Friday, January 18, 2013

This is a Post About Literary Rape

I’ve been a reading machine in the past eighteen days. In fact, I’ve read five novels, across five different genres. One was young adult literary, one was young adult genre, one was an adult literary, and two were adult contemporary fantasies.*

All five featured the main female character getting raped.

By the time I got to book number five, I was so weary, so emotionally drained, so angry. It took me quite awhile to calm down (even if the main character isn’t written as scarred by her experience, I sure as heck am) and parse the source of my rage.

I galloped over to Facebook and told the world how angry I was. I added that none of the male characters in these books had to undergo a sexually degrading experience in order to come of age or bulk up their character development or move the plot. Facebook replied with a host of suggestions for books with boys being raped in them, but that wasn’t really what I was after. I wasn’t really looking for equal-opportunity violation.

What I want is for there to be less gratuitous literary rape.

I’m not talking about books like Speak. I’m talking about novels where the rape scene could just as easily be any other sort of violent scene and it only becomes about sex because there’s a woman involved. If the genders were swapped, a rape scene wouldn’t have happened. The author would’ve come up with a different sort of scenario/ backstory/ defining moment for a male character. Really, this sort of rape is such a medieval, classical way to tell a story. Need to establish some stakes? Grab a secondary character and rape her. Possibly with a god or a mythological object if you have one handy.

And that starts to feel a lot less like realism and more like a malingering culture of women as victims. And it starts, especially when the author is male and the rape scene is graphic, to feel suspiciously like the goal is titillation. It starts to feel like the author believes the only interesting sort of GirlAngst is sexual abuse.

Yes. Having someone force themselves on us is pretty damn traumatic, folks. But guess what? Our personalities are formed by a whole host of experiences. Pretty much the same host of experiences that any man might encounter.

Now, on Facebook and Twitter, people said “but then you’d complain about rape and violence against women being under-represented in fiction.” First of all, no. I wouldn’t complain if there were no more gratuitous rape scenes. And second of all, the rape scenes I’m referring to are not scenes that are going to start dialog about rape. They’re scenes that enforce the woman’s role as Sidekick and Victim and Rescue Me! and I-Am-Only-The-Sum-Of-The-Places-On-My-Body-You-Can-Violate-Me.**

I want to know why this is an easy fall-back, rape. Some folks on Facebook said, “Because it’s the worst thing that can happen to a woman.”

Is it? Is rape then also the worst thing that can happen to a man? No? It’s different for women, you say? Why is it, then, that we as women should find having our sexual integrity robbed from us worse than torture and death? Is it because . . . I-Am-Only-The-Sum-Of-The-Places-On-My-Body-You-Can-Violate-Me?***

So what I’m saying is: yes, write about rape. I don’t believe in censoring fiction. But I do believe in writers knowing why they’re writing what they write. And if authors are writing a scene because they subconsciously believe that a woman’s sexual purity is the most important thing about her, they need to reconsider.

I can’t decide if a gratuitous rape scene offends me worse when it’s written by a man or a woman. One makes me angry because it feels like it’s selling rape culture. And the other makes me angry because I feel like women are buying it.

World, we need to talk.

*No, I’m not going to tell you what they were. A book that turns me off might be someone else’s favorite, so I try not to UNrecommend books. I prefer to just recommend the ones that I enjoy.

**Oh, wow. I am still very angry, it seems.

***Still angry.

[recommended reading given to me by readers: Seanan McGuire’s blog post on rape, and Women in Refrigerators]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Maggie Gets Younger

You guys probably all know that I have two children, Thing 1 & Thing 2 —they're seven and eight at the moment, but I'm guessing that will change. Anyway, the Things are quite enthusiastic about me being a writer. They follow all book conversations between Lover and I with interest. They know all of the characters' names and the rough plot lines.

Of course, they're not allowed to read any of them until they're, like, 30.

I have a nephew around that age as well, and he always begs for copies of my books. He has all of them! . . . in Lithuanian. And Italian. And Japanese. He can have English copies of them when he's, like, 30.

So, I'd been contemplating writing a middle grade book for them, but timing was never right, and the idea of trying to write a book without gore, swearing, or extreme nookie just seemed daunting. So when Scholastic asked me if I'd like to be part of a new middle grade project, I consulted the Things, and cheerfully said YES.

Here are the details (full story at Publishers Weekly):

Basically, it's a multi-platform series like 39 Clues and The Infinity Ring. We write the stories; a computer game springs up in response to those stories, and off we go. It's for ages 8-12, so rather younger than my usual audience, but I reckon folks will definitely be able to see the Maggieness in mine. As I wrote the outline for it, I realized that I can't really turn off the Maggieness even if I wanted to. I did at least remove the swearing, gore, and extreme nookie aspects.

Things 1 & 2 are so pleased.

Anyway, have a logo.

P.S. I know people will ask. I'm still working on the third faerie book. I am doing serious edits as I wasn't completely happy with my previous draft. Scholastic drums their fingers mildly. It is all me, the hold up. I'm sorry. Spring 2014 looks like the date for it at the moment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Raven Boys Doodle winner

The randomly picked winner is Congrats and thanks everyone for entering!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Win a Raven Boys Doodle. And an Audiobook.

Today I was laying about and complaining about my missing teeth and eating ibuprofen and instead of working, I did a little doodle of the characters from The Raven Boys.

raven boys doodle large

ME: I did this. Is it fan art if I'm the one doing it? FACEBOOK: No. Yes. Maybe? Whatever! Give it away with a contest!

I always do what Facebook says, because surely, surely it is never wrong. So here's a contest for this doodle. Because it seems like not a very exciting prize to me, I'm also adding in a signed audiobook of The Raven Boys. Will Patton narrates it and does a freakin' fantastic job with all of the voices.

Because I'm mostly laying about being useless, I'm making this a really simple contest. Basically, change your icon on any of your social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, whatever, to the cover of Raven Boys until this time tomorrow. Then post the link of where you've changed it into the Contest Machine site as your entry. Please note that unless you enter on the Contest Machine thingy, you are not entered! A blog comment doesn't count!

Here's the cover. You can right click on it to save and all that good stuff.

Cover for The Raven Boys

Tomorrow evening, I'll pick a random winner, double check that the icon of the person I drew is changed, and taDA. And everyone can change their icons back to their dogs and stuff. It's open internationally. Sound good?


Monday, January 7, 2013

May I Borrow Your Pen?

I want to know where all the pens go.

Every month I buy a new box of them. Not the box of six. The box of twenty. I used to buy nice ones. I read reviews. I asked around. I tested them. I weighed them in my hand like a #$%^%$#ing broadsword and I asked myself “is this a pen I want to spend some time with?” “Is this a pen I can do some damage with?”

Now, I just buy the cheap ones. There’s no point. We’re never going to have a relationship.

But I’m trying to understand.

I have a lovely office that I work in 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time I work on the couch. Pens are not allowed on the couch because they are sharp as #$%^%$#ing broadswords and might pierce the couch’s surface. So I have no reason to take the pens from my office.

office panorama

That leaves Lover and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Things 1 & 2 are recently literate and Lover has been literate since I’ve known him, so it’s not inconceivable that they could be pen-stealers. Only the Lover has his own desk with his own pen can. I looked. Do you know what’s in it?

Pen caps.

Because sure as snot drips downhill there aren’t pens in it. Wherever my pens are going, his are on their way there as well.

This morning, I was so certain that Things 1 & 2 were to blame that I tossed their rooms (they are still young enough that tossing their rooms is considered culturally and psychologically acceptable)(i.e. any time under age 32). I looked under their mattresses. I looked in their closets. I looked underneath Thing 2’s rat cage and on top of Thing 1’s bookshelf.

I found a pen cap in Thing 1’s room under her ninja outfit, but it didn’t match any of my pens. It was pink and glittery. Thing 1 hasn't possessed anything pink and glittery for over a year, not since she decided to become a ninja veterinarian. So this was a cap for a long-ago pen. Without much hope, I searched for the rest of the pen, but it was nowhere in evidence.

All I had proven was that wherever my pens were going, Lover’s pens were also there, and so were Thing 1's.

I sat down and had a think about this. Actually I sat down at the dentist’s office and had a think about it. I thought about it for an hour in the waiting room and then I thought about it while they extracted two teeth and then I thought about it after I had returned home to sit in my office chair, wishing I had a pen.

Here we go.

Pens are time-travelers. That’s the only explanation. In some future time that none of us have gotten to, the world is made of pens. It is like a hideous Dali-Shakespeare-H.G.Wells landscape where the horizon is formed of tidal slopes of Bics, Papermates, and Staedtlers, rolling about in plastic, pigment, and spring-powered carcasses. Overhead an anemic sun the color of an egg yolk weeps a dry eye for humanity. You know why?

Because paper isn’t a time traveler.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and I have to agree. If I hung #$%^%$#ing broadsword on my wall, it would stay there. I hang a pen in the same place, and I guarantee you, this time tomorrow, that’s pen’s gone. To the future.

Which is where I’m headed now. Just, um. Slower.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not Quite Terrible Musical Top 20 of 2012

As a listener, I'm pretty sure my musical taste peaked sometime around the second half of 2010. That's when my iPod hit the commercially ideal ratio of indie songs no one had heard of but everyone could enjoy, songs everyone had heard of but hadn't gotten tired of, and the Beatles. All of my friends wanted playlists. And with an iPod like that, well, hey, they practically made themselves!

But something seems to have happened since then. The ratios have gone pear-shaped. The pie chart has now shifted to something more like this.


My 2012 musical conversations are rather different than my 2010 conversations.

2010 MOM: This is a lovely song about parting and loss. Who is it?

2012 MOM: I just walked into your office and a man in your speakers suggested that I "get crunk?"

Lover didn't even know what getting crunk entailed. As I explained it to him, it occurred to me that discussing the etymology of "getting crunk" with a loved one is the opposite of actually getting crunk.

I blame the most recent rash of music on the sequel to The Raven Boys. There is a character who is terrible in Raven Boys II, and I very much needed for him to stay terrible. As a writer, I have a tendency to secretly give all of my characters hearts of gold. You will spot this through my works. The ice queen with the heart of gold. The child abductor with a heart of gold. The teenage drug addict/ womanizer with a heart of gold.

This particular boy needed to remain black-hearted. To remind myself of that some people in fact have a deeply hidden heart of mulch, I created a playlist of terrible music that I played whenever he appeared on the screen. Mostly, I just picked songs that were slightly more offensive than I would like.

Which turned out to be a sliding scale.

Now, while much of my iPod is still dominated by acceptable songs that I can play in the car while riding with our distinguished realtor lady friend, there is now a not inconsiderable number of songs that advise my distinguished realtor lady friend to place her booty in someone's face and back it up. Others that confess that they will sleep with her friends. And still more that just scream at her in German.

I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that I'm going to start off the year with a list of my recommended songs from 2012, but I'm going to warn you that my sense of what other people like might be broken. I don't think there's anything on this list that will take your wallet or your virginity, but . . . if there is, I'm sorry.


1. "North Col" - Shearwater
2. "Dear Fellow Traveler" - Sea Wolf
3. "How Many More Times" - Field Music
 4. "Lay it Down" & "The Best We Got" - The Rubens


5. "Dissolve Me" - Alt J
6. "YoYo" - Pop ETC (formerly the Morning Benders, if you care)
7. "I'm a Pilot" - Fanfarlo
8. "Submarines" - The Lumineers
9. "This is What I Said" - Cloud Control
10. "Rapunzel" - Drapht
11. "Can't Touch It" - Ricki Lee

Plain Awesome

12. "Sun" - Two Door Cinema Club
13. "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" - Tame Impala
14. "Fingers Never Bleed" & "Longevity" - Yeasayer

Things that Sound Good While I Drive Sideways

15. "Fame" - Santigold
16. "Nothing Else is Real" - Mackintosh Braun
17. "Again (Original Mix)" - Elizabeth Rose feat. Sinden
18. "Monsoons" - Puscifer
19. "Love from a Stone" - School of Seven Bells
20. "Afterlife (Neon Feather Remix)" - Switchfoot
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