February 27, 2016

Vaughn et al: "The Private Eye" - The World Stars

I have convinced myself that there is a trilemma when it comes to science fiction writing.
Either you have a good plot, or you have a good setting, or you have interesting characters. You can have two of the three, but never all three. The action and the people can be awesome, but usually for me the setting is off, there’s a failure of world-building because the author was trying to tell an interesting story but forgot that the economy wouldn’t really work the way they described it and maybe there’s a handwave or something to make it work. This kind of thing lessens my enjoyment.

That didn’t happen here. In fact, and for the first time I can remember in my readings, in “The Private Eye” the world is the star. In this future, the world has gone analogue after the “Cloud Burst” happened which revealed everyone’s secrets and society decided as a whole to unplug and find the joy in books and records. There is a character from our present, who is by this future an aging hipster with faded tattoos who is the most interesting character in the book because he shows the tension between the world as it is now and the imagined world. Alas, he is just a side character in the larger plot which involves an unlicensed reporter (in this world, the press has combined with the police as the arm of justice) solving a mystery. In the process, the big wall holding the Pacific gets a hole blown in it. That’s what I want to see and read about. The plot, for me, lacked tension that would pull the story forward and the world was the star. I definitely want to see more of this world from Vaughn and company. I just don’t care about most of the characters that live there. It’s an odd tension I’m not entirely used to.

A Powerful Collection of Essays: Rebecca Solnit's "Men Explain Things to Me"

I had previously only read Solnit through her work “A Paradise Built in Hell”.
I didn’t really like that text – it felt like she was cheery-picking examples of people coming together in her described disaster-anarchy and she used two examples that she was personally involved in.  She was too close to her thesis to make what she was arguing compelling to me as a reader.

But there I go, trying to explain things about her.

What brought me to this text was I had read the titular essay on-line and I saw that it was being issued as part of a collection with some of her previously published works in other sites and spaces. I should have thought that what made the other noted work not succeed for me is what makes Solnit a very powerful essayist. Though these have been published elsewhere, they are a great introduction to her work. In these essays, she explores from multiple angles the violence that one gender has visited on another throughout time and cultures. Though she celebrates some of the movement we have had in naming the violence that happens between the sexes (and weasel sentences like that that deny agency to the men and creates an idea that the violence just happens) but she also acknowledges the distances that we still have to cross to eliminate the violence men visit on women and the lost cohort of women who are silenced and have been forever silenced. It is we men who have to fix it, and move from being all potential vectors of sexual violence to coequals, and as I type that, I know how much we still have to go.

February 23, 2016

Breifly on Chinamanda Ngoi Adichie's "We Should All Be Feminists"

The bad – it’s just an essay, and they shoehorned it in this tiny little book.
The dimensions are small, and they had to make the covers thicker to give it a bit more heft.

The good – it is short. Though it may lack some nuance, it is a quick-hitter.
The better – this gives voice to a woman outside the white milieu.
The best – It shows the need for feminism everywhere. Ngoi Adichie has a strong voice, a storyteller’s voice. And it is a world voice. Big fan of that. I’m convinced. We all should be feminists.

February 17, 2016

Becoming Unbecoming by Una: A Review

Picked this up off the shelf, sight unseen.

It was a smart pick.

The story is about a young woman, growing up.

The background is the hunt for the so-called “Yorkshire” Ripper, a serial killer who was tracking down women and killing them.

The killer took too long to get caught because the people looking for him were incompetent. They were incompetent in that they were men who made unfair assumptions about women.

All the men do.  Though there is the backdrop of the useless police, the story can be seen as a universal story of women growing up - where the threat of sexual violence is complete both in society as a whole and even within relationships. It was a powerfully told tale, and one that makes me worry for my daughters in the future and all the daughters ever.