BOOK RADAR: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, the second novel in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, was released this week.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Theodora Goss about the first novel in the series last year for the Washington Independent Review of Books. (You can read it here). I’m looking forward to reading this sequel. The first one was a rollicking mixture of mystery, adventure, and meta-textual feminist fun.

Monstrous Gentlewoman

From the back cover copy:

In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Problematic Faves: The Terry Gilliam edition

Damn, this one hurts.

When I in junior high, my favorite movie was Time Bandits. It was a darkly surreal (bordering on absurd) take on Time Travel Tropes. The hero/protagonist was a pensive boy, Kevin who was the child of two rather crass, materially-obsessed parents.  Kevin meets a group of time-traveling little people. The boy and  the troupe time-hop from the Napoleonic Wars to the Middle Ages to Ancient Greece to the Age of Legends, having adventures that mingle action, grotesquerie and humor in equal measure. It had a bleak, Roald Dahl-like undertone, unique in a movie ostensibly for kids. I saw the movie many times. I was obsessed. The kid who play Kevin was even name Craig (Warnock)!

I never got into the love for Brazil, but Gilliam’s expansion of La Jetée, 12 Monkeys, was a revelation. It was a taut horror film masquerading as a sci-fi political thriller, and convinced me that Brad Pitt was more than just a pretty face.

I wasn’t exactly a Gilliam fanboy, but his movies and his aesthetic opened up what speculative storytelling could be for me. It could be dark, brooding and stylish.  Then, Gilliam began saying some problematic things. First, his statement on #MeToo was disturbing victim-blaming claptrap. And now, he has joined Lionel Shriver in pushing that hoary canard that encourage Diversity in art is somehow produces diminishes quality.

“Gilliam said: “It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”“(From the Guardian)

There are many things wrong with this statement.

Once more, for those in the back, Diversity Initiatives seek to address past exclusions and give a seat at the table to under-represented populations. No-one seeking out incompetent or untalented people of marginalized communities and giving them a show/book contract. Being talented and competent is a pre-requisite. Quotas are a reactionary fiction/strawman. Expanding the field in no way, shape or form damages “white men from Oxbridge.” There’s no committee of comedians saying, “Wanda Sykes’ mere existence on the scene invalidates and unpersons Monty Python,” or “John Mulvaney is no longer funny now that Kate McKinnon is in town!”

Also, making “Black Lesbians in Transition” the punchline of a joke kind of underscores the importance of Diversity Initiatives. To Gilliam, black lesbians and transgender folk aren’t real people. They certainly aren’t passionate artists whose perspective and stories haven’t been told. 

I doubt he could name even one black or trans lesbian artist. I doubt he imagines that a black gay boy loved Time Bandits. When people make statements like that, they are sending a message to their non-white, non-straight, and non-cis audiences. The message is, you don’t matter.

Gilliam:Shriver

 

 

Queering Electronic Music

As much as I like traditional pop music and classic song structure, I love instrumental music. It’s the stuff that I write to, and that gives me ideas for fiction and scenes. The field of electronica and ambient is as white, straight and male as you can get, so it’s always a pleasure to find artists from marginalized communities appear on the scene. I recently discover two such artists that make electronic music that’s disturbing and beautiful.

Both Arca (Alejandro Ghersi ) and Yves Tumor (Sean Lee Bowie, or not!) are queer men of color who infuse their electronic sound collages with a queer sensibility. Their ominous soundscapes, combine subgenres like EDM, industrial and hauntology, both of them play with genderfuck in their performances.

Links:Arca

Yves Tumor

 

 

BOOK RADAR: Flamingoes in Orbit by Philip Ridley

Valancourt Books has reprinted Philip Ridley’s short fiction collection Flamingoes in Orbit. Ridley wrote a couple of homoerotic magical realist novels back in the 80s (In the Eyes of Mr Fury and Crocodilia) which went out of print. Kudos to Valancourt for bringing the novels back into print!

flamingoesinorbit_orig

From the Back Cover Copy:

A teenager stares at his reflection and sees the Milky Way. A motorbike prowls and growls like a wild animal. A whale sings a song to end loneliness.

Philip Ridley’s collection of short stories – like his two adult novels, Crocodilia and In the Eyes of Mr Fury – became an instant cult classic when first published in 1990. Magical, poetic, heartbreaking and humorous, the sequence explores childhood, family life, romantic love in all its aspects – lost, unrequited, obsessional – and does so with a haunting mixture of both the barbaric and the beautiful that has become Ridley’s trademark. In particular, these tales deal with the experience of growing up gay in a world still bristling with prejudice, and they sing and howl with the need for equality and freedom.

This edition includes two new stories, “Alien Heart” and “Wonderful Insect”, and finally completes a seminal and compelling collection first begun over thirty years ago.

Reading While Black: The Kids Lit Edition

When I was a child of ten or so, I wanted to be a writer (and illustrator) like the authors idolized. I decided to read as many “classic” children’s books as possible, mostly using the Newbery Award Winners as a reading list. One of the books on that list was Doctor Doolittle, by Hugo Lofting. I had seen the (1960s) movie and assumed that the book would be similar, if not the same. Not only wasn’t it similar, it came with a heaping dose of open racism. In one scene, the good doctor bleaches a black man white so that he can marry a white woman. I was so disturbed by this scene that I did not finish the book. At ten, I wasn’t “woke,” so I just filed the racism away and lowered my expectations of becoming a Famous Author. I learned that Famous Authors were white people.  I also learned that Famous Authors could get away with blatant racism.

220px-Cover_of_The_Water_Babies

Doctor Doolittle, of course, was not the only book that had blatantly racist messages. There was the Victorian fairy tale novel The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, which outright stated that black people were ugly and stupid. (I hunted down this book after reading Alistair Gray’s novel Lanark, which references Kingsley’s book). There was a passage in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel The Secret Garden where the spoiled brat heroine blithely claims that people of color aren’t even people. (I loved the Burnett book anyway). I had to stop reading A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden because one Asian character spoke in pidgin English. (By the time I encountered that book, I had read Laurence Yep and could spot harmful stereotypes).

The Association for Library Service to Children recently removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its award because of racism in the Little House books. I never read the Little House books; I did like the television show with its plucky tomboy protagonist and her nemesis, the campy villainess Nellie Olsen. Apparently, the books have some moments of severe values dissonance, with racist portrayals of Native Americans (who were displaced from their land by the Homesteading Act) and in one scene, Pa and a bunch of his friends put on a minstrel show, complete with blackface. Of course, naysayers are screaming about how such an action is on the slippery slope Book Banning and Burning, and how this is tantamount to censorship and another attack by the Tyrannical PC Snowflakes.

I think about all the Native and black children who come across these stereotypical portrayals, and the racist message they absorb.

 

Reading Log: Books by Jeanette Ng, Greg Keyes, T.E. Grau

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng.

UnderThePendulumSun_144dpi-1-400x606

In spite of being flawed in its pacing, this debut novel stuck with me. It is a gothic novel given a fantasy makeover. It deals with forbidden passion and is mostly set in a gothic castle in fairyland (here called Arcadia). Ng’s evocation of fairyland is sinister rather than whimsical, full of mists and confusion. The Fae are cruel, capracious creatures, given to mindfuck games and illusions. Their alien morality is tantalizingly disguised behind a thin veil of beauty.  One of the central themes of the novel is: do these creatures have souls?

The Waterborn by Greg Keyes

91971

A colorful play on sword and sorcery tropes. Very action-filled with a ‘sensawonda.’ The worldbuilding is non-western even if the tropes (the Chosen one, the princess in peril) are. Bits of Native American and South American (Aztec and Mayan) influence are filtered through this take on the Hero’s Journey. The rich imagery and characterizations (particularly the princess) make this a ‘page-turner.’

I Am the River by T.E. Grau

s245970311962353406_p484_i3_w2560

I’m reading the ARC of this novel (soon to be out the publisher of my first collection Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories). It’s a Vietnam War novel with supernatural elements, well researched and with a somewhat experimental style. The shifting timelines technique takes a bit to get used to, but it works well with the disorienting narrative. It’s a textual representation of PTSD, very effective, very uncomfortable.

What are you reading?

 

Octavia E. Butler’s 71st

The Google Doodle today features the late Octavia E. Butler. She is one of my muses. Her bleak, imaginative speculative fiction thematically explored the trauma of oppression. She’s known as a Science Fiction writer, but she also wrote horror (Fledgling, and Clay’s Ark qualify).

OEB

I heard OEB speak twice. She didn’t read from her fiction. But her speech was as powerful as her fiction. You read my blog post about her speech here (The Parable of Octavia E. Butler).

She was taken from us too soon.

Upcoming Event: Reading at DC’s Outwrite Festival in August!

I’ll be reading with Melissa Scott (author of Shadow Man, the City of Astreiant Series); Brit Mandelo (author of We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling and numerous short stories); A.M. Dellamonica (author of The Hidden Sea and Indigo Springs series). It will be moderated by Lara Elena Donnelly, author of the deco punk novels Amberlough and Armistice. Hope to see you there!

Untitled

On Cons and Social Anxiety

I just came from Balticon, where I had a great time both as a panelist and an audience member. It was great to be among a group of people who were enthusiastic about the various genre fandoms. The con did a good job of making a welcome atmosphere for LGBTQ and POC folks, and had a robust harassment policy posted prominently. My panels were evenly spread and not back-to-back, and I had plenty of time to chill out. In fact, my Saturday schedule was basically empty! But I noticed something: I was exhausted by 10pm each day, even during the light schedule days. And by exhausted, I mean fatigued. Bone-deep tiredness, the type where your eyelids feel like they have weights on them. When I got in bed, I immediately fell asleep as if I had done strenuous exercise. It was beyond just the normal con fatigue.

Socially Concious

And that’s when it dawned on me—I was experiencing the physical toll of social anxiety. I have a mild form of anxiety, one that I am finally addressing in treatment. I never feel like I belong. I am awkward in crowded social situations (such as room parties!) and find that I need some time alone after being social. I will often go up to a con’s Green Room just to be alone.

I am writing this for a couple reasons. One, to apologize for any aloofness/unapproachability  vibe I radiated. Secondly, I want to kind of raise awareness about this issue. Much of the reason I go to cons is for networking. And networking is one of those things you must do as an author. Face-time with editors and authors are as important as submission in this business. And I know that I have missed connecting with other people because of this condition of mine. Finally, I think this is an important signal-boost the issue. I tweeted that “Networking for the Socially Anxious” should be a panel topic.

Outer Dark Symposium recording; Balticon

The recording of the Outer Dark Symposium panel I was on, The House on the Borderlands/La Frontera, is now available to listen to on the This Is Horror website.

A description of the panel:

In this podcast The Outer Dark presents the first installment of The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird 2018 including  The House on the Borderlands/La Frontera” Panel, moderated by David Bowles and featuring Rios de la LuzCraig Laurance Gidney, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Scott Nicolay, and Tiffany Scandal, plus Readings by David Bowles and John Claude Smith. These segments were recorded live on Saturday March 24 at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The podcast also includes all-new exclusive News from The Weird with Max Booth III and Lori Michelle from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

Outer Dark

Also, I will be at Balticon this weekend. My schedule is posted below.

Balticon