End of Year Reflection: Go Fuck Yourself, 2017

I feel like I’m saying that a lot these days. Every New Year’s I turn to the past year and scream BURN IN HELL YOU ASSHOLE and then turn to the next year like it’s going to be better. And then it’s not. Or it is in some ways, but worse in other ways.

Anyway, this year is no exception. 2017 was long and hard and yet surprisingly short, and while I’m glad it’s over I also want to hit Pause for a few days because I am so not ready for 2018, y’all.

Continue reading “End of Year Reflection: Go Fuck Yourself, 2017”

May Reads

I read things last month! I did some reviews! Here they are!

I actually got back on the reading wagon last month and knocked some books off both my Currently Reading and To Be Read lists. I’m proud of myself.

Instead of doing separate blog posts for each review, I’m just linking to my reviews on Goodreads with an excerpt. (Or, if they’re incredibly short reviews, posting the whole thing here.)

First, the digital books! Not necessarily in order of reading.


Broken Sleep by Kaimana Wolff

4 out of 5 stars

I may be coming from a biased place because my mom is the author and I’m the publisher…but I don’t think that should count against my review. We’re all biased in some form; one of the first lessons of Journalism class was there was no such thing as objectivity. My relation to the author makes me no more biased than the fact that I went through a lot of the events in the book.

A harrowing exposé of abuse…hard to read, as someone who’s lived through it. But a necessary book — if you’ve ever wondered why a victim of abuse stays with their abuser, this book might shed some light on that for you.

My review at GoodReads.

WritePublishRepeatcoverWrite. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant with David Wright.

4 out of 5 stars

Non-fiction I read as part of my ongoing efforts to improve myself as a writer and my author career. 90% of the book I’m on board with, but they lost me near the end.

These guys know their stuff when it comes to writing and marketing, but they should stay away from topics they know nothing about. Dieting and weight loss are billion dollar industries that have nothing to do with individual health, worth, or work ethic.

At this point I won’t be picking up their fiction, though I planned on it, because I don’t know what kind of fatphobic ideas might lurk within. I’ll continue to read their non-fiction because I think they do know what they’re talking about when it comes to an indie author career — and I do think this book is an essential read if you’re an indie author and you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing — but in the end, their ignorance and perpetuation of fatphobic stereotypes has cost them a cross-pollinated (non-fiction to fiction) reader.

My review at GoodReads.

And now, the paperback/hardcover books!

May reads.

Medicine River, by Thomas King

3 out of 5 stars.

I picked it up because I love Thomas King. It’s not my favourite of his work, but I didn’t hate it.

Bottom line: if you’re used to Western (white dude!) literature as the dominant narrative, then you need to erase your expectations when picking up this book. It does not follow the dominant cultural narrative we have around literature: it deliberately bites its thumb at those expectations. It’s different, and that’s not always bad.

My review on Goodreads.

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom

4 out of 5 stars.

I went into this with the full knowledge that I would likely cry at the end. It’s a very quick read, but that doesn’t lessen the extent to which it tugs on one’s feels.

Well, I cried.

Can’t say much other than: beautiful book, quite touching, do recommend it.

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

4 out of 5 stars.

A collection of short stories with afterwords by the author, as well as 2 non-fiction essays at the end.

I really liked Speech Sounds. It’s a post apocalyptic story with a bit of hope at the end — basically my favourite type of story. And it’s sad, too. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s good, and I recommend it. Possibly the best story in the book.

My review on Goodreads.

Hopefully I’ll do a similar post for June. I’m trying to actually read the myriad books in my collection instead of just smelling them to get my daily fix of book-scent.


The Writer’s Journey, Chapter 1

The book is a look at the Hero’s Journey and how it can apply to writing and a writer’s life.

Cover image of The Writer's Journey, Third Edition, by Christopher VoglerI’ve started reading through The Writer’s Journey (Third Edition) by Christopher Vogler. I was given the book ages ago by mom and never really sat down to read it. (I have such a huge pile of books that are TBR.)

The book is a look at the Hero’s Journey and how it can apply to writing and a writer’s life. The Hero’s Journey is the idea that every story is, at core, the same. It’s a monomyth paradigm put forward by Joseph Campbell.

There are a lot of problems with this paradigm being touted as universal. The Hero’s Journey has a definite Western bias and trying to apply it to non-Western stories and myths is, to my mind, a form of literary colonization.

However, I still think the book will be useful to me. Not because the Hero’s Journey is universal, but because it is specifically biased to Western civilization, and I am a Western writer, with a Western audience.

The book also doesn’t push formula, which is unexpected, honestly. It puts forth the Hero’s Journey as a form, but says that to make it really work, one must internalize one’s understanding of it and then do one’s own thing. It’s form, not formula. It’s a map, with possible rest stops marked out, not an itinerary from which one may not stray.

The rest stops he marks out are as follows, with my own understanding of what each rest stop means.

Continue reading “The Writer’s Journey, Chapter 1”

Dreams Made Flesh

When I got home there was a box outside my door — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister!

I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

“He begins to shame, really shame….”

Fifty Shades of Grey testing positive for herpes does not make it a terrible book and when you say it does you are indirectly saying that people who have herpes are terrible people.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey (Photo credit: ellebnere)

Last week the news broke that several public library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey were tested positive for trace amounts of herpes and cocaine. There isn’t even enough of the virus present in the books for anyone to contract it from touching them; just enough present for it to test positive.

This has inspired a large wave of ew, gross, herpes, and I guess it really IS a dirty book lol from not only the people reporting this news but, well, everyone else. So far most, if not all, of the reactions I’ve seen have had hefty doses of shaming thrown in.

I’ll admit, when I first heard it, I raised an eyebrow and thought I think I don’t want to know how those books got herpes.

But I dismissed that thought pretty quickly. The fact is, you don’t have to hump a book to give it herpes. Herpes simplex isn’t just an STI; it’s the same virus that gives you cold sores. Viral shedding can occur at any time, and in more areas than just the genitals. It may be asymptomatic. Fifty Shades of Grey getting herpes likely has little to do with the book’s content and more to do with how common herpes is and how popular the books are.

I am not an expert on herpes. I’m just someone who knows people who have it. I’m also someone who was researching STIs about 7 years before I was having sex. (Insert I’m sort of Ravenclaw even though I’m Slytherin joke here.)

The shaming reactions to this news have saddened me.

Having herpes or any other STI doesn’t make you a monster, or diseased, or dirty or unclean. It just means you contracted something. That something may have no cure as of yet (herpes, AIDS), or it may just need a trip to the doctor and a prescription to get it cleared up (syphilis). It may be easy to live with, or it may be hard. STIs are a part of life. Even, sometimes, for people who aren’t having sex. Contracting an  STI does not mean you are undeserving of love or basic human decency.

I hate Fifty Shades of Grey with an all-consuming passion, but I don’t condone the way people have been talking about this. Fifty Shades of Grey testing positive for herpes does not make it a terrible book (the fact that it’s a terrible book makes it a terrible book), and when you say it does you are indirectly saying that people who have herpes are terrible people.

Criticize Fifty Shades for its shoddy writing, for its depiction of an abusive relationship as romance, for its utter lack of plot or meaningful characterization, for its rape apologism, for its plagiarism, for its absolute lack of truthfulness in depicting BDSM and promoting of dangerous BDSM practices, for its message of “EWWWWW, POOR PEOPLE”. Those are all fair criticisms.

Criticizing the book because library copies happened to test positive for herpes is not fair, and has nothing to do with the book itself. Herpes was also found on Tango by Pieter Aspe, and yet you don’t hear people making shaming comments about that. Somehow, because Fifty Shades is about a subject many people find taboo, it’s fair game?

No. It’s not. Stop shaming folks who read erotica, period, and stop with the sex-negative, STI-shaming surrounding this news story. It’s boring. As boring as the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey.

[Friday reads | fiction] The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette

The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette (ie, Jenny Trout, my idol), is the sequel to the much-loved The Boss. I was lucky enough to win a copy in the giveaway she held in August. I read the first five chapters before Pirates and Faeries, and now I’m trying to ration myself on the rest of them. When I finished The Boss, I ended up scrolling to the left so hard it excited the ebook-reading app. Then I screamed JENNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYY as if I were Kirk and she Khan.

Want to know a bit more about The Boss? Well, it’s free through Saturday on Kindle, so she’s done a post about it at her site. Here’s a pretty good assessment:

It’s an erotic romance with a kinky Dom billionaire and a twenty-something sub, written specifically to counter all the abusive, non-con stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve heard it described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Secretary. I think that’s apt.

It’s erotica, and it’s definitely on my list of favourite sexytimes books. The Girlfriend is just as good, so far, and really really hot. UNF. Also sweet! And funny. Several times while reading it I’ve laughed out loud and the Ogre has been all “What’s so funny?” and I’ll tell him and he’ll just shake his head like he doesn’t understand me and I’m like THAT’S RIGHT YOU DON’T.

Jenny understands me though. And so does Sophie Scaife.

Here’s the official synopsis of The Girlfriend:

Unemployed, blacklisted, and pregnant, Sophie Scaife’s life is totally upside down. Her relationship with publishing magnate Neil Elwood is on the rocks. Her best friend’s career is igniting. And Sophie is afraid she’ll make one of the toughest decisions of her life alone…

When a devastating diagnosis forces Neil to return to London, Sophie throws caution to the wind to follow her heart across the Atlantic. Keeping a scorching D/s affair as red-hot in sickness as it was in health is a challenge, even for two lovers as inventive as Sophie and Neil. But Sophie is more than willing to try anything her Sir commands, and their fantasies of control become a welcome refuge from the daily stress of illness.

While Neil’s wealth and privilege make adjusting to her new situation easier, Sophie finds herself rebuilding her life around an uncertain future. And while both of them face the changes between them head-on, they’re all too aware that their happiness could be fleeting—and Sophie could lose Neil forever.

So I guess you kind of have to read The Boss now, huh?

If you’re looking to pick up some new BDSM erotica to wash the horrible taste of Fifty Shades’ popularity out of your brain, I highly recommend Abigail Barnette’s feminist response to it. (Yes, a BDSM erotic romance where the heroine is a feminist AND a sub. That right there should convince you to pick it up. I mean, if you like erotic romance.)


Book Review: The Boss by Abigail Barnette

Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book on the condition I would review it.

The Boss is one of those books that I didn’t think I’d get into all that much.

Not because I don’t love Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette. I do love her. I sort of hero worship her from afar and wish that I could be like her. I love her writing, especially on her blog. (Fun fact: every time I press “j” in the URL bar the first site that autocompletes is her blog.)

Honestly, I’m just not that big a fan of erotic romance. Generally speaking. I’ve enjoyed reading it in the past and I’m sure I’ll enjoy more in the future, but it’s not a genre I really actively seek out, and often it leaves me wanting (or rolling my eyes). Furthermore, I’m not a huge fan of BDSM/kinky erotic romance — not because I’m not kinky. Because I am, and so few BDSM erotica stories are actually hot to me (without being triggering — long story there; not worth getting into).

I was worried because I knew The Boss was a male-dom/fem-sub erotic romance, and — even though I totally trust Barnette’s ability to write an erotic romance that I find hot, as I’d already read Bride of the Wolf a while ago — I’ve been burned before. (Not literally. Few of my partners have gone in for the candle wax thing.)  So I was quite cautious.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Boss was the hottest BDSM erotic romance I’ve ever read. I could not put it down, and not just because the sex was so fucking hot. The plot was compelling and intriguing, and I found myself trying to guess what would happen next (and only being right some of the time). The characters were well-developed and dynamic and they came across very clearly. When the book ended, I scrolled on my iPad so hard that I ended up loading another app. I then screamed out “JENNNNNNNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!like this. I wanted more.

I could hear Neil and Sophie’s voices clearly in my head. I could picture them easily. (Neil was basically Anthony Head, because I find him rawr.) I loved their interactions; they were real and cute and funny and heartbreaking (in a totally good way). Often their relationship reminded me of mine, which made me smile and get all tingly.

While I read The Boss I was completely wrapped up in what happened to the characters. I desperately wanted them all to succeed. (Except the antagonists. I wanted them to be set on fire.) When Neil had a headache, I felt concerned about his health. When Sophie died of mortification, I did too.

The sex scenes were…steamy. And there were a lot of them, but not so much that they superseded the plot — in other words, just the perfect amount for an erotic romance. The amount of BDSM was perfect for me, too — obviously, your mileage will vary, but I personally don’t like the really hardcore ones. I prefer my sex (and scenes thereof) to be more Neapolitan than…um…Rocky Road? Whatever the ice cream equivalent of hardcore BDSM is. Anyway, people often forget that vanilla is a flavour. It is not the absence of flavour.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Basically, if you’re not terribly BDSM inclined, you’ll probably find The Boss very hot, and if you are BDSM inclined and don’t mind less hardcore erotica, then you’ll probably find The Boss very hot.

And if you like romance, you’ll definitely love it.

Bonus? The book passes the Bechdel test. That’s pretty fucking rare for heterosexual erotica or romance. Oh, and Sophie IDs as a feminist. Win.

The Boss is the first in a trilogy. Books 2 and 3 aren’t out yet, but as soon as they are I’ll be grabbing them. I need to see what happens to these characters with whom I’ve fallen so in love.

If it sounds like this book is right up your alley, it’s being released a chapter per week at its own blog. Chapter 18 got released today! (Don’t worry — if you have trouble with a dark background, there are also PDFs of each chapter available.)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars/would bang.


The “Just Don’t Read it if You Don’t Like it” fallacy and other arguments that lack critical thinking

Literary criticism is a good thing.

Let’s just get that out of the way right now.

We need to be able to criticize literature. We need to be able to discuss fiction. We need the freedom to do that in various ways, including fanfic.

We need to adjust our thinking to accept that you can enjoy a work and still find it problematic. We need to see that the world is not black and white, 1-star and 5-star reviews.

Something I’ve noticed a lot of people saying in response to criticisms of books is “If you don’t like it, then don’t read it!”

This is a fallacy, and it’s completely nonsensical — how can you know if you like something or not if you haven’t read it? Furthermore, it doesn’t leave room for people who do like something but find it problematic.

For example, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for certain Anne McCaffrey books, including the Stockholm-Syndrome-tastic Freedom’s Landing. I’m not going to gloss over the massive problems in that book — only weak women get raped, race A good/race B bad, it’s totally cool to marry the dude who tried to rape you because he’s totes changed! — just because I have a fond memory of the 20 times I read it when I was 10.

Honestly I doubt I’d enjoy it as much if I reread it now, but I’m not going to. In my memory, I really liked that book. It was also incredibly problematic (as is a lot of McCaffrey’s stuff).

Yet when people criticize Fifty Shades of Grey and the romanticized abusive relationship within its pages, fans of the book (or even people who aren’t fans) will come out of the woodwork to screech “WELL JUST LEAVE HER ALONE, JEEZ, SHE WROTE THIS FOR SCHOOL AND DOESN’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ANYWAY!”

It’s the FanFiction.net culture around reviews and criticism, blown up to global proportions.

Look. If you write a book and publish it, you have to be ready for criticism. If you write fanfic and publish it online, you have to be ready for criticism. That is what happens when you put your work out there: people criticize it.

And some people will be downright mean when they do so! They will insult you and your taste in music! They may even write spitefic, or fix the plot continuum by getting rid of your author self-insert character that’s fucking everything up!

This is not silencing*. It is part of literary culture.

Another argument I see quite often is “You’re just jealous of [insert author’s] success!”

Ha ha, no. Seriously, what the fuck.

Dear people who make this argument: please go to your nearest university and find an English major. Tell them they only chose English as their major because they are jealous of the success of all the writers ever.

Their reaction will be anywhere between hysterical laughter and slowly backing away with fear in their eyes. Because you will sound crazytown bananapants.

Criticizing EL James or Anne McCaffrey or whatshisfuck who wrote 13 Reasons Why I’m A Mansplaining Dudebro does not mean I am jealous of their success. It means their books are deserving of criticism, and as a reader who also likes to use zir brain I am going to do said criticizing.

All books are deserving of criticism. If you think your favourite book ever is somehow exempt from being criticised, you are living in a fantasy world. Which usually I’d applaud, but in this case you need to wake the fuck up to reality. This is the reality of literature: criticism happens, and it needs to.

And, you know, I get it. I get the feeling of a knife being driven into your heart when you read someone’s vicious, cutting review of a book you like. When you’re a fan of something it is really hard to accept that other people might hate the things you like. Wars have been started over less.

I mean, look what happens to our favourite community college study group when one member doesn’t like a certain band:

This is what happens with fandom. This is why certain fandoms have long-standing beefs with each other, too (because apparently there can only ever be one science-fiction thing ever).

But it’s silly and counterproductive. You can love both Star Trek and Star Wars and at the same time think that Star Trek is actually a better creation. You can love Whedonverse stuff while still acknowledging that most of it is nowhere near as feminist as people claim and that he’s not the greatest writer that ever lived. You can love Twilight and acknowledge that it’s super problematic because Edward is pretty damn abusive.

You can have more than black-and-white thinking. Which is exactly where the “If you don’t like it, don’t read it!” and “You’re just jealous of so-and-so’s success!” arguments come from. You just need to remember to take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself that people can hate the things you love. And if you really think they’ve got a certain aspect of a book wrong, you can tell them so. You can engage in arguments about it because that is also a part of literary culture, that is also a part of literary criticism.

But telling them to shut up and go away because they’re stupid and they don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re just jealous! OMG!!!!1111oneoneeleven? That’s not. That’s just screaming at the darkness, trying desperately to prove you exist. We get it. You exist. You are also stuck in a black-and-white, 1-star-and-5-star-review dichotomy. Good job.

When it comes to literary criticism, stop with the “If you don’t like it, don’t read it!” argument. It’s not even an argument. It’s the equivalent of a kindergartener screaming to the teacher that another kid pushed him.

There is no rule anywhere that says we must all be nice to authors. There is no rule anywhere that says we can’t criticize fiction, or that it must always be constructive. Sure, it’s nicer to do constructive criticism, but there’s no rule that says literary criticism must be nice. There is no rule anywhere dictating how authors should respond to said criticism or that they should at all. There’s no rule saying authors must read all criticism of their work (in fact, it’s probably better for their mental health if they don’t, but again — there’s no rule saying they shouldn’t, either).

The only thing that comes close to being a rule about literary criticism is that if a book has been published, it’s open to criticism. If fanfic has been published, it’s open to criticism. And that is not so much a rule as just a fact. of. life.

Embrace the shades of grey.** Nothing in life is black and white.

Except zebras. And dalmatians.

Ok some things are black and white. My point still stands.


*I disagree vehemently with the idea that things like Protectors of the Plot Continuum or other criticisms of Mary Sues in fic exist as ways to “silence” women authors. If a fanfic writer fucks up the plot of a book and makes all the characters go OOC because s/he wants to bone the main character or out-power the main character or both and s/he does it terribly, criticism of that story is well and fair. Hell, criticism is well and fair no matter if the story is done terribly or excellently and you don’t even care that there’s a Mary Sue cause it’s such an awesome story. If criticism is silencing, then all English departments should be shut down, because they’re silencing authors too.

**Yes, I do find it hilarious that a lot of people who are caught up in this black-and-white thinking are also major fans of Fifty Shades of Grey. And by “hilarious”, I mean I just drank all the scotch.

It’s Not the BDSM

[content warning: description of: domestic violence, abuse, using BDSM as an excuse for abuse, rape]

Some of you may be aware that I have a deep and abiding loathing for the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.

At first, I was just pissed off that it existed — it was plagiarized from another book series (that is badly written and glorifies abusive relationships, with a fanbase that largely seems, well, pretty offbase most of the time) and yet this seemed ample reason to reward IceQueenSnowDragonFairyFartPrincess — sorry, EL James — with a publishing contract. Oh, and scores and scores of cash.

Then I was pissed off at how badly written it was. I mean, dear gods, if people are going to make an author rich for a plagiarized piece of work could it at least be well-written? Apparently that’s too much to ask. The series is terrible. It is worse than the source material, Twilight, and that really is saying something.

Then, I got pissed off at the combo-deal of crap: not only is the BDSM in the books completely wrong and downright dangerous, the relationship is actually incredibly abusive. And often, Christian uses his “domness” or whatever as an excuse to abuse Ana.

For a while, folks have been calling out the series for its blatant glorification of abuse. And for a long while, there was no response from EL James. Perhaps she was clueless, we thought. Perhaps she just doesn’t know, and once she hears about it, she’ll think about it. Apologize. Say that the books are just a fantasy, and that they shouldn’t be taken as a manual on How to Do Relationships.

Then she said this:

“Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse. […] Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they’ve found the books sexually empowering.”

Quote source. (Be warned, the page plays two mis-timed video ads that are incredibly annoying.)

There went that theory.

Jenny Trout has already done an amazing takedown on her blog, but I feel I must add my voice to the conversation.

Especially as, since we took to Twitter and started asking EL James about her statement, she blocked anyone who said anything about 50 Shades being abuse, and called us all trolls and witches.


So, here’s my response to you, EL James. Please note how civil I’m being, even though I hate you with every fibre of my being and hope that Artemis turns you into a stag.

(After the cut, I go into detail about abuse and rape. I put in a read more tag so that you can skip this if you want.)

Continue reading “It’s Not the BDSM”

EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey shortlisted for UK’s National Book Award; world cries tears of blood

Trigger warning: Fifty Shades of Grey is the romanticization of an abusive, rapey fucknozzle named Christian Grey, and I’m ranting about this shit.

I try to be fair. I try to leave room for people whose kink is not my kink, and that’s okay. I’m, overall, not a huge fan of erotic romance, and even within erotic romance I’m not a huge fan of BDSM. This isn’t squeamishness on my part — I’m kinky myself — it’s just that most of the offerings I’ve read within BDSM erotica have not been to my tastes.  (As Katje outs zirself publicly, on zir blog. Only good can come from this.)

Regardless, I think people should have the right to get off to what they want, no matter how fucked up it is.

My stance does have some hard limits, however. (I’m not sold on being all YKINMK for, say, Gor.)

It is not okay to glorify rape and abuse. That is exactly what the 50 Shades trilogy has done — aside from it not even really being BDSM erotica. I’ve had vanilla sex that’s kinkier than some of the shit Christian and Ana get up to.

Do you not believe me? Do I have to point out the recaps, once again? Go. Go read Jennifer Armintrout’s absolute brilliance, and then come back once you’re finished.

If you didn’t read the recaps (shame), here’s the gist of what I’m getting at:

  • Fifty Shades is terribly fucking written.
  • Christian Grey is an abusive rapey fucknozzle who basically just mentally tortures Ana and emotionally manipulates her into doing what he wants.
  • They are both horrible people and I want them to die. I realize they’re fictional. Don’t ruin my dream.
  • Christian threatens to rape Ana in the first book. Then in the second book, he actually does.
  • EL James is not a good enough writer to be subtly making the point that this is bad, mmm’kay. She’s just not. She’s a terrible, clumsy writer. She is worse than Meyer. It’s very obvious that, in James’ POV, 50 Shades and Christian Grey are a hot fantasy — and that is what these books are popular as. This makes me weep for humanity.
  • If you don’t research America before setting your “novel” there, you’re going to have a bad time.

This video is pretty much a wholly accurate depiction of Christian Grey’s true nature.

And so the Specsavers National Book Awards see fit to reward that kind of bullshit by shortlisting the Fifty Shades trilogy?

If I needed absolute proof that the world was not going to hell in a handbasket but that we were already there, and the basket full of demonic bunny eggs didn’t tip me off, this is it.

Full disclosure time. I don’t talk much about the times I’ve been raped. Not publicly, at least. But I think it’s time to talk about the second time. Because it’s relevant to this discussion.

There is a sex scene in Fifty Shades Darker that is almost exactly like what I went through the second time I was raped. Almost verbatim. Change some names, and some circumstances, and you’ve got what my ex did to me in June, 2010 while he was visiting me during my mother’s cancer surgery. 

I’m not going to describe it; it’s in one of the recaps posts, and Jennifer Armintrout does call it out as rape, so if you want to go find it you know where to look now. The day I read that post I had to do some serious self-care to get through the day. (This is not Jennifer Armintrout’s fault; there’s no way she can know what is specifically triggering to folks in a book series that is just scene after scene of rapey abuse, and I know what I signed up for when I started reading the recaps.)

Glorifying rapist characters as a way to create romance is totally deserving of an award! That’s why True Blood has won so many Emmys for “Best Rapey Vamps”. I mean, I sure want to see more of that sort of thing. Maybe next time there can be a bunch of not-subtle-at-all anxieties regarding BDSM and seeing the practice of it as sick and wrong and therefore the characters who practice it as sick and wrong, so it can be EVEN MORE like my relationship with my ex-boyfriend.

Oh wait.

Even if the series didn’t glorify a rapey abusive douchefuck, it’s terribly written. It’s honestly probably the worst writing I’ve ever read. And it’s plagiarism. There is an 89% similarity rating between Fifty Shades and the  Twilight fanfic it was “extensively reworked” from, Master of the Universe. Eighty. Nine. Per cent.

That would be enough to get you kicked out of college, but out here in the real world we give you a goddamn publishing contract and slap your name on the shortlist for a fucking medal.

In conclusion, if Fifty Shades wins the National Book Awards, I think the only reasonable reaction would be to nuke the UK from orbit. Even if it meant no more Doctor Who.

“I’m willing to die for my cause. What are you willing to give up for yours?”

So much more.