Everything’s Fucked

This post is being written a little late for my ‘fortnightly’ ideas of writing about a song.  I’m just not up for that much, so rather than going for meaningful art-appreciation like I was intending and going nowhere fast with, instead I’ve gone with one that sort of sums up my feelings lately:

Frenzal Rhomb’s Everything’s Fucked.

Obviously it’s a bit explicit and obviously youse all want the full effect so I’ve embedded a live uncensored version. The (slightly, it still has fucked) censored version, the one I have in iTunes is also a track on youTube.

Frenzal Rhomb’s Everything’s Fucked, I have to admit, is one of the most cathartic songs to be screaming along to in the car, and incredibly catchy despite itself. I’m not a huge fan really, but they are a lot of ridiculous fun amongst the childish bullshit and stunts. I have more time for them than I probably should.

Another aussie band, they formed in the early 90s and seem to have mostly just been fucking about ever since, sometimes with more and and other times less success and controversy. They’re hard to ignore, and are sort of the other side to Australian alternative music to the sound in the Happyland song I posted. Simple punk rock screaming with ocker accents, charging in with completely derro attitudes.

I wish the line “Prime Minister’s a racist cunt” could be a little less accurate over a decade on though.

Affinity

Cover of Affinity by Sarah WatersOne of the few books I’ve managed to read was Affinity by Sarah Waters. These thoughts are a little late for the friends I mentioned this to, also quite spoilery.

Briefly, context: the story is told via the diary of the young upper class chronically depressed girl Margaret Prior, who after her father dies is convinced to become a Lady Visitor for Millbank women’s prison. She becomes obsessed with Selina Dawes (whose diary chapters also appear), a poor but well known disgraced medium, in prison for the murder of her benefactor. Prior begins to explore the world of spiritualism whe they plan Dawes’ escape from prison.

I didn’t think writing about this book would be as hard as I am finding it. This is a melancholy book. This should be less surprising than it is, it’s not a cheerful piece, even compared to Sarah Waters’ other books. Gloomy book, gloomy world with gloomy resolutions.

I ate it up. It’s one of the few books in the past six or so months I was able to read and I fucking inhaled it.

I was in a gloomy sort of world too I guess, though instead of enchantment at Victorian Occultism it was a much more mundane nightmare of returning home (again, again and again because you can’t stay home) as a loved one succumbs to cancer. Maybe this is why reading the book had such drive, a drive to read that I’ve been lacking lately? This parallel is hard to ignore but it is unfair to the author.

Waters primarily writes in the lit-fic realms, credited with inventing the idea of period lesbian fiction as a sub-genre. Starting off as a researcher, her attention to detail, to history, to its gaps, her books excel at telling tales of the forgotten Other both in terms of queer women and the awful realities of station, breaking me at least firmly away from the rose-coloured lenses that fill everyone from a young steampunk cosplayer to my Dickens-worshipping grandmother with romantic notions of the 19th century.

It’s important to understand this weird sort of disconnect reading this book had for me. I know Waters writes based in lit-fic, which I only ever really invested in for studies. She is invested in the realites of how ‘outside’ mainstream cultures worked in the Victorian. I am primarily a genre reader with a love for science fiction and fantasy, markets and a culture that are currently dominated by aesthetics of steampunk and the (re?*)acceptance of paranormal romance as its embarrassing genre cousin. These are groups invested in a completely different other, that often does involve miracles not always disguised as real-life science, I-want-to-believe attitudes** and deus ex machinas to ensure happy endings.

This mesh of reading suits the novel well, I think. Waters hinges the book on investing you in that want and need to believe in the unreal, that Dawes can simply disappear from prison. For the love between them to be real, for Prior’s clumsy understandings of herself and sexuality to be real, the magic needs to be real. I think as a genre reader you can’t help but feel that it will be real, or that the ‘trick’ behind the magic will be suitably real to enable that love and happy ending. The more hypnotising the book becomes.

The more you invest in this belief the more devastating, I think. Waters extends the theme of tricking perspective writing into perspective of the narrative itself to create the climactic break. Unlike Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet the happy ending of the story is less obvious. And it is a happy ending, but you don’t see it straight away. Dawes escapes and runs away to Europe presumably to be happy with her lover, after tricking the wealthy into giving her what she needs to escape from poverty… but we don’t see that perspective. We see Prior absolutely broken by the betrayal, her need to believe and isolation used to steal her passport, identity, money and clothing. The novel’s emotional catch: Dawes’ spiritual non-existence.

I did say it was a depressing book.


* I remember how popular Interview With A Vampire in the 90s. Paranormal romance just doesn’t have a name now.
** 90s nostaligia seems to suit sentimentality.

A Music Happyland

Last post I mentioned shitty riot grrrl videos which is not an entirely fair description of what I have been listening to (as a comment on me, the music or riot grrrl). I primarily listen to music in the car and in the past three months, I’ve driven at least 10 000kms, so the amount of music I listened to skyrocketed. It feels appropriate to try this out as a fortnightly post theme, just a clip from a song I have enjoyed and maybe a bit on why I think it’s important.

Don’t You Know Who I Am? – Happyland

I don’t really need to write much on this one, though I don’t think it got much play outside Australia. The reason to enjoy this song is obvious: its power is in its plainness.  An incredibly catchy, upbeat tune with increasingly sarcastic lyrics, it bites into the hopeful celebrity lifestyle and associated meltdowns. Plus the video has super creepy bunnies dancing around all threatening.

For those unfamiliar, it’s pretty much the peak sound of late 90’s Australian music, which follows as it’s part of the project Welcome to Happyland between the vocalist and bassist of Spiderbait, Janet English and Regurgitator’s Quan Yeomans (two of the biggest Australian bands of the 90s). To my (very musically uneducated) ear it sounds exactly like what a cross between those bands should. Regurgitator’s electronic sounds, Janet’s amazing ability to sing sweetly, alternating between dryness and powerful rage without skipping, and the mocking humour disguised in earnest rage common to both.

Simple effective earworm, straight forward themes, it stays fun while poking fun. The hilarious and beautiful demand of pretend you know who we are.

It’s a good song.

Restart, Reblog.

I wasn’t really sure if this blog would continue. I’ve gone with renewing, what better time than a birthday?

I struggled to update last year, a combination of exhaustion and this emotional holdover from 2013, with several incidents causing an increased bitterness and dislike of behaviours within various fannish communities. What is the point of a nerdish blog if it can’t relate or be of interest to anyone within the communities actually able to relate to it? Frustrations and isolation (both chosen and imposed) are not a good combination.

There were other good and non-geeky reasons for the exhaustion too. My workplace got so shitty that I had to leave quite suddenly. My beloved Magna hit the point of no repair – written off four years ago, it was on borrowed time. The house I lived in reached crisis point with regards to decisions on repairs and renovations, and they had to be managed alongside clearing out my partner’s dead father’s workshop (and other areas of the house that hadn’t been dehoarded). Ending the year, the discovery my father was terminally ill with liver cancer. I was fortunate enough to be able to drive to my family home loads and spend time with him, but he passed away in January.

So I’ve been a bit of a wreck.

Comics had been bad awhile (with a particular nod to DCnU), I’d lost interest. I’ve watched so much mindless television it’s not funny, been constantly enraged by the awful movies my family loves. I’ve had one playlist of angry women playing in my car for hours on end and my reading ability is shot to pieces even for the trashiest trash.

But, I still need to practice writing (I give no guarantees as to the return of the podcast or the creation of a new one). I need motivation to read. And I need to remember why I enjoy what I enjoy and how I enjoy it.

Comics turned again, moving away from grim dark. My boyfriend doesn’t need to be ‘got’ into comics anymore, he’s happily there, even if he still mostly just steals mine. My reading ability is (slowly) coming back. My love for music is repetitive but I’m enjoying it again and the sheer amount of time in the last three months spent in a car, plus the efforts of an understanding friend, means I’ve found more. People to discuss these things with again, people to show, people to listen to, are now an appealing thought.

There’s going to be new aims here, at least for awhile. I want to write about what I enjoy, even if it’s just a paragraph on a shitty riotgrrl youtube video. Even if it’s that terrible 90s drama I ate up in about 3 days. Even if it’s a weekly paragraph on why I really enjoy Assassin’s Creed games despite the fact there is so much broken in them and Ezio is a total cunt.

I tend towards the clumsy critical analysis, I think I genuinely enjoy stories and media by tearing them apart to see how they could be better. It’s easy to lose interest in seeing the positives in media this way, you forget what you enjoy. My aim will be to work out what I like and why, while isolating out what I don’t and why. Expect swearing rants and raves of aspects of whatever I enjoy, rather than formal reviews and internet lists on a strict diet of comics and novels.

Welcome back if you are still here? At least for now. I don’t really know what this will be yet, but I hope it’s interesting.

10 Books That Influenced Me

Everyone was doing this about a month ago, but I never got around to it.

It’s a fun meme: list the 10 books that have most influenced you, the 10 that first come to mind, not the list of 10 you might carefully craft to show the world. Unfortunately, taking the meme as it suggests, I’m feeling a little bit embarrassed right now. Ah well. It would seem I’m influenced entirely by what I read up till about 23.

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Can’t really get past this one. Mum had an audiobook and it was played on long trips as kids. Living quite far from the nearest city, we took a lot of long trips.

2. Dragonsong/Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
Again, handed to me as a bored child on a holiday. I hated swimming (the primary activity when your summers involve going to beaches). McCaffrey has her terrible moments, but she created fascinating worlds.

3. The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin
Addictive. Beautiful in the way Le Guin’s writing is. I’ve heard it described as what Avatar should have been, which is right, but that undersells it horribly.

4. The Book of Earth (The Dragon Quartet) by Marjorie Kellogg
This one is utterly terrible and awful in pretty much every way by my standards now.
The reason it’s on this list is entirely that when I was about 13, I read this book in the school library, and promptly forgot what it was called or where I’d grabbed it. And it very, very obviously lead into a sequel.

So it’s on the list because it kinda stuck in the back of my mind til I was about 25, when I was at a secondhand book sale and found another copy of it. It did not live up to expectations, but at least I learned what happened.

5. Deverry Cycle series by Katherine Kerr
I chewed through these in high school. They’re still quite high fantasy in the sense of Tolkien, but Kerr showed me that stories could centre around women as well as men. With an introduction to the ideas of reincarnation and magic, it matched the little New Age Hippie I was at the time.

Also I really really liked the elves.

6. How To Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ
It was a toss up between The Female Man and this. I chose this book. It’s not the one that made me cry, but it’s the one that helped me understand and conceptualise a lot of points I’d kind of been aware of, noticed, but had not been able to express or clarify to myself.

Also, omg powerful book jesus christ.

7. The Queen Of Erewhon by Lucy Sussex
A short story rather than a book, but one that was incredibly powerful and a huge influence on me. I nag everyone on the planet to read it whenever given the chance.

8. Secret Six by Gail Simone
Fucking hilarious, and full of characters I just love. It also introduced me to Simone’s amazing writing and made me fall in love with characters I never thought for the life of me I could be interested in.

9. The Authority by Warren Ellis
I still really really really want to be Jenny Sparks when I grow up. Nothing really deep here, just Jenny is amazing.

10. The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka
The first comic I ever read that made me appreciate how Wonder Woman could be awesome and cut through bullshit rather than being the stuck-up bitch I was used to seeing as a side character in other comics.

The art is shitty but I have to love it for that.

Episode 22: Not Wolverine!

The 22nd episode of How I Got My Boyfriend to Read Comics. Please note, due wisdom teeth being removed, there’s about a week delay between the podcast being recorded and posted.

How I Got My Boyfriend To Read Comics (tiny)

The News

  • Arkham Origins is out! Neither of us own or have played it – probably will soon though. Heard good things.
  • DC Scribblenauts is out. Neither of us own or have played it. Or own a console to play it.
  • Marvel Lego superheroes. Neither of us own or have played it.
  • Look to the XXP girls if you want actual superhero gaming opinions.
  • Zoe joined a beta of a browser game Flight Rising. It is the greatest.
  • DC moving away from New York offices moving mostly west coast. via Bleeding Cool.
  • NYCC was awhile back. There’s gonna be a Batman comic with Stephanie Brown! Again, via Bleeding Cool.

What We’ve Been Reading

x-23coolcover

Zoe

  • Heroes for Hire. Was bad. A few seconds of interest then no, badness, boring.
  • Girl Comics was interesting.  Like the write-ups of the previous women.
  • She’s Fantastical edited by Lucy Sussex.
  • A Week in the Future by Catherine Helen Spence. Early suffragette sci-fi available for free as an ebook? Yes please.
  • Discordia by Molly Crabapple and Laurie Penny. Was good.
  • Currently reading Infinite Jest. Because fukken English majors making me feel bad for not.

Chris

  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett.
  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

Not Wolverine

Exploring the Marvel world despite not reading about the best Marvel comic character (Carol Danvers). We decided looking at Wolverine would be too easy, so rather than discuss Hugh Jackman, we’d look at side characters: one of Wolverine’s kids and his clone. Results were mixed.

We looked at the following books for comparison:
X-23: The Killing Dream and Chaos Theory, written by Marjoie Liu;
Dark Wolverine:  The Prince and My Hero, written Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way;
and also Daken: Dark Wolverine vs X-23: Collision was read by Chris.

Feedback

As always you can send us feedback in several ways. Leave a message on this blog post or on the Facebook page. You can also tweet to @thewolverina or email feedback@wolverina.net. If you enjoyed listening, you can even leave a comment on our iTunes page. You can also receive notifications for all our podcast updates via RSS on the How I Got My Boyfriend To Read Comics homepage.

Just over a year on.

I’m a little bit cut up to be in Perth, WA (Australia) this year, rather than Seattle, WA (United States). Last year, I had the time of my life at Geek Girl Con ‘12, traveling by myself for the first time away from my home state. This weekend was Geek Girl Con ’13 for those of you that don’t pay attention.

I couldn’t afford to go this year, I went to a friends wedding in Oregon earlier in the year. I don’t regret deciding to go to the wedding in, but I’ve been watching the twitter feed for @geekgirlcon and its associated hashtag, feeling incredibly jealous and admiring the amazing cosplay and atmosphere that the convention seems to produce. Some Australian friends that live overseas and could get to the convention are helping by making me jealous with tweets like these:

Apparently I don’t just get to be jealous of the amazing array of guests (even more people I admire!) and the amazing program, I also get to miss out on people nerding out about my favourite musician.

 

Fair Warning: The rest of this post is just going to be horrible sentimental drivel, remembering what a great time last year was.

In 2013, I got to meet so many new friends, including the infamous Kyrax2 (the Batgirl of SDCC), Jason Sacks, Day and their families*. These people spoiled me rotten, after realising I knew noone when I took up Kyrax’s open invite for karaoke – not just for GGC but for my entire trip (Jason is particularly to blame for me discovering Fantographics, as well as convincing me I wanted to see New York and more importantly NYCC).

I also got to meet many amazing and creative people: Gail Simone, Jen Van Meter, Bryan Q Miller, Jane Espenson, Renae DeLiz (the brains behind the Womanthology project) and Jill Pantozzi (she writes at The Mary Sue). Again, I everyone was that I met was so lovely and kind, especially Miller who gave me the third Batgirl trade which I had been struggling to get. I still haven’t gotten the first one, sadly.

Star-struckness aside, I genuinely enjoyed everything about the con itself. I went to quite a few panels and workshops, and in all of them, I was impressed by the positivity and constructive attitude of those involved. It wasn’t a bunch of women nerds just bitching out the patriarchy, it was genuinely a huge collection of people giving each other advice and discussing projects and passions in a way that was fantastic.

I’ve been to many conventions (I even helped run one this year in Perth, where I inconveniently came down with a sinus infection) and I have to say, it is easily the most fun and the most freeing convention I have been to, for the creativity, positive vibe, safe environment, fantastic people, projects and options. This is a brilliant achievement that shouldn’t be underrated.

I haven’t blogged that much since Geek Girl Con. I was overwhelmed with three months’ travel and struggled to settle back into normal life when I got home. It took a while to remember why I started this blog and its podcast in the first place. The drive to understand and articulate my thoughts on my reading is only just starting to come back. This weekend, thinking on all this, it really hit me: I’m not near events like these, reviewing and critiquing what I read online. Getting the commentary is the closest I come to that kind of experience otherwise.

Basically I’m holding out for 2014. I guess I know what I’m saving up for.

 

 

* Plus many others but I don’t know who is cool with being linked to what.

Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies

Recently, I sent my friend Alex a copy of a book I love, Lucy Sussex’s Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies. She hasn’t read the book yet, but she has given me permission to put up an edited version of the letter that accompanied it, because she knows how much I love this book. Alex also knows how I want everyone on the planet to buy and read this book.

On that note, have the links for Amazon and Book Depository. Unfortunately, Ticonderoga Publications have not as yet released an e-book (though I’m told they are working on it). For the record, I don’t use affiliate links, but Russell once gave me $10 off the books I was buying because apparently if I stand up in front of a room full of fellow geeks drunk I will yell “if you don’t buy this books you’re a fucking moron”. And then people will by the book.  So that’s full disclosure for y’all.

Cover of Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies

Spoiler, not actually Matilda pictured. Probably.

The Letter

Dear Alex,

I feel like this is a personal gift, but it probably requires explanation and bonus probably-over-the-top review to explain why I love it so much. I am assuming you have not read this story or any of Sussex’s other work, but she is published internationally and I could be completely wrong. Laugh at me if this is the case.

Lucy Sussex is my favourite Australian writer for one reason: the story “The Queen of Erewhon”.

But back to “The Queen of Erewhon” and it’s importance to me. I read this story when I was around 13. It was in some Best SF Of The Year collection my grandparents had gotten me for Christmas. The collection as a whole was quite dull, the usual uninspiring, uninteresting cheap short story tricks that were driving me mad and getting me kicked out of English Lit classes and put me off attempts to “analyse” prose for a good few years.

That last story in the book, though. Right at the back. This story about these women’s lives and the tragedy of Erewhon, it… fucking haunted me. When I eventually reached it, I read it over and over and, unusually for short stories (where previously I found them useless and empty), I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Weird looks from the friends I was brave enough to show it to.

The story was eye-opening, a beautiful post-ozone-layer post-climate-change dystopia, brimming with history and layers and richness and such a strong fabric of a tiny community, its cultures and its world.

It was my introduction to the fact that lesbians and lesbianism were a real thing, not just an insult yelled at you from cars as you walked home. It was something real and something that could be okay. The story covers the whole spectrum, in hindsight, also introducing me to ideas of polyamory, bisexuality and thoughts I wouldn’t understand till a decade later. Can you tell this story hypnotised me and stayed with me a bit? I think it’s a rare gift of a short story to manage such a thing. Especially in a 13 year old.

Even if you don’t read the rest, or read only some of this book and hate it, please make sure that you read this story and consider that my gift. I will be shocked if you hate it or can’t understand why I love it so much.

Okay, I have tried to explain my feelings and the importance of this story to me so many times now. I think I might be in love with this story a bit. I want it to be seen more, and wow do I want friends to have opinions on it.

The Actual Review of the Rest of the Book

Continue reading

The Worst Book Cover I Have Ever Seen

I read an excellent book recently.

Unfortunately it also has the misfortune of what is pretty close to the worst cover I have ever seen. I’ve owned it for quite a few months now and I still can’t get past just how dreadful it is.

Trying to convince people this book is fucking fantastic is going to be a challenge. But it is.

Trying to convince people this book is fucking fantastic is going to be a challenge. But it is.

Fools is the most genuine examination of identity within the cyberpunk framework that I have ever read. Pat Cadigan has created a very rich world with enough allegories and metaphors that are painfully pointed or sometimes very beautiful. These are layered neatly with literal interpretations, an exploration of the physical consequences of the ability to create false personalities and memories within the brain, all loaded into an excellent action-adventure full of all sorts of fun. It’s not what you’d call dry.

I don’t feel like I’m doing this book justice in that description.

For context I read Fools directly after Slow River by Nicola Griffith and they make for an interesting comparison. I’m not going to go into detail, but these two books exemplify to me what this idea of bio-punk SHOULD be about rather than letting it be led by Paolo Bacigalupi and that fucking awful embarrassment of a book The Windup Girl.

However, moving back to Cadigan, the reason I picked up Fools was I’d just read Synners and this was the only other book of Cadigan’s that I could easily find. For some reason, only one of her books has been put into the Gollancz SF Masterworks, which is a shame, because I think both these books are worthy of it. Book depository tells me Cadigan has an SF gateway omnibus collection featuring Fools, Mindplayers and Tea From An Empty Cup coming out in about four months. It’s basically moved to the top of my ‘to buy’ list.

See a much prettier cover.

See a much prettier cover.

Synners is very much the product of that old-skool cyberpunk period when Cadigan was roped into being the token girl in the boys’ club. Of all the cyberpunk (not much) I have read it does something the other books never managed: it makes the drive for technological post-humanism that all the characters have seem human, humane and relatable. Suddenly, you find yourself able to understand this desire and force, as well as the fun of a tech-ridden world. It doesn’t make hacking into a cool but unintelligible and mysterious dark art – it treats it as a skill and a mindset. It makes them relatable and learnable.

Cadigan fills the book with powerful imagery and concepts, and while some of the repeating phrases are clumsy and a little corny, the themes are kept grounded enough. On top of that, there’s an awareness of the socio-economic consequences that isn’t glossed over, which I think makes it feel more honest. It really hit me writing this. Synners is the book that has made cyberpunk seem like a sub-genre of value to me for more than just it’s hilarious and fun aesthetic (which I love to bits).

Both books are excellent, but Synners is probably an easier book to love. That said, both of these books have aged well, especially in comparison to many of the other cyberpunk novels of that generation. Definitely worth reading.

It’s a shame most of her books don’t seem to be as easily available as Synners.

Episode 21 “The Green”

In another step in getting the podcast back on track, we have another episode of How I Got My Boyfriend To Read Comics up! While there was a delay in publication, to make up for it, we even have the return of the podcast notes!

 How I Got My Boyfriend To Read Comics (tiny)

Welcome to the eco hippy Green version of the podcast notes:

The News

  •  Transgender character in Batgirl finally after a few months of build up. Seems to be handled well.
  •  The greatest comics based website to exist ever: http://hasdcdonesomethingstupidtoday.com/
  •  Demon Knights and Dial H for Hero cancelled. Sadness.
  • There is a DC version of Scribblenauts coming out Supposedly every DC character ever. Actual footage of Steph Brown has been seen! (via Kotaku)
  • Seeing more info and pics on Arkham Origins are coming online. Have yet to see any chicks. Lots of Deathstroke and Deadshot. (via VG24/7)

What We’ve Been Reading

Zoe

  • Among Others by Jo Walton (also known as the worst book ever written)
  • Meredith Gran books based on her webcomics
  • The Scarlet Rider by Lucy Sussex
  • Content for Gender through Comics online course
  • Demon Knights.
  • Played loads of Tomb Raider (or as I keep calling it, Lara Croft)

Chris

  • Roadside Picnic by  Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  • Habitation of the Blessed by Cat Valente

The Green (or the topic of the week)

We wanted to explore the idea of “the Green” in the Vertigo/DCU universes. We decided to use a comparison between Poison Ivy against Alan Moore’s classic take on Swamp Thing. While we discuss the gender issues, the differences to nu52 and constantly confuse the title of Cast Shadows (the Poison Ivy trade discussed).

Feedback

As always you can send us feedback in several ways. Leave a message on this blog post or on the Facebook page. You can also tweet to @thewolverina or email feedback@wolverina.net. If you enjoyed listening, you can even leave a comment on our iTunes page. You can also receive notifications for all our podcast updates via RSS on the How I Got My Boyfriend To Read Comics homepage.