Posts Tagged: writing


"Let us be greedy together; let us hoard. Let us hit each other with birch branches and lock each other in dungeons; let us drink each other’s blood in the night and betray each other in the sun. Let us lie and lust and take hundreds of lovers; let us dance until snow melts beneath us. (…) Be selfish and cruel and think nothing of them. I am selfish. I am cruel. My mate cannot be less than I. I will have you in my hoard, my black mirror."

- Catherynne M. Valente, Deathless
Source: camilla-macauley

"Tolkien works his final sleight-of-narrative here. He was perfectly aware of the Germanic custom of ship burial, in which a dead king was floated out to sea in a ship. Crossing the Sea is represented as a matter full of sadness, and Cirdan the shipwright is given many attributes of a priest, but the passing of Frodo is never represented as other than a permanent voyage. So the ending is heartrendingly equivocal. You can see it as Frodo moving into eternity, or into history - or not. You can see it as a justification - or not - of the negative side. In fact, we are experiencing the proper mode of Romance, which was signaled right from the start. The values of the people who wrote Romances never seem quite the same as our own. This kind of equivocal ending where winning and failing amounts to the same, Arthur passes to sleep in a hill, and a gift exacts its price, is exactly what should have been expected. You Were Warned. For good measure, you knew that life never comes round to a happy ending and stops there. There is always afterward. But such was the skill with which this narrative was shaped that you could not see the patter, even when it was being constantly put before you.

Yes, there really was nothing about narrative that Tolkien didn’t know."


Diana Wynne Jones, “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings,” Reflections

i’ve never been able to defend the close of lotr to people who expect a hero’s celebration and happy ending for frodo, other than to say that his end evokes in me the same chest-deep ache that much of the rest of the novels and their weight do, but here is diana wynne jones explaining how it works with the narrative type tolkien was building (and really, i should have realized, as the ache over frodo is the same ache i feel over arthur and his camelot, but then, as she says: that is tolkien’s great skill.)  the expectation arises from thinking that you’re reading a very different type of story, of course.

(via sea-change)

(via currentboat)

Source: sea-change

"I was thinking as you entered the room just now how slyly your requirements are manifested. Here we find ourselves, nose to nose as it were, considering things in spectacular ways, ways untold even by my private managers. Hot and torpid, our thoughts revolve endlessly in a kind of maniacal abstraction, an abstraction so involuted, so dangerously valiant, that my own energies seem perilously close to exhaustion, to morbid termination. Well, have we indeed reached a crisis? Which way do we turn? Which way do we travel? My aspect is one of molting. Birds molt. Feathers fall away. Birds cackle and fly, winging up into troubled skies. Doubtless my changes are matched by your own. You. But you are a person, a human being. I am silicon and epoxy energy enlightened by line current. What distances, what chasms, are to be bridged here? Leave me alone, and what can happen? This. I ate my leotard, that old leotard that was feverishly replenished by hoards of screaming commissioners. Is that thought understandable to you? Can you rise to its occasions? I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single hoard, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth."


this was written by RACTER, a computer program that can generate original English language prose and poetry at random. it’s from a book he supposedly wrote without editing, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. this is worrisome because creative writing is my last solace from the singularity. uh oh! *adjusts monocle* racter’s prose is a bit overwrought but on the whole it is fresh and full of life. “my aspect is one of molting” is so great. same with “i ate my leotard”. maybe i have a crush on racter.  (via retoxing)

"I was thinking as you entered the room just now how slyly your requirements are manifested" sounds like poststucturalist commentary on dating.

(via ryanvoid)

Source: emes

In which I yell, at impressive length, about how much I love antiheroes, and also pose the question: where are the goddamn women in the type of fiction I like?  (And for some reason the page break’s not working so I apologize profusely for spamming your dash with all of this.)

Before I commence my fannish screaming about sexism and narratives, it’d probably be helpful to have some idea of what texts I’m talking about.  So, in no particular order:

Sherlock, BBC, Season 1 & 2, Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat

The Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett

Doctor Who, BBC, Seasons 5 & 6, Steven Moffat & a frillion other people but mostly Steven Moffat

Along with passing mentions of Bones.

Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with all of them, I’ll do my best to explain what I’m talking about— and also to keep it all (fairly) major spoiler-free for the books on the list.  The one major spoiler I’ll be giving away is the identify of Lymond’s love interest, who is throughout the series but isn’t clarified as such until Book 5, but— and trust me on this one— you don’t mind.  You really don’t [1].

Most of this will probably be Sherlock-focused, because that’s my most recent fandom and the one that sparked all this intense thinking.  I’m fairly confident, however, that the central tenant of the argument carries across to all narratives of this same type.  So, onward!

If you’re a certain type of person, you’re probably drawn to a particular type of narrative and character in your fiction, right?  And I know, because the Internet is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people who are startlingly open about their fictional attachments, that I’m not the only person who really, really loves a Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie.  You know what I’m talking about: those freakish characters of such intense intellect that they’re always three steps ahead of not only their enemies, but all their friends and loved ones as well.  These attractively crazy bastards are the heroic incarnation of the Chessmaster, the Trickster and the (usually within semi-heroic limits) Manipulative Bastard, and are just so damn good at it that you can’t help but love them.  It’s a pleasure to see them on the page or on-screen, weaving such elaborate plots that they frequently only narrowly escape accidentally entangling themselves in the strands.  Combine that with the Universe constantly fucking them over so hard that you’re sitting there swearing it can’t possibly get any worse (the Woobie), and the social grace of your average scorpion (the Jerkass), and you have a list of my favorite characters of all time.

That’s not to say there is no diversity within the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie type, because there’s lots!  You have the ones who are polite until someone flips their jerk switch, at which point they may drive you to near-suicide (the Doctor), the ones that stomp all over social niceties in hobnailed boots until they need them to achieve a semi-tangible goal (Sherlock), and the ones who are, alternatively, the suavest of social engineers and the most devastatingly belittling dickwads (Lymond).  But all of them share certain traits:

  • Terrible things happen to them.  A lot.
  • They are frequently, inexcusably nasty to people who don’t quite deserve it.
  • They are all semi-godly in ability, be it intellectual, athletic, or aesthetic— or, most frequently, all three— and arrogant about it.
  • They are always put in situations where there is no totally acceptable solution, at which time they will calmly undertake the action that does the least amount of damage.

We can say, in shorthand, that these characters are “head” characters— they live in their minds, and they often say or do things that bring their belief in rationality over emotion to prominence.  They may do a very good job of pretending to be warm and fuzzy, but when the shit hits the fan, they are able to turn it off and calculate exactly what needs to be done, even if it means a great deal of loss for them personally.

And now that you’re all looking at me funny going, “How is this at all related to feminism?”, I’m going to plead that you hang with me for just a bit longer and you’ll see.  But first, we gotta talk about Irene Adler and River Song and Philippa Somerville.

There’s been a lot of text on the webernets recently devoted to debating whether or not these women fall into sexist stereotypes (the linked article is only one of many— a quick Google should provide you with hours more reading both for and against, if you so desire.)  And a lot of good points have been made on both sides, far more than I could ever recap here without breaking Tumblr due to the sheer wall of the text.  And I think that the fans who are crying, “Sexism!”, have a legit complaint; but I also think they’re not digging deep enough.   In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it outright: when we hate on Irene Adler as a sexist stereotype, we’re not hating on Irene Adler at all.  We’re hating on Sherlock himself.  I know that sounds weird.  Stay with me?  Because I want to lay aside the sexism aspect for right now and discuss, instead, some reasons why these love-interest characters have to be how they are, for narrative structure.

Irene Adler’s a really good example of this: if you are a writer handed a character like Sherlock who has literally never been outwitted before, and who is, in the original text, uninterested in anything to do with sexual activity, and you want to play up the dramatic tension, it makes perfect sense to bring on a character who is as unabashedly sexual as possible, because that’s basically the only thing that’s guaranteed to fuddle your leading man.

It goes in the other direction, too.  Lymond, the smooth-talking seducer who has the entire French court, male and female, literally playing dice over who gets to bed him first by the second book, is later (hilariously) saddled with a virginal child-bride who is trained to be a courtesan by the best teachers in Europe (the keepers of the Ottoman Sultan’s harem) and whom he cannot touch.  It’s Sherlock all over again: Lymond has no idea how to handle this woman who is so far outside the realms of his experience she might as well be from another planet. Like Irene but in reverse, you can argue that Philippa’s de-sexualization in this context is sexist, but the fact remains that it’s the only way to provide the necessary drama in the plot, particularly when they (of course) fall in love significantly later in the relationship.  These things may come off as anti-feminist, but they make a lot of narrative sense.

So if the manipulation of the female love interest’s sexual presentations isn’t the problem, what is?  Well, I’ve read some concerns about River and Irene and how they are being portrayed as “irrational women”, incapable of divorcing themselves from their emotions and suffering for it.  (See: “I AM [SHER]LOCKED”, etc.)  The same accusation could absolutely be leveled at Philippa.  And really, what it boils down to in one sentence is this: if Sherlock, Lymond and the Doctor are the ‘head’ characters, then Irene, River, and Philippa, no matter how intelligent and capable, have to be the ‘heart’ characters.  Fictional romances work off of opposition and drama and unresolved tension, and having two characters who are both capable of making totally rational decisions against their own emotional interests ends a romance awfully quickly.  Someone has to be the one who stays there even after it’s no longer a good idea, and since we’ve already set up the main characters as the super-rational ones, it’s going to have to be their love interests.  Without Irene’s slip-up, her actual feelings for Sherlock would have gone totally unrevealed to either him or the audience, and the tension would have died right there [2].

The same idea applies to scenarios larger than just the romance, as well.  When River tells the Doctor that she’ll suffer more than every other living thing in the universe if she kills him, she’s speaking from her heart— and it works because we’d never, ever hear the Doctor say something like that. 

I sound like I’m writing some kind of horrible apologia for the women in these stories, don’t I?  I want to make it clear: I’m not.  I think there’s a deep seed of sexism buried at the root of these narratives, but we’re looking for it in the wrong place.  Irene, River, and Philippa are not sexist in and of themselves; their portrayal is justified because that’s how the narrative has to operate.  And I’m okay with that.  I love them!  I think ‘heart’ characters are strong and wonderful and amazing in their own ways, and I particularly like Irene, River and Philippa because they manage to balance their incredible I-can-keep-up-with-the-big-boys intelligence with their passionate hearts and (for River and Philippa) their stubborn loyalty.  I idolize these ladies, I really do.

You know what is sexist though?  If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that every Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie I’ve listed is a dude.  Where the fuck are our female Sherlocks, Doctors, Lymonds?   Why are our much-loved ‘head’ characters only men?  That’s what’s sexist about these stories, right there.  Irene and River and Philippa are not the problem; Sherlock and the Doctor and Lymond are!  If ‘heart’ characters are needed to play opposite ‘head’ characters, why are all the ‘head’ characters men?  It’s sort of like a chicken-egg question of sexism: do we blame writers for making all the ‘heart’ characters women, or do we blame them for making all the ‘head’ characters men?   Personally I’m more inclined to go with the latter. 

And here’s the thing that really gets me: even in those rare instances when female Guile Heroes/Jerkass Woobies are present, their stories are not told in the same way.  Like Bones.  Look at that list of things that happens to Guile Heroes/Jerkass Woobies again.  Don’t almost all of those apply to her?  Yep, they sure do!  But the show’s writers are a far damn cry from treating her with the respect Moffat & Gatiss afford to Sherlock; instead, Brennan’s social ineptness and intellectual ability are played with a strongly tongue-in-cheek flavor, and, instead of her romantic counterpart playing second fiddle to the Guile Hero/Jerkass Woobie plotlines, the entire show revolves around her relationship with the male ‘heart’ character, Booth. Jesus Christ.  If that’s not thinly-veiled sexism, I don’t know what is.

And sure, it’s possible to argue that the choice to make Sherlock, the Doctor, and Lymond men is entirely understandable, due to the writers being handed pre-existing characters (in the first two cases), or writing about a time-period where women didn’t do much swashbuckling (Dunnett.)  But I’m not talking about just these stories any more, I’m talking about a whole genre, dammit.   So next time you hate Irene, or River, or Philippa, or one of their counterparts, ask yourselves: are you hating them?  Or are you hating the fact that the preternaturally intelligent, distant and weirdly attractive main hero is almost certainly male?

So this is what I want.  I want my Guile Heroes, my Jerkass Woobies, to break out of this ridiculous sexism, this automatic masculinization.  In the next five years, I expect— no, as a consumer of media, I demand— serious storytelling about absurdly intelligent, emotionally inaccessible, sarcastic and wounded women, and their loyal, clever and emotionally volatile love interestsAnd if I don’t get it, well, I’ll write it myself.  And yes, that’s a threat.  And a promise.


[1] I’ve given that series to probably 20 people to read and only 2 of them have made it through so statistically the chances of you ever slogging your way through Dunnett’s ridiculous historical accuracy and untranslated quotations is only 1:10.  And I say that with great respect for you, and great admiration for Dunnett.  They’re just… not for anyone who doesn’t want to come out the other side with the practical equivalent of three history degrees, a linguistics minor and a need for several years of therapy.  Highly recommended, of course.

[2] I know there’s some debate on whether or not the fact that Irene ‘loses’ their game to Sherlock reinforces the idea that women must ultimately lose to men; but Moffat has explicitly come right out and said Irene ultimately took the prize and that’s good enough for me.




Okay so. I really need to do this post, because it’s been nagging me for a long time.

It shouldn’t be a problem to people that someone like Anderson. And this is what I’m all about.

In the tag “Anderson”, the posts are of halfnekkid women, blaine or mostly anderhate. And you don’t know how much that annoys me.

Most of you talk about how you shouldn’t tag hate with a name, like if someone hated Watson. “You’re just begging for hatemail,” someone might say. But when it comes to Anderson, it’s oh-so-different.

“I actually like Anderson. Now please don’t hate me for this.” This is what I come up with. And to me, it is a sad thing, since shouldn’t loving a character be a right? Or liking one?

But when it comes to Anderson (or Sally Donovan, for that matter), you’re not really allowed to like them, are you? If you do, you will be taken apart from the fandom because how could you? Because they always treat Sherlock like he wasn’t that special.

“Freak” says Donovan, and you mostly go “fuck you Donovan”. “An old friend of mine,” says Sherlock and later “I don’t have friends. I only have one”. And you don’t give a shit that really, there is something behind it. Something that has made Sally think of Sherlock as a freak.

And you just rejoice with Sherlock when he says: “You’re lowering the IQ of the street” and you don’t care that, perhaps, it all started with something Sherlock said and nothing Anderson said. Even if Anderson was to blame, it would be really hard for him to change his opinion, because, you know, Sherlock takes a distaste on him. So you do, too. You don’t think. You go with Sherlock, like John does, bu John lives with Sherlock, you could use your brain.

Now I want to ask you: Would you all really go all Watson with Sherlock? “Amazing! Brilliant!” and you would just think it was all so natural, forever.

Or might there be a row, in which Sherlock would say something, ”your boyfriend is cheating on you”, “you really should stop thinking about things like that”, “I don’t really like you”, and you would think of him as the freak? Because he tells you the truth, nothing more, and makes you feel uncomfortable, thinking “that is true but I want to hurt him as much as he’s ever hurt me” even if you knew were pretty sure it was how he survived from the bullies in the later part of his life.


I don’t really like you people who can only see Anderson and Sally Donovan through Sherlock Holmes’ eyes, because isn’t that a bit one-sided? You never really give a fuck about their feelings, do you, only think that Sherlock Holmes Must. Be. Right. Well, I’ve got news for you. Everyone has the right to love anyone they want to. And everyone can have their own headcanon about characters.

And I don’t really care if you will hate me for this. I know I unfollowed two of the people I followed in the last 24 hours because Sally and Anderson bashing.

And if you have good reasonings to hate the hell out of Sally and/or Anderson, be my guest. But know that if you do, I will quite likely not be thinking that well of you.

I think most of the fans (myself included) don’t realise that if they met someone like Sherlock Holmes in real life, they would almost certainly find him irritating and if they had to be insulted by him frequently enough, they would almost certainly end up saying the same things about him that Anderson and Donovan say.

Anderson and Donovan are not my favourite characters, but I don’t dislike them. I don’t see why I should - seems to me that Sherlock is always very unpleasant to them, why should they like him? Their not liking him doesn’t mean that they’re not good at their job; their having an affair even though Anderson is married doesn’t mean they’re not decent people (after all, maybe Anderson’s wife cheats on him when she’s “away” - and what if Sherlock got that part wrong and Sally did, in fact, scrub the floor that night?). In fact, the way Sherlock always puts Anderson down (“you lower the IQ of the whole street” and all that) makes me really uncomfortable. 

I think a lot of this has to do with escapism v. realism and the function of narrative in general (“function of narrative” is apparently my favorite phrase as of the beginning of 2012.)  We don’t tell, or follow, stories that are exactly like our lives.  Like, ever, basically.  Because we don’t want to know about ourselves in our own contexts— we already know.   What we want is to be exposed to fictional people, or places, or social structures, or technologies, or whatever, that either alter our projected hypothetical realities so much that we can imagine a totally different world (far-future sci-fi, for instance), or that put us into the shoes of individuals that are completely different from ourselves— none of us, obviously, are Sherlock, or Locke, or Lymond, or Sam Vimes, or any of the other characters rooted deeply in my multifandom heart, but we identify with them through a long process of subconscious what ifs and most of the what ifs are, I think, pleasant ones— what if we were smarter?  Or stronger?  Or more determined?  Or, in Locke’s case, way too good at getting into trouble?  What would be the advantages?  What would be the disadvantages?  Sally Donovan and Anderson, in the given example, represent a threat to our imaginings, because they are huge reminders about how we’d react in the real world to someone as annoying and smug and superior as Sherlock.  They’re a threat to our narrative experience, because they start to pull us out of our differing perspectives and impose reality.   And maybe that’s why we all have an enormous hate-on for Sally and Anderson.

tl;dr version— I have two lists of fictional men in my head.  There’s a list of Fictional Men I Am Madly in Love With, and Fictional Men I Would Actually Consider Dating in Real Life.  Guess which one’s longer.

(via claire-sgyreju-deactivated20130)

Source: shurikenship

Frequently, thank God, and with great aplomb.

(via merthurrus)

Source: monsterlogic

"People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don’t like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy."

- Joss Whedon  (via reavers)

(via of-cannibals-and-kings)

Source: sharleenherself

And no, I don’t give a shit how attached to them you are.  Make me cry, dammit.