Sunday Post – Project Updates

I have a list a million miles long of things to do before grad school and I keep doing things and doing things but they only make the list LONGER.

I’m updating my About page and project pages today. Here are status reports on the various projects.

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First, #LazyLambs Book Club! I’m pretty sure I forgot to mention it here, but we’ve picked our next book: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I’m super excited about this one, it’s a Southern classic AND a lesbian classic and it’ll be very different from our previous book club choices. We’ll be posting on August 29th, feel free to join in on your blog or tweet along to the hashtag!

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I have a confession. I didn’t write a single goddamn word of What Dreams in July. I was about halfway through the second week when I realized it just wasn’t going to happen and wrote off the whole month. I don’t know yet if that was a very bad decision or a very good one. But I did a little work on some short projects here and there, anyway. And it is now August second, and I’m happy to report that yesterday and today I sat my butt down and wrote. (By the time you’re reading this, I actually wrote that sentence yesterday, just to ensure that it would happen, because I knew I wouldn’t want to go back in and edit this.)

I had lofty hopes for the summer, but knew the reality would be less impressive. It’s okay, I’m using my powers of cognitive dissonance for good.

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Project Reading Rainbow is on hold indefinitely. The majority of my books will be in storage for a couple years while I’m in grad school. And, after giving it a try most of this year, the sorting-by-colors is just gonna have to go! It appeals to my artistic side, but my librarian side is winning out! I never did regular updates on this anyway, so you won’t notice much of a difference. Book-related posts will absolutely continue.

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Lewis will continue as I have time. It’s been on hold for a terribly long time, so I’m not in any huge rush to get on a schedule, but I have no plans to drop it entirely.

Ant-Man is the New Iron Man

I think it’s fair to say Iron Man launched a monumentally successful series of movies. It’s also fair to say Iron Man was a surprise hit in many ways, so Marvel didn’t exactly know where they were headed at the time. In the years since the rather unfortunate Iron Man 2, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has learned a valuable lesson: Each movie doesn’t have to be bigger and better than the last. Instead, each movie should be the same, but different. With every addition to the lineup, Marvel has to give us what we want, but in a cool and unexpected way.

The MCU also has the distinction of being a decades-long undertaking. That means, unfortunately, actors won’t stick around in the MCU forever, so the writers have to keep Ant-Man posterintroducing new characters. Again, making them similar enough to the old ones to give us what we want, but different enough that we don’t get bored. I very much enjoyed Ant-Man on many levels. I mean, Hope Van Dyne is pretty much my new favorite character of everything, ever. But in the light of the MCU’s longterm needs, Ant-Man is even more of a success… It’s Iron Man, but different.

There are superficial similarities — sure, sure, it’s an origin story about a guy in a suit — but “guy in a suit” is actually a pretty distinct superhero trope. There’s a whole buffet of options, from “alien” to “chosen by the gods” to “scientific accident” and more, but “guy in a suit” is a particular favorite because it’s so overtly linked to humanity and human achievement. And this suit isn’t just another redesign of the Iron Man suit. It’s a totally new power that allows for a whole new landscape. Neither movie totally relies on flash-bang, but the Iron Man movies give a lot of space to special effects and cool ideas, and Ant-Man can do the same thing.

The movies have similar structures, starting with motivation, then the hero figuring out his suit, then there’s a big boss battle with the hero vs. a scarier version of his own suit. That’s pretty typical for all kinds of movies, of course. There’s also the previously-mentioned Hope Van Dyne, who’s basically “Pepper Potts with a grudge and superpowers,” not that I’m complaining, but more about her in a later post. We also see the same tone and humor in the two movies, the same corner of the MCU, smaller-scale and memorable for the snark combined with enthusiastic situational comedy.

The thematic similarities are more striking. Tony Stark starts at the top, a rich genius with everything he wants at his fingertips, but he’s wasting it. He’s disconnected from everyone and everything. He has no family, and his friends are just putting up with him. His story is about dropping to the bottom and re-grounding himself. On the other hand, Scott Lang is starting from the bottom, literally in prison the first time we see him, with only a handful of possessions to his name, and not many job prospects as an ex-con. He has a daughter though, Cassie, and he’s trying to work his way up because he desperately wants a relationship with her.

Iron Man posterTony Stark had pretty obvious father issues, living in his shadow, wishing for his father’s love. Ant-Man takes that theme and makes it the whole movie, with Scott wanting to be a hero for his daughter, with Hank Pym pushing his daughter away trying to protect her, with Hope resenting his rejection but loving him anyway, with Hank and Darren’s failed mentor/apprentice relationship and the same spark between Hank and Scott. (Not to mention Cassie’s new stepdad, and can I say how much I love the happy nontraditional family developing with them at the end?)

Finally, it’s entirely fitting that a feud between Pym and the Starks is what keeps the Avengers out of this movie. (Well, for the most part). It’s effortless compared to other movies’ explanations or total lack of an answer to the obvious question, “Where are the rest of the heroes?” It’s partly Pym being selfish, of course, but he does have a point. He doesn’t want that Pym particle going anywhere, much less right into Tony Stark’s hands!

In case you couldn’t tell, I think Ant-Man is a win. There are a few flaws, but it’s a fun movie with great characters and solid themes that hold up throughout the movie. It’s a visual treat, and I don’t even like bugs. It’s also the perfect next step in Marvel’s grand master plan, because it proves they can keep it going. They can build on the mythos we know and love, giving us new movies in the spirit of the old, and that’s exactly what’ll keep us watching for years to come.

Fake: From Manga to Anime (#queerpop)

FakeBack in April, my letter F in the A to Z of LGBT+ Comics was Fake, a yaoi mystery/action romance manga from the 90s, written by Sanami Matoh. It’s my favorite manga by far, and also just a great comic book, a fusion of romance and crime story. There was an anime adaptation in 1997, and I’ve finally had a chance to see it!

The anime adapts the third volume, for some reason, and is about an hour long. In volume 3, Ryo and Dee went on vacation to England and came across a series of murders, eventually realizing Ryo was also in danger. This volume also introduced Berkeley Rose, Dee’s rival for Ryo’s affections. The anime adapts it pretty directly, with a few short flashbacks to events in earlier volumes. The art did a great job of following the original, I could immediately recognize each character by their expressions.

(Also, the DVD is either dubbed or made in English, but also subbed in English, and the two aren’t the same. They’re sort of the same, mostly the same, but the word choices are totally different and a lot of the personality choices are totally different — the nonessential turns of phrase are gone in the subtitles, it’s all very brusque and declarative. Just ignore the subs if you can.)

The DVD says “Contains depictions of alternative lifestyles. Viewer discretion is advised.” I find this oddly humorous, but still, viewer discretion really is advisable. There are sexual situations, which is a different proposition onscreen than in a book, and this volume in particular is built around Dee trying to get Ryo to succumb to his advances. All of manga has consent issues, and yaoi manga is especially bad about it. This anime is neither better nor worse than the comic… Slightly problematic but on the whole better than all the other yaoi I’ve read. The story is the same in both, a solid crime story with a great romance, and volume three is representative of the whole in tone and content. So, if you like Fake, certainly check out the anime, and if you prefer watching anime to reading manga, then definitely give this one a go!

Feminist Friday: Feminism is a Queer Issue

We’ve been doing these Feminist Friday discussions for a while now. I’ve noticed commenters, on our posts and on feminist articles in general, often disagree with the need for feminism because they don’t want to single out one issue, they prefer to focus on “equality for everyone.” Sometimes this is just a dismissing tactic, other times it’s an honest preference. Either way, being feminist doesn’t mean I can’t be other things at the same time!

Everyone should be equal, sure, but not everyone is treated equally, and it’s important to point out which groups are disadvantaged and discuss ways to fix that. For concrete progress to be made, we have to move beyond ideology and start talking specifics. That doesn’t have to be a reductive or exclusionary process, though. Focusing on women’s issues also helps men, for instance, and women’s issues gay rights are human rightsinteract with other identifiers like race and class and age. That’s called intersectionality.

Personally, I’m very interested in queer rights and queer issues, and they overlap with feminism all the time. Gaybashing is about “not acting like a man.” Lesbian and bisexual women are raped to “turn them straight” or punish them for not being available to men. Trans-bashing is even more blatantly a “gender role” issue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into a neat, visually-obvious category of “male” or “female” is subject to hate and violence.

Feminism is about affirming the worth and equality of women. If our culture actually believed men and women were equally valuable, there wouldn’t be such a stigma attached to being “neither.” If it was okay for women to dress and speak and act as they please, it would also be okay for everyone else to do that. And likewise, as queer people become more accepted, there should be less and less of a pressure to WipeOutHomophobiaFBfit into gender-based behavioral stereotypes for everyone.

Our culture thinks men are the default and women are something extra, and that “they” have the power and moral responsibility to police deviations. This hurts everyone — men, women, others, and anyone of any gender with the slightest “unapproved” interest. It’s not “ladylike” or “okay” for a little girl to play with trucks, for goodness sake!

When the culture actually believes that women are equal human beings, queer people will be much safer and better off too.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: #queerpop or not?

While awaiting Ant-Man last Saturday, I became very confused when presented with this Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer, because I couldn’t figure out what it was. There’s superhuman strength, is it a superhero movie? Wait, I guess it’s a spy movie…

I don’t usually pick up subtext, and eye contact means nothing to me. But my first reaction is OMGso much eyesex in this scene that even I can see it.

That’s entirely subjective, of course, so let’s talk specifics. There’s a “we hate each other but have to work together” setup, which would inevitably mean sex and/or romance in ANY action movie with opposite-sex leads. The “I work better alone” lines are the same — and does “I’m allowing you to tag along” refer to ANYTHING but Indiana Jones wanting to mack on a hot girl? I was dumbfounded at the possibility that this might be a real actual trailer about gay spies.

As the trailer goes along it seems more and more James Bond. That franchise has always been a male capitalist lifestyle ad more than a movie series. Perhaps a funnier, better-plotted James Bond, but still… There are women in the trailer, and they do more than just strut around in bikinis which makes me very happy, but they’re still presented sexually and in multiple sexual situations with the two men. And then at the very end I realized it was Man from U.N.C.L.E. “Oh yeah, I knew that was happening… And there’s zero chance of making existing spies gay. Zero chance.” So disappointing.

But later I watched the first trailer, and Henry Cavill makes a heels joke in which he does not actually seem to be joking… So now I’m stuck wondering if it’ll be a less-sexist, less-heteronormative action movie, or if it’ll just be ship-baiting and joking the whole way through instead.

If this isn’t queerpop, it darn well should be. But of all the genres, I think the big-budget summer action movie will be the very last space to be queered. What do you think?

Sunday Post on Monday

I’ve been sick. I’ve been busy. I’ve been stressed. Blah blah blah, the usual, you know how it is. And I got into grad school and I’m prepping for that as we speak! But I apologize for the dearth of posts recently. There’s a glut of (hopefully) good ones coming this week, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you all ahead of time:

  • Earlier today: A Station 6 Garden Party. I really love these characters and want to do more somewhat-serious stories with them, but this one was fun too. :D
  • Tuesday: A #queerpop post about The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the movie. Not the “movie-related” post I had in mind, but the one I’d planned will happen next week, about one of my favorite queer movies.
  • Wednesday or Thursday: An essay about Ant-Man, which I saw Saturday and loved. I may bump this to next week depending on how the week goes…
  • Friday: It’s my turn to host Feminist Friday, and it’ll be about how feminism is a queer issue. I kind of forgot about it. Should’ve written that post weeks ago. But it’ll be as good as I can make it, and I think you’ll all be interested!

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Flash Fiction: A Station 6 Garden Party

As usual, I’m squeaking in at the end of Taliana’s party. The theme this time is a Garden Party, so I figured it would be fun to revisit my space station characters from several parties ago. And apparently when I think “Garden Party,” I think “Alice in Wonderland.” Also, I had a bit of a fever yesterday. So… you know. Enjoy!

A Station 6 Garden Party

“I don’t know why we had to come down to this blasted surface at all!” Ham bellowed.

Cris winced. They stood at the edge of a sprawling garden party being set up in the largest “room” of a byzantine hedge labyrinth. Station 6 was passing the planet, and all the station’s major functionaries had been invited. Ham, the diminutive hamster-shaped security chief, had brought along a tiny megaphone to ensure he’d be heard in all the ambient noise of a planet’s outdoors.

“You don’t have to shout, I can hear you.”

“Harumph!” he bellowed into the megaphone, pointing it straight at her.

She sighed. The Pheffl, Ham’s species, had lived on Station 6 for hundreds of years. “You could at least enjoy the change of scenery.”

“Change of scenery, my ass.” He harumphed again, but at least he wasn’t shouting anymore. “Grass everywhere like some damn jungle. Bugs and grime.”

“You’re one to talk. When was the last time you took a bath?”

He ignored that. “Not to mention the birds!”

“What?”

“Enormous birds swoop down, carry you off and eat you!” He flapped his hands back and forth in a vague approximation of wings, staring at her.

She rolled her eyes. “I hardly think that’s likely.”

He sniffed and turned away. “It’s been known to happen.”

“Mm.” She folded her arms and surveyed the party. It would be time to sit down, eat, and schmooze soon.

With startlingly coincidental timing, Ham yanked on her pant leg. “Hey, check out that mysterious figure over there.”

“If you didn’t want to come you should’ve just pretended to be sick,” she snapped. Ham just pointed, and she looked. She had to admit, the person looked mysterious.

“I’m going to go make sure they’re not up to anything sinister,” Ham declared. He tromped off toward an opening in the hedge.

Cris stayed put for a few minutes, but finally sighed and followed him. If the mysterious person was some kind of VIP, Cris should go smooth any offense.

She turned the corner, but the person was nowhere in sight. And how had Ham gotten all the way at the end of the hedge so quickly? She could barely see him. He was gesturing about madly, and she accelerated toward him only to see him start running in the opposite direction. She stopped, then in a flash of insight, looked over her shoulder.

An enormous bird of prey swooped toward her and over her head, making straight for Ham.

Cris started running, but the bird was faster. It snatched Ham off the ground, and with several deafening beats of its wings, lifted itself high above her reach. Ham’s megaphone dropped to the ground, and she could barely hear him shouting “I warned yoooooou…!”

Before she could think, the bird had disappeared. The garden was eerily silent. She couldn’t hear any of the party preparations, although everyone should be just on the other side of this hedge. When she turned, she couldn’t even see the hole where she’d left the party.

She turned again and jumped. A young child in a blue dress stood where she’d last seen Ham.

“Ehhm,” Cris said intelligently.

The child seemed to be pointing upward. “You have to climb that hedge. The one with the vines.”

Cris looked. One hedge corner rose above the rest, topped with flowering vines. She couldn’t tell how far away it was, but for some reason she started walking. When she looked back, the child had disappeared too.

“I must be seeing things,” Cris muttered.

Hadn’t she only been walking a moment? It already looked like twilight, and she had no idea where she might be. But she could still see the tangle of vines, the only landmark in endless twists and turns among the hedges, and she kept heading for that.

When she arrived she felt as if she’d been walking for hours, but it still looked like dusk. The hedges here seemed insurmountably high, mountains compared to the little eight-foot bushes surrounding the party.

Nothing for it but to climb.

As she scaled the vines, she started to hear noises — Ham’s voice, and bird sounds. He was still alive, at least!

A huge nest sat on top of the vines. She got an arm over it, braced her knee, pulled herself up, and froze.

Around a small tea-table sat three newly-hatched birds of prey and Ham. They clacked their beaks like gossips and sipped tea from painted china. Ham’s cup was too big for him, but he drank from it anyway. He spotted Cris and set it down with a splash.

“I told you so!” he said, pointing.

Cris surveyed the scene. “You didn’t tell me about this.”

Ham massaged his brow. “Just get me down, Cris. This will all make sense in the morning…”

#queerpop open thread

We’ve had two months of #queerpop posts now, and I think it’s going well! Combine the two-month-iversary with the fact that I just never got around to writing a post for this week, and we have the perfect opportunity for open discussion!

Questions:

  • What’s your impression of queer issues + pop culture at the moment?
  • Who’s your favorite queer character or creator of queer characters? (If you don’t have a favorite — what genre do you like, the commenters and I will recommend you something. ;) )
  • Any questions, concerns, or suggestions for the #queerpop column?
  • Anything else!

I am taking pitches for guest posts, especially to run in the fall while I’m starting grad school, so feel free to drop those in comments, emails, Facebook, etc.

Next week I believe we’ll have something movie-related, since we haven’t done that yet!

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Meet the Malimores: Thad, Reynard, and Micah

Well, technically I think Reynard’s last name is “the Fox,” but close enough… Thad, Reynard, and Micah are the fathers of Diana, Cleo, and Aldra Malimore, the heroes of a fantasy serial currently in progress.

For information about Rose B. Fischer’s fantasy serial, The Foxes of Synn, go here.

For an introduction to Reynard, my character out of the three parents, go here.

For Eclectic Alli’s interview with Diana, go here.

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(Reynard, Micah, and Thad chose to settle on the couch after their oldest dog, Shah, secured the perimeter and chose a corner.)

Me: Okay, gentlemen. This’ll be pretty short, since there are three of you. What’s it like being parents of celebrities?

Micah: It’s not all that much different. The girls have always been interested in doing big things. This time, they’re doing something more people can see. Paparazzi kept trying to camp outside the castle for a while. Thad shoots lightning bolts at them from the towers and Shah wanders outside and looks at them like he might sneeze, so they freak out and leave. There was that one who tried climbing up the wall to get a picture of Diana in her nightgown, but after I turned him into a frog, they stopped…

Thad; The academic community hates the stories. It’s hilarious. Diana gets so offended, but I TOLD her that if these things got published, we’d be snob-targets. The locals like it. I think that will be good in the long run. Might even lead to some popular political advantage.

Micah: Seriously?

Thad: Well, you never know…

Reynard: Mm. I’ve been a celebrity before. It’s just a different set of constrictions and things to take into account. Being a fox, you can find ways to bypass attention.

Thad: Mm, that’s right. I think we all have had our times in the spotlight, and I’m proud of how our daughters are stepping up to use it positively and dealing with the parts they may not enjoy so much. That was something I never handled well.

Me: What about your own appearances in the stories? Do you think people are getting a good impression of you?

Thad: Well, my appearances consisted of two lines so far. I got to be the generic Lord of the Manor both times so I don’t think anybody has an impression, but I don’t give a fuck what the audience thinks of me either. I like what Reynard and Micah have added. Quite enough for me.

Micah: Reynard’s scenes are always great. I’ll have a substanstial dialogue in August, and I’m glad I could help Aldra in that situation. I don’t want to consider very much about what the audience will think of me. The focus should stay on our daughters.

Reynard: Thank you. I didn’t remember I’d been in them that often, actually. I help when they ask me.

Me: So, what will you think if you start being in stories of your own?

Thad: Well, I still won’t give a fuck what the audience thinks. It’s different being the central figure of a story. Public perception of me has widely been either “Malimore, the great general and orator” or “Malimore, the dark sorcerer.” It’s been completely calculated and controlled on my part to give the impression that I have no vulnerabilities, but having myself shown in the light of a teacher or as Reynard’s magician is more of who I am. What I think of it will depend on how the writer does it.

Micah: I’ve been in theater, but I was always more comfortable writing than acting. I don’t know what I’ll think until I see it, but I’ll probably be embarrassed and everyone will think I’m cute, because that’s usually what happens.

Reynard: You are cute, baby.

Micah: (blushing and mumbling)

Reynard: (smiling) I’m curious about how we all look, sure. And I don’t want any misunderstandings that’ll come back to haunt me. But really, it is what it is. I like seeing Thad and Micah in print, it’ll be fun.

Me: Okay, last question. The stories are about your kids, and you mostly just make cameos. Are you surprised at the stuff your daughters get up to?

Thad: The externals, no. I’m not surprised. I’m aware of most of the goings on because it’s part of my role. I don’t pry into their business, but it’s my job to know what’s going on with the Thieves Guild and the Royal Court. The Kheldors are my protectorate, so I have to know what’s happening there. When those things intersect with our daughters’ personal lives, I’ll hear about it sooner or later. I just try not to interfere with their personal projects and relationships, they asked me to. That’s difficult because I could fix 90% of it for them, but I have to step back. I’ve been surprised by some of the emotional arcs. I didn’t know Aldra was having some of the problems she had in Doubling Back, and I did not like finding out that way. I didn’t know Diana thought I didn’t respect her as much as the others, either, and that comes up later on. I understand they’re adults and they’re not going to just TELL me everything, but I wish they felt like they could.

Micah: Mm, I agree with Thad. I know most of what the girls get into, but I’m less aware of how they feel about it and their personal relationships because they don’t tell me those things unless they’re already stuck and upset.

Reynard: Yeah. It doesn’t surprise me what they do. But they do surprise me.

Me: Okay. Anything else you’d like to add?

(Shah would like to add he thinks his sisters have exciting stories and are awesome)

Thad: What he said.

#queerpop: Do You Wanna Buy This Yogurt?

Chobani is the latest company to make waves with a queer-themed advertisement, following after controversies like the rainbow-Oreo ad or the pictures of happy same-sex couples in the JC Penney catalog.

The ad in question shows two hot women in bed, one of them eating yogurt and one sleeping. I admit, I didn’t know what to make of it at first glimpse… I thought maybe it was a woman and her daughter, or friends at a sleepover. After all, it’s not uncommon for yogurt commercials to imply that cup of dairy will be a woman’s moment of sensual bliss during her harried workaday life. But nope, this sensuality in particular belongs to a lesbian couple that clearly enjoys Chobani Simply 100.

Yay! We can always use more representation in advertising. Right?

Well… maybe. It plays to “sexy lesbian” stereotypes for sure, but basically all commercials play to tropes. The answer is to address the stereotypes themselves, not to lambaste one particular commercial that is at least a step in the right direction.

rainbow-oreo-kraft-foodsMore significantly, does the commercial work? Do you wanna try some Chobani yogurt, either because it seems sexy now or because they’ve expressed support? It is nice to feel welcomed by a company or product. I like buying Oreos. I like going to Starbucks. On the flip side, I do NOT like going to a certain chicken restaurant that I don’t even want to name. That’s all marketing, appealing to your target audience, and it totally works.

There are deeper concerns about whether or not a company follows through on its support, whether it has benefits for same-sex spouses and anti-discrimination policies or just wants to get attention with a controversial advertisement. Who has time to check that out for every single company in the world? Of course people will make judgments based on a company’s ads, for better or worse.

I like yogurt, I like queer rights… I tried the yogurt, and honestly it tasted terrible. It’s supposed to be Greek yogurt, but it’s runny. The whole reason I like Greek yogurt is that it’s NOT runny. I’ll stick with the Oats from now on and avoid the 100. But still… An ad like this makes me more likely to try something. What about you? Is it attractive, or is it just pandering?

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