Posts Tagged ‘fail’
The vast majority of the stories collected in this volume are simply underwhelming; full of cliches, at times hard to follow, and surprisingly lacking in creativity for a fantasy series – even one based on a popular television show. Sadly, this is hardly unusual. So all of this might be forgivable if it weren’t for the insulting stereotypes that several of the comics employ. Or the extent to which the book doesn’t seem to be clear on whether it’s main target audience consists of children or adults.
When I read books for children, I expect them to present ideas in ways that make sense to children. For example, if a comic whose main audience is made up of eight year old girls includes a party in one of its stories, I expect it to focus on the kinds of things that 8 year olds usually associate with parties: cake, balloons, streamers, games. What I don’t expect is for it to instead decide that the party will be depicted more like a college frat party. Complete with card games instead of kid’s games, togas, lampshades on heads, a drunk Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy looking nervous while being talked up by two male ponies.
And yet, this is not fan art, but an actual excerpt from the comic:
It’s one thing to include jokes for adults on the sly. Or to make a work that’s enjoyable to a wide range of ages. Or to otherwise acknowledge that adults can be fans of works that are intended for kids. It’s quite another for a comic that claims to be targeting children to completely forget who their audience is.
And it’s a completely different level of wrong for a tie-in comic for a show whose main audience consists of young girls to decide that adult men specifically need to be catered to instead of those young girls. And for it to be done in such a way that allusions are made to young women being targeted for unwanted attention – or worse – by their male peers.
And yet this is indeed what happened – in a book marketed to children.
Children, mind you, that are too young to have the power to speak up and tell the writer or publisher if this bothers them. Children that are so young that articulating their opinions and feelings, especially about unfamiliar topics, is still quite difficult in a way that adults often forget or fail to understand.
This goes beyond merely annoying or insulting. It’s both disturbing and creepy.
IDW published this, if anyone wishes to make their feelings known to the people responsible. I read this comic via Netgalley and so will be forwarding this review to them as requested.
When I packed my bags and set off for college, I expected that I would have to get used to new routines and ways of doing things. What I didn’t plan on was having to relearn old habits when I came back home for the holidays. It felt odd not having my friends close at hand and my stomach was often angry with me for no longer eating dinner promptly at 5:30.
Not every change was quite so loud and insistent as my disrupted internal clock. It turned out that I’d also picked up new ways of saying things without even realizing it – until others brought it to my attention. My mom would get a funny look on her face, as I, her second youngest child, stood there in a Disney t-shirt and referred to my classmates as “women” instead of “girls.” Amused, she asked me one day while I was home for Christmas why I did that. I can’t remember her exact wording, but the implied question was clearly whether or not my snobby, feminist leaning, all women’s college actively discouraged us from certain kinds of language.
The truth is that it didn’t – not in the sense of lecturing or trying to correct us. Instead, they modeled how they wanted us to treat ourselves and each other. Our handbooks, our professors, the welcoming talks we attended, everything that came from the college and was given to us called us women. Sometimes young women, but always women.
So when she asked me that, I didn’t have a ready answer for her. I’m not sure that I’d completely realized that this was not a normal thing to happen in college (did co-ed colleges refer to their students as boys and girls???? ) but I thought about it and told her that we did it not because we were all that sure of our adulthood, but because it was important that we treat each other respectfully. It was one thing to refer to one’s close friends as girls, it was quite another to talk about a classmate’s research project and refer to her as a child while doing so. If we wanted to go out in the world and be treated with respect after graduation, we needed to get used to it now, so that we would more readily recognize when people weren’t treating us right later.
If I were to have that conversation now, I would add that the point was also get us used to believing in ourselves. That by referring to us as adults, our college was indicating that not only did they trust we were capable of rigorous academic work and mature behavior, but that they expected it of us.
I can’t help but think of that conversation when certain kinds idiocy stumble into my corner of the internets.
What does it mean when an organization whose job it is to represent women in a professional capacity publishes, in the organization’s monthly newsletter, an article that uses language like “lady writers” and “lady editors”? How exactly do they think that’s furthering the professional interests of their members?
Most of all, do they think their members will not notice? Do they think it’s female members own editors, writers, agents, and publishers use that kind of language while doing business with them? Is that how they think women in the organization think of themselves?
Is that how we think of ourselves?
I doubt it. Or, rather, I doubt we mean to – but that’s the power of language. It not only gives us a tool to share our thoughts, it shapes them too.
The language that’s used in places like SFWA’s Bulletin is important not only for symbolic reasons, but also because insulting language encourages people to dismiss the people being derided. It tells certain people that it’s ok to act disrespectfully and it conditions others to being marginalized. It’s one thing for that kind of talk to happen on some random blog or even reddit, it’s quite another for it to occur (apparently frequently of late) in a professional publication.
The SFWA does a great many wonderful things for it’s members. But so long as insults of this sort are included within it’s newsletter, all that work is going to be constantly undermined. And I don’t just mean that all the negative focus on such asinine behavior will cast a cloud over the good work many people do. Fighting for fair contracts and the like is only going to do it’s female members a limited amount of good if the organization itself speaks to women in such a way as to undermine their belief in their professional worth. A single insult is hardly going to break all the amazing female writers I admire, but a persistent lack of respect is hardly going to help them either. And isn’t that the goal of SFWA – to help it’s writers? All of them?
The problem with phrases like “lady writers” and all the other, even worse, things that have been published in SFWA’s Bulletin of late isn’t merely that they are outdated and sexist. It’s that they waste members dues by undermining the fundamental purpose of the organization.
A not-quite-review of Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic.
So, for example, if I hear of a young adult author, or fantasy or science fiction author, that is coming, but whose books I have not read yet, I will make sure to request one or two from the library and see what I think. That way if I go to a panel they are on and spend an hour listening to them talk about their process or the themes in their books, I have some idea about their work.*
Which is how I found myself attempting to read Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. Despite my better judgement and the advice of friends whose opinions I trust.
I didn’t even make it through the first 100 pages. This is possibly because none of the characters make any bit of sense and the most interesting one so far is the sea serpent who tried to convince some poor sailor to toss himself overboard.**
The pirate Kennit is simply stupid and childish, breaking and stealing things just to show he can. Which would be fine if he weren’t a captain. One setting out on some clever master scheme at that. Greedy and petty I could understand, but messing with magic just to show who has the bigger dick, especially when it’s magic he sought out as part of a very detailed and convoluted plan to become a pirate king of some sort…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t fear him taking over if I sailed those waters.
Regarding Kennit’s favorite prostitute Etta, the less said the better. I do, however, feel compelled to point out that she’s really bad at reading Johns and giving them what they want, considering that her livelihood depends on those skills. Because yes, they are skills, and any writer who doesn’t show them as such has no idea how sex work works. But then, I’ve read an embarrassing number of mainstream, popular, unrealistic romance novels that have a better grasp on how prostitution works than this book does.
As for Althea….what in the world is she doing admiring the cloth she bought instead of scheming or pouring over the charts she was allowed to keep? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pretty dresses, the problem is that the author has stated that the ship is vastly more important to Althea than any silly ball, but shows us something completely different. More to the point, why would someone sensible enough to know how to store trade goods properly (as she is doing when we first meet her) be handling silk in such a way that would cause anything, even her “rough hands” to “snag on” the expensive fabric? Even assuming she’s just not thinking properly, a definite possibility for her age and situation, wouldn’t she at least feel stupid for having done so, rather than simply worrying about pumicing her hands when she got to shore?
I will grant you that Kyle Haven, who is captain instead of Althea, is supposed to be lacking in sense. That’s meant to make us root for Althea, I suppose. (Or, more likely, the demoted first mate and potential love interest Brashen Trell.) It doesn’t really say much for her ailing father, Ephron Vestrit, though – as he’s the one who made Haven captain and sent them both out on the same ship. Especially considering how much is gambling on Vestrit literally dying on the ship’s deck, the patriarch’s decision to send the liveship out now, without him, has got to be the stupidest idea in the whole 60 pages I managed to read. It’s no wonder the family fortune is dwindling, if that’s how good he is at making decisions.
The most sensible person is the Lady of the House, Ronica Vestrit, who is rather fed up with all this liveship nonsense. At which point I realized that so was I, and stopped reading.
*Also, so that I don’t end up kicking myself years later when I realize that I totally could have gotten that book signed! but didn’t! because I had no idea how awesome that author was! Or, so that I don’t end up finding them really fascinating as a speaker, deciding I must! have! a signed copy of their book! and shelling out cash for an expensive hardcover, only to realize later that I don’t really like them as a writer.
** Somebody please tell me that the sea serpents win.