It took me about three-quarters of Doree Lewak’s New York Post article before I realized that it wasn’t a satire. At first it really seemed like an Onion-style satire. Then I was really really hoping that it was a satire. Then it really hit me that Lewak was serious.
Here’s the problem with Lewak’s article “Hey Ladies – Catcalls Are Flattering! Deal With It” – she’s equivalating street harassment with the desire to both give and receive compliments. Is it a natural thing to enjoy receiving compliments? Sure. Is it a natural thing to enjoy giving compliments? Absolutely. Do these things make it a good idea to scream your opinion at a total stranger and expect them to be grateful. No. So very no.
Lewak fondly remembers the first time two guys on the street yelled, “You’re hot!” to her and high-fived. She presents it as a very innocent situation – she was wearing a “tightly molded pink tank top and black capris” and two men gave her the ego boost she was craving. But what weirds me out about Lewak’s article (okay, one of the things) is the extent to which she seems to be presenting her wardrobe choices as an invitation and consent for catcalling. She dressed in a tight tanktop, therefore she must be okay with random strangers shouting compliments at her (she does request toward the end of the article that those strangers not comment specifically on features of her anatomy – specifically her nipples). If that is the case for Lewak, maybe she should invest in some kind of large placard to carry (“PLEASE DO shout compliments at me about my general appearance! Just keep it clean, please!”) because I think that a good chunk of the women who are wearing tank tops in the summer aren’t doing it out of a desire for strangers to scream at them.
I’ve also had strangers scream “You’re hot!” to me. The last time it happened was on a bus. I guess I’m no Lewak – I didn’t get an ego boost out of it. What I did get was twenty minutes on a bus where “You’re hot” was followed by, “Hey, I just said that you’re hot!” followed by, “Hey bitch, didn’t you hear me call you hot?” and then a series of “Turn around and look at me, bitch!”-style comments. The cherry on the whole encounter was one that I think a few women can probably recognize, which was the frantic weighing of my options – should I get out at my stop, which would get me home fast but also potentially allow this screaming stranger to follow me to my apartment building if he got off as well, or get out at the stop before mine, which would hopefully allow me to hide my normal route and home territory but also leave me further away from home and in an area I didn’t know well, which could work against me if he followed me off and I had to run for it.
Flattering. Really, really flattering.
Articles like Lewak’s muddy the waters. Because an actual compliment isn’t a catcall. Let me give an example:
A guy wearing a great pair of skinny jeans is walking to work.
Situation A: While standing in line to get coffee, the guy next to him leans over and says politely (while staying well outside personal space), “Nice pants, man.”
That’s a compliment.
Situation B: While walking down the sidewalk, the guy wearing the great skinny jeans hears a guy about ten feet behind him yell, “Nice pants, man!”
That’s not a compliment. That’s a catcall. And it’s kind of creepy.
Situation C: A car slows down beside the guy wearing the skinny jeans, and a man leans out the passenger side window and yells, “Nice pants, man!” while the driver honks his horn.
That’s not a compliment. That’s a catcall. And it’s creepy.
Situation D: As he reaches the building he works in, the guy passes a man walking in the other direction. The other man stops, turns, and yells, “Nice pants, man!” followed by, “Hey, can’t you take a compliment?” then “You dumb prick, I’m just trying to give you a compliment!” then “Can’t you even smile at me, prick?”
Also not a compliment. That’s a catcall. It’s aggressive, scary, and it’s street harassment. And what makes it frightening when it’s happening is that the person it’s directed against has no idea how far it’s going to escalate.
The guy wearing the skinny jeans didn’t give consent to all of this just by wearing his skinny jeans. Similarly, a woman wearing a tight tank top wouldn’t have given consent either (despite what Lewak seems to believe).
Trying to bring attention to street harassment and hopefully even stop it is presented in articles like Lewak’s as trying to stop all compliments. That’s certainly not the case. Compliments can absolutely be given – and can be given to strangers. Lewak gets a thrill when random strangers scream to her about how hot she is – and has decided that it’s self-empowering. Well, every duck has its pond, I guess. There will always be outliers. But just as I wouldn’t use PonyPlay enthusiasts (thank you, Rob Thurman, for that information that is now seared into my brain) as an example of median sexual expression, I also wouldn’t use Lewak’s article as proof that what women really, truly want is to have total strangers scream at them about how hot they are.
Good news on the writing front! Tainted Blood copy edits came back, and I went through them line by line. If you happen to follow my Twitter feed, believe me, that involved a whole lot of profanity. Plus some appeals to the Twitter hive mind, and the ever-popular “too gross?” checks. (those have left me with the following conclusion: there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who find poop jokes hilarious, and those who lack all sense of humor. Just a warning – there are poop jokes in Tainted Blood. AWESOME poop jokes.) Now the manuscript passes to the typesetter, and the next time I see it will be when I get the page proofs. So it’s making steady progress toward that November release date!
I’m in the process of re-organizing my office space. I’ve finally decided that I have outgrown the Walmart special desk (that is actually not a joke – I bought it when I was in grad school, and the budget was TIGHT back then) that I wrote the first three Fort Scott books on, and I’m upgrading to an L-desk that will offer about 2/3rds more room. Best of all, there will be room to not only type at the keyboard, but also slide my chair over and work longhand. While I’m at it, I’m also painting the office and finally putting up some pictures. Once this is done, I’ll start breaking ground on Fort Scott #4, which I am now officially contracted for. (the contract arrived yesterday with all the signatures! There is now no escape possible for Roc! Mwa ha ha ha!)
On to actual content.
According to my Goodreads account (which, can I just say how much I love that thing? Statistics make me happy – it’s why when I’m working on a book, I keep track of my daily wordcount), I’ve read 47 books so far this year. Let me tell you – it’s been a lot of fun. But as I stand here (or, rather, sit here) at the midpoint of the year, I have to admit – some of those books stunk, a lot were fantastic, but a few were ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD READ THEM NOW.
1. The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
This comes out July 1, but I got an ARC from Django. You might be asking yourself – wait, she got an ARC from the author, who she is also referring to by first name? Is this a case of that rampant authorial nepotism that I hear about?
I will neither confirm nor deny this.
BUT, seriously, I love this series to death. The first book was one of my favorites last year, and I was really looking forward to the sequel. It’s pretty fabulous – imagine a Victor Hugo novel (yes, THAT one – with the musical), but flintlock-fantasy style. Oh, and for those of you who are looking for a fantasy book with a great range of female characters – look no further. It’s here.
2. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
I was at VeriCon this year with Max Gladstone, and here’s the thing about being on multiple panels with other authors – you hear the elevator pitch for their novel about 50,000 times. (Max could probably mention all the bullet-point selling items for Generation V from memory) Now, if you’re highly susceptible to advertising, like I am, this usually means that you have to buy the damn thing. However, I’m really glad that I did this, because this book is INCREDIBLE. It’s actually as good as the cover – how often does that happen?
I also read the sequel, which equally rocked my world (book moral: bros before hos, fathers, bosses, and gods), but I made the executive decision that there would be no double entries.
3. Dust by Elizabeth Bear
Angels, a generation ship, a basilisk named Gavin who is also a laser-cutter, medievalism meeting high tech, and copious incest. Very, very cool.
4. Vicious by V. E. Schwab
Every superhero/supervillain trope ever is beautifully and mind-blowingly subverted in this book. Great characterization and a great out-of-order construction that gives this a great puzzle feeling. Fabulous payoff, too. I picked this up because everyone on my Twitter feed was going crazy over it, and THEY WERE RIGHT.
5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
The textbook I was using for one of my classes in the spring semester had a really neat section on the graphic novel, and while I didn’t quite figure out a way to shoe-horn it into the official syllabus I did read an excerpt from FUN HOME, and I had to immediately order the whole book. It’s a fascinating and beautifully presented memoir of the author’s childhood and family, really considering the ideas of identity and sexuality. So worth checking out if you haven’t read it yet.
6. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
Sequels are tough when you really loved the original. Hopes get really high, and it’s unlikely for the sequel to live up to it. I’m really enjoying Anne Bishop’s foray into alternate-world urban fantasy, and the sequel really worked for me. I’ve had a pretty good six months with sequels, actually. Obviously, there’s my own sequel (REQUISITE PLUG AND SELF-BRAG), but I read a bunch that I really liked. I think the only one that just didn’t really do much for me was Sharon Shinn’s Royal Airs – though I still think that the first in that series, Troubled Waters, was utterly perfect.
7. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I’ve done my time in the English Department gulag, so I thought that I’d really had my fill of Brontes. I mean, not that I don’t like them. Wuthering Heights is pretty delightfully fucked up, and Jane Eyre is basically requisite reading given how often writers feel compelled to either rip it off or give it an homage (fact: best Jane Eyre homage EVER is Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn – it’s not just a copy & paste of basic story elements, but actually pays attention to the goddamn themes). But I didn’t really feel the need to complete my Bronte trifecta, feeling that I’d pretty much gotten the idea.
I was wrong. Anne is the badass Bronte sister. She’s all gritty realism! Feminism! Belief in redemption! I mean, her sister Charlotte outright refused to let Tenant of Wildfell Hall be republished during her lifetime because of how controversial her sister’s book is. Yes, the book is told in epistolary form, which normally makes me shudder, but it’s worth it.
Okay, and I also watched the BBC film version before I read it, which got my interest going. But – worth it!
8. The Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro
Plus the other 12 books in this series that I read since January. I really love this series, and now I’m suffering withdrawal – the bummer of tearing through a series in three months that have taken the author just under twenty years to write. Plus side, according to Asaro’s website, she’s got Plans.
Most of the books in the series can be read individually – there is only one cliffhangered book, and that one is pretty overtly labeled Part One. If you read them in publication order there’s also this neat thing where Asaro skips all around in her own timeline. In some books they’ll refer to this big war that occurred years ago, and in later books the setting IS that war.
Now, I read the series in publication order, which begins with Primary Inversion. But if you’re interested in reading it in chronological order, start with Skyfall. What I’d love to be able to do is dump my memories of this series and try it in chronological order, then get my other memories back and compare.
9. Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
LA noir with necromancy. It’s pretty awesome. The sequel comes out in August, too, so you won’t have to wait too long to find out what’s next for Eric Carter.
10. Beggars In Spain by Nancy Kress
This is one of those sci-fi books that utterly blows you away with the setup, the payout, and the insight into humanity. It’s also one of those books that will leave you completely depressed because of its insights – but it’s so good that you have to read more. Kress reminds me of Sherri S. Tepper in that way. Well worth checking out.
So that’s my Top Ten since January. What’s yours?
This one is for all my Canadian readers! So…. probably two people in Manitoba. Please click play on the YouTube video right now, then continue to read as the music plays. I’d like to set the proper mood for this entry.
Since Iron Night came out in January, I’ve done a few giveaways over at Goodreads. This is always pretty fun – hundreds of people sign up, a few lucky people win free signed copies of the book, and then ideally those hundreds of people are motivated to check the book out even though they didn’t win it. (I’ve actually been told by a friend who works in publishing that this last part actually happens almost never — but, hey, worth a shot amiright?)
But when I’ve done these giveaways in the past, I’ve always restricted the giveaway to the US, purely because of the cost of shipping. In fact, whenever I do a giveaway, whether on Goodreads or a private site, I almost always restrict to the US. There was only one time that I didn’t, and that’s because I was on a site run by a Canadian. (Hi Julie!) But I only have five copies left of Iron Night to give away, so this will be my last Goodreads giveaway until Tainted Blood comes out in November. So I thought – well, why not give a little love to my brothers and sisters in the snowy north? Besides, then I’d get to have a lot of fun with the promotion for the next month.
Will this actually work out in numbers and promotion, enough to offset the increased price of shipping that I’m going to have to eat? Um… actually I don’t know. I probably won’t know for about a month. The last giveaway I did had 484 entries, and the best giveaway I did for Iron Night had 778 entries. So if I have anywhere from that base number to anywhere in the middle to beyond, I’d call it a success. So, Canadians! Put down your hockey sticks for a second and listen with the politeness I’ve come to expect from you! I’d love it if you entered here for a chance to win a signed copy of Iron Night, and if you passed this along to other people in Canada who might enjoy a copy.
Okay, so I’ve been hinting at something huge going on for the last month, and I just signed the final paperwork today, so here it is:
There’s going to be a fourth Fortitude Scott book!
This is utterly huge, guys, and it’s all thanks to you! You, the bloggers and reviewers who gave such wonderful attention to a book about a slacker vampire. You, the readers who decided to give the book a shot despite it being yet another urban fantasy featuring a vampire. Thank you all so very, very much.
What’s happening right now is that the Fortitude Scott sales numbers are not setting the world on fire, but there was a significant bump in the sales of Generation V paperback and e-books when Iron Night was released. Before this, the folks over at Roc had basically written the series off, and I’d been advised to work on a new series concept for them – but this bump got their attention again. What they’re doing right now is making a bet that there’s going to be another bump when Tainted Blood comes out in November, and that hopefully it will be enough to allow the series to get some traction with readers. And if that happens, they want to have a fourth book in the works to help sustain momentum.
Meaning that there will definitely be a fourth Fortitude Scott book in 2015! This is a book that I desperately wanted to write, because Tainted Blood is definitely NOT the conclusion of this series. (I originally wrote about four more sentences here, but they were too spoilery! I’ll say only this – I have Big Plans going at least into a Book Six)
It also means that this summer I get to do my favorite summer activity – write a new Fort Scott book!
But again, this is because of you guys. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews, fantastic emails, and enthusiasm about this series. You guys made #4 happen. I will leave you with this final piece of awesomeness – here is Suzume immortalized in mini form:
Hey everyone, my new business cards arrived today from Moo.com! Check these out!
Okay, so I know that my business cards are not exactly breaking news (though, seriously, the covers look pretty fabulous in tiny pocket form), but I’m pretty stoked about this. Now when I go to cons in the future I can be all, “Oh, which card would you like? BECAUSE I HAVE THREE PUBLISHED BOOKS MOTHERFUCKER HAHAHAHAHA.”
Or, slightly more restrained. That maniacal laugh will still happen, of course. (‘cuz, standards) And, while I do of course have great affection for the cover of Generation V, I have to concede to the vox populi at this point and accept that it is not quite my strongest selling point with, you know, just about anyone. I do think that the Iron Night cover is pretty neat, and the Tainted Blood cover is just made of awesome. I think the publishers are trying to move the cover art in a more Iron Druid direction, which is never a bad idea. Plus, I have assurances from some of my favorite bloggers that not only do they think the new cover is cool, but that they would actually be willing to be seen in public with it. Heady stuff, guys!
If you’re going to be at Connecticon this year, stop me and ask for whichever of the cards you’d like!
This leaves really just one question – what the hell do I do with the fifty or so old cards?
So today is a hugely great day! I mean, not particularly for wallets, but great for brains. Because today is my friend Django Wexler’s book birthday! The Forbidden Library is available for purchase everywhere – now, Django is probably best known for his incredibly epic flintlock fantasy, as well as his inability to say no when I come up with a blog idea, but he will soon be also known for incredible middle-grade fantasy.
I don’t read a lot of children’s literature – I mean, beyond Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events, which, do those even really count? – but I read The Forbidden Library ARC back in June. Mostly it was because Django is my buddy, and because he promised that cats would be involved. So I might’ve started that book out of nepotism and the desire for literary LOLcats, but that is not why I stayed up all damn night reading that book. Seriously, this is SO DAMN GOOD. I wish that I could use a time machine to go back and hand it to my eleven-year-old self, because I wish I could’ve grown up with this one in my head alongside Narnia. But at the same time, it’s just honestly good, and I’m itching for #2.
Written for kids? Yes, and it will blow their minds. But at the same time, this completely holds up for an adult reader due to the nuanced characters and some extremely tricky and complex themes. Buy it, read it, love it, finally get all my references to The Swarm. (then nag your library into investing in a copy)
I usually have a lot of books and authors I list off when people ask me about what my literary influences were when it came to writing the Fort Scott books. I mean, I kind of wish I could just upload a few pictures of the contents of my bookshelves. But one influence that I absolutely cannot underemphasize was Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series – particularly the first book, Nightlife. The grit of it, the humor, the complete nightmare re-imagining of elves, and the emotional messiness – I just love that damn book. I also love Rob Thurman – I must have at least a dozen of her books scattered all over my house, most pretty banged up.
So I’m guessing that I’m not alone in the Thurman fandom, so that’s why you should like this – Rob Thurman has put together a Cal Leandros anthology. Two shorts that appeared in previous anthologies, one short that was previously online, and one entirely brand-new short story. Available in Kindle, paperback, and also on her website! Go snag a copy – Rob Thurman is trying out the Barb Hendee model and dipping her toe in self-publishing, so if she gets a good response out of this, we’re all likely to see a lot more of this kind of thing from her.
That’s news about my friends – now how about some Fort Scott stuff? Tainted Blood has an Amazon page! There’s also a definite pub date – November 4, 2014 should now be seared into your calendars. Finally, here’s the back cover copy – read and enjoy!
In the third Generation V novel, Fortitude Scott proves that working with family can be deadly…
Former film student Fortitude Scott is finally gainfully employed. Unfortunately, said employment happens to be with a group of sociopathic vampires—his family. And as much as Fort is loath to get too deep into the family business, when his brother, Chivalry, is temporarily unable to run the territory, it’s up to Fort to keep things under control.
So when the leader of a powerful faction of shifters turns up murdered, Fort finds himself tracking down a killer while navigating dangerous rivalries, longtime grudges, and hidden agendas. Even with the help of his foxy kitsune sidekick, Suzume, he’ll need to pull out all the stops to hunt for the paranormal assassin.
But as he calls on fairies, witches, and ghouls for help, he discovers that the problem is much bigger than a single dead werebear. The supernatural community is preparing for a massive shift in power within the Scott family leadership—and Fort has landed right in the middle of the gathering storm.…
When I was at Vericon two weeks ago, I had the delight of meeting a number of great writers – Greer Gilman made me laugh so hard on a panel that I was covering my face with a program; Max Gladstone taught a group of us Small World, and Saladin Ahmed promptly kicked everyone’s ass; and I got to have lunch with Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Saladin Ahmed, and Max Gladstone. Plus very fun panels to be on, and even better ones to attend, and I’m not even starting in on the delight of a first-night dinner that included Luke Scull and his delightful wife Yesica (both terrorized by what we New Englanders call “spring,” which they were inadequately coated for), plus Pat Rothfuss. Good times!
A few days after the con was over, Max Gladstone posted a fun piece of futuristic dystopian John Deere flash fiction (really, why isn’t this a Hugo category?) on his website. I read it, enjoyed it, and posted it around, as you do. Then I went along with my day, which included teaching my short story class. The class is in one of my favorite sections of the course (the “Professor Brennan has been working hard teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tolstoy, Conrad, and the Bloomsbury group for two months, and deserves a one-week treat goddamnit” section, if you will) – on the previous class we’d discussed Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” along with Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” And in the class I was prepping for we were going to get to discuss Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” – really, top-notch, great stuff.
Then I remembered that April Fool’s Day was not only coming up, but this class was scheduled to meet on that day.
Then I thought about Max Gladstone’s flash story again.
Then I got a very, very bad idea.
When I went into class that afternoon, here is what I handed out to my thirty-three students:
April Fool’s Day Extra Assignment
Due: April 1, 2014, before midnight
Max Gladstone’s first novel, THREE PARTS DEAD, was named a Massachusetts Must Read Book of 2012. He was shortlisted for the 2013 John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award, and longlisted for the 2008 Writers of the Future award. TWO SERPENTS RISE, the second book in the series, was published in October 2013, and a third, FULL FATHOM FIVE, is forthcoming in July 2014.
Max graduated from Yale, where he majored in East Asian Studies with a special focus on Chan poetry and late Ming dynasty fantasy; he lived and taught for two years in rural Anhui province, and has traveled throughout Asia and Europe. He’s been a researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Policy Law, a tour guide for the Swiss Embassy, a go-between for a suspicious Chinese auto magazine, a translator for visiting Chinese schoolteachers, a Chinese philosophy TA, a tech industry analyst, and an editor. He has wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.
Max is also the personal friend of the professor. HIS MISTAKE.
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It
In addition to his excellent, genre-bending novels, Gladstone recently wrote an excellent piece of dystopian flash-fiction, “Sam Ogilvy’s Lament,” and posted it to his website at http://www.maxgladstone.com. This story fits in very nicely with the work we’ve been reading in class by Le Guin, Vonnegut, Jackson, and (particularly) Bradbury.
If you choose to participate (which is absolutely voluntary) the guidelines are as follows:
• At any time from 12:01am to 11:59pm on April 1st, you will go to the entry on Max Gladstone’s website that features “Sam Ogilvy’s Lament” (“The Tractor Story from ICFA. Also, Vericon fun!”) and post a literary analysis of the story.
• The analysis is a minimum of one paragraph in length, and should follow formal rules.
• The direction you take is up to you. You may draw parallels between Gladstone’s work and the stories that we have been reading in class. You may analyze the symbolism in the story (the emphasis on the tractor being “apple candy green”). You may analyze the moral implications of Sam Ogilvy’s decision at the conclusion of the story. You may follow whatever path your heart desires.
If you choose to participate, please make certain that there is some identifying mark on your reply text. First name and last initial are fine. If you can make it clear that Max Gladstone’s story is the subject of a class assignment – all the better.
• Those who participate will have their lowest quiz grade dropped.
We also read through Max’s flash fiction in class and discussed it a little.
April 1 rolled around yesterday, and I eagerly awaited the beginning of the swarm on Max’s website.
By 6pm, one student had posted an analysis. Clearly I had not properly calibrated the heart-breaking lethargy of students. There was a brief flurry of activity late at night, as their natural active hours appeared, and their ingrained last-minute assignment completion instincts kicked in. All told, seven participated, and I’d say that they do a good job with it – there are thoughtful comments, but it’s also clear that they’re having fun with it.
Max did eventually realize that something was going on, and he posted this tweet at 4:50pm –
A few folks are academically engaging with my tractor romance flash fiction in the comments section of my blog. How delightful.
That was a bit before the minor swarm began – really, I am pleased with the students who participated (they’ll be getting a bit of extra extra credit), but let’s all just take a moment and imagine the awesomeness of the prank that could’ve been – thirty-three students suddenly inundating Max’s website.
I guess there’s always next year.