This has been a weird couple of months to be on social media: two massive pop cultural events, Avengers: Endgame and the final season of Game of Thrones both happened, and I wasn’t directly involved with either them. And yet I could still, quite effectively, absorb what was going on by osmosis. Exhausting, exhilarating osmosis. Oh, the thinkpieces. Oh, the reaction threads. Oh, the memes, and the memes that sprung from thinkpieces and other people’s reactions, and the memes that sprung from those, all in an endless spiral. Chaos is a Twitter feed. That’s what that recurring line from the show is, right? Tyrion definitely said that at one point.
One big discussion that sprung from these two big to-dos was the question of “shocking” your audience with a twisty-turny plot they couldn’t predict. I even chimed in! I may well make that into a Big Post at some point, but there are my thoughts for now. I promise I wrote that out because I genuinely find the study of genre interesting and not just because, well, everyone else had a take fresh out of the oven, so I felt the need to have one as well. It’s quite fascinating, really, to be part of a social climate that so actively dives into discussion and dissection of culture and media on such a large scale. Does it become exhausting sometimes? Yes, especially when these Big Events happen in quick succession of one another. But it’s also exciting to wander among a field rich with analysis, with people genuinely interrogating why a story fell flat, or why it felt good, or why we should maybe take a look at the consumer and marketing culture around fiction.
Now I can see I lived through what is likely to go down in media history as one of the biggest months in pop culture engagement. I was there, Gandalf. There were so many memes.
On the blog:
Of Cosmic Stakes and Personal Stories (Spider Verse, Infinity War, and Others) – in which I return to the theme of “character stories are more engaging than Big Stakes” this time through the lens of Into the Spider Verse, which called to me significantly more than a certain other crossover movie.
Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Unicorns, University, and the Underworld – featuring The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myth and Magic, Every Heart a Doorway, and Songs That Sound Like Blood. (Additional note: I have now also read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the prequel to Every Heart, and it also blew me away. Just in case you want a bonus recommendation!)
Around the webzone (get it? Web? Because Spider-Man?):
Avengers: Endgame Didn’t Earn Its Big “Girl Power” Moment – speaking of Endgame takes… here’s one from someone who wasn’t mightily impressed with the franchise’s performative attempt at feminism. It’s all very well to have a big splash-page-style lineup of all your lady heroes, but it rings a little hollow when they don’t get the same weight in the plot as the men in their lives.
How the Straight Agenda Ruined Avengers: Endgame – continuing to speak of, this article articulates well how characters are parceled off into traditionally, normative “happy endings” of wives and kids, which, in many cases, feels unearned, out of place, or downright contradictory to the rest of their arcs up to this point (you can’t just leave Bucky in the dirt!! Who do you people think you are??)
8 Decades of SFF with Low, Intimate Stakes – also fitting nicely with the theme of my superhero post, here is a bundle of speculative fiction recommendations that focus on smaller, more character-driven stories rather than quests to save the universe.
You Can’t Change Your Favourite Pop Culture – But You Can Change the Way You Engage With It – alongside Endgame, the other hot ticket finale this month was Game of Thrones, which sparked some… discourse, to say the least. But, as this article gets into, you can not enjoy a piece of media without demanding that it be remade to suit you.
A Decade of LGBTQ YA Since Ash – as well as writing real good books, Malinda Lo gathers annual statistics on queer YA in the publishing industry. Ten years after Ash hit the shelves, she gathers those stats into one post to see how far things have come since then. She also has another great post looking at the stats of award-winners over the past years, tracking who is represented as well as providing some insight into how these awards work… and if these awards provide any real notion of what a “good” queer book is in the first place.
And this month, podcasts recommendations are back!
Shedunnit is a podcast that digs into The Golden Age of Crime Fiction, examining the tropes, history, and context of famous detective novels from authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. What is the cultural significance of Miss Marple being an unmarried woman? What role does food (and a new public understanding of poisons) play in detective fiction? Where and how can we find queer subtext in these books? How were the “rules” of a good mystery codified? The answers to all these are fascinating, and beautifully produced, featuring plenty of interviews with historical experts and avid readers.
A short one this time round, but there it is! Take care everyone!