emandink: (sexybooks)
Raise a glass of Dandelion Wine
To toast the father of miracles and mundanities
Equally treasured
In the summer of a day.

Golden eyed colonies,
Dinosaur hunters,
Mysterious carnys,
And mythical cousins
Captured by the poet laureate
Of extraordinary dreams.

All lost a father today.

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

Ray Bradbury was one of those authors whose prose reads like poetry. He had the gift of making the mundane extraordinary and the extraordinary seem mundane.

A few years ago I described my relationship with his work thusly:

I cannot remember how it was that I discovered Ray Bradbury in junior high, but from the moment I first read his stories they were absolutely magical to me. Perhaps I wanted to read the book Something Wicked This Way Comes because I loved watching the movie on HBO. Perhaps I stumbled across a story in an anthology. However it was, finding Bradbury was like opening a treasure chest, but instead of gold and jewels, I found entire new worlds. A friend of mine loaned me a copy of a collection of 100 Bradbury stories and I devoured them - "All Summer in a Day", "Dark They Were, But Golden Eyed", "A Sound of Thunder"...these were the background to my budding adolescence. I used "The October Game" as one of my selections for Prose Reading in Speech competition...my sophomore year, maybe? It brought rooms to a standstill. I still get that feeling of holding something precious when I read one of his books - especially the short story collections, which are like a string of perfect pearls.

I would be hard pressed to think of a single author whose work touched me so deeply and who captured both my mind and my heart so utterly. Peace be with you Mr. Bradbury. If there is a beyond, may you explore it as thoroughly and as joyfully as you did this one.
emandink: (Default)

You are always on my mind...


Lots of stuff rattling around. I should really be blogging more, but whatever. Instead, some self digestion of discussions going on elsewhere re Neil Gaiman, the word "bitch"reactions, et.al.  Anyway, there's a reason I haven't commented at Shakesville, and that reason is that I'm pretty conflicted and feeling generally conflict avoidant. That conflict starts with the fact that on the face of it, I must confess that I found the original George R.R. Martin is not your Bitch comment to be utterly hilarious. I read it, I loved it, pretty sure I tweeted about it, and generally did not think about the problematic aspects at all. It is exhausting to have to think about language all the time and I suspect that I probably twitched a little, but was so enamored with the pithiness and the sentiment that I didn't examine it further.

It also doesn't help that NG is one of those famous people who feels very...accessible to me. Part of that I suspect is the number of people I know who do actually know him and who interact with him regularly on a personal and professional level. One of my dearest friends is in a business partnership with him of a sort. I've written to him and been cited in his blog on legal issues. I've never actually met the man, having decided to spend time with my kid rather than stand in an hours long signing line on the Capital Mall, but I have that - almost certainly ridiculous - sense that if I were to have the opportunity to meet him in a situation where we could sit and chat on any sort of real level that he would be a dandy person to knock back a drink or two with. The fact that he's used language, or written the occasional piece, that may be problematic doesn't change that for the most part.

None of which means that I give him a free pass, either. Anymore than I give myself a free pass for occasionally slipping up and using ablest language or for not seeing the problematic aspects of using a prison rape metaphor to describe a work environment. Thing is, I don't expect perfection. But what I hope for is that people are willing to consider the implications of their speech and to think about the actual meanings of what they are saying. I have never been raped, but I still don't like rape metaphors. I don't cringe away from the word, but I do sometimes twinge at what I'm certain are deliberate plays on the double meaning in songs like Current 93's "Panzer Rune" or  Death in June's "Behind the Rose"*. But I still listen to them and enjoy them and have a framed autographed poster from C93's first US shows ever in 1996 hanging on the wall of my home. And maybe that says something about me, but I'm not entirely sure what that is.

I think part of the reason why I feel compelled to get something down in pixels about this is that I get the impression from what some of the commenters who have "discovered" Shakesville via this issue have said and from Neil's own words, that there's a sense that there's a distinction between people who love and understand and "get" Neil and who read his blog and who appreciate his insight and who have spent long dark nights holding on to their last scraps of personal integrity through the power of his words to captivate them and feel less alone in the world, who turn to one or more of his works when they need something familiar, like a blanket or a fought for treasure, that can make you feel like those words were written just for them and those people who may like his work but who find the use of the word "bitch" problematic in the context in which he used it. Or that somehow, criticizing that turn of phrase means we didn't read and didn't understand the point of the GRRM post. And that's just not true. Some of us are absolutely one and the same.

I guess, really, what it comes down to is that enjoying someone's work is not necessarily the same as endorsing everything that person does. I can adore virtually every word I've read that Gaiman has written and still think he's fallible. Hell, I can think that an artist is absolutely scum of the earth in zir personal life and still appreciate that zie has great talent. The two are not mutually exclusive. The flip side is that there are definitely people who have done things that offend me so deeply that I cannot get beyond that to appreciate anything else they might do. There are businesses I will never buy from, individuals who people I know greatly respect who I will not give the time of day to  because of things they've done or said and I am never going to judge anyone else for determining that something is unforgivable to them.

So what to do? Right now, I shall respect his request that people take the discussion elsewhere for the moment. But ultimately, I do want to write him, I think, and explain some of what I've ultimately been blathering about here - namely that this doesn't have to be about picking sides, and that no one expects perfection. What we hope for is to be understood and taken seriously when raising issues that are so entrenched and supported by our culture that even some of us who think ourselves highly conscious of such matters find it easy to gloss over or ignore.

*Should you desire evidence that I am prepared to indulge in a fondness for works by seriously problematic artists, well, there you have it in spades.

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So, lately I've been reading a lot more semi-historical fantasy. Things like Juliet Marillier's Wolfskin/Foxmask (i.e., romantic fantasy with Vikings) and Sevenwaters (i.e. romantic fantasy with threads of Celtic myth) books, Jacqueline Carey's Terre d'Ange novels, Robin McKinley's work, and the like, all of which take place in some generally unspecified pre-industrial revolution time period where people still ride horses and have carriages and/or carts and cities are made of stone and surrounded by walls and most people are agrarian and magic is real. Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Avalon" books certainly fit into this as well, as do any number of other fairytale and myth retellings that I may or may not be familiar with.

These books tend to follow similar storylines - female heroine with some sort of magic leaves the comfort of her totally-ordinary-except-not-and-probably-somewhat-"enlightened"-family to go on some sort of quest that is at least semi- at-odds with what her family thinks they want for themselves and for her and along the way, said female heroine falls in love with an unlikely male figure who helps her save the day in some way while she helps him become a better man. It is genre fiction, as is much of what I read in other areas (urban fantasy, anyone). There is - arguably - a subtle feminist subtext, even while the tropes are troubling. These are often books where I can find messages that I value highly inermingled with things that in less engrossing stories would make me want to throw them across the room (again, seeing parallels with urban fantasy here...).

Sex may or may not be explicit in these stories. Certainly, it is in Carey's work and it is sometimes almost shockingly explicit in Marrillier's, at least in light of the fact that the Sevenwaters series is in the YA section of my local library. Don't get me wrong - I am *not* complaining on my own behalf and I would like to think that I'd be comfortable with my future 12-year old reading sex as it is described there - as something good and powerful and not to be feared. Pre-marital sex happens, as does passionate love, in ways that were definitely not part of the YA cannon when I was a lass.

I've been thinking about this lately in part because I've been wondering what the attraction of these stories is to me. I suppose part of it is the same thing that attracts me to smutty paranormal books - they are entertaining and the worlds are enchanting, literally and figuratively. Some works are better than others, to be sure - I just finished McKinley's <i>Rose Daughter</i> which was nice, but not particularly gripping to me, whereas I practically inhaled her other Beauty and the Beast retelling, <i>Beauty</i> earlier this year. <i>Deerskin</i> left me cold, whereas I inhaled <i>Outlaws of Sherwood</i> and am madly in love with <i>Chalice</i>. I could go on... Lest anyone newish here wonder what the point is here, I was a writing major with a minor in film studies and pop-culture analysis is so ingrained it is harder for me not to think about these things than to blather on about them incessently.

So, now I'm wondering if I can take this genre and make it my own somehow. I have the inkling of a more modern version with the same sort of natural magic appearing for the main charater in unexpected ways, drawing most likely from my own ocassional feelings about where I work and how aspects can feel almost magical. I also think I could probably have such a caracter be a lot less of a MarySue than my vampire proto feels sometimes.
Things to ponder.

June 2012

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