On account of how change is scary and thus LiveJournal's new update page rubs me the wrong way, I've made the deeply ironic and incomplete change over to Dreamwidth: My skeletal account is now set up, so you can find me as juushika
on Dreamwidth; everything will be crossposted to juushika
and LiveJournal will remain my central hub for social interaction (although replies to my posts are welcome anywhere). Basically, this means no change for anyone reading this now, but if you prefer one site to another feel free to follow/interact with me there; meanwhile, I get to use a better update page that's more likely to load; the end.
I put J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy
on hold when it came out on account of it being Rowling, and four months later my name finally came up on the list; I'm 30 pages in and about to call myself done. I'm also (finally, phoenixfalls
) reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Spell Sword
Last night while reading the latter I told Devon that while I agree that there's a need for sexist fictional societiesso we can explore their flaws, and make parallels to the flaws in our societyit would be lovely if maybe once in some fantastical setting in a distant era sexism could perhaps just ... not be a thing. Bear and Monette's A Companion to Wolves
and Tipper's Grass
(which I read last month) both have innately sexist societies despite the fact that they're as disparate as ancient pseudo-Norse and future space colonization, and it's sexism with depth and commentary and purposebut it was still my daily dose of sexism, always explored to about the same point: hey guys, sexism really sucks! this man here is realizing that; this woman here is struggle to overcome that. their small efforts make us feel better but honestly make few significant changes to their society or ours.
So The Casual Vacancy
is the intentionally petty story of a whole bunch of petty white folk, and I know it digs into issues of sexism and rape and poverty (and drug use and hot button issue of your choosing and and and) while still wallowing in the pseudo-depth of the sufferings of a bunch of suburban white folk. The Spell Sword
is about a bunch of attractive white folk in heterosexual romances, and while it at least digs into some cultural divides it's still hugely homogeneous. And both are another same old story that mentions that sexism is bad.
And it is!
And I know that
I'm about to return The Casual Vacancy
barely begun, but I'm actually really enjoying The Spell Sword
; likewise, I loved A Companion to Wolves
. It's a two-pronged thing, the difference: One, the genre books are also the story of something else: telepathic powers and/telepathic companion animals and/evil
telephathic companion animals and: trying to save the world. They sell themselves first on a fascinating premise; the premise of Vacancy
is a social upheaval in suburbia, which is not so fascinating. Two, the premise in each book interacts with the "sexism is bad" commentary; in genre books, the interaction is unique.The Spell Sword
: telepathy introduces an incredibly intimate aspect to certain interpersonal relationships, therefore crumbling the wall of every social boundarybetween sexual and nonsexual relationships, between sexual orientations, between gender identities and roles, between individual identities. A Companion to Wolves
: a bond to a female animal puts a man into a "female" sex (and therefore cultural) role, making him personally aware of many of the effects of sexism. Grass
: humans are exploited, telepathically and interpersonally, according to their gender roles; controverting that exploitation requires recognizing the harm of and deviating from the limits of those gender roles.
None of those books (well, I can't speak yet to all of The Spell Sword
) do a stellar example of exploring or resolving the issue of sexism; as mentioned, they all hit home that sexism is bad (no, really, is it? tell me more), but their solutions to the problem are limited and more feel-good than convincing, especially on the level of permanent social change. But each goes about it in a way that's both interesting and unique, because they tell a fantastical story and because what makes the story fantastic gives it unique insight into the great beast that is sexism. It doesn't just tell me that sexism is bad, but shows so in a way that white folk is suburbia can't: they can't have men assume the sexual role of a female wolf, or experience a telepathic intimacy that makes them question their understanding of sexual or gender identity. The fun of genre, of crazy and intriguing ideas, is neutral: neither better no worse than the mundanity of general literature. But that it brings something new to the table both makes me a more willing reader and allows me to explore something I couldn't otherwise, be it that premise or an angle in towards a message, a bit of social commentary, which is also in dead earnest and is applicable to our society.
So back to the library with ye, The Casual Vacancy
; may the next 736 readers with holds have better luck with you than I.