2013 is over, 2014 has begun, and Smugglivus is nearly complete! Which means that we must also undergo another very important ritual…
THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES!
(In which we air out any dirty laundry from 2013. Warning: plenty of swearing, engaged CAPS LOCK OF FURY, and spoilers ahoy, baby!)
These are the things that really pissed us off this year:
1. SOMEONE IS (ALWAYS) WRONG ON THE INTERNET – PART I: THE SFF EDITION
Like every year since EVER, 2013 saw a lot of stupid shit go down. Thankfully (or regretfully, we can not really say), Ana was on Twitter to catch it all.
Like, remember that time when Amazing Stories posted an article from Author Felicity Savage comparing “selfies” to diversity in SFF and managed to be both offensive and clueless?
Or how a few months ago the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) published extremely sexist comments and articles in their Bulletin (the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues)? These were written by a couple of old guard members and the association then came under huge scrutiny when several members decided to not only leave but to publicly call out the sexist jerks. The thing snowballed – as it should have – and then SFWA decided it was a good idea to allow Resnick and Malzberg to write a rebuttal, in which they called the well-deserved criticism they received “bullying” and “censorship.” This calls for the WTF OWL:
To wit, NO. Speaking up, calling out sexism, advocating for equality and equal treatment for all the members of an association is NOT bullying and it is NOT censorship.
It makes us SO FUCKING ANGRY when speaking up is decried as “bullying” and “censorship.” Speaking loudly, being angry at lack of diversity or gender parity, being righteously enraged at things that SHOULD NOT KEEP HAPPENING (IT IS 2014, people)? This is NOT bullying, nor is it censorship. Please do not throw around these very serious accusations willy-nilly.
Speaking up about sexism remains so important because sexism in publishing is not going away anytime soon. Wanna know how we know this is true?
Because every time someone talks about gender parity in reading, someone somewhere comes out to say “I read what appeals to me. It’s entertainment, not a social duty.”
Because whenever someone makes the difficult choice to talk about sexual harassment at SFF conventions and starts a dialogue to combat and address such harassment, someone else comes around to derail the conversation (by asking us to applaud and congratulate the guys who are not jerks). Sorry, but even though we understand the intention behind that call, we are not going to pat dudes on their backs for being decent human beings (that’s fucking basic, yo).
Because when a female blogger is loud and controversial, she gets (link: trigger warning) rape threats or called a bully when daring to argue with an author online (ugh, that happened to us).
Because there are authors out there who think that women are a different species or something, as evidenced by this incredibly offensive post “Can Male Writers Successfully Write Female Characters?”
And so on and so forth. We are tired.
2. SOMEONE IS (ALWAYS) WRONG ON THE INTERNET – PART II: THE YA EDITION
2013 was also that time when someone wrote that it was “Time for Teen Fantasy Heroines to Grow up” – but said nothing at all about Teen Fantasy Heroes (because we as a society love to police girls and what they read).
But who cares anyway?! OBVS, children’s books are not great literature or anything because “only adult literature confronts the range of human experience” according to this article published in The Guardian. A sentiment the author Joanna Trollope totally gets because “children are getting little moral guidance from fantasy novels like Twilight and should instead return to the classics.”
Also, all YA is shit unless it’s written by John Green.
3. Television Shows that went COMPLETELY OFF THE RAILS THIS YEAR
If you watch Homeland, Dexter, Downton Abbey, The Legend of Korra, Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D or Boardwalk Empire and aren’t caught up with the most recent seasons, you may want to LOOK AWAY NOW.
WHAT THE FUCK WENT WRONG THIS YEAR FOLKS?
Dexter‘s series finale was infuriating, to say the least. The show had started losing steam since more or less season 5, but we kept both kept watching with the hopes that the ending would wrap things up in a way that made sense for the characters. UH, NO. This last season was a complete mess. Not only did this season magically introduce new characters – so late in the game, at the expense of existing characters – it also had a bizarre habit of starting character arcs and dropping them immediately (what the hell was that whole thing with Masuka and his daughter?). OH, let’s not forget the ridiculous romantic storyline rushing to get Quinn and Deb back together, or Dexter and Hannah who are TOTES SOULMATES 4 LIFE. Speaking of Deb, let’s talk about her arc – because the writers had no fucking clue how to deal with her, and thus kept writing nonsensical arcs for Deb only to then kill her off IN THE WORST WAY EVER. But it’s ok, because then Dexter escapes to become Lumberjack!Dexter before the screen fades to black??? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT? No, seriously: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT!?!??!!?
It was truly sad-making to see this once marvelous show end like this.
Ana started watching the latest season of Downton Abbey when it aired in England but quit three episodes into it when she realized that NOTHING EVER CHANGES. The storylines remain exactly the same: this became very clear when O’Brien left at the beginning of the season and they brought a character back to take her position and to play EXACTLY the same type of role and enter a similar dynamics with Thomas. It’s like they are not even trying.
Worst of all, was the sense of LOOMING DOOM that something terrible would have to happen to a beloved character because DRAMA must happen. Lo and behold something terrible did really happen to Anna, the lovely lady’s maid that felt more exploitative than anything they ever threw at us before. It was then that Ana realised that the show was not for her anymore.
OH FUCK YOU LEGEND OF KORRA for sucking huge donkey balls. After Ana fell in love with Avatar: the Last Airbender, she decided to watch Korra thinking it’s the same team behind it and therefore WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
A lot, as it just so happens. It’s almost unbelievable that the same writers from Avatar work on this show. Season 1 was already unbalanced, featuring a fantastic premise about benders x non-benders which fizzled out toward the ending to become a non-issue then having Korra losing her bending powers, just to recover them 4 MINUTES LATER. That’s how long it took for this potentially awesome storyline to be resolved via an Avatar-ex-machina. We know, because Ana timed it.
Season 2 takes the cake in badness. It featured really problematic stuff: from abusive romantic relationships played for laughs to undeveloped and voiceless female characters; transforming a kick-ass, competent Lin Beifong into an incompetent hack for comedic purposes, to having the most annoying secondary character in the history of secondary characters – Bolin I am looking at you – becoming a hero even though he was close to being a sexual harasser. The thing that made Ana most angry??? How, in the end, Team Avatar was preparing for a battle TO SAVE THE WORLD and they had Katara, A MASTER WATERBENDER right there and she WAS LEFT BEHIND. And please don’t say that that’s because she was elderly: KING BUMI WAS 112 YEARS OLD WHEN HE FOUGHT ALONGSIDE AVATAR AANG.
What makes us sad is that there is SO much potential there. We love everything about Tenzin and his siblings; we loved the two episodes about the first Avatar and the whole thing about the spirits was really interesting. But Korra, unlike Avatar loses a lot of steam when it comes to creating a balanced act between all the elements – the micro and the macro. The way things end do give us hope for season 3. And we’d be lying if we didn’t admit we hope that Korra and General Iroh will one day become an item…
How can a show that had so much potential end up being so utterly CRAP? The show already started wrong-footed with an episode that was incredibly racist. It only got worse after that: bad writing, worse acting, lack of chemistry between characters, failed attempts to deliver that kind of Whedon sense of humour that worked so well in Buffy. What puzzles us the most though is: HOW can a show about awesome underground spies that track superheroes and have their own awesome gadgets be SO FUCKING BORING?
AND THEN, THERE IS HOMELAND.
Homeland. HOMELAND. HOMELAND. What the hell was that?! To quote Saul, Homeland is the smartest and the dumbest fucking show I’ve ever seen.
No, seriously: WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT SHIT? Ok, so Brody isn’t in the fucking show for basically the entire season. OK, so Carrie has to go down the same “she’s CRAZY” storyline we’ve seen thrice before. OK, so we get an entirely extraneous storyline with Brody’s daughter, Dana (of COURSE she is hooking up with that dude from Dexter! The bad shit is catching!). What, exactly, was the point of Brody’s storyline this season? WHY didn’t he just get killed off early in the season? I mean, we love the conflicted behavior for Carrie, Quinn, and Saul. We loved the flawed, deeply broken characters, the games upon games that they are playing, and the midseason twist. BUT SERIOUSLY why drag the Brody nonsense for a full season, before doing the IS BRODY A TERRORIST OR ISN’T HE dance again? After the junkie hell in Caracas, after the amazing 20 second montage recovery scene, after he magically remembers Carrie’s burner phone number and is able to contact her after murdering one of the most highly protected dudes in Iranian security? MMMKAY.
Fuck you, Homeland. Fuck you and your sharpie star-on-the-wall bullshit.
Speaking of FUCK YOUs, FUCK YOU, Boardwalk Empire. No, seriously, fuck you. WHAT in the glorious FUCK did this season accomplish? All of the female characters we’ve been following since season 1 were magically written out of any significance this season, until they were long-conned and fucking humiliated in the worst way possible (Mrs. Darmody). OR they were completely ignored (the former Mrs. Thompson – who stood up for her shit and left Nucky and was treated to a minor league storyline and humiliation). How about the new addition of Daughter, an abused, depressed character, who only seems to find her worth through Chalky (who is also abusive and dismissive of his family)? OH, and then there’s the absolutely unnecessary death of one of the most compelling characters on the show – Richard Harrow, who is not only rendered incompetent by the season’s last episodes, but entreated to some seriously fucked up karma.
NOT OK, Boardwarlk Empire.
4. Lack of diversity representation (POC or LGTBQA authors or characters) on best of the year lists
This is something that we feel acutely, because our own Best of 2013 lists are shockingly, terribly lacking in terms of actual diversity. While our top 10s might have featured POC and LGBTQA authors and characters, our overall reading habits in 2013 were sorely lacking. And we’re not the only ones – Malinda Lo wrote an awesome post about the lack of diversity in the ALA’s best YA fiction.
Our biggest goal for 2014? To fix this huge disparity in our reading, and ensure that at least 25% of our reviews are devoted to authors and characters of diverse backgrounds.
Our 2013 grievances are aired, and our 2014 slates are clean. Are there any gripes y’all have had for the past year that you want to get off your chest?
SarahJanuary 3, 2014 at 7:14 am
Thanks for the links to two articles which made me want to throw my laptop across the room… the one by Joanna Trollope about how Austen is more relevant than ‘fantasy’ (no, sorry, I have misrepresented her – what she was really saying is that everything you could ever want to know about contemporary life can be found in the novels of Jane Austen, but ‘fantasy’ fiction has absolutely no relevance to contemporary life or literary value)… and the one where the writer tries to convince us that The Fault in Our Stars is a great example of a novel with no teenage hormones, angst, or impulsive behaviour. Did he read the same version of the book I did???
Gerd D.January 3, 2014 at 10:15 am
“…and the one where the writer tries to convince us that The Fault in Our Stars is a great example of a novel with no teenage hormones, angst, or impulsive behaviour…”
Hm, if his Paper Towns is anything to go by this doesn’t sound like a John Green novel at all then. 😀
Although, yes, did I get a bit tired of reading YA this last year because it has succumbed much to raging hormons and not so heaving bossoms all around – or well, girls staring at bare chested men, for that -, or maybe I’m just terrible at picking them, God knows what.
I’m only glad that they invented a NA label, so I could avoid accidentally picking up more of that carp.
“I read what appeals to me. It’s entertainment, not a social duty.”
Well, actually that statement isn’t incorrect, I’d say.
Because what’s the point in reading more lit to meet some quota, when most of it doesn’t appeal?
Although, yes, with us as readers not being as dependent on publisher decisions, thanks to the modern independent eBook market, there is a wider variety of novels available to choose from, so that it has become more of a question of refining ones means to search for what appeals beyond the mass market sales, than a matter of it not as much being available.
KT GrantJanuary 3, 2014 at 10:33 am
Still mourning the loss of Matthew (Dan) on Downton. But the show owns me still.
Nothing about The Walking Dead?
KailanaJanuary 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm
Yep. I miss all the drama apparently. I had no idea about most of this… And I don’t really watch TV, so I guess I haven’t seen when things went bad. I think shows just stay on the air too long… But, anyway, this was an interesting post to read.
Rob BJanuary 3, 2014 at 1:22 pm
I was beginning to think my wife and I were the only ones who had problems with this past season of Boardwalk Empire. Some decent things happened in it, but overall a major step down from last season. The only thing this season taught me is that women are horrible, useless, and have no agency. (Granted, Gillian is a horrible person)
jennygadgetJanuary 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm
““I read what appeals to me. It’s entertainment, not a social duty.”
Well, actually that statement isn’t incorrect, I’d say.
Because what’s the point in reading more lit to meet some quota, when most of it doesn’t appeal?”
Well, some of us do read for social duty, actually, as well as pleasure – although the more accurate term might be “professional duty.” I’m a librarian – a teen and kid’s librarian at that – so I read a lot of stuff for work and not pleasure. I’ll often finish books I’d otherwise put down because I’m reading them both because they (initially) sounded interesting and to make sure that I’m well read in my field.
That said, even when it comes to the books I read for fun, the problem with that statement is that it sets up a false binary and hides behind the false idea that the status quo (ie, being “race blind”) is value neutral.
Often when I’m reading for diversity I AM reading for pleasure – because I like a certain amount of variety. And because I’m not an average white guy, and so reading about them – and never anyone else – gets really boring really fast. Or worse. (It’s not exactly fun to read about imagined worlds in which women don’t seem to be people, at least not for me.)
“…there is a wider variety of novels available to choose from, so that it has become more of a question of refining ones means to search for what appeals beyond the mass market sales, than a matter of it not as much being available.”
I’m skeptical of this. I see the potential in self-publishing, but we don’t have much proof that it’s being realized, and part of that is that there are all kinds of steps in between publishing a book and getting it in the readers hands. And they aren’t all things that readers can control, in a practical sense. Simply having it available doesn’t mean that people will find it.
More to the point – the best way for people find such work is for others to talk about it – which is precisely what Lawrence was ultimately responding to – people saying they are going to talk about more diverse books. Because that’s what reviewers are really saying when they say that they are going to read more diverse books, they are also saying they are going to talk about more diverse books. You can’t do the latter without first doing the former, and reviewers like the one being discussed tend to talk about a good percentage of the books they read.
So, essentially Adrian Moher was saying that, as a reviewer, he’s going to diversify his reading material. Someone posts on a forum “what about all of you? do you keep track/have similar goals?” And Lawrence responds back with bullshit about how he doesn’t see race and shouldn’t we be reading for pleasure and not social duty? Which may answer the question, but also neatly sidesteps the situation – and professional responsibilities – that prompted the question.
And yes, this is pretty much how it always goes. Except often worse, because Lawrence was at least more directly responding to a question about his own habits. Often times it’s people directly commenting on posts about diversity and arguing that such discussions are worse than useless.
Lee WindJanuary 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm
Love the gripe/rant. thanks for sharing!