Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

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Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Xisor » Tue May 21, 2013 11:09 pm

Good evening one and all!

Just a wee thread here so we can put up centralised links in many ongoing, flowing discussions about various topics spanning fiction (and, SPOILER, non-fiction - but I'm ever the rebel) in various guises. We've all seen oodles of interesting links and topics, many of which we think others hereabouts would love to read (or simply should read, if we're being tyrannical about things, which I certainly am) and possibly discuss. Things that mightn't really go a whole way to prompting you to write a nice, wholesome post, but which you really would like to see shared.

Well? Here's the place!

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To start us off, here's a thing I read on Facebook thanks to some cherished old friends. (Well, more gossipily, a barely-known friend and an ex-girlfriend, but the difference is only in the narrative and labelling.)

Foremost, this piece: We Have Always Fought, by Kameron Hurley - talking evocatively about the ongoing narratives surrounding the roles of women, in fiction and in fact.

Broadly speaking, it chimes with my yearning for scepticism: people's narratives are very often entirely independent of a solid basis. "So there's still an imbalance in numbers!" might be one thing to show why it's fine to assume male fighters? The solution to that little boggle is left for the reader.

It's something that bugs me unduly, I think, and leaves me fundamentally distanced from a lot of people: I seem to see narrative as distinct from truth, not informed by it. This makes for an awfully cold and flippant approach, but also an excruciatingly (for others, I assume) awful lack of self-awareness. I'm no accomplished truth-seeker, but I inadvertently (yet resolutely) think other people who don't worry about truth are absolutely a danger to everything that ever will be.

It's a little foible, if you will. I digress, however. Unwitting narratives, perhaps more obvious to the male reader in the form of the narrative (TV Tropes on) white man's burden, not really the same thing, but it's curious in its infiltration and in its persistence as an oft-unquestioned narrative thought.

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Further to the original article, following some of the link chains is fascinating, the recommended one (here) is particularly intriguing.

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As an extra thought: I disagree a bit with the 'someone has to be first' thing. My disagreement isn't profound, so much as I suspect that's a narrative that doesn't quite get to the heart of the matter of how change proliferates. The story of the 'first pebble to fall' in the narrative isn't, I think, actually as a good representation of the truth as, say, a sprawling exploration of what the actual state of affairs of all the pebbles on the mountainside were. Awful analogy? Sue me!
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Xisor » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:47 am

I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else's.

---

The above is fascinating, for me, in much the same manner as the first post. And something I've vaguely been aware of. I'd certainly been on the apologist side of things in saying things like the imbalance with regards to (modern) Doctor Who: The Doctor & Women isn't prescriptive, it's just how it's been written. It doesn't need to have the Doctor to be a woman for the point and ethos to be made.

But then Who hasn't been 'fit for purpose' for me for a good while. Sally Sparrow was, I thought, an interesting deconstruction even then: someone who seems to fit the bill of 'Quirky McQuirk', but who actually seems to be well-rounded, driven, real. (Also, yes: intimidating. Anyone who's insecure like I am finds competent, self-assured, secure people intimidating. A lot of people seem to be ready to conflate that with a general incomprehension about the reality of actual women too, which is what LP's dealing with in the article above.)

I'm not entirely convinced I agree with her conclusions quite hold up. The analogy of being a story and having fallen for into the pursuit of an archetype seems a bit too... easy, but then my understanding of the psychology of humans isn't perfect, so perhaps it's safer to say that's my own scepticism and cynicism creeping in, rather than a strict disagreement with her assertions. Certainly, from the perspective of weaving a story onto the whole mishmash of problems, it's an easy way to comprehend peoples' behaviour. "Ah, when one plays the role, one gets results. But one is not the role; a truth that cannot be avoided overlong!"

It's decidedly interesting, in my humble esteem. And massively important from the perspective of ideally becoming a reasonably self-aware author.
"When my housemate puts his bike in the middle of the living room floor, I find that inordinately jarring, annoying and rude, but for me to refer to it as "genocide" would be incorrect." -Ath
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Therion » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:04 pm

Xisor wrote:I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else's.

---

The above is fascinating, for me, in much the same manner as the first post. And something I've vaguely been aware of. I'd certainly been on the apologist side of things in saying things like the imbalance with regards to (modern) Doctor Who: The Doctor & Women isn't prescriptive, it's just how it's been written. It doesn't need to have the Doctor to be a woman for the point and ethos to be made.

But then Who hasn't been 'fit for purpose' for me for a good while. Sally Sparrow was, I thought, an interesting deconstruction even then: someone who seems to fit the bill of 'Quirky McQuirk', but who actually seems to be well-rounded, driven, real. (Also, yes: intimidating. Anyone who's insecure like I am finds competent, self-assured, secure people intimidating. A lot of people seem to be ready to conflate that with a general incomprehension about the reality of actual women too, which is what LP's dealing with in the article above.)

I'm not entirely convinced I agree with her conclusions quite hold up. The analogy of being a story and having fallen for into the pursuit of an archetype seems a bit too... easy, but then my understanding of the psychology of humans isn't perfect, so perhaps it's safer to say that's my own scepticism and cynicism creeping in, rather than a strict disagreement with her assertions. Certainly, from the perspective of weaving a story onto the whole mishmash of problems, it's an easy way to comprehend peoples' behaviour. "Ah, when one plays the role, one gets results. But one is not the role; a truth that cannot be avoided overlong!"

It's decidedly interesting, in my humble esteem. And massively important from the perspective of ideally becoming a reasonably self-aware author.

Some people seriously scare me. The author of the article is one of these people.

Xisor wrote:Broadly speaking, it chimes with my yearning for scepticism: people's narratives are very often entirely independent of a solid basis. "So there's still an imbalance in numbers!" might be one thing to show why it's fine to assume male fighters? The solution to that little boggle is left for the reader.

Coming from the cheap fantasy novel series and computer role playing background, I have encountered the opposite phenomena. I only learned about sexual dimorphism in humans when I was 20 or something when I was viewing an interview with a female kickboxing champion and when the interviewer asked her why women don't fight men in one class, she explained that women have 60% lesser upper body strength than men of the same weight and that it wouldn't be an even fight. It was rather disappointing.
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Ghurlag » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:10 pm

Xisor wrote:I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else's.

---

The above is fascinating, for me, in much the same manner as the first post. And something I've vaguely been aware of. I'd certainly been on the apologist side of things in saying things like the imbalance with regards to (modern) Doctor Who: The Doctor & Women isn't prescriptive, it's just how it's been written. It doesn't need to have the Doctor to be a woman for the point and ethos to be made.

But then Who hasn't been 'fit for purpose' for me for a good while. Sally Sparrow was, I thought, an interesting deconstruction even then: someone who seems to fit the bill of 'Quirky McQuirk', but who actually seems to be well-rounded, driven, real. (Also, yes: intimidating. Anyone who's insecure like I am finds competent, self-assured, secure people intimidating. A lot of people seem to be ready to conflate that with a general incomprehension about the reality of actual women too, which is what LP's dealing with in the article above.)

I'm not entirely convinced I agree with her conclusions quite hold up. The analogy of being a story and having fallen for into the pursuit of an archetype seems a bit too... easy, but then my understanding of the psychology of humans isn't perfect, so perhaps it's safer to say that's my own scepticism and cynicism creeping in, rather than a strict disagreement with her assertions. Certainly, from the perspective of weaving a story onto the whole mishmash of problems, it's an easy way to comprehend peoples' behaviour. "Ah, when one plays the role, one gets results. But one is not the role; a truth that cannot be avoided overlong!"

It's decidedly interesting, in my humble esteem. And massively important from the perspective of ideally becoming a reasonably self-aware author.


My own reaction is somewhat similar, and is perhaps best described like this:

She's attributing a more general fault with her age group to a specific aspect of her character.

It's aknowledged that 'teenagers' (this being a mental period lasting until some point in your 20s) are reasonably insecure. We do things that we regret. We act in manners which are in reflection ill-advised. Most importantly, we try to be what we think other people expect us to be.

That shallowness is nothing to do with being a girl or a boy just as it's nothing to do with being being extroverted or introverted, tall or short, pale-skinned or dark-skinned, petite or fat. Those characteristics might affect which role you chose for yourself to act out, but I don't think any of them make you more likely to pick a role rather than be yourself*.

The author saw that she matched the MPDG type, and thought that was expected of her, or a good fit for her, and so her teenage self started to conform to it. In the same way, the nerdy boys she talks of will have picked up a particular role they were acting out -- a brooding hero role, perhaps -- and started to conform to that. Then she grew up. Hopefully those young men grew up as well, and will be sad to think they ever expected somebody else not to be a person. It's important to note this isn't a feminist issue, this is a young people issue, and it's not going to go away.

However.

There is a point here that the role she chose would have been influenced by the roles she saw as open to her. Should there have been more roles available to her? Should there have been a role available where she was a proper heroine? Absolutely, and that's something we can be conscious of when we write. A real female protagonist might inspire some girl to imitate her. And yes, she'd still not be being her own person. The 'hero' boys aren't being their own person. All literarary roles and tropes catching the eye of the role-hunting teenager are going to be ultimately shallow, because tropes are shallow. But at least we can give girl readers more options as to how they're going to be shallow for a while.

While we're at it, we might want to see if there are certain protagonists missing for the boys to copy, as well.


* At least partially because 'yourself' doesn't really exist yet. This shallow phase seems to be a necessary part of maturation. Until you come through it, you aren't capable of being a grown-up.

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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Therion » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:44 am

Ghurlag wrote:My own reaction is somewhat similar, and is perhaps best described like this:

She's attributing a more general fault with her age group to a specific aspect of her character.

It's aknowledged that 'teenagers' (this being a mental period lasting until some point in your 20s) are reasonably insecure. We do things that we regret. We act in manners which are in reflection ill-advised. Most importantly, we try to be what we think other people expect us to be.

That shallowness is nothing to do with being a girl or a boy just as it's nothing to do with being being extroverted or introverted, tall or short, pale-skinned or dark-skinned, petite or fat. Those characteristics might affect which role you chose for yourself to act out, but I don't think any of them make you more likely to pick a role rather than be yourself*.

The author saw that she matched the MPDG type, and thought that was expected of her, or a good fit for her, and so her teenage self started to conform to it. In the same way, the nerdy boys she talks of will have picked up a particular role they were acting out -- a brooding hero role, perhaps -- and started to conform to that. Then she grew up. Hopefully those young men grew up as well, and will be sad to think they ever expected somebody else not to be a person. It's important to note this isn't a feminist issue, this is a young people issue, and it's not going to go away.

However.

There is a point here that the role she chose would have been influenced by the roles she saw as open to her. Should there have been more roles available to her? Should there have been a role available where she was a proper heroine? Absolutely, and that's something we can be conscious of when we write. A real female protagonist might inspire some girl to imitate her. And yes, she'd still not be being her own person. The 'hero' boys aren't being their own person. All literarary roles and tropes catching the eye of the role-hunting teenager are going to be ultimately shallow, because tropes are shallow. But at least we can give girl readers more options as to how they're going to be shallow for a while.

While we're at it, we might want to see if there are certain protagonists missing for the boys to copy, as well.


* At least partially because 'yourself' doesn't really exist yet. This shallow phase seems to be a necessary part of maturation. Until you come through it, you aren't capable of being a grown-up.

She'd certainly find more roles for herself if everything that she's reading wouldn't be a horrible tripe. I mean, I've read my own portion of atrocious drivel when I was a teen but none of it was bad enough to contain a character that could be described as a "manic pixie girl".

IIRC When I was a teen, I wanted to be a female Drow fighter/mage/thief that sneaks, casts, spells and fights with two swords :lol: . Sadly, it was impossible. I vaguely remember refusing to read any mandatory reading for school on the basis that it doesn't have dark elves XD .

Then I wanted to be a black metal vocalist and/or a miniature sculptor :lol: .
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Xisor » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:37 pm

Like Literature? STOP READING BOOKS!

It's an intriguing point, and one I've been slightly aware of generally. That is: studying a body of literature isn't the same as studying the canon, or what critics think are a 'representative sample'. Indeed, even reading everything BL has ever written is difficult enough. And when it comes to close reading? I'm sceptical (cynical?) that people who can whizz through a few books a day are even capable of taking anything like the depth out of a book that someone reading more slowly might. (That's based in my own annoyance at being a slow reader, mainly...)

Nevertheless, actual data analysis on vast bodies of literature? I like it. Conceptually and in practice henceforth. It intrigues me and entices me. In terms of studying 'writing techniques', when coupled to some other data (e.g. sales, review-aggregators), it'll massively speed up the business of investigating interesting things out there in the wild.

That's my penny.
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Xisor » Thu May 01, 2014 3:29 pm

Flaws only a protagonist could have

I'm only a few in, but they're amusing me quite a lot.
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby J D Dunsany » Mon May 19, 2014 7:36 pm

Xisor wrote:Like Literature? STOP READING BOOKS!

It's an intriguing point, and one I've been slightly aware of generally. That is: studying a body of literature isn't the same as studying the canon, or what critics think are a 'representative sample'. Indeed, even reading everything BL has ever written is difficult enough. And when it comes to close reading? I'm sceptical (cynical?) that people who can whizz through a few books a day are even capable of taking anything like the depth out of a book that someone reading more slowly might. (That's based in my own annoyance at being a slow reader, mainly...)

Nevertheless, actual data analysis on vast bodies of literature? I like it. Conceptually and in practice henceforth. It intrigues me and entices me. In terms of studying 'writing techniques', when coupled to some other data (e.g. sales, review-aggregators), it'll massively speed up the business of investigating interesting things out there in the wild.

That's my penny.


A tremendously interesting article - and thanks for sharing. I'm aware of Moretti (used to subscribe to the 'New Left Review' back in the day and he's done some interesting stuff on 'literary geographies' - his phrase, not mine) but I'm not particularly persuaded by his argument as it's presented here, although I totally understand the perceived need for it. The sheer quantity of 'literature' out there, plus the democratizing nature of the internet means that the notion of 'literature' as a coherent body of writing is almost certainly no longer applicable. While statistical models might be useful in grouping works together and identifying common structures etc, those models' limitations seem fairly obvious to me. They don't account for enjoyment. They don't account for the ways in which the same book can mean quite different things to different readers - and provoke very different emotional responses. And, as Moretti himself admits, they don't account for discrimination and the notion of quality. That's not to say that canons are sacrosanct and inviolable; they can (and should) be sites of struggle and controversy - but that in itself is the point. Literary works have the power to change perceptions and, without wanting to overstate the case, occasionally human lives. They are political and messy and their meaning can't, I'd suggest, be reduced to data and the relationships between formal features.

Mind you, as an English teacher who's seen his subject treated in an ever-increasingly scientific manner, I'm rather afraid I remain heavily (and very irrationally - perhaps even romantically!) invested in the notion that literature is a form of human experience that is stubbornly resistant to precisely the kind of scientific analysis proposed here. I am well aware that this means I'm a pedagogical dinosaur, but you can't teach an old brontosaurus new tricks etc etc...

Nevertheless, cool article. Keep 'em coming! :D

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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Athelassan » Tue May 20, 2014 2:02 am

J D Dunsany wrote:Mind you, as an English teacher who's seen his subject treated in an ever-increasingly scientific manner, I'm rather afraid I remain heavily (and very irrationally - perhaps even romantically!) invested in the notion that literature is a form of human experience that is stubbornly resistant to precisely the kind of scientific analysis proposed here. I am well aware that this means I'm a pedagogical dinosaur, but you can't teach an old brontosaurus new tricks etc etc...

Ayup. I have become rather stubbornly anti-scientific when it comes to arts subjects, to be honest. I think it partly stems from the snobbery my subject used to receive from scientists, engineers etc. when I was studying it, but I also feel that, particularly with something like literature, it is such a subjective experience that trying to strip it down and analyse it on a scientific level is missing the point.

While I'm far from a literary philistine, in terms of specific eras and genres I'm rather more familiar with film - it's a shorter period to cope with, apart from anything else - and my recent foray into westerns in particular has convinced me that actually almost the entire concept of genre needs to be junked as anything more than a rough descriptive measure. That does vary by alleged genre, and some very tight, niche genres do seem to have accepted conventions that remain in force, but all the same, I find the whole concept increasingly less useful as I grow older.

Moreover, I suspect that (mis?)application of this sort of analysis is precisely how you end up with bland, formulaic mediocre art that often flops because it has no emotional centre. By the time you've stripped a book or film down to the point where you can analyse it on that level I think you've kind of lost the point. Trying to do that with a whole genre or corpus is just asking for trouble. Fifty Shades of Grey was perfectly pitched to tap into the contemporary zeitgeist, but it's absolutely awful. Finnegan's Wake is technically one of the greatest books ever written, and it's even more unreadable than Fifty Shades. I'd be interested to see how Moretti's system coped with either of them.

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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Xisor » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:09 pm

First of all: a (headline, mainly) contention that STEM-y students are better at the old creative writing scthick than creative writing students. Quite a few obvious caveats and objectons present themselves, but if you read it purely as observations about extra-credit STEM students as viewed by previously cynical lecturers, it's quite a nice read! http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksb ... ve-writing

In other news transrealism: SF/F/H with a solid grounding in real world stuff - real characters, real plot... plus SF nonsense to blow it all up. I suspect I would love it! http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksb ... st-century
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Re: Literary Links: What Are You Linking To?

Postby Mossy Toes » Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:35 am

Just a callback to the first link in this thread, I think it's relevant to point out that that particular author, Kameron Hurley, has won a Hugo for that "We Have Always Fought" essay--I'm sure the fact that Xisor shared it with us had nothing to do with that, of course.

(still, it sure validates the general gist of the thread!)
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