Monday, January 27, 2014

Why are sexist books best sellers?

Women in novels:
How I see them.
Yes, I've injected some gross hyperbole into that title.  I don't like throwing around terms like "sexism," since I think the term's been overused to the point where it's almost meaningless (like the term "fascist" just means anyone who doesn't agree with you online).

However, these are some books that hit it really fricking big in the last few years, and that still confound friends of mine with their popularity, and even with their very existence.  This might count as a rant, but, damn it, some of these things are stupid. And wrong.

Now, keep in mind, I haven't read any of these books, but I've been told about them, researched them a little, and every stupid little thing I've seen has amounted to one great big question: Who the Hell is reading these books and why?

If you remember the "Strong Female Character" blog, you can see this as a bit of a sequel.  We've gone from fully fleshed out, well-developed, kick-ass women .... to this.  Books that treat women like crap, and they're made into bestsellers.... by women!

Twilight .... Where do you start with Twilight? Maybe over at RM Hendershot's blog, where she discusses how the main characters have little to no personality, and there's almost no plot at all.

Maybe with my friend Annie (wife of my co-author from Codename: Winterborn) noting that "Vampires are going crazy over blood from a paper cut. why aren't they going insane every time the heroine has her period? Have we forgotten that teenage girls have periods?"  Or, another of her sayings, "Vampires don't sparkle! They immolate!"

Another quarter is an online fellow named "The Nostalgia Critic" on YouTube, who sums up Bella Swan like this .... (WARNING: R-rated language ahead.)

I think Twilight was summed up for me in a matter of minutes when I tripped over the movie played on cable. Two characters were in a diner, and the vampire explained to our hapless nimrod (named "Bella") that he could read the mind of every person in the diner except for her.
Bella: "What's wrong with me?"
Vampire: "I tell you I can read minds, and you ask what's wrong with you."
That's it. Twilight, summed up by its own content.

A friend of mine on Facebook once asked how the last book/movie ended for Twilight.  I had been told through another acquaintance, so I informed her.  My friend replied: "Stop making fun of me."  I kid you not. She didn't know I was being deadly serious.

After decades of women's equality (I'm Irish, our women have been ass-kickers even in our mythology), going from Equal Pay for Equal Work, to Rosie the Codebreaker (the codebreakers from World War II who would staff the NSA) to every strong female character on television, to .... Bella Swan?  And teenage girls are even allowed to read this garbage?  And adult women buy these books in droves?

When did we fall off the merry-go-round? [Answer below the break]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: The Book of Helen

So, I'm going through the internet, and one of the forums I'm on is asking for reviews of this book, The Book of Helen.

In the interests of honesty, I should inform you that I got a kindle copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.... yes, I have a Kindle now. I caved in.

Premise: Remember Helen of Troy? In this version, she has lived to a ripe old age, her husband Menelaus died of natural causes, and her step-children are all interested in showing her the door, one way or another. Her only option is to fly to Rhodes, only Queen Ployoxo has other ideas for her.

Despite being a historian, I tend to be wary of "historical novels," mainly because they try too hard to be "authentic." For example, with Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire, you can find more minutiae about Spartan equipment than you ever need to.  The Book of Helen doesn't have this problem.  Sure, it has various and sundry elements of Greek life, but they're implemented casually and effortlessly. Like Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels, it might be in a historical setting, but it doesn't try to ram all of their studies down your throat.

There are parts of this book that read like a Greek myth version of The West Wing (the early years, when it was about strategy and process, and not about slant). Helen is a political genius, almost a savant, and can manage crowd, and is basically "the hostess with the mostess" on steroids.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Pius Legacy

So, back in November, I promised that book two of the Pius trilogy, A Pius Legacy, would be out before Christmas.  Strangely enough, it's not out yet.  If you're wondering why, well, that's a funny story....

Okay, it's not. My beta readers all got tangled up in other business, stalling the publication for weeks. Simple as that. The final proof copy is still being dissected.

So, while killing time, I should probably mention a slight change in format around here.  I've been reliably informed by People Who Know Such Things that the best way to encourage people to buy my books is to get them to like me, engage them (ie: you) as friends.  Which is strange, I've always thought the best way for people to buy my books was to write something they want to read. Oh well, silly me.

Then again, if I were a people person, would I be a writer?

On the other hand, two years ago I had a public meltdown on the blog; by which case, I guess I should be a bestseller. I'd do it again, but I don't have the energy for one of those. If you're utterly confused about the incident, just look in the archives for Valentine's Day, 2012.  You'll either be amused or confused.  You've also see me get emotional over best friends I've never met, praise low tech, and see me go through a girlfriend, a job, and a video game.

My COSTCO grocery shopping
In any case, there will be some occasional changes. For example, I'm going to be doing some more reviews. I will give my personal opinion on more "stuff" in general. I hope not to be too boring, and if I am, I hope you gentle readers will give me what for.  You've already seen an example of my new take with last week's post on the fall tv season.

Soon, you'll be getting a collection of strange thoughts that bounce through my head at regular intervals, including thought experiments with my friends, the occasional excerpt, other things I have cooking up, strange events that happen in my general vicinity, that sort of thing.

But, for the moment, I guess you all get a reprieve from my general strangeness.

Although, if you want to follow something really strange, then may I direct your attention to a piece from US News & World Report, which pretty much looks like "the evil Catholics on the Supreme are working with the nuns and the Bishops to ram religion down your throat."  I would, and could, spend pages upon pages dissecting this stupidity, but Liz Scalia has already done a line by line vivisection of this over at No, I don't know Madam Scalia personally, but Ann Lewis apparently does (For newcomers, Madam Lewis is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes authors--as good as Conan Doyle).  And Patheos isn't the only ones who've ripped that idiocy apart..... And then, US News & World Distort (as some of my more right-wing friends have called it) decided to double down on their hate crime.

Maybe you haven't noticed, but that sort of crap really pisses me off.

Anyway, have fun with that, and if the blog isn't updated tomorrow, it will be next week.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: the tv season thus far

This is going to be a little odd, but this review was inspired by... well, the fact that we have such bloody good television on right now. And I mean surprisingly good, with strong writing, tight plots, deep universes, and intelligent character moments that jump up and bite you.

Walk with me through my television viewing.

Arrow: Where can I start with this show? The writing is great on the character level, the episode level, the season level and the series level (they obviously have a plan here, and it shows).  I started out thinking that this was going to be incredibly weak.  I mean, Oliver Queen? The comic book version was the uber-Leftist twin of Batman who dressed like he was rejected from a Robin Hood remake. The television show, on the other hand ... yikes, what don't they do? This season (#2) has, so far, given every supporting character and guest star some great moments, from flashes of intellect, deductive reasoning and sheer bad-assery (that's a word, really); we've also had appearances by Solomon Grundy, the rise of Deathstroke and Barry Allen, and Ra's al-Ghul has managed to deeply effect the show just by the mention of his name. There is very much a DC universe out there, and it's all out to get Oliver Queen.

And then there's....[more below the break]