Friday, January 29, 2016

WBI: Jareth, The Goblin King

General WBI Update: WBI stays, for now. Here are a few clarifying notes, so you know what’s changing and why. (1) I’m keeping the WBI Profile. I realize it’s sort of elaborate, but I find them useful for the aggregate analyses (if we do that again, anyway). (2) “A Study” has been replaced with notes on how the villain relates to significant characters and their important actions. (3) “Big Idea” is staying at the end because I consider it a kind of conclusion. (4) As always, I’ll share an amazing song or quote at the end. Cuz really.

*****

Pre-teen Heather thought Labyrinth was a mundane and stupid fairy tale. Pre-teen Heather didn’t know what she was talking about—it is intricate and humorous and David Bowie rocks. As sources tell me they haven’t seen Labyrinth, and in honor of David Bowie, allow me to show you why Jareth is so dang awesome.

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When fifteen-year-old Sarah wishes for the Goblin King to take her infant brother, Toby, far away, Jareth lovingly complies. He then gives the dismayed Sarah thirteen hours to traverse his labyrinth to save Toby from his fate as a Goblin—but he doesn’t make it easy. Jareth orders the Labyrinthians under his domain to deter Sarah as much as possible, but in the end, they may not be as obedient as he might wish…

WBI Profile

Classification :: Λ24578!#*@
Role :: Assassin (Sarah’s personal demon—in a good way)
Motivations :: Idealism (forcing Sarah to grow), Insubordination (Sarah’s slave), Lifestyle (a figment of Sarah’s imagination?), Personal/Material Gain (Sarah’s love and Toby’s soul), Power/Influence (over Labyrinthians)
Bonus :: Magic (oogly boogly), Minions (muppets), Lair (Labyrinth), Name (Jareth/Goblin King)

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His Significance To…

Toby—Jareth kidnaps Toby at Sarah’s personal request. It’s not because he wants to hurt kids, or he just wants another goblin. He does it because Sarah wished for it. And even so, Jareth isn’t cruel to the baby at all. Literally, the worst thing that happens to this kid is a rousing song with goblins and sitting on Jareth’s lap (watching a puppet, off-screen) while he monologues. Jareth’s quarrel is not with Toby.

Labyrinthians—Jareth wants Sarah. And if some of his subjects get in the way, that is not his problem. They get punished. Harshly. And that’s what they’re for. In fact, many of the characters join Sarah in order to rebel against Jareth’s oppressive leadership, because that’s all he is to them.

Sarah—Sarah is the whiniest bitch at the beginning of this film. She’s a child. This is important, because in her fight for Toby, the Goblin King himself forces Sarah to mature. Because of his resistance, she sets aside her selfish, silly ways; by providing a fictional struggle to overcome, Jareth empowers Sarah to overcome her real-life struggles, too. Jareth makes Sarah a better person. Because he loves her. And because she needs it.

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Notable Actions

building conflict—Jareth is tailored to make Sarah grow into a better person. He gives her a struggle and he deters her from the path, because he loves her, and because she needs to grow.

issuing consequences— Sarah says, “That’s not fair!” and Jareth replies, “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?” Jareth challenges Sarah’s entitlement and gives her exactly what she asks for. He demonstrates what it means to have consequences, and gives Sarah a reason to think about the significance of her actions.

tempting Sarah—he would give Sarah all her dreams for her brother’s humanity; he tempts her with desirable things, but leaves her to decide whether she wants to accept the consequences.

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Big Idea

perfect match—I classify Jareth as an “assassin,” not because he kills people or for his stellar leadership skills, but because he is Sarah’s anti-accomplice in the story. His humor and darkness build the challenge Sarah must rise to, and ironically, everything he does as an antagonist is for the protagonist’s benefit. How cool is that?

imaginary—another interpretation is that all of the muppets and David Bowie himself are figments of Sarah’s imagination, and she uses her favorite characters in her own life story. To that extent, it’s interesting that Jareth doesn’t have to be “real” by our normal definition to complete this story.

stylish—he has great hair and makeup and outfits with feathers and everything, but also, he has great presentation. His story and statement catch Sarah’s attention, of course, but in such a way that makes her reevaluate who she wants to be as a person, her familial relationships, her inner darkness, and her future. [This is the part where you say, “Damn, that’s stylish.”]

Finally: “Dance Magic Dance.” One of my all-time favorite villain songs, with the added bonus of David Bowie’s hair.



Have you seen Labyrinth? Are you gonna watch it now?


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Greek Mythology Book Tag

You’d think I’d be less of a Greek Mythology geek since I don’t spend every waking moment thinking about it, but apparently not. Mythology still fascinates me. Being the soul that I am, I decided to make a Greek Gods book tag. BECAUSE WHY NOT. Even if there’s one out there already, I’m sure nobody does things the way Heather does things.

(Obviously the attributes I picked out are not the only things these gods are in charge of, but if we tried to do that we’d be here until 2020. So.)

ZEUS :: justice :: an unjust ending (and how you would change it)

via Goodreads
Pandora Gets Frightened by Carolyn Hennesy

In the end Hera is the bad guy and gets punished for eternity. I had a way better ending planned that involved Hera’s un-possession and redemption, and would acknowledge that Hera did not completely suck.

HERA :: women :: a depiction of the female experience

via Goodreads
Hera by George O’Connor

In the last pages, O’Connor reminds us that recorded myths are really “Greek Myths: The Dude’s Edition” and that some myths were passed from mother to daughter, about which we know little. But he gives us one that we do know of, because women should have stories, too.

POSEIDON :: earthshaker :: a book that shook your perspective

via Goodreads
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

You have to read it, I think. It really made me think about my privilege in a new way, and how lucky I am in terms of money and education and death.

DEMETER :: fertility :: a series that promises to grow

via Goodreads
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I’ve read up  to the fifth volume so far and I am dying just because my heart breaks in new ways with each new addition.

ARES :: war :: a book that gave you conflicted feelings

via Goodreads
Rebels by Jill Williamson

I like this series because the writing is good and it’s an interesting story but I can’t forgive this series for sexism and racism and being generally disappointing when it comes to social themes.

ATHENA :: wisdom :: a story raising philosophical questions

via Goodreads
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

To be discussed in a later post. Okay? Okay. Just think: what is a person?

APOLLO :: healing :: a book that makes you feel better

via Goodreads
Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I read it when I had a panic attack on account of I didn’t have money for parking. But my best friend bailed me out, because she is awesome.

ARTEMIS :: animals :: a book with a carnal title

via Goodreads
Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Also to do with King Richard, who I am not a big fan of, but whatever.

[Get it? Cuz it’s a play on romance and wilderness! Hahaha. Artemis would kill me.]

HEPHAESTUS :: craftsmanship :: a well-crafted story

via Goodreads
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman is among the best writers I’ve ever read, and Challenger Deep was so intricate and symbolic and yet easy to follow… I loved it.

APHRODITE :: love :: an epic romance

via Goodreads
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

IT WAS SO CUTE THOUGH. KISSING AND MARRIAGE AND LOVE AND CRAZY ENDINGS. GAH. I LOVED IT. I think I’m going to read it again…

HERMES :: thievery :: a story that stole your heart

via Goodreads
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

It’s funny, because it is about thieves! I really liked it, though, especially because I’m still on the tail end of my Leverage hangover. It was a lot of good characters in an interesting storyworld. I’m interested for the next book.

DIONYSUS :: ritual madness :: an unexpected ending

via Goodreads
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

It wasn’t really unexpected to me because I read it before I finished the middle but it was very weird and interesting and philosophical and it makes you go like whaaaat.

[This doesn’t seem to connect, but my connection is that Dionysus is sort of construed as divinely chaotic because of his madness (both Hera and wine induced). Being chaotic he is given charge of the unexpected and of those who don’t traditionally fit in. That’s the connection.]

HADES :: wealth :: the most valuable book you own

via Goodreads

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

it’s not really because of the book itself (although it’s a good one), but the specific copy I have was owned by my mom and grandfather and so forth… It’s been sort of passed down through the generations, and it’s cool to own something passed down like that.

HESTIA :: home :: a book set in your homeland

via Goodreads
It’s Our Prom (So Deal with It) by Julie Ann Peters

This wasn’t actually a book I particularly liked (it just felt sort of outrageous in a lot of weird ways), but I did appreciate living in the general area where it takes place so that I knew all of the landmarks and stuff.


Well, that's the end of this very long post. But, it was fun. Plus, mythology. I knew this was a good idea.

Okay, you can pick out two Greek gods and tell me what books you’d put under their categories!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing Mentors Change

If I want to know whether I’ve grown as a writer, I sit down and read something. The rule of thumb is this: if I feel the same about it, I haven’t grown.

Let me give you some backstory. During my middle school days, FictionPress and FanFiction.Net were two places I liked to explore. I could, on occasion, share my work, as well as delight myself with the works of other brave souls. There was this story—at the time, I think it was my favorite story—called “Embracing the Darkness.”

Deli-ci-ous pomegranate in the sun
Flickr Credit: NYCandre

(Hm, I wonder if you can still find it. Ah! You can. If you have time for 66,000 more words in your life, here ya go.)

The specifics of my love have grown fuzzy. It resonated with me, because my fourteen-year-old self really identified with a young goddess in her twenties. It’s a Hades and Persephone retelling, and that story is always one of my favorites. And it was kind of edgy, if you think drinking wine is edgy, which I guess I did.

Me being me, I printed out the story, hole punched it, and put it in a binder to read as many times as I wanted. I can’t blame myself. Nothing on the Internet lasts, but paper stays. And my copy of “Embracing the Darkness” has. I have vague memories of reading it on my bedroom floor freshman year of high school, back when I was on my Greek Mythology kick (not that it’s ended—take note for Wednesday) and was still at an age where I would have found the writing of most superior quality.

Fast forward to last month. I am decluttering my room, emptying old binders, throwing away unfamiliar papers, and, lo and behold, I find “Embracing the Darkness.” Just like maybe-five years ago, it is locked safely between two plastic covers among other gems such as “For Esme—with Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger (which has only gotten better since the last time I read it).

I remember loving the story. I remember wanting to one day write a story as powerful and emotionally satisfying as this one. And what is there to do with a story you love but jump right in?

…Except. Except it wasn’t quite the way I remembered it. The words didn’t flow quite as beautifully as I thought they did. The characters weren’t as developed as I remembered. And my eagerness didn’t burst from my heart quite so violently.

The story didn’t change; I did. What surprised me more than that, though, was that I didn’t mind.

I can appreciate the story for what it was to me before, but I’m also glad I can see these things. I’m older. I’ve read more. I’ve written more. I’ve edited more.  And, from that, I can see more—where the characterization lacks, where the prose feels stilted, where I would have changed things. I recognize these things, and feel confident that I’m better now—and if I can criticize someone else’s work like this, maybe I can do it to my own, too.

I’m glad I found “Embracing the Darkness.” I like knowing that I’ve grown. I like knowing that I have this story saved in the history of myself. And I like knowing that I can fully love and admire the writing mentors I look up to now—with great storytelling skills, craft, and characters—and not be afraid that someday I may end up criticizing them, too. I can change without regret, and that’s something I look forward to as I get older.

But even after all these years, I’m still a sucker for Hades and Persephone stores. I guess in that regard, some things never change.

Who have been some of your writing mentors? How have your opinions of them changed over the years?


Friday, January 22, 2016

New Discoveries Tag

Here am I, finally getting around to the New Discoveries Tag, something like five months after I was tagged by the most generous Ally at The Scribbling Sprite and Alexa of Summer Snowflakes. But, to be fair, ‘tis been a while since I’ve had new blogs to talk about. So.

Die Regeln: 


  • Share the picture above in your post and link back to the person who tagged you.
  • Share at least one blog you’ve recently discovered. (Try to say something about each blog.)
  • Share at least one blog you’d describe as a new favorite.
  • Share at least one blog  you’d describe as an old favorite.
  • Tag however many people you like.

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New Discoveries

Shadows of a Half Life—I recently reconnected with an old friend, and she just started blogging. I’m very much looking forward to that which she thinks and writes over the next while.

Six Impossible Things—This isn’t super accurate since I’ve known of Topaz for quite a while, but I’ve only really started paying attention to her blog over the last few months. She is poetic and not to be missed.

Weaving Waves Words—Also not the newest, but I still think of Shanti and Shar as my “new blogging friends” because I don’t have newer blogging friends. Anyway, they are book bloggers with a merry sense of humor, and go visit them.

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Less-New Favorites

(*facepalm* I don’t like this. Because, you know what, if you get me to follow your blog I will follow you for a long time. And if you don’t get me to follow your blog then we’ll probably never see each other again. Blah.)

Curiosity Collections—Bailey is a sweet blogger who talks about her life and writing. I don’t really remember how I found her but I’ve looked forward to her posts ever since!

The Endless Oceans of My Mind—After being paired together as CPs on another website, Victoria sent me her blog. She writes about Australia and writing and books and superheroes and it is an enjoyable sort of thing to read.

Out of Coffee, Out of Mind—I love what Liz writes. From discussions to personal life stories to writing reflections, Liz is profound and good at capturing your brain. I really hope Liz blogs a long time because I’d read her a long time.

Paper Fury—I feel like Cait has used her bookish wiles to worm her way into the heart of nearly every other book blogger out there (not that I’m a book blogger, of course). She’s funny and talks about books and has good GIFs and is just an enjoyable person, even if she demands complete and total loyalty to be her friend—er, subject.

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Old Favorites

The Devil Orders Takeout—I ran into Alyssa in the days of the TCWT Blog Chain, and I have enjoyed her words since. She talks about culture and writing and books with humor and wit and snark, but she also has her priorities in order with diversity and representation and things. *nods*

Opal Swirls—Where did Opal come from? I don’t know. It’s like she’s always been there. She represents herself on her blog, through books and stories and GIFs that remind us who she is and what she lives for. It is lovely.

Summer Snowflakes—Alexa has always been here too. She’s a team player and a community member, and I like how willing she is to say a kind word about a fellow blogger or a book she loved. Her kindness is amazing. And I’m not just being a suckup cuz she tagged me for this.

To the Barricade—Aimee has skills. In GIF usage. In humor. In writing. And in blogging about them, too. She’s good for thought-provoking posts and also laughs. Also, she isn’t afraid to share unpopular opinions, and I admire that.


So, yeah. There are plenty more bloggers who I love, plenty more bloggers I’ve stuck with for a long time, but for now, I feel as though I’ve satisfied the requirements.

Those listed can consider themselves tagged, unless they don’t want to, in which they may claim a virtual cookie instead.

Who are some of your new discoveries? Link me!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Testing the Bechdel Test: The Finalists

Guess what? It is the last week of Bechdel analysis! Fortunately, it is also my favorite week, because this time we’re talking about movies with female representation I actually like.

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Good Female Representation, Passed Bechdel 

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Dark Shadows (source)


It gives me hope when the disc menu pictures more women than men—not that Dark Shadows has ever disappointed me. All eight-ish main characters are developed as their own people and as members as a greater working body: the Collins family. This family has its honor restored by their vampiric ancestor, Barnabus, for whom family is the greatest wealth. For him, everyone receives loyalty and respect until they lose it.

So. Elizabeth is the matriarch, and she gets final say. Barnabus doesn’t dispute that; he doesn’t need to be in charge to be devoted. Julia Hoffman is a doctor, which is ridiculous for someone from three hundred years ago. Still, he doesn’t challenge her; he employs her. The film is your essential fish out of water story, but a key part of Barnabus’s character insists that people are more important than his expectations of them, male or female. In fact, the only time that Barnabus cracks is when he finds that two family members have placed their own self-interest over their familial duties. Without hesitation, he kicks them out, because his family members deserve better.

Part of the film’s intrigue comes from a character we wouldn’t expect to respect everyone, but does. Another part is the time period of change represented in the story. Angie Bouchard is the same woman Barnabus fought against three hundred years ago, but the story ends differently because of change. What’s more, characters explore the role of women as a contemporary issue of the 70’s. Elizabeth and Angie clash in a man’s business world. Victoria is asked during her job interview whether the sexes should be equal. Dr. Hoffman discusses the harm of women labeling women. They ask the questions that we still need to answer today.

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t keep track of how many times women talk to each other, it’s because I wanted to watch the movie. Elizabeth, Dr. Hoffman, Carolyn, Angie, and Victoria talk plenty. End of story.

I love all the characters and there’s an inherent demand for respect for all people. Plus, questions. Representation yes.

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Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (source) (source)


Princess Anneliese must marry to save her country from bankruptcy; Erika is the indentured servant to a cruel, unfair mistress. But despite their very different backgrounds, the two girls become friends, and in Anneliese’s time of need, Erika is there to take her place until further notice. In this world, women have their own power—the queen rules her country alone, Madame Carpe (however much of a butt she may be) is a business owner, and Anneliese and Erika try to find their way to leave the path laid before them and find their own place in the world. And they do.

Anneliese is expected to be a well-behaved, attentive princess when she would rather study science. Though she’s willing to make the sacrifice to help her people, in the end she finds a new source of income for her country through her interest in geology. Both she and her subjects are released from commitments they didn’t want to make. However, even though Anneliese loves science, she also admires Erika’s talent for singing, too. This leads to a great friendship that ends up saving the kingdom, which is in itself pretty amazing, but also a friendship of service—Anneliese helps release Erika from indentured slavery and enables her to follow her dream of singing professionally. Over the course of the movie, Erika makes friends and falls in love, but once she has her freedom, she puts them all on hold for herself. She follows her dream. She makes money singing. And it is never once a source of conflict—her love interest and her friends don’t beg her to stay for their sake. Instead, Erika just goes, and when she decides to pursue a different dream, she returns home to be with the people she loves. Sure, there’s a double wedding at the end, but the movie’s real focus is on balancing duties and dreams without compromise. And friendship. Never forget friendship.

Again, I didn’t keep track of the conversations. But really, they’re best friends talking about their life’s dreams. Could you even worry?

Female friendship, freedom, and following your dreams. Representation yes.

*****

I was planning on discussing The Incredibles over Princess and the Pauper, but I decided on the latter because I wanted to discuss a film where I liked the female representation but their immediate tie to the other main characters wasn’t through family. Family is, of course, awesome, but so are female friendships, so I thought I’d balance my portfolio like that.

One last note: these movies go above and beyond Bechdel test requirements, but that doesn’t mean these movies are perfect. Unlike previously discussed films, there are virtually no people of color, much less women of color, much less other female experiences (i.e. LGBT+ representation, etc.), much less something else I’ve probably forgotten. This doesn’t make them bad movies—as Alexa commented earlier, not all movies can represent everybody—but it is, as always, something to think about.

Well, that’s a wrap! Thanks for tuning in to Testing the Bechdel test, and here’s to all the awesome female characters out there, whatever movie they may be in.



What are some of your favorite movies with amazing female representation? 


Monday, January 18, 2016

I Really Sucked at Writing

I moved back into my room and decluttered, a big part of which involved getting rid of old school stuff. From reading many of my old assignments, I have come to a certain conclusion: I was a terrible writer.

School
Flickr Credit: Moyann Brenn

No, really. I couldn’t construct a decent thesis sentence to save my life. My in-line citations were essentially the entire citation. I didn’t use hard facts if I could help it, my syntax was like riding a skateboard over a busted sidewalk, and I was naïve and terrifying. Does it count as suicide if your past self KILLS YOU with her terrible writing?

I feel so bad for my teachers. Not only did they have to read my crappy writing, but if I was getting mostly A’s and B’s, imagine what else they had to grade…

My writing started to improve in eleventh grade, but I also admit that if I hadn’t been such a terrible writer, I don’t think I would have seen the growth I did. My teachers kept giving me ways to improve myself.

They Made Me Prewrite

I was shamed (okay, I lost points) for poor prewriting in ninth grade. In tenth grade, there was at least one hardcore prewriting sheet for each writing assignment we got, and by eleventh grade, we only had to review the basics to work out the best system for ourselves. Prewriting forced me to think about organization, and organization made my thesis clear and thorough.

Eleventh Grade Brought Rhetoric

Confession: until twelfth grade I did not believe in literary analysis. Like I said, I tended to make stuff up or say weird and dumb things in my essays because I didn’t fully understand what I read or what the point of it was. I still thought that reading was primarily about entertainment (and how ignorant I was). In eleventh grade, learning rhetoric brought systems of analyzing solid facts from non-fiction sources and ways to synthesize them into new interpretations. And though I think I have a longer ways to grow in analyzing fiction, having those systems made it easier to understand how to talk about literature the following year, when I finally figured out that it is indeed possible for springy logs to be more than springy logs.


They Made Me Read Stuff

We got handouts. We got books. In eleventh grade especially, we would get all kinds of articles. Here’s a book by Daniel Gilbert—write like him! Here’s an article from the newsletter—write like that! Here is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”—write like him! And Joan Didion! And Maya Angelou! And Plato! And while I am not quite the writing master that the aforementioned names were just yet, reading the work of awesome people and finding out what made them awesome helped make me figure out how to be awesome, too. Just like with everyone else, studying the masters makes the apprentices better.


It’s easy to criticize my high school writing now, but it gave teachers the opportunity to tell me, “Heather, you need to learn to analyze texts without sounding like an unobservant half-wit, or you will live a fruitless and unhappy life.” (Just kidding, I made that up, but I’m sure they all thought that at some point.) With guidance to put me on the right track, I got better, and I even manage to write good stuff for college classes. I grew. Go me.

(On the off chance that any of my teachers end up reading this, a belated thanks for reading all of my dismal writings. I appreciate that.)

Have you looked back on your writing from years ago? What do you think?


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thursentary: The Top 15 of 2015

I realize that we’re already two weeks into the new year, but this is how the blogging schedule worked out, and also it took me a while to decide how I wanted to do this.

In honor of 2015 I narrowed down the 109 books I read this year to my favorite fifteen, and gave them a summary of 100 characters or less, not including spaces. (Other people did super long book surveys and I decided no way, José; we will be briefs, like underwear.)

Anyway, in no particular order, except they are in alphabetical order by author’s last name:

via Goodreads
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo—I liked all of this book except for when someone’s eyeball gets cut out. Otherwise, it was splendiferous.

"The Witch of Duva" by Leigh Bardugo—It’s technically a short story, but I loved the girl power, witches, twists, and… truth.

George by Alex Gino—A book bearing the gifts of new perspectives on people and the self and school. Also, it made me laugh out loud.

via Goodreads
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge—LOVE. MYTHOLOGY. KISSING. CONSENT. PSYCHOLOGY. KISSING. AGHHH.

Cress by Marissa Meyer—Winter made me do it. I needed Captain Thorne in my life again. We laughed. I fell in love.

Winter by Marissa Meyer—I died of love. Winter was beautiful. Scarlet made me laugh. AND CRESS AND THORNE ARE MY FAVORITEST PEOPLE EVER.

via Goodreads
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain by Christopher Monger—I read it on paper but it’s the kind of book that makes you feel like someone is reading aloud to you.

Hera by George O’Connor—If for nothing else, then to remind me what it means to be a goddess instead of a god.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz—LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA READS IT. But also, it is heartbreaking and Ari is basically me when I was fifteen.

via Goodreads
Vicious by V.E. Schwab—Moral ambiguity! Superpowers! Good guys! Or are they? It… enamored me. Yeah.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman—Beautiful writing with the kind of story that requires you use your other pair of eyes to understand.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera—A rare book that kept me on my toes, even after I read the end; tops this year’s list of profound and provocative books.

via Goodreads
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor—I don’t think it was supposed to be cute but it was. And I love cute.  But the streets where I listened to it still make me sad.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples—WHY SUCH EMOTIONS? WHY SUCH PAIN? WHY? But it is my favorite kind of pain, so that’s why.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones—Adorable little fairy tale that made me laugh and squee with mucho delight. I want to reread it… now.


Yes! Those are my favorite reads of the year. And they might end up being my favorite reads of 2016 if I lose my willpower and just reread my greatest loves instead. We’ll see what happens.

What were the best books you read during 2015? 


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Testing the Bechdel Test: Round Three

In earlier posts, several people expressed reservations when it comes to the Bechdel test—it’s not as great as people think. I say fair enough: it shouldn’t be. Though movies that fail the test don’t always suffer from a lack of awesome ladies, a movie that passes the test doesn’t guarantee spectacular female representation, either.

(Remember: to pass the test, a movie must have two [named] women, who talk, about something other than a man.)

Dubiously Satisfactory Female Portrayal, 

Passed Bechdel

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Labyrinth (source)


Sarah’s story revolves around correcting a big mistake—delivering her baby brother, Toby, into the hands of Jareth, the Goblin King—by traveling through a labyrinth. Labyrinth passes the test due to a couple conversations: first, with her stepmother about dating and babysitting, and second, when the Junk Lady (yes, that’s her name) tries to deter her from her quest with toys. However, both conversations’ validity are disputed.

Now, it’s kind of obvious that this movie isn’t much into girl power. Sarah’s greatest allies are all male puppets and the women she runs into are often her obstacles—beginning with her stepmother. Sarah and her stepmom don’t get along, and what’s more, most of their conversation is about boyfriends and Toby. Even if Toby is not yet a man, the conversation is male-centric. But why should the Junk Lady’s words be disputed if they are talking about toys, not people? Well, because within the movie’s greater context, Labyrinth is a romance.

It sounds creepy because David Bowie was almost forty when this came out, but it’s true. The reason Jareth takes Toby in the first place is because he is in love with Sarah (age 15). In fact, the entire movie is set up almost like a love triangle—deep down, Sarah loves both Jareth and Toby, and on her journey she must decide which one to choose. Jareth tries to keep her from choosing Toby, and so the Junk Lady deterring Sarah is not just about toys, but about boys. Even the stepmother’s conversation hints at this—it lays out Sarah’s options of romantic or fraternal love. I think this movie passes the Bechdel test because, at least in language, the Junk Lady just talks about toys, but I don’t think Labyrinth portrays women well, either. Sarah’s struggle is about her relationship to males… and I think most women are a whole lot more.

A small scale pass, but grand scale creepy. Representation… um, no.

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Big Hero 6 (source)

Big Hero 6 excites us because Aunt Cass, Honey Lemon, and Gogo are awesome. Aunt Cass is a cat lady raising two nephews, but she also runs her own business. Honey Lemon and Gogo are superheroes, of course, but they’re also young women thriving in a STEM field, and racially diverse to boot. BH6 has good characters to start with, but passes with dispute because the only female conversation is in the heat of battle. Gogo is like “Get the mask!” and Honey is like “Right behind you!” and though it is a loose interpretation of a conversation, apparently it counts. Also, sometimes women converse onscreen, but not audibly.

Yeah… Not a lot of female bonding in this movie. The girl characters just don’t interact that much—Gogo and Honey matter to Todashi and Hiro as friends and Mr. Kabuki Mask as enemies… but writers didn’t go out of their way to characterize them as friends or sisters-in-arms. It’s a good movie without that, but still. A cloth company felt comfortable removing Honey and Gogo from a BH6 print because boys think girls are icky. The girls’ significance was limited to the screen. And no, it wasn’t the movie people themselves, but reputation comes from many places. It’s worth remembering.

I like the characters, but the test is seriously lax. Representation okay.

*****

The Bechdel test ignores the context of Labyrinth’s plot. In demonstrates how little women have to say to one another in BH6. Also, just because girls exist in a fictional world doesn’t mean that they get the attention they deserve. If these movies tell us anything, it’s that the Bechdel test isn’t an accomplishment. It’s just something that tells us that two women talked, and that for the most part, lots of women get the short end of the stick in film.


Are there movies you know of that pass the Bechdel test but don’t promote women very well?


Monday, January 11, 2016

Beautiful People: Goals and Whatnot

*sighs* I wasn’t going to do this, but I should get a better idea of what I want to do with myself this year. Plus, something about public declarations just suggests that someone might get on my back if I fall off the wagon, and that could be useful.

Hence, I present to you this month’s Beautiful People, as hosted by Cait and Sky.


What were your writing achievements last year?

Well, I wrote the first draft of my inactive WIP (“I Piss on Magic,” but I dunno if that’ll stick). Also, I compiled all the beta feedback I’d received on my active WIP, Notebook Spawn, and started editing again.

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

*sigh* Notebook Spawn. And IPOM. And I’d maybe like to write a first draft of something new. Maybe about a villain family or maybe about Greek Mythology. We’ll see.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

Writing consistently, character development, humor, writing longer, handling my emotions after critiques better.

How shall I accomplish this? No idea.

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Are you participating in any writing challenges?

Nooooope.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

I have traded stuff with people. And they were good people. And I appreciated it. But people always talk about their beta readers like they’ve been reading work for each other for fifty years and how they are perfect for each other and in my case, we’ve only traded once… so I’ll lay off my commentary for another forty-nine years.

Although I do think that I’m going to go for CPs in June or July or August of this year so maybe I’ll try to trade with people again then. Or find new people to trade with. Depends on how everyone’s lives are going.

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

Nah.

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

I have this character called Bai in IPOM. I feel like I don’t know her in great part because I’m not well-versed in her culture, so I feel like I’m going to have to do a lot of research about Chinese culture in the 1400s and how a princess would expect to be treated and how she might compromise in a different culture (if at all) and then sort of figure out what her place is going to be in my alternate Spain. So.

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Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

Edit. For Notebook Spawn, rewrite according to new plotline. For IPOM, research and then just rewrite because that’s how I roll.


Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

I don’t like this advice because I can’t sit down and expect to get any kind of leisure from reading my own writing. So… I dunno. I will read whatever is written.

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

I hope to have at least three completed drafts sitting on my metaphorical desk. And maybe have had some critiques and exchanged some critiques. That would be good.

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Thanks again to Cait and Sky for hosting. On to the hard part! Writing.

So, what are your goals for 2016?


Friday, January 8, 2016

What is the Future of WBI?

As a blogger, it’s disappointing when people don’t like reading something you like to write. As you might have guessed from this particular post title, right now we’re talking about the Walden-Bond Index posts.



In my year-end survey, about one third of the respondents suggested I stop posting WBI posts. Like I said, that’s kind of disappointing because I like talking about villains, kind of a lot. At the same time, I can’t say I’m surprised, either. Villain analyses aren’t exactly my most popular posts.

But I’m kind of reluctant to stop posting them.

I like talking about villains. I’ve come to think of WBI as my replacement for book reviews, and the thing about book reviews is that (in my experience) most people are only interested if they’ve already heard of or read the book. Or they have a high opinion of your judgment. In my case, this makes it hard to have many conversations, and from the feedback I received, I know of these drawbacks, too:

  • not understanding
  • not knowing the villains/not wanting to spoil the story
  • people just don’t like them (which is fine, by the way)

I’m willing to adjust WBI to be more understandable and relatable, as much as I can. For example, I have been doing a lot of Disney villains because many people seem to be familiar with the movies/fairy tales that surround them—I could go a step further and work off more reader requests, so that there’s a direct connection to the audience. Likewise, I can post them less—right now, I post about one or two each month, depending on how Fridays work out. Posting less could allow those who’d rather read something else have plenty of other content the rest of the month.

At the same time there are some things I can’t fix. Some people don’t want to talk about villains. Some people don’t care. Some people are busy. Some people simply don’t like them. And that’s fine. But it also means that there’s not a lot I personally can do to make WBI worth the read for other people, because I do not have the power of forcing preference (which is a relief to everyone, I’m sure).

For the present time, the future of WBI is up in the air, and though I just asked everyone to do a survey and it was probably not your favorite thing, I could use a little more feedback, if you can spare me a few sentences. To make my decision, I think I’d most like to know the answer to these three questions.

  • [How often] Do you want to keep reading WBI posts? 
  • If yes, is there something specific I can do to make them better?
  • If yes, are there villains you recommend I review?

Hopefully, with your feedback and some deliberation, I’ll be able to let you know what I’ve decided in a week or so!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Testing the Bechdel Test: Round Two

Back to the Bechdel test and its limitations. Last week, I discussed two movies failing all three criteria needed to pass the test (two named women, who talk, about something other than a man). This week I’m moving on to movies that still failed the test, but still meet one or two criteria.

How do they measure up?

Less Satisfactory Female Portrayal, Failed Bechdel

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Star Wars: A New Hope (source)


I realize that subsequent Star Wars productions have plenty of awesome ladies not featured in the original trilogy. However, that’s why I’m looking at the first film of the original trilogy—this is George Lucas’s vision. And his vision for women? Just two: Aunt Beru, Luke’s adoptive mother, and Princess Leia, a delegate in distress hailing from the planet Alderaan.

Though A New Hope only passes the first part of the test (no women converse), Leia’s character in particular enthuses us despite the lack of other women. After all, she’s a spy transporting information at great personal risk, withstanding torture, and leading the rebellion in secret. She is significant and impacts the plot, remaining Luke’s friend and ally during the resistance—even into the next movies. Of course, other than Beru, Leia, and Mon Mothma, all other females in the trilogy are sex slaves. Where men have many options—as Jedi Knights, government employees, soldiers, bartenders, space pirates, bounty hunters, or even moisture farmers—women have few: princess or sex slave. Suffice it to say that this galaxy isn’t as women-friendly as we might like.

Leia is okay; the rest of the universe isn’t doing so hot. Representation… ehh.

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Igor (source)


(This is among my favorite children’s films but you probably haven’t seen it. Let me catch you up: Igor wants to prove he can be an evil scientist despite beginning as a hunchbacked henchman. With the help of Scamper (a suicidal, but immortal, rabbit) and Brain (a brain in a jar), Igor reanimates human remains to create a perfect monster. Problem being that she doesn’t want to be evil, she wants to be an actress.)

This film depicts three classes of people: evil scientists (all men, minus one), Igors (all men), and the scientists’ girlfriends (all women). Most women are extras, but there are two women of significance: Eva and Jaclyn. Eva is Igor’s creation, and her dream is to play Annie on Broadway. Jaclyn is Dr. Schadenfreude’s girlfriend, and she manipulates people.

Eva and Jaclyn only speak to discuss Igor romantically—only passing two Bechdel criteria—but they still shine. Take Eva. Eva is good. Literally, her goodness defines her friendships, her worldview, and her every action. Though her passion for theater motivates her, Eva’s goodness is apparent even before she can speak: she gives piggyback rides to blind orphans! Though men surround Eva, her character is less about being a women among men, but being infallibly good in an evil world. She represents our own struggles between good and evil, and her most important choice is not about a boy, but morality.

Jaclyn is the opposite, but I like her. Jaclyn is hard to appreciate on the surface because her appearance defines her identity and she exists to seduce and steal from men on behalf of another man—her boyfriend, Dr. Schadenfreude. Still, in a world where men control the government, the world, and doomsday device production, Jaclyn impresses me. She is an unusual villain, because where all other villains battle each other in a competition no one truly wins, no one can compete with her own brand of evil, and no one defeats her, either. The great irony is that while Schadenfreude gives Jaclyn the power to be a villain, he doesn’t recognize her as one. In my opinion, she trumps them all.

If only Igor took place in a world where women have significant political and social power, too…

I love Eva and Jaclyn, but more girls can be evil too! Representation… ehh.

*****

Last week, I felt that movies without female characters don’t represent women very well (surprise, surprise). This week, I’m torn—neither movie passes the Bechdel test, but I like what Leia, Eva, and Jaclyn bring to the table. But my problem isn’t with individual women, but rather the world they live in. These three women live under phallocracies, and that isn’t a problem solved by the plot. Women still get the short end of the stick. I’m left wondering… what is the significance of a strong female character if she is unique in her universe?

Has anybody else seen Igor? I want to be friends with you. Do you think likeable female characters or societies favorable to female characters say more about female representation?


Monday, January 4, 2016

Snizzi Snippits

Why is this post scheduled late, you may ask? Because I lived vicariously through the lives of Olivia Dunham and Beau Cullen last night and subsequently forgot that I hadn’t scheduled today’s post. Oops.

Fortunately, today’s post is easy because I am linking up with Alyssa from The Devil Orders Takeout and Emily from Loony Literate to share two snippets from my WIP.


1. a snippet from page sixteen

Trilobite turns away, sneering. It’s been over a hundred years since some of his spines broke and pierced his scales, changing his powers forever. The Guild neutralized him, taking his power, his freedom, and his sense of “enough.” His bones poke painfully through his scales—he will always stop short in his meals because he feels full long before he’s had enough nutrients. To me, this is one of the Babewyn Guild’s greatest crimes—they would let one of their own starve.  
“Hey squirt.” I kneel down to his level. “Let’s see you eat a little more, okay?” 
Trilobite eyes me warily. He knows this game. “I’m not hungry.” 
“I know,” I say. “But can’t you eat just a little more?” 
“Not hungry.” He closes his eyes. 
“Too full?” I question. “Too full for a gummy worm?” 
Oh, I’m magic all right. An eye peeks open. Then another. Then the third.  
“Give me thirty more worms,” I say. “And you can have one when we get back inside.”

Here is a character introduction for Trilobite, who I guess we can call—through no fault of his own—an anorexic dragon with no concept of quantity. And it is also character development for Lindsay (the POV character) to show that she actually knows what she’s doing and stuff.

2. a snippet of sixteen words or fewer

Even after their bodies have decayed, their final malicious acts reverberate in the air.

And for my TL;DR people, here we have fourteen words of reflection as Lindsay looks at a field of corpses, lol.


That was fun. Thanks to Alyssa and Emily for hosting!

Will you be sharing any snazzy snippets this month?


Friday, January 1, 2016

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

Happy New Year!

It is that exciting time of year when everyone share their statistics and survey results and things, and I am no more original than the next blogger. In fact, I know I’m doing things at least two other bloggers have done, so… oops.

Calendar*
Flickr Credit: Dafne Cholet

2015 In Review

How was writing, Heather? It was okay, thanks for asking.
How was reading, Heather? It was good. I haven’t totaled up my December books yet. I’ll do that in another post.
How was blogging, Heather? It was decent. These were the five most popular posts of this year:

1. Dear Extroverts (Another Response Post)
2. How Do You Write a Blog Post?
3. Reading at a Distance (A Response Post)
4. Fan Month: I Declare (Plus Giveaway)
5. GUEST POST: Five Reasons NOT to Leave Comments, with Aimee Meester

Also, these are my five favorite posts:

1. Why Christians Should Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks 
2. You Shouldn’t Care That I Love My Kindle
3. In Which PMS is Like Writer's Block
4. Bloodlines: Who’s Your Daddy?
5. Announcing Heather the Blog Designer (I still go back and giggle at the comments sometimes)

That’s all that matters, I think.

Next order of business: the survey. Thank you to everyone who submitted a response! I’m not going to say that some criticism was kind of depressing, but it’s definitely given me a better idea of what I want to do and how I plan on working over the course of the year. I plan on doing these things:

  • I’ll stick to main themes of reading, writing, and blogging. Most of you seem pretty chill with those main topics, to varying degrees.
  • I’ll explore different themes. Many of you seemed most interested in more personal posts, but I’m most interested in philosophical and feminist discussions. It’ll probably be a mix.
  • I’ll adjust WBI. I’m saving this for a further discussion next week, but about a third of responders did not want them to keep existing, so we’ll chat before I make any final decisions.
  • I’ll do my best to comment back. As you may have noticed these last few months, I’ve been falling into the ranks of the inconsistent and floundering bloggers, but I’ll do my best to keep up with you guys. Also, some of you said I’ve NEVER commented on your blog before and if you think I need a refresher on where I blog, please send me your blog’s web address again so I can come visit you!
  • I’ll try to do something with social media. I later realized I should have put that in the survey. Oops. As it is, it’s probably going to be a summer project, so I shan’t worry much.
  • I’ll work on a design change. I’m not looking forward to it at all, because I have no eye or hand for web design and it takes a million hours, but I know I have to do some cleaning up. If you know anyone who is really great at blog designs and doesn’t ask for any money, hook a sister up, okay?



Do you know any good people I should talk to about new blog designs? Any special requests for the beginning of 2016?