Dabbing at the Edge of the World: November ’18 Roundup

DAB

When this post goes live, I will be on the other side of the country. And jeez, my country is a big country. You can literally get from my state to New Zealand, twice, in the time it takes to travel from one coast to another. But hey, that leaves plenty of time for reading! Or, as it turns out, watching the entirety of Noelle Stevenson’s She-Ra (and injecting magical girl warrior energy directly into the veins to quell flying anxieties. It works surprisingly well!).

Since I’ve been travelling and busily conference-going, there perhaps aren’t as many links as there usually are in the roundup this month. But, as the year winds down, I’m sure we can expect plenty of Good Stuff celebrating the media that has shaped 2018 (I’m particularly excited for the 12 Days of Anime posts that… people who aren’t me diligently put out every year). As for this little corner of the internet, if you like my mythology-meets-pop culture posts, I have an exciting new series (that’s right!) coming your way soon.

On the blog this month:

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Music, Mythology, and Murder Mystery (not one, not two, but three book reviews as I try out a new format showcasing the versatility of the YA genre and show off how much I’m reading)

“It’s Not Over ’til it’s Over”: The Post-Apocalyptic Optimism of Girls Last Tour (a discussion of a surprisingly heartfelt and gentle story set after the end of the world that rolled out of nowhere to be one of my favourite anime I’ve watched this year)

Cool web content:

In which Polygon publishes the results of a Very Important Investigation about the books you can find in Skyrim. It ends up being not only quite funny but also a lesson in effective worldbuilding!

Impossibilities in Translating Queerness: Suki or Not Suki? – the team that brought us the Queerness Quadrants theory I linked to last time continues their dive into the ins and outs of queer analysis of anime, this time launching into linguistics and how sometimes love can literally get lost in translation.

ConCrit in Comments Only: What Writing Fanfiction Taught Me as an Editor – a professional editor who embraces her fanficcy past talks about why it shouldn’t be shrugged off as work with no merit, as it can teach writers (and readers, and editors) valuable skills about worldbuilding, consistency, and what draws an audience to a story.

How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds – a neat piece from Atlas Obscura about the map-making and worldbuilding methods of various authors.

The Flower Language of Bloom Into You (Part One) (Part Two) – Emily Rand brings her knowledge of flower symbolism to an in-depth analysis of the visual symbolism in Bloom Into You.

Why the “Closeted Homophobe” Trope Needs to Die – you know how if someone is really mean to gay people it definitely just means they’re secretly gay themselves and are angry about it so they’re turning their self-loathing into external bullying? You know how that’s actually a really dumb and harmful stereotype? Vrai goes through the history of the trope in fiction, its real-world implications, and exactly why it’s so nasty in this essay.

That wraps us up for November. Now, soon I have another plane to catch, so I suppose I will get to more reading and see you on the other side (…of the country). Take care!

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“It’s Not Over ‘til it’s Over”: The Post-Apocalyptic Optimism of Girls’ Last Tour

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However ill-founded, however misguided, hope is the basic stratagem of mortality. We need it, and an art that fails to offer it fails us.

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Dancing at the Edge of the World

Girls’ Last Tour is probably the most melancholy slice-of-life series I’ve ever watched—either that, or it’s the most charming and sweet post-apocalyptic sci-fi I’ve ever watched. Generally speaking, setting a story after the end of the world gives you violent thrillers in the vein of Mad Max, The Hunger Games, or Fallout, action adventures that highlight the desolation of the setting and the natural wild awfulness of humans. Not so for this little show, which tells the story of a handful of survivors navigating a wartorn wasteland and, instead of becoming torn up themselves, doing what they can to hold themselves and each other together, making the most of the worst situation. While it’s a tale with a lot of heartache built in, Girls’ Last Tour also has an inescapable undercurrent of optimism and resilience—and that’s something we could all do with a little bit of these days.   Continue reading

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Music, Mythology, and Murder Mystery

YA mini reviews 1

YA is one of the most versatile and interesting fields of publishing right now, full of a glittering spectrum of stories of all genres and protagonists from all walks of life and identities. And you know me, I love a good coming-of-age story, whatever shape it may take… and what better way to celebrate those many shapes than to review three wildly different, but all brilliant, YA novels together? Let’s dive in! This time round we have psychological thrillers, we have mythology retellings*, we have ruminations on fame and friendship and fandom.  Continue reading

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Here Be Dragons: October ’18 Roundup

Dragon Pilot (16)

It’s Halloween season! And there’s nothing spookier than deadlines. I don’t have much to say this time, but I did make my 400th WordPress post this month, and I feel like that’s worth noting. That is a fair few posts!! I’m proud to still be creating content all these years after starting this little blog, and proud to see how much I’ve grown as a writer in that time.

Without further ado, here are the things I wrote most recently (and some other great articles from around the web too):

On the blog:

The Prophecy Con: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Magic Crystals (in which I continue my dive into the wonderful Rogues of the Republic series and discover it gets better the further you go along!)

Warrior Women in the Workplace: Mythic Motifs in Dragon Pilot (in which I examine what Hisone and Masotan has in common with Classical mythology, and how the show also breaks away from these tropes it sets up)

On The Asexual:

Tash Hearts Tolstoy is the Ace Coming-of-Age Story We Need and Deserve (in which I have a lot of feelings about this YA novel, and Michael Paramo and the Asexual Journal squad are kind enough to give me a platform to express them. The author of the novel retweeted this and I think I ascended from my body a tiny bit)

And, as a bonus, here is this thread I wrote about the striking premiere of Bloom Into You. Maybe someday this will become a bigger post, but for now, here are some shortform thoughts:

Good good internet content:

Spider-Man: How a Game About Superheroes Got Super Real — having heard endless reports about how the new Spidey game is fantastic, it was nice to get this more personal perspective on what makes it so good: not just the web-slinging adventure, but the resonant Millennial narrative and down-to-earth character development of Peter Parker himself.

Beyond “Canon Gay”: Introducing Queerness Quadrants — Elizabeth Simins lays out a potential way of talking about queer rep in fiction (here through the frame of anime) that goes beyond whether or not something is “canon gay” and gets into the nuances of the way these things can be written. It’s a lit studies methodology, but in accessible internet language! My God! It’s a miracle!!

What a Naked Batman Exposes About the Comic Book Industry — so uh… yeah, so DC showed us Batman’s dick recently, and while that’s not something I’ve necessarily ever wanted to think about, its appearance and subsequent censorship has sparked discussion about why female nudity is considered acceptable and even expected in “mature” comics, but male nudity is not. Double standards, baby. This article goes into very neatly.

Venom, Subtext, and the Race for Onscreen LGBTQ RepresentationVenom starring Tom Hardy is accidentally(?) one of the queerest movies of the year, and the massive positive fandom reaction to it indicates that, as always, there is a hungry audience for this sort of thing (also, as a personal note, Venom is a ridiculously fun movie… whether it was meant to be or not).

Give Me Heroism or Give Me Death — as part of Uncanny’s “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction” issue, this article examines how action fiction glorifies enduring and struggling through pain, and how this alienates people with actual chronic pain issues.

And of course it was time for a new anime season, which means a pile of first impression posts! Check out AniFem’s guide to what’s good this season (as well as what was good last time too) and the premiere reviews on Otaku Lounge and Rabujoi!

Podcast time!

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I’ve been having a lot of fun on Book Riot. Their YA podcast is a lovely conversational series about book recommendations and things going on in the publishing world. If you want something a bit more focussed, scripted, and educational, though, I would send you in the direction of Annotated. It’s full of strange stories and fun facts about various facets of publishing and literary history–this episode about how to hack the New York Times bestseller list (it’s been done!) was particularly fascinating, and nicely presented.

Spirits also had a very fun episode on the fae this month which is worth checking out. It’s their 100th!

And that wraps us up for this month, I think. Take care out there everyone!

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy Is the Ace Coming-of-Age Story We Need and Deserve

Tash Hearts Tolstoy cover Simon + Schuster

Let me tell you a story about art, asexuality, and Anna Karenina.

Kathryn Ormsbee’s 2017 young adult novel Tash Hearts Tolstoy broke my heart and put it back together in the way only a good book can. It has everything you could want from a coming-of-age story: the last summer before graduation, familial conflict, heart-tugging romance, road trips, college anxieties, profound realisations set to pop-rock music, the power of friendship … and the personal story of one ace teenager navigating life and love. That last part, you don’t normally see.

Read the full post on The Asexual!

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Warrior Women in the Workplace: Mythic Motifs in Dragon Pilot

Dragon Pilot (8)

The women of Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan have a lot to deal with. The central premise of the show is that dragons exist and have been camouflaged from the general public throughout history—in the modern day, this means disguising them as planes. Only a special few can form the kind of bond it takes to “pilot” these mythical beasties, however. Dragon pilots are always, and have always been, women only; and they have to be chosen by the dragon itself.

Lady pilot and dragon also have to be emotionally and mentally in sync, sort of like how you have to be “Drift Compatible” to co-pilot in Pacific Rim, except that the characters in Pacific Rim are not swallowed whole by their mech-partners at any point. To add to the physical strain, the rigorous training, and the daily ordeal of being eaten, these dragon-attuned women have one more vital code they must adhere to to retain their prestigious position: they cannot, under any circumstances, fall in love, because that will bust the entire system and they will no longer be able to fly. It’s just the way it is, and always has been.

So the dragon pilots are exclusively women, have a “warrior” status, a special connection to nature, and are forbidden from falling in love lest they lose their power. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Dragon Pilot is playing around with some very old ideas. Continue reading

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The Prophecy Con: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Magic Crystals

prophecy con

Every time a trilogy’s Book Two is better than its Book One, an angel gets its wings. One of my early posts on this blog was a somewhat scientific (and pretentious, but hey, that’s what most of my early posts seem to sound like) study of what I called Second Book Syndrome, the curse that afflicts sequels and mid-point novels in trilogies that makes them… just not great comparatively, for a variety of reasons to do with both author heebie-jeebies and narrative structure. Well, my younger self would be pleasantly surprised to learn that I’ve found a series where Book Two is both better constructed and more enjoyable than Book One. It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s a rollicking fantasy action adventure! It’s Rogues of the Republic: The Prophecy Con!

If this sounds intriguing but you haven’t read my review of Book One and/or Book One itself, I would do that first—this review will naturally contain a few spoilers for its predecessor, since discussing the plot of The Prophecy Con will naturally involve discussing what happens in and after The Palace Job. Honestly, this book does a wonderful job both following on from the previous book and feeling like its own individual, fresh story, and perhaps it’s striking this delicate balance that helps it avoid Second Book Syndrome. It’s also a big improvement in terms of craft: the chaotic nature of the writing itself that threw me off about The Palace Job has mostly been ironed out, and the plot is much cleaner-cut into arcs that make a Three Act Structure more discernible. The prose on a page-to-page level, as well as the plot itself, are much easier to follow, and you get swept up in the adventure and intrigue with even more vigour than before. Also, this is the book where things get gay. Consider these your vague, non-spoiler recommendations, and proceed from here if you want more details. Continue reading

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