Biblical womanhood and other undead sexist matters

Working on Undead Sexist Cliches, one thing I keep running across is the deep misogyny of the religious right. We have John Piper, who insists even if you’re dating Black Widow, in a danger situation, you do the fighting…but if the husband slaps his wife around, she has to suck it up. In the male supremacist world of complementarian theology, a man who fails in his duty to care for his wife is less of a problem than a woman who defies her man by not letting him assault her.

THE MAKING OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr describes the Southern Baptist author’s realization that complementarianism — the belief women and men have separate spheres and neither should intrude on the other — wasn’t what Piper and similar preachers said. They claimed that by steering Christianity away from the fallen world of “egalitarian” feminist thinking, they were keeping it pure and apart from the world. In reality, their embrace of rigid gender roles simply embraced secular male supremacy and made it Christian (as noted at the link above, separate spheres wasn’t seen as Biblically mandated until women’s liberation was established in the 1970s).

Barr argues that Piper, Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson and others of their ilk get there by ignoring the long history of Christian women preaching and witnessing; mistranslating the Bible to eliminate women’s roles (e.g., women deacons referenced in the New Testament get downgraded because they’re inconsistent with women’s roles) and reinterpreting the Pauline epistles. Barr argues that by Roman standards, what stands out is not Paul saying women must obey their husbands but a)setting responsibilities on husbands and b)addressing his directives to both of them, instead of telling the husband as secular thinkers of the time would have.

This focuses much more on theological issues than my own writing and thinking, but I still rate it excellent.

Now, some links:

The pandemic has hurt women’s careers as they struggle to both work and care for kids stuck at home. Unsurprisingly, conservatives are spinning this as women happily choosing family over career. We’ve been through this before.

A North Carolina bill would raise the age for marriage in this state from 14 to 18. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is blocking its passage.

The “birthing people” controversy.

Stacey Abrams writes romances. Tucker Carlson thinks this is hysterical.

““It doesn’t matter who you are, what your life is, your situation, who you surround yourself with, how strong you are, how smart you are. You can always be taken advantage of. ” — singer Billie Ellish on abusive relationships.

Teargas can mess up menstruation.


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Filed under Politics, Reading, Undead sexist cliches

Paperback and pulp covers for hump day

An uncredited but striking cover for Cornell Woolrich’s (behind the Irish pseudonym) excellent mystery novel.I like this George Rozen cover but what’s the point of the guinea pigs?Is it just me or does the dude in the Bentley cover look like he’s trying some kind of hypnosis on his opponent?A couple more Woolrich covers, both uncredited.Robert Gibson Jones contributes the next one.

Followed by this Ed Swiatek image.

And I’ll finish with this one by Ron Walotsky.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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So about that feedback on Southern Discomfort

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I got a No on my most recent Southern Discomfort submission, with some feedback about what they thought were the book’s problems (I’m not naming names even though I think the feedback made a lot of sense).

The good stuff: Great concept. Great title. Starts in the middle of the action

The not-so-good: “This feels like you’re writing an urban fantasy at the pace of an epic fantasy, and the expectations of pacing and genre conventions clash.” Urban fantasy requires higher stakes, with more urgency and tension, and that’s not what I’m delivering. I think that’s a good analysis, I’m unsure whether it’s something I want to fix.

It’s true that an epic fantasy can take a lot longer to develop the sense of threat and urgency because it has more pages to work with. Another comparison could be cozy mysteries like this one by my friend Sherry. They’re all about developing the community and the relationships between the protagonist and her boss/family/neighbors, etc. As Orson Scott Card observed, mystery readers can accept the first chapter or two just sets the stage; they can wait.

The cozy vibe is definitely what I’m going for (though I didn’t use cozies as a template or anything). Southern Discomfort is very much about the community, the impact being run by two elves has had on it, and how the death of Aubric is changing everything. But even by that standard it’s an odd duck. Cozies are typically first person; this isn’t. I have Joan, Maria and Cohen as the main POV characters but there’s several others who get bit POV parts (Father Michael most notably). That’s probably a tough sell too, but I don’t know that I can get the scope I want without it.

My rejection letter recommended I try “getting that sense of urgency and tension into the story before you slide in chapters/moments with the more slowly paced EF chapters/moments.” Can I do that without losing the community feel? Even after the opening chapters (I only sent in Ch. 1-3) it seems like the pacing is still epic fantasy/cozy for much of the book, though the tension increases near the end. Maybe a rewrite just isn’t practical.. Besides, I like what I’ve written. I’m not averse to changing it to be more marketable, but I don’t want to end up with a book I like less. Still, I’ll give it some thought.

Or maybe I won’t. At this point in my career, I’m kind of pessimistic that I can find The One Simple Trick that will make my stuff more publishable. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a steady seller; it takes multiple tries to sell any of my shorts and I’ve never sold a novel. A part of me says screw it, just self-publish instead of trying to change.

Of course it’ll be a while before I have time to write fiction again, so I don’t have to make a decision for a while.

The advice does make me think about The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The current draft is showing very much the same sort of pacing, as a couple of people in my writing group have pointed out. So when I finally get back to it, I’ll keep that in mind and see if I can’t ratchet up the tension. Whatever I do with Southern Discomfort, the feedback may yet prove valuable.

#SFWApro. Cover art is uncredited.

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Republicans say they were trying to “stop the steal” but …

Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign failed miserably. Biden won legitimately. Every lawsuit failed. The Kraken was not released. None of the supposed evidence panned out. The Republicans’ attempt to prove fraud in Arizona looks fishy as ever which hasn’t stopped Trump worshippers threatening state government officials.

Nevertheless the campaign has become incredibly damaging to our democracy. Millions of Republicans have chosen to believe that they were cheated, their voices shut out. Then Republicans such as Josh Hawley and Rep. Elise Stefanik, having egged on their voters to question the results, then turn around and say they’re just raising issues their voters are concerned about.

In reality, Stefanik is a baldfaced liar and Trump toady who claims Republicans trying to overthrow the election represents a defense of the constitution. Unsurprisingly she’s now poised to replace Liz Chaney as #3 in the House Republican power structure. Cheney, as Adam Serwer chronicles, has always been a hard-right extremist embracing Republican bullshit (Obama’s a Muslim! Democrats hate America! Defending terrorists in court is treason) but now that she’s defied the Republican God-King on the non-existent election fraud, her deviation from the new Republican orthodoxy won’t save her. As Serwer says, “The tragedy is not that she might suffer for her folly, but that American democracy will. Her latter-day epiphany is welcome, but it also comes far too late.”

And that’s where we are, with Republicans setting up absolute loyalty to Ex President Man Baby as its only moral standard, and doing everything they can to make sure that next time when they try to steal the White House. This is not good, even if, as suggested here, being the Party of Trump works against them.

In other news:

Rep. Mo Brooks told the Sedition Day insurrectionists that it was time to take names and kick ass. Like other supporters of the coup, he’s been sued — but he refuses to accept the paperwork. Oh, sedition day rioters are still being busted by their social media posts.

Newsmax head and Stop The Steal advocate Chris Ruddy has a long history of Republican bullshit — but the bill may be coming due.

Self-proclaimed prophets who saw Trump returning to the White House last year in a cloud of glory are still insisting they’re right. They’re not happy that some conservative Christian leaders are trying to rein them in. After all, they’re not going to get the YouTube hits and mailing lists of gullible marks (a big part of Ruddy’s business plan) if people stop listening. Josh Hawley, for examples, is out to milk his new book by offering it free for a $75 donation — a recurring donation if you don’t uncheck the pre-checked box on the form.

Speaking of prophets, Stop The Steal attorney Lin Wood “allegedly believed that he would be appointed to the highest seat in the U.S. justice system based on a prophecy he heard in a YouTube video and a conspiracy theory that Chief Justice John Roberts would be revealed to be part of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring and was being blackmailed by liberals to rule in their favor.”

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Hawk and Dove, algorithms and applies, plus Hellfire!

After my recent Atomic Junk Shop post on Hawk and Dove, I realized I didn’t have the complete miniseries that launched the 1990s reboot of the characters. Ordering HAWK AND DOVE: Ghosts and Demons by Barbara Kesel, Karl Kesel and Rob Liefeld plugged that gap. Hank Hall is back in college (after a stint in Nicaraguan jail for trying to overthrow the Sandinistas), trying to start his regular life over while occasionally fighting crime as Hawk. Then a woman turns up claiming to be the new Dove, the identity taken by Hank’s dead brother Don. Hank is not happy and determined to find out who’s behind the mask. Then there’s Kestrel, a claw-fingered psychopath who’s determined to become Hank’s new partner for reasons of his own.

This was a fun five issue mini-series, like the ongoing one that followed. Making Hawk and Dove avatars of War and Chaos was a great idea, and it’s a shame later writers dropped it.

WEAPONS OF MATH DESTRUCTION: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by mathematician Cathy O’Neil looks at how Big Data algorithms have become increasingly popular as a totally rational way to evaluate college applications, job applicants, figure where to prioritize policing and so on. Unfortunately they’re put together by people, which often results in perpetuating biases or social inequities. As O’Neil says, if colleges in 1960 had an algorithm to evaluate applications, it might have noticed that male graduates do much more with their education than women (it was still legal to discriminate against women in hiring back then); obviously men are better suited to college than women! A lot of this is stuff I’ve read about before, but O’Neal does a good job putting it together. That said, I don’t buy that Big Data is the real issue in some of the examples she cites; it may make it easier for Facebook to curate political news and shape what we see, but Fox and Rush Limbaugh were sucking people into their alternate facts years earlier.

Lisa Goldstein’s IVORY APPLES is a welcome return to form after her disappointing Weighing Shadows. Protagonist Ivy is niece to Maeve, the reclusive author of the eponymous cult classic fantasy (I thought of her as Harper Lee if To Kill a Mockingbird had been a fantasy, though Goldstein has said her influence was Lud-in-the-Mist author Hope Mirrlees). Enter Kate, an initially friendly, then creepy woman who insinuates herself into Ivy’s family, takes over and proceeds to gaslight and abuse everyone (Goldstein describes her as Evil Mary Poppins though she reminds me of Diana Wynn Jones’ Aunt Maria) — if that’s is a trigger for you, think twice about reading this. Ivy flees and takes to the streets for three years, then decides she has to return home and help her siblings. But Kate wants to find Maeve and she’s not giving up until she does …

Goldstein’s magical realist work is always a little off-the-wall, and this is no exception. It feels like a rather grim Y/A mashed up with a fantasy about children’s fiction (something she’s done before — I must reread Dark Cities Underground soon) and creativity. Tying creativity to some sort of magical muse is a concept that has come to annoy me; while it’s not a dealbreaker, it did bug me some. Overall, though, I liked this one.

As a fan of The AvengersHellfire Club episode and the Marvel Hellfire Club inspired by that episode, I was interested to learn about the real club in Evelyn Lord’s THE HELLFIRE CLUBS: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies. Unfortunately the book was a major disappointment: while I’m not surprised to learn the club’s reputation for diabolism and blasphemy was exaggerated, the reveal that they mostly sat around drinking, whoring and maybe talking atheism and politics (“maybe” because the Club’s activities were secret and there’s still little known for sure) hardly requires writing a book.

Apparently Lord couldn’t make a book out of it as she brings in multiple other clubs (the Mohocks, the Beggars Benison) with similar reputation only to assure us they weren’t as black as they were painted either. Another problem is that Lord’s a ploddingly dull writer. If this had been shaped as a narrative it might have held my interest but instead the information just sits there like a lump puddying.

#SFWApro. Covers by Rob Liefeld (top) and John Byrne (bottom).


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The murderous alien clowns were the pick of the week

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988) is a one-joke film but the joke works. A necking couple spots a shooting star landing nearby (while I haven’t kept track, this and having something weird briefly appear on radar are staple opening setups). Next thing you know, ET clowns are cocooning the locals with candy-cotton guns, tracking them with balloon-animal bloodhounds, feeding people to shadow puppets, or jumping out of a clown car that you wouldn’t think they could all fit inside. Can the town survive? I got particular pleasure out of one conversation where the characters try to make sense of this (“Maybe they were ancient astronauts and that’s why we have the idea of clowns in our culture.”). Doesn’t give me any deep inside for Alien Visitors but still enjoyable low-budget fun.“I don’t believe in UFOs, but if they exist, we’re inside one.”

K-PAX (2002) aims higher and falls very far short. Kevin Spacey is Prot, the self-proclaimed ET visitor locked up in an asylum where Jeff Bridges tries to restore him to sanity. But Bridges can’t help noticing his patient is rehabilitating the other patients much better than conventional therapy — and while it’s impossible, you don’t suppose he could really be telling the truth, do you? This mix of psychological drama and SF doesn’t work as either, and feels cobbled together from bits of better movies (Fisher King and Equus come to mind). Spacey, as usual, delivers his lines with a Smartest Guy In The Room air, and it doesn’t work here (if he were more frustrated or more — well, anything — there’d be a more interesting conflict). “I have arrived, so my travels are over for the time being.”

COLOSSAL (2016) has an interesting concept (though not one that qualifies for Alien Visitors) but unsatisfying execution. After drunken party girl Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend breaks up with her, she returns to her home town and meets up with her old boyfriend. When a monster goes rampaging through Seoul, Hathaway realizes it’s acting out her inner frustrations; worse, her ex discovers how to do the same trick and threatens to go on a rampage if Hathaway crosses him (“I will crush an entire suburb!”). There’s definitely a good movie buried in this, but it doesn’t come to the surface. It’s also disturbing that the movie seems to care less about the hundreds of dead Koreans than about Hathaway’s personal growth arc. “Who gets a tattoo that says ‘I’m sorry, this won’t happen again.’”

Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) is another one that doesn’t fit the book, though it’s a much superior film. A mute cleaning woman at an early 1960s government lab discovers they’ve captured the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon and are subjecting him to cruel experiments, plus outright cruelty. Slowly she bonds with the creature, then sets out to help him escape. Despite some jarring brutality in spots, this is very good, particularly in its evocation of 1962. “That’s the password — ‘And the eagle takes the prey.’”

The 2002 SyFy miniseries TAKEN evokes quite a few eras, starting in WW II when a fighter squadron is harassed by foo lights (though they don’t use the term), then following various families across the decades as they’re abducted by ETs and spied on by the government (though one of the families is part of the goverment UFO Watch program). I was initially unimpressed by this but found it picked up near the end; in fairness, that may reflect I wasn’t a little more relaxed for the ending episodes.

The secret behind it all turns out to be that aliens are experimenting in hopes of understanding emotions (“You have so much that we’ve lost.”). The culmination of their work is the human/ET hybrid Allie (Dakota Fanning) who has powers far beyond the aliens. This made me realize how often this happens, for example with super-powered Elizabeth in V. So stuff was learned, even if it was a slog to get there. “Right son — there were no monsters in my generation.”

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

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Oh, that’s why I don’t work much in the evenings any more

I tried last night because we’re dog-sitting for Lily and Tito this afternoon so I wanted to make up for the inevitable lost time. Here’s photos of the winsome twosome, in case you were wondering (Lily’s on top)It did not go well, though I did get my next Atomic Junk Shop post up. Plushie loses it and starts barking his head off about once every five minutes. Wisp comes in, begs for food, then goes out again. I could just go isolate myself in my office, but the trouble is I like hanging out with our pets. I don’t want to isolate myself. But if I try that again, I definitely will go that route.

That aside, work went well this week. I finished our taxes, discovering we owe in a little (bad!) but at least they’re done. I’ll check them over again to make certain I figured things right, but I doubt I’ll discover a major error that gets us a refund. Oh, well.

I finished editing Chapter Six of Undead Sexist Cliches and made a final read through of Chapter Four. The latter went slower than I wanted — I had more cleaning up than I expected. I got some Veterans Network articles written (here’s one on art therapy for trauma, and one on military trivia). I did a lot of viewing for Alien Visitors but not much writing. I must compensate for that next week.

My new approach of breaking down my day and assigning a set number of units to different projects went … okay, I guess. I seem to be running out of Undead Sexist Cliches units, but we’ll see how it goes the rest of the month.

This weekend I will probably work Sunday. That’s not typical, but I have a lot to do this week once I become fully vaccinated on Tuesday. Best to make up the time in advance. I’ll be back next Friday to report how it went.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I slept with two women last weekend. Pics so it happened!

Here’s the pic.It was nice being able to sit with both of them, as Trixie gets a little jealous when Wisp’s on the couch with  me. One of the many things we’ll have to work out if Wisp ever becomes a completely inside cat. Now that the weather’s nice, she’s much more of an outdoor cat; having her go to sleep in my lap is rare of late. However we’ve bought cat littler and a littler box for the spare bedroom where she sometimes sleeps with me. That way if she does use it we can close the door and keep the dogs from eating her poop.

For a bonus, here’s a cover illustration for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but done in the style of a hardboiled PI paperback novel (you can see an example in this cover post). I don’t know the artist.


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Undead Sexist of the Day: Warren Farrell

Lots of people have said something hideously sexist. Some people have built careers out of it. Case in point, Warren Farrell.

Back in the 1970s, Farrell was, I’ve read, an active male feminist. For whatever reason, that changed. He’s now a men’s rights activist, rape apologist and generally odious, at least to someone of my political bent. I first encountered his work in the 1990s, in The Myth of Male Power. Here he argues that husbands are way worse off than wives because men are often drones at the bottom of the hierarchy in their workplace; women, by contrast, are 100 percent in charge at home

Except they’re not. If the man earns the money, that gives him a greater say in decisions. Much more so than a wife can exercise over her husband’s career. And far from being an exalted position, being a stay-at-home wife/monther is damn hard work. The husband’s work day may stop when he gets home; Mom may be working (dinner, putting the kids to bed) long into the night.

And even if a man is top dog at work, in reality his sexy secretary controls him.

Farrell also claimed that 90 percent of rape cases were false accusations, for example because the guy dumped the woman and she wanted revenge. Um, no (see here for relevant discussion) And besides, lots of things are just as traumatic for men as rape is for women. Getting fired is equally traumatic (I’ve been fired. I’ve known women who were raped. Not. The. Same.). Getting cockteased is equally traumatic (wrong again).

It’s no surprise his more recent writing (which I encountered working on Undead Sexist Cliches) thinks that “date fraud” or “date rejection” — a couple go on a date when the woman’s already decided not to have sex is a)a Bad Thing and b)very traumatic.

He’s also argued that no means yes: if a woman says no to sex but she’s French kissing her date, isn’t that a sign she wants it? Maybe she’s hoping her date will just keep going and seduce her, like in romance novels. Because if chicks read romance novels, they must want the same in relationships, right (spoiler: no). Heck, according to Farrell, even if she sues a man for sexual harassment, what she really wants is for him to not give up, just like romance novel heroes!

Besides, it’s sex, so she has to be enjoying it, right? “A man being sued after a woman has more sex than intended is like Lay’s being sued after someone has more potato chips than intended. In brief, date rape can be a crime, a misunderstanding, or buyer’s remorse.” Pinning someone down and forcing them to eat potato chips would have a coercive quality to it — but that’s clearly not the simile Farrell’s going for here.

If Farrell was ever sincerely a feminist, he went way, way to the dark side.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Disney must pay! (and other writing and media links)

So last year I mentioned that Disney allegedly refused to pay royalties to Alan Dean Foster. According to SFWA, Foster’s situation has been worked out, but other writers are still having to fight; Disney’s position is to wait until the authors demand their pay rather than being proactive. And they’re actively embracing the principle that if a writer signs a contract with company A, then sells the rights to a sibling company, that’s a get-out-of-royalties-free card: “Fox had licensed the comics rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dark Horse. After Disney purchased Fox, they withdrew those rights from Dark Horse and granted them to Boom! Comics. When one Buffy author contacted Boom! about missing royalties they were told that “royalties don’t transfer.”

SFWA recommends against a boycott as that will hurt writers who are being paid. If you’re a writer who’s been ripped off, here’s the website to go to.

Plagiarism in the pulpit.

People of color, women and gays are allowed to have differing opinions on media about them, just like white people. In other words, there’s not going to be one official black view on Black Lightning, Soul or anything else.

New York Post reporter Laura Italiano says she resigned after writing a false story under pressure. As an ex-journalist, I think resigning before would have been a better choice.

When home video first became a thing, one of the things that held up movie releases was music rights. The issue hasn’t gone away with streaming, which is why some show sound different than we remember.

A photo of 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio trying to help a dying student at Kent State immortalized the moment and turned her life upside down.

Did you know Soviet TV did a live-action Lord of the Rings 30 years ago?

One media outlet won’t let viewers forget Republicans tried to overthrow the government.

Apple says when you buy media on iTunes or from the app store, it’s not really yours and they can take it back any time. So far the court decisions have run against Apple.

Ed Brubaker made more money from Marvel movies by a cameo in Captain America: Winter Soldier than he did by co-creating the character (cover by Steve Epting).

McGraw Hill employs freelancers. Then it charges them a fee to use the company’s invoicing system.

An Atomic Junk Shop post pointing out that digital piracy isn’t victimless.

An argument for Charles Dickens’ Hard Times as the first cyberpunk novel.

Why sales figures for given books are tricky to calculate.

A movie can be fun to watch and disappointing on diversity.

The boom in watching old comfort-food TV.

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

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