Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fabulous Life

I just got back last night from an academic conference in Fort Worth where I presented a paper on Ursula LeGuin and Terry Pratchett. The conference went well for both me and my buddy Phillip who went with me, but more even than the conference itself, what was sweetest about the entire trip--was coming home. I've never traveled without the hubster and it was strange not to have him there with me. Coming home and spending some sweet time with him made me realize just how precious he is, how beyond ordinary he is, and how much I genuinely adore him.

And of course the kiddo is super stoked about Halloween, and wasn't as interested in me hugging the stuffing out of him when I got home, but I just wanted to hold and hold and hold him! He kept squirming away until I finally told him he owed me three hugs, one for each night I was away, and he complied--and then twisted away to show me all the candy and toys he'd gotten at a halloween festival he went to last night. He's going to be a skeleton when he goes out tonight. He's very excited about looking as scary as possible

So life is good, very, very good. There are some exciting things brewing in my professional life--more news to come on that later in the week. In the meantime, I'm trying to batten down and focus on finishing the first six cantos of The Faerie Queene for my Renaissance class tomorrow night. Not exactly my favored reading, but I'm stoked to have some great YA books coming in the mail next week--including an ARC of Ally Condie's Matched!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

X-Men, Feminism, and the Idealized Body

Watching the first season X-men with my son—the 90’s cartoon, not X-men Evolution--brings up a lot of feminist considerations, probably in part due to my recent Feminist Composition class, and doing research on Twilight.X-men as a concept, is pretty damn great. I’d love to read some cultural studies scholarship on the comics and the cartoon versions. It’s such a charged metaphor of for the persecution of Others in society. Senator Kelly, with his ‘Let’s round up all the mutants!’ seems an implicit echo of Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism witch hunts.

But on a feminist level, it’s pretty great—all these girls and women are equally kicking ass alongside the dudes. Mutant powers have leveled the playing ground of physical difference and strength, so tiny Rogue is able to flip over giants three times her size. Everybody in third-wave feminism talks about Buffy, but surely these super-hero chicks were her forerunner.

At the same time, the way they are visually depicted is evidently male-gaze driven. All the women are busty, with long gams, and very developed hour-glass figures. This is only true of the super-heroes though. Other women in the series are more flat-chested and, while they have long hair and wear conventional feminine garb of the 90’s, they are not hyper-feminine. This is true for the men as well—all the X-men are super-ripped with idealized bodies, and normal dudes are well, normal. So I think that’s more what the busty women are about—all the good guys have great idealized bodies (even Beast, while blue, is strong-chested and slim-wasted).All the guys have super strong jaw lines, wide chests, ripped arm muscles.This all seems very Tarzan to me—or maybe it’s just most pop culture phenomenon and literature, started in the penny-dreadfuls and pulp fiction and continuing on through comic books and romance novels.

I don’t have any real conclusions to draw from all this. Just interesting observations. At least in our heroic asthetic, even the Others can be the beautiful people, the ones we identify with and want to emulate. Also I can see why this is so appropriate for adolescents who are attracted to texts like this. And you know, for grown ups who never seem to have gotten past adolescence ;)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crazy Week & Good Book

This has been, wow, one hell of a nutty, busy, wonderful week. I just finished planning out and outlining the other books in what I hope can be a trilogy, and I'm emotionally exhausted after losing myself in the fiction-world and figuring out the end of everybody's story. In the last week and a half, I also finished a paper for my Renaissance lit class, finished revising and editing the Twilight paper for publication, did a big edit on the novel, finished the outlines for the two books, and today, had a birthday party for my wonderful kiddo--he just turned six!

Oh, and I had a parent-teacher conference with his kindergarten teacher yesterday and talked about all the things I already knew--he's smart, but has behavior problems, like talking back and never doing what she says the first time (apparently he's one of six boys in the class who are the bane of her existence, though she put it in nicer words than that). Leaving the meeting, all I could think was: Thank God I'm not a kindergarden teacher! I mean, my kid's not that bad when he's at home, prob because he's an only child and so doesn't have to share his toys, and we discipline and do lots of consequences and rewards for positive reinforcement. But I can't imagine being surrounded by twenty crazy-o kids. Everyday. For eight hours. I shudder just thinking about it.

Also! I finally had time to pause and enjoy some great YA lit, which I haven't had time for all semester. But the library told me the book I'd put in a hold request on was in, so I've read it this week and just finished it tonight. And damn, it was a good one, really good: Clockwork Angel (don't like the title, but do like the cover). I read Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series and was like, meh, it's okay--lots of action, but I didn't feel totally connected to all the characters. But this one, zing, straight to my melodrama loving heart, mixed with great action, set in Britain in the 1890's, a bit steampunk, all done really well. Love, love, love.

Now I'm going to go shower, sleep, and wake up tomorrow and start the paper due next week on Samuel Coleridge.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Writing Your Way (into &) Out of Doom Moments

I think trying to work one's way out of problematic theoretical knots is similar to figuring out plot problems/solutions. In revising my article on Twilight for publication, an article which reads the implications of the phenomenon positively instead of negatively, I find myself navigating feminisms to work out an alternative reading from the easy and obvious--that Twilight is bad, bad, bad and gives negative examples of a passive female main character. Ok, yes in some instances it does, and it certainly reflects a conservative ideology in places, but at the same time, it taps into a female fantasy that is so well done it has become virulently popular. My question is, why? What psychological needs is it meeting? And can we provide an answer that doesn't result in saying women/girl readers are stupid/bad//wrong and should feel guilty for liking it?

Plot-wise, I just watched an episode of Stargate Universe for the first time last night, and it reminded me of the importance of constantly creating "doom moments" where it seems like there is no way out and everybody is going to die. I think really every action sequence should have a moment like this, it makes the reversal (after the author ingeniuslly writes a way out of the doom) that much more satisfying. However, creating these moments (unless you are Joss Whedon who revels in them) can be difficult as a writer, uncomfortable in much the same way tackling difficult theoretically dilemmas can be. On both fronts, I'm forcing myself into the difficult places, because the results are always worth it.