currently in its final match-up. Once again it’s come down to a war between Destiel and Sterek fans. Last time I checked, Destiel was in the lead by a small margin, but the Sterek fans are certainly putting up a fight. What’s more interesting to me, however, is less the tournament itself and more how fans talk about these two giant pairings. Fans seem to think that winning tournaments like this will prove to The Powers That Be that certain queer relationships, like Sterek and Destiel, would be supported by the whole of the fandom if they were made canon. By showing support for these pairings in a visible way, fans believe that writers will realize that the fandom won’t abandon the show because of canon gay characters—rather, fans will actively support it.
While I’m all for people shipping whatever pairings they want, I have always been skeptical about turning canonically straight characters into queer characters. This mostly has to do with having decent writers in my opinion, and even that’s not always a guarantee. I’m especially concerned with characters like Dean Winchester, who is portrayed as a real ladies’ man. In this case, I worry about writers trying to claim that character is now completely homosexual, when logic would dictate that he is at least bisexual. I also worry about the reasons why we, the viewers, are just now learning that a character is queer. Why have these characters never shown any interest in same-sex relationships until now?
A real life example of this is Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon did not originally intend for Willow to be gay, but come season four, he decided to have a character explore their sexuality and thus Willow became a lesbian. In my opinion, the whole thing was handled very poorly. Other than one episode in season three where Willow’s evil twin is described as being “kind of gay”, there is no indication that Willow is attracted to women before season four. Maybe if Whedon had spent a season or two developing her sexuality this transition could have worked out, but he didn’t, and it didn’t. I’m not saying that these issues can’t be dealt with, but so often they aren’t or aren’t dealt with well.
It’s no mystery that I love parodies. Everyone loves parodies, or at least they should. It takes a certain type of humor and a certain skill to take an already created work and change it into something amusing, but still faithful to the original. And these days, what’s riper for the picking on than the young adult paranormal romance genre of novels? They’ve got your Twilights, your weird fallen angel stories, fairytales with a twist (the twist is angst), and I’m even going to put 50 Shades of Grey in there because you have to admit, it’s a little supernatural how fast it blew up in the popular media. Within this genre, the worlds and universes that can be tapped for inspiration are a promising parody writer’s oyster. This week’s web crush is much more than a simple parody, however; it’s a hands-on study of the genre and the publishing industry as a whole.
Back at the beginning of February, media commentators Lindsay Ellis and Nella Inserra, more commonly known as the Nostalgia Chick and Nella respectively, started an amazing journey under the catchy title, ‘50 Shades of Green’; a project whose goal was to get a terrible paranormal romance written within about a month and then pitch it to actual publishers. Not on their own, of course. Every aspect of this novel was a collaborative effort between the two ladies and their audience of video viewers and followers from various other social media sites. After listening to the comments and ideas put forth by the enthusiastic viewership the final product was imagined under the name of Awoken, a paranormal romance staring Cthulhu. I know, right? And trust me, with their desire to keep is as close to Twilight-level as possible, it’s going to be as terrible as it sounds.
Keeping with the community input, even the original manuscript of the story (only shared with the publishing companies it was sent to) was co-written by around six different authors—this was most likely due to the time constraints they placed on themselves—but the impressiveness of getting a novel-length manuscript written and edited so that each different author’s part homogenized with the rest cannot be ignored. In a further attempt to continue their ruse, a community-formed pseudonym was created: the “author” of Awoken, Sarah Ellenson. This fictitious person would allow those that were in on the joke the experience, the joy of being an over-defensive author willing to go the extra mile to attack the ‘haters’ of the book, as real authors in this genre are stereotypically wont to do.
But, as I said earlier, this journey isn’t just about the writing process; it’s also about the publishing process. In their newest update, they actually received feedback from various publishers in response to their query letters (the letters authors sent out to companies trying to make their book sound appealing and profitable) and, as opposed to what one may think due to the brutally critical nature of the publishing industry, not all the feedback was negative. In fact, one small publishing company even offered them a chance to publish their book legitimately rather than leaving them to deal with the beast that is self-publishing. It brings up an interesting conundrum of retaining the artistic freedom allowed by self-publishing versus gaining a wider audience with a more well-known publisher and even now I’m not sure with method of publication they’ll end up picking.
No matter what they choose, I’m too invested. I want to see how this ends, and what possible implications this could have on the publishing industry and the genre as a whole. What would a project like this reveal to up and coming writers? What are the lessons that can be gained? I’ll have to watch through to the bitter (bittersweet?) conclusion of this epic to find the answers to those, but it’s something to ponder. Here at BlipTV you can watch the entire process from beginning to present, and I highly encourage you to do so. I’ll even embed the first part below. Here’s hoping that these ‘50 Shades’ see as much green as those shades of Grey did.
The second book has Harry Dresden following another series of murders, this time done by werewolves (I’m not spoiling because it’s pointed out on page two). Maybe it’s because I read the first book of the series immediately followed by the second one, but the beginning was ridiculously repetitive. There were entire paragraphs describing characters in the second book that were the same as paragraphs in the first word for word. Additionally the events of the first book were frequently recapped. I found it really irksome, but if you had taken a couple days/weeks/months/years in between books it might not have seemed so repetitive.
So, werewolves. To be honest, I’m rather ambivalent about them. The only time I can actually remember being freaked out/excited/moved in some way, shape or form was a two part Goosebumps episode that ended in the werewolf suits getting buried in the ground so that the people couldn’t use them anymore. That was about fifteen years ago (you have no idea how horrifying that was to type). Other than that, I haven’t been a really big fan or sought out werewolf things.
This book gave them a slightly different spin by making different kinds of werewolves. It made it different for me, but it also got confusing toward the end when I had no idea which types of werewolves were on whose side and everyone was going crazy.
I think Butcher, the author, does a terrible job with female characters. You have the cop, Murphy, and you have the sexy reporter, Susan Rodriguez. While both are rather well established characters at this point, they are so cliché. Susan Rodriguez in particular is practically Rita Skeeter, and it drives me nuts. Hopefully some twist is thrown into either female character’s story because at this point the writing of both drives me crazy.
Overall it’s a good book. If you watch too many cop shows on TV (like me) you might be able to guess the ending, but it’s still worth your time!
In my opinion there are two kinds of fiction: the kind that has intense heavy themes, allegories, symbolism, etc., and the kind that doesn’t (like crack for your brain). This book is the latter. I personally prefer books that I can pick up, read, enjoy, and then proceed to go on my merry way. Every so often I go for the deep, heavy book, but that’s not common.
Storm Front is the first book of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, which is a series of fantasy mystery novels. Storm Front follows Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, wizard and private investigator, as he helps the police solve a series of violent and grisly murders with magical origins.
I love fantasy-set-in-the-real-world books. I adored Harry Potter—who didn’t though?—and the Artemis Fowl books (before they went south, which really means I liked the first one and the premises of all of them). Fantasy is actually my favorite genre; I like it much more than science fiction. The juxtaposition of the real and the unreal makes for interesting and fun reading.
My favorite thing about this book is its voice. When I read something, I like being able to imagine someone actually saying all of the words. Not as in reading the book aloud, but as if the author and I were sitting in the same room and he was just talking and telling me a story. I know I tend to write how I speak, and I love an author who does that too. Butcher really gives Harry a voice by writing the book in first person. And I enjoyed what Harry said/thought and how he said it.
It’s not a very long book—I read it in under three hours—but it’s definitely worth the read. I’m really trying not to give anything away because it is a really enjoyable, shorter book. So go read it!