It’s always sort of an interesting experience when I’m reading something on my Kindle app and I run into one of those passages where the app marks it for you and lets you know how many other people have highlighted it. It’s interesting to me because sometimes I agree that it’s highlight-worthy, and I enjoy musing on the reasons for my agreement or lack thereof, but also because it’s a moment where what’s usually a relatively solitary experience – sitting somewhere and reading – becomes deeply communal.
We often do experience books among and with others, now. We talk about them on Twitter, on Tumblr, on book blogs, on review sites. We talk about what we love and we critique what we didn’t. We share recommendations and we offer warnings regarding what’s to be avoided for whatever reason. The web provides so many sites for conversation about what we’re reading.
But then there are the moments where we’re immersed, just us alone lost in the world of a book, and suddenly other people are there with us. I see what others found noteworthy. I no longer experience the passage in isolation from the thoughts of others. It changes the way I read and think about what I’m reading.
Probably some people would find this intrusive, but I like it, these little snatches of the experience of community in the midst of being mentally by myself. It’s like we’re passing each other on a road through beautiful countryside, and we exchange a wave. Hello, how are you? Fine day, isn’t this lovely? Well, I’ll be seeing you. Take care. I don’t know their names; I don’t know anything about them except for the fact that we were, for a time, traveling the same road.
And I don’t require company. But it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.
Be aware: There is a lot. Without further ado:
- This week in awesome: An artist is making a map of Manhattan using only handwritten directions from strangers. It’s about as great as you’d expect.
- “Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever”. No, this is not an Onion headline.
Where is the Gawker for women? The ESPN for women? The Awl for women? The Slate for women? The Onion for women? Perhaps when Google finally launches a search engine for women, we will be capable of locating the websites targeted at us, so that advertisers may sell us things. For now, we will read Bustle.
- Breaking Bad as Hamlet. I don’t totally buy it, but it’s an amazing comparison.
- “Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You”. And here’s where I would register my outraged shock if I had any. Shock, I mean.
Comics aren’t for women. And if women do like comics, they shouldn’t, because testosterone, and that’s not the right platform for them. But for those women who do read comics, it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed. Because women don’t read them, you see, so it’s not necessary to write characters that will appeal to them. So if you’re a woman, and you’re reading comics, first of all, why are you reading them? Second of all, don’t expect anything that appeals to you.
- Related: Do villains really need to commit “taboo” acts for us to get that they’re villains?
A cowardly bully, who snivels and whines when any hurt at all comes their way, isn’t just a villain that people hate. He or she is a villain that people despise. It goes back to what people mean when they say a “bad guy.” Someone being “bad” isn’t just about actions, it’s also about character in the old-fashioned sense of the word. And when the focus is on “bad character” rather than atrocity, it’s possible demonstrate that a villain is despicable without showing any crime at all.
- Also related: Warren Ellis on why we do need violent stories.
We learn about things by looking at them and then talking about them, together. You may have heard of this process. It’s sometimes involved in things like science. It’s also the system of fiction: writing things in order to get a better look at them. Fiction is how we both study and de-fang our monsters. To lock violent fiction away, or to close our eyes to it, is to give our monsters and our fears undeserved power and richer hunting grounds.
- Also also related: Why it may be a good thing that video games “devalue life”, and why it might open up some opportunities to rethink the meaning of death.
This fixation on interactivity obscures the fact that games are also a computational medium, based on models and protocols, codes and commands, simulations and rules. By assigning literal, numerical values to life and death, games are necessarily going to “cheapen” them to some extent – but, as we’ll see, this cheapening can render the form peculiarly suited to exploring what life is worth in the era of biopower and computerized risk assessment, drones and cloning, artificial intelligence and data mining.
- N.K. Jemisin: “There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.”
Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.
- Orson Scott Card: Now officially disconnected from reality in every meaningful way. Also howlingly racist, in case anyone wasn’t sure about that.
“Where will he get his ‘national police’? The NaPo will be recruited from ‘young out-of-work urban men’ and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.
In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.”
- (TW: wow racism) Amazing series of photos: “A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored”. The only real issue is that it’s sort of implicitly presented as if any of the images are a surprise or are skewering common perceptions of the KKK, when in fact they are all exactly what I would expect.
- “Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism”.
These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.
- “Thoughts on the Trending Hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”.
Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it’s basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, “Oh well, we believe in equality for all.” I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.
- Bayou Corne, Louisiana is disappearing into a sinkhole 24 acres wide and about 750 feet deep. There are reasons why this is happening.
Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear.
- Finally, from me: a post on the systems of cultural capital built up around print books and the spaces they occupy, placed in the context of a world that features increasing numbers of ebooks.
Of course the spaces themselves in which one goes to experience books are laden with differing degrees of cultural capital. Independent bookstores tend to be more prestigious than chains. Independent bookstores with lots of antique shelving that’s high enough to need those cool rolling ladders tend to be more prestigious than a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. You stand in these spaces, a hardcover first edition in your hands, surrounded by whispers and wood and that fantastic old book smell, and you can think Aha, I am a Cultured person in a Cultured space and I am Experiencing Books.
Hope the bridges all burn your life away.
Posted in Linkdump
Tagged bigotry, books, bookstores, breaking bad, comics, ebooks, environmentalism, feminism, fiction, fracking, misogyny, racism, sexism, sfwa, video games, villains, violence, yeasayer
In case anyone’s interested, my academic alter-ego wrote a post for Cyborgology the other day that deals with my complicated and problematic relationship with print and ebooks in the context of seeing Line and Orbit through to publication.
When I write a manuscript, it should be real to me; I brought it into being, shaped and manipulated it until I was happy with it, put it into the words that I chose. And yet it’s not really real to me until someone has paid me money to publish it, and it’s still not as real as it could be until it’s in physical, tactile form. A lot of this, again, is about external validation, but most of it is how I personally navigate what I perceive as different orders of real. Not necessarily physical/digital and real/unreal, but rather a spectrum along which this thing that I made moves.
Woo navel-gazing. And navel-gazing in which I work in a plug for my book. Shameless.