Posts by Tui Head
Speaker: John and Phil meet Bob, in reply to
I don't think anyone in its membership would claim, if directly asked, that the Labour Party has a spotless record on queer rights. (Okay, probably some people, but I'm sure there are people that would claim ditto about National/ACT/whoever you like.) But it's a bit incoherent to claim that the National Party and Labour Party's positions towards and relationships with the queer community are identical, especially if when offered a concrete example where they aren't all you can say is "the guy responsible for PR for his party didn't spend a soundbite lambasting his party's failures". (Especially when it comes to MPs crossing the floor, which by definition is a failure of an individual rather than a party failure.)
I'm as unhappy as you are about this particular situation and I think a lot of staunch Labour voters (which I have not been for the past two years) will also be unhappy, pending whatever Goff does say on Saturday. But National and Labour are, contrary to what cynics would have you think, not indistinguishable on most issues. You don't have to like either of them; but they're not the same.
Up Front: First, Come to Your Conclusion, in reply to
Wait, wait, there are straight people on tumblr? Where?
But I don't get why you're surprised that women are embracing Dean/Castiel, since fic-writing and manip-making fandom is pretty heavily dominated by women, particularly slash (although not, IMO, to the extent that some have presented it). Or do you mean you're surprised by women being into slash generally? We don't need to rehash that, I hope.
I don't believe you about Tim/Damian though. Jason/Tim, Dick/Tim (the greatest scan on my dash today: work safe, if you don't understand puns), sure. But Damian's ten and, more to the point, everyone hates him.
Muse: Shelf Life: The Dying Elephant in…,
I have to agree with Emma that I'll miss Borders when it inevitably goes because it has a really excellent craft section and when I lived in Christchurch was easily the best for genre fiction. In Wellington I can supplement that with Arty Bee's, of course, and Minerva (the extremely shiny craft bookshop in upper Cuba), but there were still loads of books that it was either Borders or Internet.
As a general rule, though, I'm not too sad, and if the various functions get split up well into independents (as opposed to going all to the internet, which I think would make New Zealand fiction an even-more-dicey-than-it-already-is proposition), I think that's an acceptable outcome. I'd love to hear from publishers how they feel about it but I doubt anyone wants to tell us!
Muse: TV Review: Good Gods Almighty!, in reply to
There was also Roger Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger – which, naturally, was too sweet-natured, humane and bereft of shrink-wrapped Zeppelin-tits doing ultra-violence not to get cancelled after eight issues
Not exactly the first or last appearance of Thor in Marvel comics, though!
Muse: TV Review: Good Gods Almighty!,
Certainly the most odious appearance of Norse mythology in (un)popular culture at the moment must be the peculiar popularity of Odin worship among white supremacists. Which quite puts the point on Leopold's earlier comments: this is a show deliberately constructed to be about a bunch of straight white dudes. Still, there's no reason gods from other pantheons can't or won't show up, right? -- although that does raise the spectre of unfortunate trips through exoticist fantasies about other religions and cultures. (There was a terrible episode of US genre show Supernatural with a similar American-Gods-knock-off theme recently, which included frankly gross and extraordinarily insensitive portrayals of a bunch of gods - off the top of my head, Kali, Loki, Odin, Baron Samedi, Zao Shen, and Ganesh. I can think of a few more pop culture references to Norse mythology - a popular manga, a couple of young adult books, quite a bit on Stargate: SG-1 and of course the Marvel superhero Thor, about whom they're about to make a movie - but it's hard for any mythology to compete with two thousand years of classical educations (read: Greek & Roman myth), I suspect.)
I'm quite hopeful to see some genre TV on our screens again - I have no idea how This Is Not My Life did last year, but I always find it quite pleasing when we have genre TV that isn't an adaptation of a book by Maurice Gee or Margaret Mahy (or Ken Catran! Who remembers Deepwater?) It's a good genre for developing loyalty in audiences, and they obviously succeeded at that with Outrageous, so!
To get quite distracted, although obviously Gaiman and Pratchett share some interests, Gaiman had been playing around with the urban-fantasy-gods-among-us in Sandman (1989), years before Small Gods. But then again, Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Franzen both write domestic fiction; just because the trappings of genre fiction are slightly more, well, trapping-y than the trappings of literary fiction doesn't make them necessarily more significant.
Busytown: She loves you, YA, YA, YA!,
It would be good sometimes if popular YA, or children's fiction, for that matter, could transcend the perennial triumph of good over evil and explore some other facets of human existence, like identity, confidence, autonomy, freedom, compassion, empathy, grief, humanism, philosophy, entitlement... Is that too much to ask?
Not at all. Which is why David Levithan, Alyssa Brugman, Malorie Blackman, John Green, Lois Lowry, Sharon Creech, Diana Wynne Jones, Margo Lanagan, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkich, Lili Wilkinson, Jaclyn Moriarty, Katherine Paterson, David Hill, Rebecca Stead, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Megan Whalen Turner, Charles de Lint (shout out to Craig and David Hood who love him too - I'm such a de Lint fan!), John Howe, Maureen Johnson, Maureen McCarthy, E L Konigsberg, Adam Rex and so many others are so well-known - not to mention the ways in which Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead addresses some of these issues as well. And that's just people I've read this year! These authors write about loss, identity, popularity, personhood, compassion, gender identity, sexual identity, race, confidence, freedom, unhappiness, honesty, corruption, power, authoritarianism, complexity, nature and nurture, ethical dilemmas, sincerity, upbringing, classism, beauty, understanding, difference, estrangement, love, friendship, kindness, insincerity, and so much more. Katherine Paterson's enduringly popular Bridge to Terabithia is as fine writing about grief as you will ever find. Lois Lowry's deservedly famous The Giver is an incredible dystopia, but her less well-known Taking Care of Terrific is a gorgeous piece about class, relationships, upbringing and the rather fun Anastasia Krupnik series is allll about identity and confidence. Charles de Lint's The Blue Girl is about the marginalised among us, sexual violence, the transforming power of friendship, women's agency and confidence. Sharon Creech's books are all beautifully written, finely-crafted novels about discovering yourself and your humanity. Alyssa Brugman's wonderful novel Finding Grace is about compassion, empathy, and the range of human experience; her Walking Naked is about identity. Fleur Beale's I Am Not Esther deals with religion, authority, freedom and humanity. The Guardian of the Dead is about confidence, friendship, power, coming of age. The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex, looks incredibly seriously at colonialism, post-colonialism, authoritarianism, loss, and solitude. I could go on and on and on.
Meanwhile, although the popular series of our days are indeed fantasy novels with their share of black and white violence - The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight - to construct them as if that is their sole content is to truly lose a great deal of their value. The Hunger Games' dystopia asks questions about society, classism, propaganda and the media, reality TV and authoritarianism. The Harry Potter series dwells at length on identity, compassion, nature vs nurture, the corruption of authority, prejudice, honesty, bravery, whether it's OK to take another's life for "the greater good". All right, I struggle to defend Twilight, but it's also something of a stretch to describe it as good vs evil - it's a romance, really.
Personally, I feel like it would be great if adult novels could transcend emotional detachment, divorce, and fond memories of vagina in exchange for writing something genuine and real ... but my hopes will inevitably be dashed!
Also I should say how much I'm enjoying the discussion about the uses of the monstrous in children's literature. I highly recommend, for anyone interested in a psychological discussion of this stuff, Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, which is an academic discussion of the place of the fairytale in adolescent development. I also have my own favourite quote about this kind of material:
People who've never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life ... They don't have access to all the lessons that ... give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And ... love.
- Jilly Coppercorn, The Onion Girl (by Charles de Lint)
Note: I had this post typed up and hit post and it went away. I hope this doesn't end up being a double-post.
Busytown: She loves you, YA, YA, YA!, in reply to
@Sally, If you're worried about the violence etc, my inclination would be to say don't worry. There's so much violence on the telly & stuff anyway and to my mind books usually do a better job of making violence horrific as opposed to normalising it or coolifying it the way so much media does these days. Kids will read what they want to read and a lot of kids go through stages of not wanting to read the books adults are telling them they should read, or books that they perceive as being aimed at them in some sort of condescending way. And some people will never enjoy realistic fiction - my best friend reads extraordinarily widely, genre fiction of all flavours and a lot of non-fiction, but realistic novels in general bore her.
Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker are both awesome suggestions - Barker has also written a lot for adults but I never got into that stuff at all so can't comment on it. You might find Thief of Always difficult to get in shops but they'll order it or it's in libraries, and then if he likes that Barker's Abarat (female protagonist, the beautifully-named Candy Quackenbush, but satisfyingly weird) and its sequel might be good.
If he doesn't seem to like children's and YA stuff at all, in terms of content I think Gaiman's adult novel American Gods is no worse than most Stephen King and "better" than some, and it has some stuff in common with King. There's also Neverwhere . Pace Lucy S., I gave my brother Sandman comics when he was twelve and he enjoyed them very much but beware the idea that comics are more appropriate for children than novels - not true at all, there's all sorts of R-rated content in there and I would imagine that 15+ would be the more usual age to come to them. If he's been reading the Dark Tower books he might also like the grittier doorstopper fantasy, esp urban fantasy - Jim Butcher, maybe, or Scott Lynch or perhaps even Charles de Lint (but I'd library all of those, esp. the latter since he's insanely pricey to buy here.) And, of course, there's the Lord of the Rings or even Tad Williams.
I think my overall comment is if you're just worried about keeping him reading there should be lots to keep him going, but if you're worried about *what* he's reading you might be a bit stuck!
Busytown: She loves you, YA, YA, YA!, in reply to
Tui, I must totally be living under that rock! :-)
I should clarify that by noting that I spend most of my time in a rarified circle of people who spend a lot of time reading and talking about YA fiction - as Karen mentions, the YA blogosphere is super intense, very smart, has an incredible social conscience ... and books tend to get spread around like measles. So people who I think are extraordinarily well-known, erm, probably aren't (whereas no-one I know personally has even posted a review of Freedom yet!)
Busytown: She loves you, YA, YA, YA!, in reply to
I think Margo Lanagan is awfully intense and definitely not for everyone. I thought Black Juice was really amazing, but mileage may vary.
Books for boys - a bit of a mystery to me admittedly since other than my penchant for SF&F my tastes are pretty girly - but William Taylor & Davids Hill and Hair of the ones I already mentioned, and most of Fleur Beale's early stuff (it's pretty blatant in the covers, if you're looking in shops). Also Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant series) and Robert Muchamore (CHERUB series - a grittier version of the Alex Rider books) although they skew quite a bit younger, 8-12 instead of 12-16. (Although thinking about the CHERUB content... erm.) Older I struggle with. Mm, John Green, perhaps? Adam Rex. I would imagine that the majority of David Levithan's audience is girls, but young gay or questioning men might enjoy his work. Neil Gaiman is universally popular, try boys on the Graveyard Book. (I hate doing this because I sincerely believe that the old saw that girls will read books with male protagonists but boys won't read books with female protagonists is a self-fulfilling prophecy, not a neverending truth - really depends on the kids in question.) There's a really fantastic collection of short stories called Crossings, collected by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen and Tessa Duder, which is stories for teenagers by Australian and New Zealand writers, and which I would recommend to any teenager keen on realistic fiction. I personally prefer not to financially support Orson Scott Card, but Ender's Game is very popular for precocious boys and girls. Right now I'm reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray which I imagine would appeal to boys.
The other piece of conventional wisdom about boys reading is that quite often boys prefer nonfiction over fiction, and it's important not to stress out about that - reading is reading is reading.
Your very best bet with books for boys is to phone or visit or email a bookshop that specialises in children's and teen lit - John at the Children's Bookship in Kilbirnie, Wellington has a real bee in his bonnet about boys' books. So do a lot of children's librarians. I vacillate between being annoyed at the attention boys' reading gets and the generally gender-essentialist attitudes (I think that boys read less because they're socialised to read less, and the way to fix that is to change the way society raises boys, not throw a whole lot of books about rugby at the wall and hope that something sticks) and thinking that the idea that boys read less is quite overstated. The Hand Mirror linked to a piece about this recently. But all that's pretty academic when you're trying to get your own kids reading, I'm thinking.
Busytown: She loves you, YA, YA, YA!,
One of the interesting things about the increasing crossover market for YA genre fiction is, to my mind, the growing gulf between these kinds of crossover books (Neil Gaiman and Ms Scary Margo Lanagan are exemplary of the trope; also Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black, Suzanne Collins - although you've been living under a rock if you don't know these names) and the standard classic realistic fiction novels that were the bread and butter of YA and children's fiction for many years. I saw an interesting panel with Gaiman and Lanagan earlier in the year where they both insisted that they just write the books they want to write, and then their publishers classify it according to marketing and sales concerns. This is probably true but it does make the question "what is YA fiction" awfully vexed! Gaiman also spoke somewhat derisively of that maligned genre the problem novel, a category of fiction I personally will go to the trenches for. It's true that some problem novels (Go Ask Alice, the classic of the genre, leaps immediately to mind) are both didactic and simply bad. On the other hand, a great number of them, while not necessarily sophisticated in terms of their writing, are necessary books for teenagers - Fleur Beale, a great stalwart of New Zealand writing for teens, leaps immediately to mind; so does David Hill and to a lesser extent William Taylor. I worry that the increasing attention of the adult literary establishment means that the crossover novels are increasingly published while the problem novels languish in obscurity because readers simply grow out of them. Further Back Than Zero, a Beale classic about teenage alcohol abuse, just doesn't grip me anymore; but that by no means should reflect on its value for me as a teenager.
Favourite New Zealand writers for young adults - I hate to see people ask a question like that and then see it languish! Classics like Gaelyn Gordon and Margaret Mahy have already been namechecked (I recommend Gordon's Stonelight and the really delightful Prudence M Muggeridge, Damp Rat; Mahy's Changeover, The Tricksters, and Catalogue of the Universe are unparalelled.) I would add William Taylor, David Hill, Ken Catran and Fleur Beale. Of these I think adults probably should only try William Taylor (__Beth and Bruno__ and The Blue Lawn. Although the latter has dated considerably) if they haven't read these people already. Newer writers are much harder because it's tough to guess who will last, but I really enjoyed the first book in David Hair's Ramayana-inspired trilogy, Pyre of Queens. (I haven't read his NZ trilogy but it seems to be popular.) Mandy Hagar is being read by that crossover audience. Fleur Beale's still writing! It's quite a lively genre, all things considered.
I wouldn't have thought so. And not subject to reverse snobbery: I don't know anyone who will only read YA.
*puts up hand* Actually, I don't only read YA. But I am much, much more willing to give a YA book a go. Of course the time investment is much smaller (I can typically get through a YA novel in two to three hours, whereas an adult novel would take me perhaps ten, depending on the genre) and also I read a LOT of reviews of YA fiction which means my reading is extremely well-directed. But YA writers also let me down a lot less. Young adults are picky readers. It doesn't mean they always have the best taste (*cough*Twilight*cough*) but by and large both children and young adults are extremely intolerant of wasteful writing or writing that's playing around just to play around. Writing for young people often has a really astounding clarity about it (Sharon Creech, for example), or it's very well plotted (Suzanne Collins) because the writing that an adult reader would slog through in order to get to the occasional brilliant observation or wildly unpredictable murderer won't be tolerated by young adults. So writing for them is either non-stop brilliance (David Levithan, Diana Wynne Jones, Megan Whalen Turner, E L Konigsberg, Rebecca Stead, Katherine Paterson - basically, Newbery Award-winners) or non-stop fun. Perhaps this makes them more predictable reads, but to my mind When You Reach Me or Bridge to Terabithia are as fine a novel as has ever been written, and I don't have to waste my time to get it.