Bold Fortune

fortune favors the bold

Month: October, 2010

Well, yes, but what part of the word fiction are you unclear on?

by mollykl

Let me start by saying this: I loathe the Victorian period. Simply hated it in college. Hated the writing (the works of Charles Dickens should be hurled into the sun), hated the social mores, and while I never actually met her, was not at ALL fond of the queen the period is named after. It was an era of cruel expansionism…and the British have never been known for their restraint when it comes to attempting to dominate other cultures.

But that doesn’t particularly bother me when reading fiction. Because, well, it’s fiction. When I first picked up Gail Carriger’s Soulless I did hesitate when I saw the word “Victorian”, but because of the previously mentioned loathing, and not because I was worried that it wouldn’t accurately reflect the Victorian age with its human right abuses for all but the rich, male and white. I’ve studied the age – I know how bad it was. And it’s over. In the meantime we’ve moved on to regimes much worse and much better.

Over on Charlie’s Diary there’s a post The hard edge of empire that looks at the glut of Steampunk on the market, and bemoans what can only be described as a lack of political and cultural realism. Yes, there does seem to be quite the market for Steampunk  now, because the publishing industry, like the reading public (and don’t worry, I’m lumping myself in here too)  are like lemmings.

We’ve been at this point before with other sub-genres, with cyberpunk and, more recently, paranormal romance fang fuckers bodice rippers with vamp- Sparkly Vampyres in Lurve: it’s poised on the edge of over-exposure. Maybe it’s on its way to becoming a new sub-genre, or even a new shelf category in the bookstores. But in the meantime, it’s over-blown.

First everyone wanted to follow Stephenie Meyer over the cliff – now they’ve moved on.

He also makes a nice point about what Steampunk would look like  if it were a bit more real (albeit with “zombies and zeppelins”), which had me alternately snickering and having horrible flashbacks to Leonard Oakland’s Victorian Lit class.

Forget wealthy aristocrats sipping tea in sophisticated London parlours; forget airship smugglers in the weird wild west. A revisionist mundane SF steampunk epic — mundane SF is the socialist realist movement within our tired post-revolutionary genre — would reflect the travails of the colonial peasants forced to labour under the guns of the white Europeans’ Zeppelins, in a tropical paradise where severed human hands are currency and even suicide doesn’t bring release from bondage. (Hey, this is steampunk — it needs zombies and zeppelins, right? Might as well pick Zombies for our single one impossible ingredient.) It would share the empty-stomached anguish of a young prostitute on the streets of a northern town during a recession, unwanted children (contraception is a crime) offloaded on a baby farm with a guaranteed 90% mortality rate through neglect. The casual boiled-beef brutality of the soldiers who take the King’s shilling to break the heads of union members organizing for a 60 hour work week. The fading eyesight and mangled fingers of nine year olds forced to labour on steam-powered looms, weaving cloth for the rich. The empty-headed graces of debutantes raised from birth to be bargaining chips and breeding stock for their fathers’ fortunes. In other words, it’s the story of all the people who are having adventures — as long as you remember that an adventure is a tale of unpleasant events happening to people a long, long way from home.

Well, if that’s what an adventure is then for god’s sake why do we read? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with attempting to forget about the real world for a few hours? Yes, I’ll agree that a widespread romanticized view of a time-period distorts the truth about the period (I’m also not happy with the romantic notions we have of 1940’s Homefront America during World War II, but that’s a rant for another day). But it begs the question: how real does fiction need to be?

p.s. I actually do like one book about the Victorian era, Elaine Showalter’s Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle.

Funnier than zombies

by mollykl

Sometimes life delivers you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s e-mail inbox is just one example. Yes, you will have to have read the book to understand why this is so funny.

(“re: stop mailing me you stuck up prejudiced prig” is going to be my new catchphrase to make me giggle uncontrollably)

Thinking of calling in sick

by mollykl

Boucheron, the mystery convention, is next week in San Francisco.  And I’ve just discovered that four authors that I love, namely C.S. Harris, Tasha Alexander, Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspear are going to be there. I wonder if my manager would mind if I called in sick.

“You know, it occurs to me that marriage is rather more difficult than I expected.”

by mollykl

Husband J brought home burritos instead of the beef tacos I requested.While they were from Oscars, and probably most people would find them delicious, they were not what I wanted, and I ended up putting them in the fridge for him to take to work tomorrow for his lunch. He’s been trying to get me to tell him what else I would like so he can go get it, but I’m being stubborn and saying no to everything. Please note: when I’m being a bitch I will proudly admit it. I’m not being a bitch, I just don’t want him to go get me anything. Yes, I’m still irked by the fact that I didn’t get my damn beef tacos, but I’m not doing this as some archaic form of punishment. I’m also not doing it so I can just stay mad at him. I’m actually not even mad.

I’ve been thinking about marriage these past couple of days. I just finished reading Deanna Raybourn’s Dark Road to Darjeeling, with its newly married protagonists Julia and Brisbane, and was very impressed with the fact that this fourth”Julia Grey” novel not only lived up to the previous books, but somehow managed to have more depth and character development. (As you might have noticed from previous posts, I like character development.) The presentation of marriage, as a state, was so spot on it took my breath away.  Life was not “happily ever after.”  Being married has its own problems, creates some new ones, and brings some old ones out of hiding.  The same character flaws that were perhaps overlooked previously (Brisbane’s stubborn care for Julia’s safety, which can come off as overprotective, coddling and condescending) or were never seen in a certain light (Julia’s sister Portia calls her “selfish” admitting that all the Grey children are because of their wealth and upbringing) are here for our hero and heroine to see, and more importantly, to deal with.  There’s not even the simplistic “fight-make-up-all-is-well” formula. They argue, and then argue about something else. They both act out. They deceive one another, sometimes with noble, sometimes with selfish, aims. They both find giving up independence difficult. You know those couples who seem to think and act as one? Yeah, me neither. I try to avoid those couples because they’re annoying  and I don’t trust them. Thankfully, Julia and Brisbane are not like that, otherwise I’d have to stop reading.

If you think that marriage is supposed to be easy, and that all of your problems will go away if you can just get that ring, don’t bother reading Dark Road to Darjeeling. You won’t appreciate it.

But I know that it’s hard, and requires, sometimes, more honesty than I can bear to give. I also know there’s no one in world I love more than my husband, even when he forgets the fucking tacos. Sometimes I get lucky and read a book that reminds me of that.

Can’t write…..reading…come..back..later

by mollykl

Got my eagerly anticipated copy of Dark road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn.

Can’t stay..must get back to book. Must stop and have inexplicably (or perhaps not so inexplicably) craved cup of tea first…

This just in: the war to end all wars comes to a, well, end

by mollykl

Because the fat lady hasn’t sung until the reparations are paid in full. Tomorrow marks Germany’s  last 94 million dollar reparations settlement payment from World War 1. It’s like peace: the layaway plan.

On a similar note – this past week marked the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, otherwise known to English majors around the world as the Norman Conquest.

No word on whether France has finally paid up for that, but as they’re French, I’m guessing that answer’s a resounding no.