Last of all of the fan writers is Foz Meadows, who has provided us with four nice, long essays in her Hugo Voter Packet.
Her thesis here is that TV writers pretty much feed M/M slashfic in three ways: by making male/female relationships predictably oriented around whether they will get together romantically; by avoiding platonic female/male relationships in order not to distract from the central romance; and by having relatively few female characters anyway, so your same sex interactions tend to be M/M.
“Thus: having firmly invested your audience in the importance of a romantic relationship, you then proceed to use all the juiciest romantic foundations – which is to say, shared interests, complex histories, mutual respect, in-jokes, magnetic antagonism, slowly-kindled alliances and a dozen other things – in male/male scenes and then affect gaping surprise when your fan base not only notices, but expresses a preference for it.”
I think she hits the nail on the head there.
She also queries why ‘will they, won’t they’ is the default, and suggests that this is rooted in an idea that having romance as a primary narrative is too feminine and thus devalued. As a romance reader, I can only nod along wisely and sadly.
It’s a good essay, and pointed out several things I hadn’t thought of before.
Dragon Age: Meta, thoughts and feelings
This is mostly a post about a video game, and since I don’t play video games, it’s a bit lost on me. Foz talks about the delight of getting to play a queer character in a video game. She then talks about the game’s portrayal of slavery, of race, of terrorism, and also about the game’s implicit biases.
It’s a strange and illuminating article. I didn’t know there was so much storytelling in video games, or that romantic relationships were a big part of them. I didn’t get a lot out of it – it’s hard when someone is writing in depth about issues with something you’ve never heard of – but it’s a good piece, even if it isn’t for me.
This piece talks about how women tend to be pitted against each other in media – put explicitly or implicitly in competition for the heroes or for the audience – and how this comes from an idea that telling stories about people other than straight white men is doomed to failure. All other characters exist only in relation to them.
Meadows points out that while this is slowly improving for white women, it’s not working so well for other groups. And that when other minorities appear on shows, they get killed off at a much higher rate. I hadn’t realised that the old motion picture production code actually required depictions of queerness to end in tragedy (so that viewers would not think that queerness was acceptable). Of course, this is no longer the case, but people still tend to do it.
Oh, this is fun! Meadows starts by comparing the revelations about the central relationship in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen with the fanfic written by my friend Dira Sudis – hooray, I have read both the novel and the fanfic! – and then she goes back and traces Joel’s appearances in previous Vorkosigan books, pointing out the hints that one can find, if one knows what one is looking for (or if one is as clever and intuitive as Dira Sudis evidently is), that suggest that Bujold planned this quite some time ago.
Meadows then moves on to talking about the women in Bujold, and honestly, I’m just having a heap of fun now, and not reading critically at all. I love her vision of Gentleman Jole as the final, cathartic, closing bracket of the story which started in Shards of Honor. Miles takes over for so long that one can forget that Cordelia was the protagonist first, and the voice which carried us into the series. Reading this essay makes me realise that Gentleman Jole probably is the last word from Barrayar (though Meadows doesn’t think so). Cordelia’s story is complete, and it was her story to start with.
I love this essay. It makes me want to go read the whole Vorkosigan saga again, which is never a bad thing.
And now I’m conflicted about where to put Meadows on my ballot. I loved Luhrmann’s essay about romance; I loved Meadows’ essay about Bujold, and I think by now everyone knows how I feel about Chuck Tingle. I think I shall stubbornly put Tingle first, and Meadows second, with Luhrmann coming in at third and Nussbaum at fourth. I wish I could somehow indicate the big gap between fourth and fifth place on my ballot, but it isn’t a No Award-sized gap, so the rankings will just have to speak for themselves.
And here endeth the Best Fan Writer reviews! One more novel, and then a quick fly through the voter packets for the three series that I haven’t read yet, and I’m done!