Cover images for your Tuesday perusal

Untamed country girls have been a sex fantasy longer than I’ve been alive.A good John Brunner book and a good Ed Emshwiller cover.I’d love to know what’s behind this Jerome Rozen cover.This Clark Hullings cover too, mostly because I’m curious what the guy’s role in the story is. Ill-fated husband? Pimp? Wishing he could be in the middle of the sandwich?I’ll end with this awesome cover by Lou Feck.

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Sexual Consent Is a Bad Standard

Determining whether a specific incident meets the legal definition of rape can be complicated. The concept of rape, however, is quite simple: unless all parties consent to sex, it’s rape.

If someone says no to sex either verbally or physically (e.g., pushing someone off, backing away), there’s no consent. If someone says yes at first, then says no, there’s no consent. If someone doesn’t say no because they’re too drunk or otherwise incapacitated to make the call, there’s no consent. The lack of a verbal no isn’t the same as consent; not fighting back, or not fighting “enough,” isn’t a sign of consent either.

That doesn’t mean consent is the only standard. A teacher sleeping with their fourteen-year-old student is committing statutory rape even if the student freely consents. Someone cheating on their partner is in the wrong even if they and the person they have sex with both consent. Manipulating or pressuring someone into consent (“You say you love me. Prove it.”) isn’t acceptable. But consent always matters — except not to a large part of the right wing, particularly the religious right.

It doesn’t matter before marriage because all that matters is that women aren’t supposed to have sex. Misogynist Matt Walsh, for instance, says if a woman feels traumatized after date rape, it’s “not because you were raped but because you allowed yourself to be degraded for the sake of cheap and fleeting pleasure.” After marriage, according to Phyllis Schlafly and multiple other conservatives, it isn’t rape: “By getting married the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

Of course, every straight male conservative understands the importance of consent if they walk into a gay bar. But when men want to have sex with women? Forget about it! Consent doesn’t matter, only “are you married?” matters.

“You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, so long as there is one element,” Rush Limbaugh said in 2016. “Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police.” Well,  yes. If there’s no consent, then it’s rape. Calling the police is the appropriate response, though a lot of police won’t give a crap.

Antifeminist Jordan Peterson dismisses the feminist concern for consent as a taboo, equivalent to conservative taboos against premarital sex. That’s a telling choice of words: “taboo” implies an irrational, arbitrary standard with no real logic behind it. Requiring consent before sex isn’t irrational, it’s extremely logical.

Pennsylvania Republican Tom Smith said in 2012 that learning your daughter is pregnant and unmarried is just the same as learning she’s been raped; she’s damaged goods, whether she consented doesn’t matter (that’s my interpretation, not his statement). That’s a common message in abstinence only education where girls learn premarital sex makes them worthless as used chewing gum. Consent isn’t discussed so even rape victims think they’re used chewing gum. Of course, the rules are supposed to apply but as Christian feminist Samantha Field says, guys aren’t really expected to deliver their snowy white virginity as a wedding night gift to their bride.

Field says conservative Christians don’t value consent because they assume fallen human beings have no sexual morals. If we don’t confine our lustful natures within marriage we’ll jump into bed with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Conservative David French makes a similar point: if consent is all that matters, why shouldn’t men hit on all attractive women everywhere, even in Bible study or a business conference? She might say yes, so there’s nothing wrong with asking (which ignores, as I said, that consent isn’t the only standard in play).

Walsh and others insist that’s why “no sex until marriage” is the superior standard — it avoids all the complications of figuring out whether someone consent or not, and it’s unambiguous: every man knows that trying to talk an unmarried woman into bed is wrong.

This is a bullshit argument: even if we start from the premise “sex before marriage is a sin,” it doesn’t follow “therefore it’s acceptable for a man to force a woman to have sex.” Nor does “marital sex is godly” mean marital rape is washed in the blood of the lamb and morally acceptable. Nor does believing, or at least giving lip service to “sex only after marriage” really protect women. It’s never been a standard universally embraced or enforced; lots of men have been told no means yes or that suing for sexual harassment means she’s into you.

And of course, a lot of people dislike consent standards because they make it harder to get laid. If you have to worry about whether the woman wants it or respect her no, that means less sex! Limbaugh, that late and unlamented misogynist was very big on “no means yes” and how guys can always tell (spoiler: no, they often can’t). If you weigh rape trauma on one side of the scales and a man’s orgasm on the other, for a depressing number of people the scales should tilt in the man’s favor.

Consent matters. Be wary of people who don’t think it does.

You can find much more on this topic in Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers.

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Batman gets a new look: The Caped Crusader in 1964

SHOWCASE PRESENTS BATMAN captures the first year or so of the 1960s’ New Look Batman. Both Batman and Detective Comics had been foundering saleswise due to the emphasis on alien invaders and freak changes to characters——so Julius Schwartz came onboard as editor with his stable of talent (primarily Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, and John Broome) working on the stories. The art and style of the stories changed (click on my link above for more details).Among the changes were an increased emphasis on detective work; killing off Alfred in favor of Aunt Harriet (Schwartz said the goal was to dispel the homosexual overtones of Bruce, Dick and Alfred all living together); introducing a new villain, the Outsider (who debuts off-screen in “The Man Who Stole From Batman”); and replacing the clunky SF stories with ordinary crooks or non-costumed villains with distinctive gimmicks. There were some really clever stories such as “Two Way Deathtrap,” which deconstructs death-trap stories — why not just shoot him, as Scott Evil would later say — years before I remember comics doing that.

While it stopped the sales hemorrhaging, the New Look didn’t make Batman into a star; that took the Adam West TV show, which led to a much more gimmicky, campy take on the Caped Crusader. That, in turn, led to a backlash that made Batman, in the hands of Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, a dark figure of the night again (even when he’s fighting in the middle of the desert).I’m not sure how this era plays to someone reading now. I wasn’t that into the New Look as a kid; now that I’ve been rereading the Silver Age, the transition from the previous phase (even though I’m quite fond of 1950s Batman) appeals to me a lot more. But this version of the Masked Manhunter is much lighter in tone than the O’Neil/Adams era, and that’s the one that has defined the character ever since. I’ve already picked up the second volume but YMMV.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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The most hated man on the Internet is not Tom Swift: TV viewed

THE MOST HATED MAN ON THE INTERNET (2022) is a three-part documentary series on Netflix about Hunter Moore, a sleazeball whose Is Anybody Up website was apparently the first revenge porn site. Only Moore didn’t stop at posting things vicious ex-boyfriends sent him — it turned out he was hacking accounts where women had posted naked selfies for their own viewing, then posting them along with links to the victims’ social media. Getting photos the victims didn’t want to share was presumably cooler than if it had been consensual but it also led to his downfall, as the hacking got Moore a 30 month prison sentence and a ban from social media.

This is a horrible, if fascinating story: Moore comes off a narcissist like Alex Jones, enjoying his celebrity but also using it to sell merch and line his pockets. He also assembled an army of devoted trolls who delighted in heaping abuse and threats on anyone who dared cost him. Credit goes to the mother of one of his victims who refused to give up on taking Moore and his website down and getting the FBI engaged — though the effort it took shows why so many people doing revenge porn and similar shit never answer for it. “If I wasn’t bullying I don’t know what I’d do .. who would I be?”

The CW has axed a number of series due to their parent company having been bought out by Discovery, but TOM SWIFT (2022) had such low ratings it sounds like it would have been axed anyway.

Boy inventor Tom Swift debuted in print more than a century ago, when the books had titles like Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle. In the TV series Tom (Tian Richards) is black and gay and has the arrogance that comes with being a billionaire’s son. His genius is real, though — he’s close to Luthor-class in his ability to treat the laws of physics as best practices, but not necessarily mandatory.

In the opening episode, Tom’s father Barton tests out the space ship Tom designed, only to have it explode under him while he’s out near Saturn. Tom discovers he’s still alive and hoping for rescue. However a sinister organization called The Road Back that wants to halt technological advances and restore an older social order (while their agents don’t spell it out, Tom guesses, correctly I’m sure, that their vision includes white supremacy). With the help of his BFF Zenzi (Ashleigh Murray) and his bisexual bodyguard Isaac (Marquise Vilson), Tom sets out to bring his father home, despite a long-simmering resentment at his dad’s homophobia.

I wondered why they’d kick this series off with the spaceflight — billionaires in space is pretty much a punchline these days — but it turns out Tom’s parents see this as the first step in Mountaintop, a plan to found a space colony and give America’s blacks a chance to emigrate away from our toxic history of racism. I love that idea. The stories are usually fun, though sometimes the power struggles in Barton’s absence feel too Dynasty. And while Barton’s right hand Claire (Brittany Ishibashi) is portrayed as a villainous schemer squeezing Tom out so she can become CEO, I notice she’s also the woman who worked her way up only to see a less qualified man get the seat at the top ahead of her (Tom is brilliant but I’m not so sure he can run the company).

I’m not sure why it flopped. The black gay protagonist? The protagonist being a swaggering rich kid? Or is it that Tom Swift doesn’t have the name value that Nancy Drew does, or even the Hardy Boys? Either way, the various reveals in the season ender will never be resolved — too bad. “I’m going to use a technical term — hell no!”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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I changed my routine. You won’t believe what happened next!

Okay, not anything shocking. But this seems to be one of those clickbait headlines and I can always use more clicks, so …

Last Thursday and Friday I accepted a bunch of articles for the Leaf content provider. However there’s a three day deadline to finishing once I accept them and for a Thursday acceptance that meant Sunday. Much as I hate breaking up my weekend, I decided to take Saturday off, work Sunday, then take Tuesday off instead. Coupled with some personal distractions, I felt very disorganized this entire week.

Nevertheless, it was productive. I got about fourteen Leaf articles done, though it took me longer than it should have — the disorganization, I imagine.

I also went over the corrections to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and responded; mostly they were solid choices by the editor. But now there’s a final set — I probably won’t get to them until Monday.

I also completed Phase One of the index, which is going through the manuscript and putting everything in alphabetical order. I prefer doing this before submitting my manuscripts because no matter how carefully I proofread, I always find more errors. That wasn’t an option this time, as I had to push to complete the book by deadline as it was. I feel embarrassed seeing all the errors now.

It went quickly but now comes Phase Two, where I put in the page numbers. It’s slower and absolutely mind-numbing but it has to be done. Plus, of course, proofing the final copy of the text.

It’ll be a busy rest-of-the-month and the promotional effort for Questionable Minds will drag as a result. But first things first.#SFWApro. Bottom cover by Sam Collins, rights to images remain with current holders.

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To brighten the end of your work week—

I think Plushie should do it.#SFWApro.

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If the law applies to Donald Trump, no American is safe!

Seriously, that’s what the right-wing are offering in response to the FBI obtaining a search warrant for Mar-A-Lago and then searching it. This is exactly the way searches are normally handled under the law but the idea the law applies to Trump — and by extension, other Republicans — has them screaming about how its Gestapo tactics. According to forced-birther and female misogynist Abby Johnson ““If the FBI can go after a President, they can come after any of us.

Or as Alexandra Petri puts it, “If this is what investigators will do to the former president of the United States — follow all the steps to obtain a warrant from a judge to search his home for documents that they (and the judge) believed probable cause suggested were there, then leave without arresting anybody — imagine what they will do to you! You might also have to deal with a search warrant from a judge! You, too, might receive due process when suspected of committing a crime!” But of course, that’s us little mortals — coming after powerful Republicans is Totally Different, at least to Republicans.

The logical assumption, given how over-cautious DOJ head Merrick Garland has been to date is that the FBI’s searching an ex-president’s mansion, they have a damn good reason: “In order to get court-authorization for the search warrant, federal investigators would have needed to demonstrate that there was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed and that evidence of the crime could be found at the former president’s Florida estate.” Going after powerful people this way usually indicates something very serious at the root of it. With help from a confidential source.

But the right-wing wants to start from the assumption they had no justification. Heck, if the FBI found classified documents they must have planted them. Lying snake Franklin Graham compares it to the Ruby Ridge incident of decades ago. Online chatter is freaking out about the need for revolution. Fellow bullshit artist Newt Gingrich declares the FBI has turned on America — “And the left is so desperate, so frightened,” he adds, projecting as usual. Oh, and Steve Bannon claims the FBI is taking out a hit on Trump.

Of course, if the FBI had broken into the Clintons’ home without a warrant and thrown them into Gitmo, the outrage would be lacking. When Republicans complain about government turning against Americans they mean against them, not anyone else. Trump, of course, is whining about how he’s been martyred, while pleading the Fifth in an unrelated New York case. But he does that anyway.

Another Republican tactic (covered at one of the links above), is to claim this guarantees Trump’s victory in 2024. I doubt it. If he wins, it’s more likely because his acolytes are now running election offices all over the country. If Republicans can cheat, they will.

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Questionable Minds: Meet the Protagonist

“Simon Taggart’s plunge into the abyss happened in an instant.

Col. Moran, seated at the dining table on Simon’s left, had said something to the Duke of Falsworth about a fellow hunter Moran had known in India committing suicide. Falsworth snidely observed that given the man’s debts, hanging himself had been the only possible solution.

And suddenly Simon was standing in the drawing room again. Staring up at Agnes in her white nightgown, hanging from the ceiling with her tongue protruding, her face blackened. Rage consumed him at the memory, rage at the men who’d brought about his wife’s death. Pearson Bartlett, mesmerist. The Guvnor, who’d given Bartlett his orders. And behind them, the unknown man who’d paid to have Agnes slain.”

So Questionable Minds opens. As you can tell, Simon is not a happy man.

Up until Agnes’ death, Simon’s life was good. The Taggarts are baronets, which is very low-raked as aristocrats go, below even earls. The Taggart baronetcy is old, however, which gives Simon confidence. So does his wealth: the Taggarts are good at marrying rich and Simon’s American mother was a particularly wealthy heiress. Life peers (the title can’t be passed on to the next generation) are often insecure in their new status; a Taggart is never insecure.

Simon’s marriage to Agnes was to further the family fortune. Like so many aristocratic marriages in that era, it was understood that once Agnes provided a male heir “and a spare” she’d be free to take other lovers; he, of course, could take them a lot sooner. It never sunk in that Agnes was in love with him. Finally she took drastic steps to make him aware of it (no details, they involve a major spoiler). This didn’t change his feelings towards her but he did restrain himself from sleeping around. He was still a bit of a flirt, though, so when he came home one night and saw Agnes had apparently killed herself, Simon blamed himself. Clearly he’d given her the wrong idea; in despair she’d committed suicide.

Fortunately Inspector Hudnall of Scotland Yard spotted the signs that she hadn’t acted of her own free will. Bartlett had compelled her to do it. Why? He’d been paid a sizable sum, funneled through the Guv’nor, the mysterious overlord of London crime. Nobody besides the Guv’nor could say who’d put up the money.

From that moment on, Simon has had two goals. One is to find the Guv’nor and learn who had Agnes murdered. It’s not easy: the Guv’nor is Professor Moriarty and even Sherlock Holmes took years to learn that. In my world, Moriarty is ten times as cautious, setting up his organization so that even human telegraphs (i.e., mind readers) can’t learn who he is.

Simon’s second goal, although he doesn’t really think of it as such, is to be a better person. He gives generously to charity, helps investigate crimes even when they don’t involve the Guv’nor and if he ever marries, he intends to marry for love. Though as his mother reminds him, that may not be practical: the Taggart estate and title pass to sons only, and Agnes’ only child is young Ann. If Simon doesn’t beget an heir, his obnoxious, idiot cousin becomes the next baronet and probably spends Hollowcroft, the family estate, into bankruptcy.

Simon’s biggest asset in fighting crime — the reason Scotland Yard puts up with him — is that he has something unique: mental shields. Telegraphs can’t read his mind. Mesmerists can’t control him. Clairvoyants don’t see him. Vampires, mentalists who drain mental energy from other, can’t affect Simon. That’s how he discovered his strange gift: fighting the vampire Asquith Varney, he survived the latter’s attack, then eventually learned why.

The reaction to his gift is mixed. Scotland Yard respects it but many people think of it as a deformity. Mental power is clearly the next great step in human evolution; sure, not everyone has powers yet but to be completely cut off from the evolutionary advance? What did Simon do in his past life that he deserved this curse? He gets several letters a week from spiritualists and others offering to “cure” his condition. But from his point of view, it’s a blessing.

His biggest weakness is that his trauma over finding Agnes hanging manifests in extreme anger. He’s violently assaulted members of the Guv’nor’s organization in hopes of beating information out of them. When the bad guy threatens Ann in Questionable Minds, Simon’s response is not a rational one.

Simon’s biggest fear is that his anger and his urge for revenge are consuming him: if he had to choose between capturing the Guv’nor and saving Ann or his mother, he worries that he’d let them die to bring himself peace. Dealing with his trauma and his fear is the emotional arc of Questionable Minds, just as stopping Jack the Ripper is the plot arc.

Next week: the women of the book.

#SFWApro. Cover by Sam Collins.

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Cool paperback and pulp covers for Tuesday

First, a neat looking one by Alex Ebel.Next, Ed Emshwiller.A cover by Kelly FreasA dynamic one by Howard V. Brown.Then there’s this one by Silano. If my head were taken over by a giant eyeball, I’d probably have a madman’s grin on my face too.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Let’s start with some good political news

“We thought everybody had already been divided into voters and vessels. The voters got to pass restrictions, and the vessels got to sit there and smile! ” — Alexandra Petri on the pro-choice win in Kansas. It’s also amusing to see Republicans insist it means nothing. And Aaron Coleman, abusive teenage Kansas State Rep. (Democrat, I’m sorry to say) came in last in his re-election primary. That I’m happy to say.

One of the Jan. 6 seditionists is getting seven years in prison.

An ad by a pro-choice group really socks it to Texas governor Greg Abbott.

Donald Trump has a long history of threatening and filing lawsuits to get his way. I don’t think his CNN Is Mean To Me lawsuit will be successful.

Alex Jones knows his Sandy Hook trial is not going well so he’s resorted to ranting about how his judge is demonically possessed. And while he’s trying various tactics — bankruptcy to avoid paying damages, paying money to a company his family owns — it sounds like the plaintiffs’ attorneys are pushing back hard. I hope they leave him living under a bridge. But even then he’ll probably still have fluffers in the media. And the “shooting was a false flag” argument lives on.

Now for some not-so-good Republican political insights:

West Virginia’s Chris Pritt thinks forcing dads to pay child support will lead to them pressuring women to get abortions, so it’s bad.

Biden went back to work after covid much faster than Trump. Sean Hannity says that’s not because Biden was vaccinated, it’s because the strain he caught was puny compared to TFG.

Illinois gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey says the Holocaust was nowhere near as bad as American abortion.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville objects to the new PACT act because among other reasons, the VA would be giving veterans prostate cancer care.

Arizona Republicans are stealing pens from election sites in the belief they’re designed to change your vote.

Republicans are banning books. Democrats are holding hearings on book bans. So clearly both sides are exploiting the issue.

The continued right-wing claim that despite Jan. 6 and Charlottesville, it’s the left that’s violent.

Florida’s Governor DeFascist is all about parental rights, unless parents let little kids go to drag shows. He will not, however, condemn ne0-Nazis — after all, they’re supporting him!

I may have mentioned this before, but some Republicans oppose a school lunch-funding bill because it won’t let schools deny trans or gay kids lunch. Twenty Republican-led states are suing over the rule.

Alleged sex-trafficker Matt Gaetz is one of 20 House Republicans voting against an anti-human trafficking bill.

 

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