delphipsmith: (GotMilk)
[livejournal.com profile] mywitch has embarked on 25 days of fan art. Today she picked MY prompt, and gave me half-dressed Lucius. Go. See. Marvel.

Hubba hubba!
delphipsmith: (BA beta)
Normally when I go to a conference there are at least one or two sessions where I skive off to do something else -- take a walking tour of whatever city we're in, have a nice long lunch and sit in the sun, whatever. Not this one. For every slot there were multiple sessions I wanted to go to; if only I could have cloned myself! This is super long, so I've put the session summaries behind cuts.

So, 8am Thursday I jumped right into "Gender and Sexuality Politics in U.S. Television Culture" with three excellent papers. The first one, "Queered Telefeminism and Female Friendships," among other things showed clips from a very funny episode of Designing Women in which Suzanne encounters an old beauty pageant colleague/competitor who announces she's "come out." At first Suzanne doesn't get it ("Well ah do think forty is a little old to be a debutante, but ever'one deserves a pahty" lol!) but then she assumes the friend must be in love with her. Later she and the friend are in a sauna and Suzanne says, "Ah'm sorry, we just cain't be anythin' more than friends" at which point an older woman who has been listening to their conversation leaves in a huff, and Suzanne leans out the door to shout, "Y'all have a lot more problems then lesbians in your sauna!!" *snerk* The second paper looked at masculinity in Buffy, and raised the interesting point that traditional "macho" masculinity is more often than not portrayed negatively in the series. Examples given include Adam is hyper-strong but constructed, unnatural; Riley's excessive strength and macho abilities come from a drug; Warren is a brilliant engineer but also a misogynistic murderer; Caleb represents classic evangelical viewpoint, women are meant to be dominated. Buffy and Willow, on the other hand, have natural in-born power. The third paper, "The Cinderella Scientist: A critical reading of The Big Bang Theory and Women in Science," really made me think: the presenter reviewed the episode where Leonard is tasked with speaking to a class of high school girls about women in science and pointed out that although the alleged mission is encouraging women in science, the actual women in science are off at Disneyland getting dressed up/made up as princesses, the men ultimately fail at their task and yet they are rewarded (Howard gets to role play as Prince Charming, Leonard gets all hot over Penny in her princess dress, and Amy is lying on the sofa being Snow White and waiting -- in vain, of course -- for Sheldon to kiss her awake. This didn't make me like the show any less, but it did make me think about the degree to which it truly shows women as equals in STEM fields.

Next, a Stephen King session with three papers drawing on his latest novel, Doctor Sleep. Since I'd recently finished reading it, this one caught my interest. The first argued that Dr. Sleep and Joyland, which were written basically during the same time period, could be read as companion texts -- that is, having read one gives you a richer reading experience of the other. King of course is notorious for interlocking people, phrases, ideas, etc. across his entire body of work. The second paper, "Filing/Defiling in Stephen King," explored the extended metaphor of files/memory, and was the most interesting for me as an archivist. At the start of The Shining, the man who's interviewing Jack Torrance for the caretaker position has all these files on him; the Overlook sucks Jack in by pushing its files at him -- the scrapbooks, the boxes of clippings in the basement (like a virus?); in Dreamcatcher Jonesy hides information from the alien possessing him by visualizing his mind as a room of file cabinets and hiding information by misfiling things or putting them behind the cabinets; in Dr. Sleep Abra and Dan share "files" mentally (including the "meme" of a cartoon pedophile that they modify and send back and forth) and Abra visualizes her mind as a room of file cabinets in order to entrap Rose the Hat. It was quite interesting, made me think of Caryn Radick's excellent paper on an archival reading of Dracula. The third paper was about teacher/student relationships in King, specifically Danny/Halloran in The Shining (though of course there's also his father's relationship with his students), and then Danny/Abra and to a certain extent Rose/the girl she turns in Dr. Sleep.

Next session: "Fans Crossing: Cross-Textual, Cross-Media, Cross-Fandom." The first paper was my favorite, about how frustrated viewers of Angel were that Fred and Wesley never had a chance to get together, and then Joss cast them as Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. The larger point was about creators whose body of work functions as a unified whole that's greater than the sum of its parts, something called (if I wrote it down correctly) "hyper-diegesis." Hyper-diegetic casting, then, is where one character gets to do something as another character, through the medium of the actor playing them both. Like Fred and Wesley, who (sort of) ended up together as Beatrice and Benedick, because Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof played both parts. Then there was one about Walking Dead and how it keeps the fans going through "transmedia storytelling" -- that is, through tv, video games, comic books, etc., so there really is no "off season." The last session was particularly interesting to me as a writer of fanfic: it explored what makes a crossover fic work. Essentially the presenter's argument was that crossovers work when they are able to inhabit a larger universe in which the "strange" elements of both worlds can coexist and neither breaks or conflicts with the other. So for example, a Harry Potter/Twilight crossover in which Lupin grows up in the werewolf community in Forks is perfectly reasonable. She referred to these as "second degree imaginary worlds" which I thought was kind of cool. This is why I love Discworld/Harry Potter crossovers -- all those witches and wizards seem perfectly compatible :)

I was really tempted by the Gothic Classic film session (Dracula, The Haunting, I Walked with a Zombie, Jane Eyre) but instead fell prey to my love of Star Trek and Star Wars. Among other things, I learned that every single one of the Star Wars movies follows the 17 stages of the classic monomyth, that Kirk=Dionysos and Spock=Apollo, and that the Enterprise may be a representation of the Divine Feminine. Yes, really. One interesting snippet of argument is that in Jungian terms one could view Kirk and Spock as each other's "shadow self" which may explain why they're the original and most enduring slash couple: because we perceive them as two halves of a whole.

The last session of the day was maybe my favorite (though it's hard to pick): The Borders of Fandom, Female Desire in Fandom. The first paper was about fan edits like The Phantom Edit which re-cut Episode II to remove all trace of Jar-Jar Binks :D He drew a parallel between this and Hollywood's now-familiar habit of releasing alternate cuts, extended cuts, director's cuts, etc. suggesting that the latter was an outgrowth of the former, and listing some of the informal rules that the fan-edit community has evolved in an attempt to respect copyright. The second paper, "Fake Geek Girls": Who Called the Fandom Police?" was brilliant; it started with Tony Harris' rant against cosplay chicks, then talked about how badly Twilight fans were treated at the 2009 Comic-Con, and questioned the definition of a "real" fan. Does it depend on real-life participation, knowledge of the source material, breadth or depth of engagement? Ultimately (she argued), questioning the authenticity of female fans arises from an assumption of male heterosexuality: "Women do this to get attention from men because." Very interesting and provocative. The last paper was on Johnlock erotica so it was just plain fun :D However, she also made the salient point that good erotica relies on satisfaction for the characters, not just for the reader.

Along the way I also learned an excellent quote from Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant; we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Whew, OK, that was fun! If anybody wants to know more about any of the sessions, let me know. For now, I'm off to bed so I can get up at 6am to catch a 7am train ::cries::
delphipsmith: (LaceMe)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] squibstress for the link to a quite good and thought-provoking article by Foz Meadows on sex, desire and fanfiction.

Meadows' article is in rebuttal to this piece in The Guardian, which attempts to be a sort of primer for the fanfic novice by defining some common terms. It gets some of them right but some of them laughably wrong, such as attributing the origins of Mary Sue to someone named, of all things, Paula (???), alleging that the Futurians had fascist tendencies, and defining slash as "a sub-genre in which buddies from classic TV become gay lovers." Er, huh? Also his punctuation is atrocious (yes, Ewan, it's a blog but that doesn't excuse you from knowing how to use commas and remembering to pair your parentheses). Several of the comments, notably the several by EllaLeigh, are far more scholarly and intelligent than the article itself.

Meadows' article, on the other hand, though equally casual in tone, makes some singularly cogent points about the role fanfic plays for women in particular, and why it's an important one:

...while an undeniably massive proportion of fan fic deals with romance, relationships, non-canonical or otherwise impossible pairings and -- yes -- spectacularly detailed pornography, the titillating novelty of this fact is such that few people often bother to stop and ask why this is...Culturally, we've spent thousands of years either denying, curbing or vilifying the female sex drive, to the point that even now, the idea of pornography geared towards a female audience is still fundamentally radical...[and] the rest of the world still tends to find [it] ridiculous: Romance novels have always been sneered at, while the new vogue for disparaging various sexy, successful books as 'mommy porn' always makes me want to stab things -- not necessarily in defense of the books themselves, but in outrage at the need to establish adult female desire, and particularly the desires of mothers, as being somehow comic, diminutive, novel. It's a species of sexual condescension -- oh, you're 40, female and fond of orgasms? how quaint! (or how disgusting, depending on the level of misogyny involved)...

One of her most interesting points, and one I haven't seen made elsewhere, is that fanfic works for women because women want emotional investment and desire, not just the mechanics of inserting tab A into slot B. With fanfic the characters are already drawn and the emotional investment is already present -- you know who they are, you've been through adventures with them, you care about them -- which means as a writer/reader you can skip straight to the smut without the pages of buildup that a romance novel requires. I'd never thought of it that way but it makes sense:

These aren't just strangers we're perving on purely because we like their bodies (although that can certainly still be part of it); they're characters to whom we feel a strong emotional connection and in whose relationships we're invested, such that watching them have sex, regardless of the quality of the prose, is guaranteed to be about a thousand times more arousing than the sight of yet another anonymous blonde get screwed by some faceless, grunting goon on the internet.
delphipsmith: (Kosh)
Must put in a plug for Voices from the Fog by the oh-so-talented [livejournal.com profile] noeon, who debuts her H/D skills with this lush, vivid, wonderful fic set in Europe. Go, read, now!!
delphipsmith: (thud)
Again I must say thanks to [livejournal.com profile] noeon for a fabulous book, this time for Call Me By Your Name. Packed with lush imagery, complex emotions, creative and supple language -- one of the most intense and vividly written love stories I've read in ages (doesn't hurt that it's set on the Italian Riviera!). Had to take it slow as all the emotion wore me out :)

Take this, for example, when Elio shows Oliver to his favorite little slope overlooking the sea (which, he says, is where Monet painted):

It never occurred to me that I had brought him here not just to show him my little world, but to ask my little world to let him in, so that the place where I came to be alone on summer afternoons would get to know him, judge him, see if he fitted in, take him in, so that I might come back here and remember.


Or this, two days after they've kissed for the first time, which closes with an unusual but stunningly apt metaphor for the permanent mark love leaves behind:

Oh Oliver, I said to myself...I'll do anything for you. I'll ride up the hill with you and I'll race you up the road to town, and...I'll wait at the bar in the piazzetta while you meet with your translator, and I'll touch the memorial to the unknown soldier who died on the Piave, and I won't utter a word, I'll show you the way to the bookstore, and we'll park our bikes outside the shop and go in together and leave together, and I promise, I promise, I promise, there will be no hint of Shelley or Monet, nor will I ever stoop to tell you that two nights ago you added an annual ring to my soul.


Or this, when Elio's father is speaking about the end of a love affair, the old man looking back on youth and passion:

You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you...if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything -- what a waste!


The ending is perfection, the final paragraph a knockout.

One of the reviews calls the author "the grammarian of desire." Yup. He's like Anita Brookner, e.g. Hotel du Lac or Brief Lives: that same ability to precisely capture all the minute shadings of emotion -- fear, love, passion, desire, self-loathing, etc. Like those medieval miniatures, tiny jewel-like paintings with exquisite detail. *happy sigh*
delphipsmith: (VampiresKiss)
Thank you, thank you, thank you [livejournal.com profile] noeon !! What a great read -- Wicked Gentlemen has an intriguing setting, imaginative interesting characters that drew me in, political and religious infighting, a smattering of theological debate, and some spicy drunken sex. Good stuff!! But it should have been three times as long as it was. I wanted more development of the relationship between Belimai and Harper, but I also wanted MUCH more about this world -- was the story about the Prodigals coming back from Hell true or was it a myth? If true, when/why/how did it happen? Continuing prejudice against them is certainly understandable, but if it's been centuries why haven't they intermarried more by now and created a hybrid? Are there any demons in positions of power? Is the discrimination legal or just habitual? Is there anyone in the Church who's truly spiritual or has it degenerated completely into a political power, like the Popes during the Renaissance? Do the Prodigals have souls? Why can't more of them fly? Etc etc etc etc etc.

Ginn, Ginn, please write more, do a sequel, do a series, do SOMETHING!!

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