If I Read About Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Le Guin One More Time…

poc au thors.png

I will roll my eyes right out of my head. I know that’s extreme, especially coming during Women’s History Month where we are celebrating female accomplishment, but I’m done. I’m over it. I quit. And with good reason.

Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin wrote for decades and their speculative fiction is brilliant, loved by both critics and readers. They bring the complex issues of race, gender, and sexuality into their novels, a needed reprieve in a literary corner dominated by white men. But we all know them. If you consider yourself a fan of science fiction or fantasy and haven’t heard of Kindred or The Dispossessed, I’m sorry – I can’t help you.

When most people speak or write about these two authors, though, it feels like a token nod – an obligation to ward off criticism of an all-male or white-washed list rather than a true passion for their work. Because oh, boy – two whole women? One of them black? Just let me check those two boxes on my inclusivity list real quick before I pat myself on the back. On the majority of “best of” or “must-read” lists, these two stand as the only women. On almost every list, Butler stands as the lone person of color. This is unacceptable.

Butler and Le Guin more than deserve to be included in these discussions and I don’t mean to diminish their importance, but throwing them into a list of recommendations and making no effort to include other minority writers is  lazy at best and deliberately discriminatory at worst. It requires no thought and does a discredit to other female and non-white writers, especially ones who are still living and working – Butler passed away in 2006 and Le Guin hasn’t produced a novel in almost a decade. While we should never forget either of these women and their contributions to the genre, it’s time to allow them to pass on the torch to other writers rather than recycling these two as our bastions of diversity.

If you’re looking for some classic science fiction, include Samuel Delany who is still an active author and also wrote Dhalgren – one of the most complex and literary science fiction novels ever produced. If you’re looking for something more modern, try Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor who released her latest novel less than a year ago. If you’re looking for a great series, try N.K. Jemisin‘s Inheritance trilogy. Hell, branch out into translation with Cuban authors Agustín de Rojas and Yoss or Chinese authors Cixin Liu and Ken Liu. But in the name of all things just and holy – don’t recommend one more Butler or Le Guin book to me. Do your research, get creative, and give me some goddamn effort.

Advertisements

Claimed by Evangeline Anderson

26

One of my well documented weaknesses when it comes to books, especially free kindle e-books, are stories that involve aliens and romance. I’m a sucker, and I am not saying that the blame lies with Mass Effect, but I am also not saying the blame doesn’t lie with Mass Effect (straight up it’s Mass Effect’s fault, who am I kidding here).

Unfortunately, the free kindle e-books and I have failed to align, because the authors who decide to tackle the subject of an interstellar romance (and offer their books for free), don’t seem to understand the whole point of aliens.

I tackled this subject in my blog post about Close Liaisons, but I’ll say it again here: what is the point of having aliens in your book if they look human? I’m not even addressing the whole unlikelihood of this from an evolutionary standpoint, really I just want to what he motivation is to sit down and design your alien with absolutely no distinguishing features except maybe an unusual eye color and, consistently, above average height.

Why bother with science fiction at that point?

Did I have hope going into Claimed? Hope is always there. Someday…someday I will be pleasantly surprised and rewarded with the sci-fi romance of my dreams…or Mass Effect Andromeda will come out (I see you 2017…I see you…).

Anyway, like in Close Liaisons there’s sort of a paper-thin excuse as to why the aliens look like humans. Their race is 95% male (of course. Why is this a trope? Why is this a thing? Someone sit down and explain to me why the only reasons aliens would go around exploring the galaxy and looking for other aliens to hook up with and explore the galaxy together is because their race is at the brink of extinction and they need some fresh human wombs to procreate. Is this hot? I’m so perplexed.) so over time they’ve traveled the universe setting up genetic trade.

I really like the phrase genetic trade because it sort of minimizes the fact that the aliens are actually going around and abducting women on different planets to knock up as if that’s a commodity that can be paid for with advanced medical technology. BUT OKAY.

So yeah, they sort of look like humans because they’ve genetically traded with other aliens that…sort of look like humans…and…everyone sort of looks like…humans? Never mind. This actually doesn’t make any sense at all.

The genetic trade thing comes up because there’s three kinds of “Kindred” based on the three different genetic trades they’ve made in the past. Don’t get excited yet though, because three different kinds of alien just means three different kinds of alien that still manage to be boring as hell in their design (colorful eyes included).

claimed 1 whole

gosh i love aliens

So what are the three types of Kindred, you ask? Well I’m glad you brought it up because gosh, it would be a wonderful opportunity to break out your alien designing imagination if your aliens change appearance based on genetic trade sort of like the Xenomorphs from Alien but with less murder! So let’s break down the absolutely extraordinary designs here.

They are, seriously:

-Rager/Beasts (if you thought this meant that they would have features that aren’t human, you guessed wrong!)

-Twins (they come…in pairs…so they…I don’t know fuck this I don’t understand)

-Tranq (get this…they have fangs…that they bite their lady with…)

aliendesign1 whole

“ALIENS”

I can’t believe this happened to me again. Update: I’m still sitting at 17% completion on Close Liaisons because of being side-swiped with the space vampire bullshit. And here we are again, romance genre. Here we are again…

It may be some sort of compliment to Anderson that I actually finished this book compared to Liasons. My continued ability to read, however, came straight down to the hilarity of the situation here.

Let me outline some moments in Claimed that had me gazing off into the stars wishing I was being flung somewhere by the gravitational slingshot of Jupiter. Or, as I like to call it, “Things in Claimed that are presented as logical but actually make no fucking sense”

-The Twin Kindred always share a woman, and the main character asserts that, having a twin herself, that doesn’t sound too intimidating.

I’m not here to shame you for whatever sexual fantasies or lifestyle you’re into. Doesn’t harm me any. But, for the life of me, I have no concept of the logic of how this thought is presented in the book. The idea that having a twin would make sexual threesomes less ‘strange’ is presented as self-explanatory logic, in passing, without further description.

Hitting the relevant line was like taking a step when you’re climbing the stairs and you think there’s one more stair there, but there isn’t, so you’re sent stumbling after groping for the next point with an unbalanced foot.

How does having a twin have anything to do with threesomes? I still can’t even think of a connection, even highly contrived. I’m stumped, stupefied even. Is the author implying that twins have sexual interest in threesomes…with their twin? Is that not…incest? Or uncomfortably close to incest? Why would anyone want to be near their sibling during any sexual experience?

I mean, I don’t have a twin myself so I’m just making assumptions here. Clearly some people are into it if the author decided to base an entire construction of her aliens that threesomes with siblings are-

I had to stop typing that sentence because I can’t think about this anymore. It’s not something I want to know.

-this quote about the alien being, how shall I say it? ‘swol’: “you’re in such good shape on Earth you’d be gay because there’s no way a straight guy could look like you.”

What? When did attention to physical appearance, especially dependent on big muscles, become a ‘gay’ trait? Hitting the gym and lifting weights is one of the most “bro hypermasculine” activities of our culture. You know who always wants to talk to you about their protein intake and reps? Straight men. Straight men in fraternities. (This is a generalization based on personal experience. I feel 100% okay putting this down in type and I will stand by it. This has little to nothing to do with my resentment of all the dude bros in the gym when I was working out in college who would stand around in groups taking turns lifting weights and grunting about it and high-fiving each other when I just wanted peace. Also you know what I couldn’t give less of a thought about? Your protein intake and fitness routine. Bro.)

So why would the author imply that being ripped is something that gay men aspire to, and more than that, no straight man would aspire to?

-everyone is sharing food from their different planets NBD

Not every book has to be hard sci-fi, constrained in the strictest sense to the laws of physics as we know them and all of the limitations that result. Do I accept faster than light travel that’s not really explained beyond a name that has a word like “hyper” followed by a word like “drive”? Sure!

There is a line though, of utter carelessness in world-building sometimes in books like this. It’s almost  a lack of paying attention to historical accuracy. What would be distracting in a Regency Era novel would be a woman wearing pants. It’s jarring. This is the same feeling I often have with the conceit that human women would be able to bring to term an alien baby when sometimes women have troubling bringing to term human babies because of immunological issues. But whatever! That’s fine!

This radar though, of things being taken a conceit too far, happened when everyone on the spaceship in this book went around eating food from alien planets like this wouldn’t potentially be a problem.

It’s haphazard world-building, like the author wanted to include some details about the alien planet and culture, but didn’t think it completely through or not. The Kindred come originally (? Don’t quote me on this) from a jungle planet and this is used to explain why they use living animals for stuff like furniture. There’s an animal ‘blanket,’ for example.

When you introduce ideas like this, that the Kindred have formed a symbiotic relationship with a blanket animal, there’s some kind of follow through required. Throwing out a statement like “oh yeah, haha, the blanket is actually a living creature but it’s cool, he likes being sat on!” is more distracting than intriguing.

What do you mean, he likes being sat on? How is that logical? Why would any living creature enjoy that? Does he feed on your shed skin cells? Did you domesticate these creatures or did you just kidnap them from their (families?) to use as a personal effect? How does an animal evolve to look like a fucking blanket? How does it survive in the wild? WhAT DOES IT EAT?

I’m so distracted by your stupid blanket animal that I can’t even focus on the rest of the story. There’s also a garbage disposal animal that sits under the sink and eats…what goes in the sink?

WHAT?

Does it mind being trapped in a cupboard like space without light? What does it eat if you go on vacation? Does it sleep? Does it defecate? Can it too digest Earth proteins no problemo?

It just isn’t competent world-building. There’s too much that implausible or illogical, especially based on what we understand as an “animal” and how it functions. My brain is screaming at me that it’s inhumane to treat a living creature like that. But, like a lot of other details, the concept is just passed over with sort of a blase hand wave so that the plot can revolve around what is really important—alien dong.

I’ve got to end this post here because it’s already too long.

I give Claimed “you couldn’t even give your aliens a different skin color?” out of “how good is your alien design.”

 

A/N: if you’re wondering why i haven’t followed my posting schedule for this blog, let me tell u about the bad decision i made downloading Stardew Valley from Steam and how i lost 50 hrs of my life to it. lmao bye

An Ode to Shitty Teenage Love Triangles

I find it upsetting that you think the only thing of consequence
Is that the main female character serve as a conquest
By which the male characters can show they’ve developed, grown,
And also get a little of that girl’s sweet poon.

I find it disconcerting that the only apparent purpose of this woman
Is to look pretty, serve as the object of desire for these two men,
Who use her as a trophy in their testosterone-infused pissing match
Where the lucky winner gets to stick his dick in her snatch.

I find it distressing that you think  this woman should stay silent
Find no problem with this situation – stay wide-eyed, docile, and pliant.
No personality, no ambition, no goals,
Just a convenient vessel for a couple of holes.

I find it alarming that you despise the boy who is kind,
Who doesn’t bully, push, or pry, and appreciates her for her mind
As the wrong choice – the weakling, the wimp, the loser.
Just because he doesn’t want to pump and dump her.

I find it terrifying that you idolize the boy who is bitter,
Who is damaged, unstable, and takes it out on her,
As the right choice – the stud, the champ, the winner.
Just because he’s willing to get down and fuck her.

I find it revolting that the book’s author
Would jot this down and think it proper
Not only to write about an underaged girl’s puss getting used,
Of underaged boys manipulating her for the sake of their cocks and being excused,
But to romanticize neglect, violence, and abuse.

Don’t they have any shame or self-respect?
Oh, wait – they’re too busy raking in our money, no time to reflect.

I find it heartbreaking that young adults
Would look at these taunts, curses, and insults
And instead of being appalled, they daydream about being in his arms,
So that when their real partners begin to scream, strike, and take things too far
They won’t speak up because they think that’s just how things are.

Don’t they understand that they’re more than a focus for male desire?
Oh wait – there’s no other female characters, no role models to which they can aspire.

I find it disgusting that grown adults
Would take an interest in these juvenile ruts.
Would look at these broken, damaged couples and sigh,
Jealous of the girl with an abuser between her thighs,
And praying that maybe one day they will find these kinds of guys.

Don’t they have mature, secure relationships themselves?
Oh, wait – they have these books on their shelves.

So don’t tell me that you’re just a story, a fantasy, for fun,
Because you’re doing some real shit, some awful shit that I ain’t got no time for, hun.