nenya_kanadka: Reality has a homoerotic bias (@ homoerotic bias)
So after writing 1900 words defending the het ship in a movie from 1945, it's now my third very non-het anniversary. :D

Happy birthday, my love. You've been my wife for three years and my sweetheart for seven, and they have been the best years of my life. I love you, and I hope you like the cake.

(It's three layers, two chocolate and one white, and will have buttercream frosting + strawberries between layers, and chocolate + strawberries on top. If it turns out anything like last year's, it will be delicious and amazing. We'll probably make it last until Mucca's first 34th birthday on Saturday, too.)

nenya_kanadka: rubber stamp text: "complete and utter bullshit" (@ bullshit)
Rewatched Spellbound last night. I really think it's going to become one of those movies that goes in the queue to be watched again every year or two. Peck is so pretty and Bergman is so determined!

It's really her movie, too, in the sense that she's the main protagonist and it's all told from her point of view. And pretty much from the moment she opens her mouth in the first scene where her male coworker is trying to get her to soften up to his romantic advances and she's like "Lol, no," I just really like Dr. Constance Peterson. (He tells her she's too cold and cerebral, and she asks if he's buttering her up; he says her "lack of emotion" is "fatal for her as a woman" and a doctor, and she says yes, yes, she's heard that from any number of amorous psychiatrists who toootally want to make her a better doctor. :D)

And she's the one who takes action to find out what's wrong with Ballantyne and try to get him some psychological help before the police lock him in the slammer. She's the one trying to figure out WTF is going on (while Gregory Peck is intermittently collapsing, staring off into space, being grouchy as fuck, or looking attractively dishevelled). And she doesn't give up. Not just because Peck is hot (though she certainly thinks so) but because she believes in his innocence and she isn't satisfied with the explanations she's getting. And then they get a happy ending, entirely due to her efforts, and Peck swoons a little less but still canonically "madly adores" her and thinks she's "brilliant."

So, I like her. She's cool. Bergman is hot. She gets the hot woobie. Very nice.

But then of course I run across someone being Wrong On The Internet about her. Okay, maybe Wrong In A Book? I was googling around to see if anyone had any opinions on Peck's more slashy roles, and came across some essay in a book on Google Books1. Some kind of "queering the text" analysis of Hitchcock movies. And oh boy, are they wrong!

cut for Spellbound spoilers )


It all starts to remind me of fans who decide that a female character has gotten in the way of their slash ship, so she must be a huge raging bitch (and that plant in the corner proves their faves are doing it). Or people who see an advertisement that features a beautiful, sexualized, perhaps vulnerable man, and go, "Oh wow! That's really homoerotic!" without stopping to think that, wait, straight and bi women just might have some interest in male beauty. Halfway through reading this thing, I said to myself, "Good lord. Some people just REALLY can't handle women being in charge." Women can't be assertive or take the lead role, especially not in a het relationship! No, there has to be some other explanation. He's gay. She's an alien agent of patriarchy. (I never did figure out why that was supposedly the case here.) Something. Anything, to prove a woman can't be the knight in shining armor.

I'm queer. I'm also a woman who really appreciates active female protagonists. I also enjoy a good dose of beautiful man occasionally, and if he's a little vulnerable along with his gorgeous broad shoulders and deep brown eyes and delicious ruffle-able hair, all the better. (I might, too, have a carefully-nursed pet peeve about how alpha male heroes are so much more common than dominant women and their pretty boy-toys in het romance.) I'm a m-slasher and a fem-slasher as long as the day is long. But it really gets my goat when people take a female hero I love and pretend all the awesome things about her don't exist.

Dr. Constance Peterson: brilliant, determined, gets the hot boy. And badly-conceived meta can go fuck off.


_________________________

(1) I've lost the link now, but I think it was for something called "Intimate Violence." I'm not opposed to queer theory generally, but just as I sometimes disagree with queer fandom meta, I had huge issues with this particular iteration of queer theory. It really felt like they were trying to force the facts to fit the thesis ("someone in this movie is queer and being oppressed by a straight woman, I just know it!") rather than the reverse.

(2) Even the 18-year-old son of Mucca's assistant lightkeeper feels that Guns of Navarone is pretty damn gay.
nenya_kanadka: I cannot go to bed; there is epic shit happening on the Internet (@ epic shit)
I really loved this book. :-) ([personal profile] madgastronomer, this review is for you. :D)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in, because I'd heard so many conflicting reviews of it. But it made me smile so much, and made me go "awww" so much, and made me so fiercely proud of Cordelia, and so fond of Oliver Jole (an accomplishment, since we only really meet him in this book), and made me actually care about Sergyar. It was gentle, it was sweet, it was funny. I really, really liked it.

My two-word summary of GJRQ:

Cordelia's free.

Of Barrayar, for the most part. As she says at one point, she's given forty-three years of her life to the Barryaran Imperium--which eats its children and stifles its women and emotionally stunts its men--and she damn well deserves another forty-three years on her own terms. Thankfully, she's Betan, which means that at 76 she's really only in early middle age. This book is the story of the beginning of the second half of her life. And I am so glad.

I also loved loved loved that Aral gets to be actively queer here. Of course, he would always have been bisexual whether or not he ever slept with a man again. And I've heard people dislike that he and Cordelia were in a poly marriage with Jole, on the grounds that bisexuality =/= polyamory. And, sure, not everyone bi is poly. But some of us are. And for myself, I am more annoyed these days with the trope that bisexuality = having a disastrous same-gender fling in your youth and then settling down with an opposite-sex partner, never to seriously consider m/m or f/f again. And given that Aral's disastrous youthful fling was with Ges Bloody Vorrutyer? Hell yes, I loved that he got to have a happy, healthy, loving, long-term marriage (de facto if not de jure) with a man. For me, Bujold finally came through on the promise of Aral's bisexuality that she'd given us way back in Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Hell, Aral was never my favourite, but getting to see his soft squishy insides...I kind of begin to see what Cordelia loved about him.

Oh, and the two surviving members of a poly triad trying to learn to love again after the death of the third...I might just have a bittersweet narrative button already primed for that, ready to be hit by the right story. <3 Or to put it in other words...I've written that fic.

I've also heard people (based, I think, on an excerpt from a book reading well before the novel was released) decide that this book relegates Cordelia to the role of the slashfic yenta, set aside so the boys can get together. Not at all what I got out of this book. For one thing, Aral and Cordelia have a rock-solid marriage that goes down deep to the bones of the earth; they were also married for twenty years on their own before Oliver showed up. That Aral is bi, and Cordelia is Betan (read: not shocked by polyamory or queerness or kink), and melodrama was never an option...does not mean that Cordelia has in any way been set aside. (They also, you know, talked about it before Aral up and kissed a boy. It's not a thing he did will-she or nil-she.) Being poly, or in Cordelia's case, poly-compatible monogam-ish, does not mean that the first couple that comes together isn't real and true, any more than it means that any other part of a poly family is a secondary add-on. And if anybody thinks Aral Vorkosigan could toss Cordelia aside, or indeed that Cordelia would ever allow herself to be sidelined like that...they haven't been reading the same series as I have, that's all I can say. And I say this as someone who doesn't OTP them as hard as many people. The strength of their relationship is just so clearly underlined throughout the series that it's impossible to miss.

This book is about grief and about choosing what to do with the second half of your life, after you've lost someone who was the world to you. It's about "grownup things", not because of the babies, but because of that.

(As for the babies: I am not, personally, all that invested in having children (okay, I don't actually want any of my own at all), but Cordelia absolutely always did want kids. And, y'know, I'm always going to be more interested in fictional babymaking when it's done with tech rather than pregnancy. Miles and Cordelia may be slightly mad for having/wanting six kids, but you know what, so did my mother. Without a uterine replicator. It's not necessarily a sign of thinking children are interchangeable widgets, thank you very much.)

The romance itself is very sweet. Oliver Jole was basically a non-entity to me at the start of the book, but by a few chapters in I liked him a lot and was cheering for him and Cordelia. The fact that half the book is written from her perspective and half from his meant that I got to both watch the inside of Cordelia's head and watch someone else admire her, which was pretty great. (Have I mentioned that Cordelia is my fave?)

And Sergyar! I had no real feelings about Sergyar before this. I pretty much figured giving Aral and Cordelia the job of administering it was Bujold's way of getting them out of the way so Miles could have plot. (Which it probably was.) But with this book she's sold me on the sheer weirdness of it on a xenobiology level. And you know, I always hated that Cordelia had to give up her career in scientific exploration, along with her Betan culture, to settle on Barrayar and marry Aral. So the fact that she can have SCIENCE! in her life again? Is pretty amazing. :D

Freddie Haines: fantastic teenager. :D I loved the line about the quandary involved in praising a kid for having done something well in the course of doing something they shouldn't have done at all. Kaya Vorinnis, also cool. Miles...well, he seems to be settling in to fatherhood and counthood all right, though I was far more invested in him when he was a Dendarii Mercenary. (My prejudices in this canon may make more sense if you realize that I never cared that much for Barrayar per se. Who needs yet another patriarchal empire?) Also loved the Cetas in this one, and am curious about how that's all going to go: Sergyar is a planet with a Barrayaran majority, sure, but also Betans, Komarrans, and a few Escobarans and Cetagandans as well. It's not going to be Barrayar in miniature...and not just because of the Vicereine.

So, yes: that soft spot I have for canon poly with queer elements and middle-aged folks, in a space-opera setting? A+ work, Bujold. A+. To quote Gandalf, I have no longer any fear at all for any of them.
nenya_kanadka: Gregory Peck eating an ice cream bar circa 1944 (Default)
I LOVED this book. It has so many things I want out of romance in it, while managing to avoid many of the tropes I often stumble over in the genre. And it was super hot and really sweet.

Three people--a straight woman, a bisexual man, and a gay man--fall in love in a steampunk city. The woman is a debutante trapped by her life, the bi man is a rich but base-born adventurer who made his money "in the sky" (I'm not sure what this is, but the author has more books in that setting), and the gay man is an titled noble fallen on hard times. It's a classic tale of finding yourself and telling society to fuck off, but I really liked how it was done.

Rosamond's conflicts are not specifically with the man she's supposed to marry (he does not even get a name, that's how tangential to the story he is) but with her own internalized sense of who she's supposed to be and how she's meant to act. And she's very, very good at the role society has placed her in. She has many skills that go into keeping up the mask and I like that the story shows that being a high-born socialite is a job that takes effort (and some of those skills are transferable). She's not the sort of rebellious heroine who knows all along that she wants a different life and chafes against her chains: part of her character development is even realizing that she's unhappy. And she's not always a very nice person, partly because she is so unhappy, and has learned to be unkind to others in order to survive. And yet Jones, the uncouth commoner, meets her and honestly likes her, and treats her better than all the proper, "decent" people around her. All without a single word of the "he claims her, she submits" thing that usually drives me nuts. Though Jones is certainly the strong, masculine "unsuitable" lover whose frank sexuality sparks her self-actualization.

Arkady is gay as hell and deeply conflicted about it. So his plotline is about him allowing himself to love Jones, to give in to his true feelings, and to stop hating himself. Jones adores both of them and is more of a gentleman--in his honest, socially unpolished way--than any lord or lady they know. My favourite thing about him is how well he draws boundaries: he says what he means and means what he says, and when he's asked to do something he's uncomfortable with, he says no. Even if it would get him what he wants in the short term. On one level he's a catalyst for both Rosamond and Arkady discovering themselves, but the book makes me believe in him as a real character with his own needs, too.

The ending was lovely and my only regret was that I didn't have another 200 pages of their adventures together. (I thought the story was longer than it was, because the back half of the ebook is taken up with previews for other books by the same author.) All in all, I really love Alexis Hall's view of the world. It's a very kind, sexy, and funny one, and I may have to chase down more of the gaslight/steampunk romances.

A+ would read again.

There Will Be Phlogiston can be found for free at the author's website.
nenya_kanadka: Gregory Peck eating an ice cream bar circa 1944 (Lemon the tentacle monster)
"In the future, everyone is bisexual." It's a TVtrope, it's a tag on AO3.

If so, I live in the future.

It's a fairly common complaint that fanfic takes characters who are straight or (more rarely) gay in canon and makes them bi without explaining the change at all. Or that in fandom, a character's sexuality can change from one story to another and the readers hardly blink. Just thinking of stories I've read in the last month, I have the same character in a het marriage, a poly triad involving two genders not her own, and a same-sex relationship. I've also written her husband in a slash pairing. And I'm completely fine with all of these. "But isn't this unrealistic?" you ask.

Well, let's see. In my personal life we have:

--me, a bisexual homoromantic cis girl
--my girlfriend, much gayer than me but happy to ogle boys
--my genderqueer pansexual sister, in a relationship with a man after a three-year marriage to a woman, still shags girls
--my best local friend, a poly femme who everyone assumed was lesbian until it turned out she's not (nor is she straight)
--my brother who's really mostly straight but has made out with boys for the experience
--straight brother's ex, who was also gay brother's last try at dating women--turns out she dates girls too
--best local friend's little brother, a trans man who has had boyfriends and girlfriends in the time I've known him
--a local deaf friend, a submissive bisexual kinky guy with an asexual girlfriend
--a bisexual female friend of Mucca's from church
--my ex-girlfriend, in a relationship with a man for ten years before she dated me
--my ex-boyfriend, who came out as bi to me about the same time I was coming out as bi to myself
--the bisexual heteroromantic friend who used to have a crush on me
--my favourite fannish/political blogger from a few years back, about a 1.5 on the Kinsey scale
--one half of the Epic Grownup Lesbian Couple from my church in Tennessee
--my bi poly pagan fruitcake-baking friend who's married to a man (he's also bi and has had girlfriends and boyfriends during their marriage)
--my ex-roommate, who said she'd dated a dozen guys before she switched to women, and was trying to catch up in numbers of girls now (she was a strange person, I grant)
--half a dozen bi or pan Slacktivites
--at least one of the guys in the Silmarillion-inspired roleplay I'm in, and possibly one of the girls
--something like half my DW/LJ flist, it seems like some days

Sure, there's plenty of straight people in my life. Quite a few very gay folks. But in my life, it is not at all unusual for the same person to be ogling a boy one moment and swooning over a girl the next. Or for me to have to ask whether one of Local Femme Friend's friends is dating a girl or a boy this time around. Or for me to hold "likes girls" and "is married to a boy" in my head at the same time when thinking of someone. Fluidity in attraction is, if not the default, a very common thing in my social circle.

So for me, it's actually more realistic to have this be true for my fictional characters. This isn't me writing a brave new sci-fi world where people think weirdly about sex. This is how my life actually is.

I'm still waiting for my jetpack. Oh, wait.