me, writing elsewhere … see you in 2017?

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IMG_20151229_144039During the past month, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to do more and less of in 2016.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, as they seem driven largely by the twin engines of American consumerism and self-improvement driven by toxic guilt. Perhaps, too, there is something about January in the upper Midwest (or New England) that seems a poor time to harden one’s resolve to do much more than curl up under a blanket with a cat, a glass of merlot, and a good book.

Still, I’ve been thinking about more and less. The things I do which bring me energy and joy and the things I’ve done in the past year which bring me largely exhaustion and stress. And, in between those two poles, the things which must be done (to put a roof over our heads, to put food on the table) and the things which fill time but don’t necessarily nourish the soul (my soul; at this moment).

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This afternoon, I put together a list of things which I hope to (will strive to) do more of this coming year. This list included things like quilting, reading romance novels, writing romance fanfic, cuddling with my wife, and walking around Boston.

Blogging wasn’t on that list, nor was nonfiction/personal writing of any kind. Which surprised me, a little. Since early adolescence I’ve been a prolific writer of the personal, since starting college a reliable producer of the research essay, history thesis, book review, and since 2007 a regular blogger at what would become over time the feminist librarian.

But lately, as they say, I just haven’t been feeling it.

So in 2016 I’ll be hitting PAUSE.

I’m going to see what a year of not-blogging feels like.

In 2017 I might be back…or I might be elsewhere. Meanwhile, of course, the Internet is a vast and many-textured space where computers talk to one another and human beings use computers to talk to one another. And I will continue to talk with other human beings there, in many locations other than this blog.

You’ll find me on Twitter sharing selfies and providing almost continual stream-of-consciousness thoughts, feelings, and photos.

You’ll find me on Archive of Our Own writing smutty fanfic.

You’ll find me on GoodReads leaving off-the-cuff book reviews.

You’ll find me at MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose and Library Journal writing more substantive reviews.

You’ll find my online reading list at Tumblr.

And this may date me? But I still enjoy corresponding with pen-pals. So you can always find me by email at feministlibrarian [at] gmail [dot] com.

I hope all of you have a lovely, rejuvenating 2016 and I look forward to seeing where the year takes us. May it be a better place by fits and starts than where we are as we begin.

to drive the cold winter away

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It might be forecast to reach seventy degrees tomorrow here in Boston, but nevertheless it will still be Christmas Eve and our household is ready for a week’s quiet vacation here at home with the cats. Plans include the carol service broadcast from King’s, reading, quilting, Murdoch Mysteries, writing drabbles for our TwelvetideDrabbles2015 challenge, and doing our holiday shopping, wrapping, and mailing of Christmas parcels.

It’s been lovely to get cards from you all, adding to the festive decorations in all hallway (above batting level for curious kittens).

This year, we’ve branched out into a balsam, juniper, and winterberry “swag” from Stillman’s, our CSA farm, and it’s making the apartment smell like Christmas (at least we hope so; both of us have been stuffy with colds since we brought it home!).

And the advent calendar has been steadily counting down the days. Today was our last day of work for 2015 and we’re looking forward to closing out the old and welcoming in the new as the days slowly, imperceptibly, begin to grow longer.

May all of you have a safe and restorative holiday season. See you in 2016.

thirteen books

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Bookshop in Old Aberdeen (2003)

Bookshop in Old Aberdeen, Scotland (2003)

According to GoodReads, I have thirteen books to read before the end of the year in order to make my (entirely self-imposed) goal of 104 books read in 2015. Below are the titles on my bookshelf that I plan (hope) to get to before the year is out.

Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters Across the Modern World
edited by Heike Bauer

Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World
by James Boyce

The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1)
by Viola Carr

The Devious Miss Jekyll (Electric Empire #2)
by Viola Carr

Welcome to Night Vale
by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink

Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice
by Brantley W. Gasaway

Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-Century America
by April Haynes

Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957
by Matthew Houlbrook

Archives of Desire: The Queer Historical Work of New England Regionalism
J. Semaine Lockwood

Reflections (Indexing #2)
by Seanan McGuire

After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion
by Anthony Petro

The Shepherd’s Crown (Tiffany Aching #5)
by Terry Pratchett

Respectably Queer: Diversity Culture in LGBT Activist Organizations
by Jane Ward

What have you been / will you be reading in the final months of 2015?

movienotes: sense8

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sense8-12

This past weekend I finished watching the first season of Sense8 on Netflix and thought I’d share a few thoughts about what I enjoyed about it. And I did enjoy it overall. It’s not perfect in my mind (hell, point me to the cultural product that is?) but I really enjoyed getting to know the eight central characters as individual people over the course of the series, and the secondary cast as well.

For those who are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, it’s a psychological thriller / science fiction drama that is a kissing cousin of Orphan Black. As with Orphan Black we have a physiologically unique (evolved?) subset of human beings (or other species?) who have unique abilities and a shadowy group of powerful scientists with a vested interest in eradicating them. Sense8 posits a world in which groups of eight individuals are telepathically connected around the globe, sharing one anothers’ senses and being able to project into one anothers’ mental and actual spaces. They are able to share emotions, skills, memories, and real-time sensory experience. Sense8 follows one particular group of these individuals as they awaken to their connection, learn about and from one another, and strategize to escape the clutches of the Evil Scientists(tm) who seek to neutralize their powers.

A lot has been said about the global scope of this series, with its human diversity of many kinds (racial, gender, sexual, socioeconomic background and so forth). And that’s definitely there, much more so than many other mainstream shows. I was wary that “HEY LOOK WE HAVE DIVERSITY” would be where the series stopped, and was relieved that this type of tokenism didn’t ultimately overwhelm the individuality of the characters. Instead, identity-based diversity becomes the rich earth from which subtle individual difference grows, individuality that is informed by the characters’ divergent life experiences.  In some of the early episodes I felt like characters were being introduced with stereotyped shorthand, but they pushed through those narratives and came into their own complexity over time.

While on its face an action drama, in which the characters must successfully evade a powerful threat (as well as wrestle with some more personal demons, and localized aggressors), I would argue that Sense8 is in fact a romance. Relationship is at the heart of Sense8‘s power, and questions of connection and empathy, disconnection and loss permeate the season’s twelve episodes from beginning to end. Sure, our intrepid band of telepaths must battle opponents who seek to do them harm. But that story has been told a thousand and one times (probably more), a standard trope of the genre. It is in the relationship realm that Sense8‘s unique contribution comes into its own.

I really appreciated how the senseates’ connection to one another was not exclusive of other deep, deep emotional bonds. Wolfgang has a best friend whom he seeks to protect with his life; Will struggles to maintain a relationship with his father; Capheus feels keenly the absence of his sister (given up for adoption) and cares tenderly and fiercely for his HIV+ mother. The few scenes between multiply-traumatized Riley and her musician father are so heartbreakingly loving. And there are relationship struggles as well: Kala trying to decide whether to follow through with marriage to a man she is uncertain she loves, Sun sacrifices herself to protect the honor of her father and brother only to have second thoughts from jail.

Two senseates, San Franciscan hacker Nomi and Mexican telenovella star Lito, are in queer relationships with non-sensates, and those relationships are not treated as second-fiddle to the senseate connection. Nomi and Amanita are gloriously sensual and committed as a couple, their sexual desire for one another often fueling arousal among the other senseates without regard to orientation. Deeply-closeted Lito endangers his relationship with Hernando and Daniela, and ultimately must decide whether his love for them is stronger than his fear of being outed.

Interestingly, elder (and somewhat tedious) sensates appear to our intrepid band at various points throughout the season and almost always insist that self-sacrifice and disconnection (suicide, avoidance of others in the group) are the key to survival. Yet over and over again the Sense8 group chooses to reach out and support one another, and to refuse self-sacrifice if there is any chance at another way. The elders imply or outright insist that relationships make one vulnerable; Will and Riley, for example, are discouraged from pursuing a sexual relationship with one another because the older sensates feel it’s almost incestuous. Will and Riley (and the rest of their group) disagree, and it is ultimately Riley and Will’s fierce determination to remain in one anothers’ lives that routes the enemy at the end of season one. Working cooperatively (with one another and trusted humans) ends up strengthening rather than weakening their team.

The relationship-centric nature of this series, set within a rich tapestry of diverse cultural backgrounds and personal experiences that inform the characters’ morality and desires, was really good television and I feel like I’ll be mulling over the people it introduced me to for many a day to come.

p.s. in #fanfic are characters the defining source?

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This is an addendum to last night’s post fueled by the conversation I had with Hanna on our walk to work (which, more often than not, constitutes gossip about fanfic).

One of the defining features of fanfic as a genre, for me, is that it is character-driven.  Fic, the way I read and write it, is primarily about individual characters and their relationships (erotic or platonic) with other characters. It’s not about establishing the rules of the universe or about the suspense of the plot. It’s about asking “What would these individuals do if they were presented with X situation?” either in canon, in the canon ‘verse, or in a completely different setting (an alternate universe or AU).

I would actually argue that most if not all characters are independent of the authors who write about them. I struggle with the idea of characters as the intellectual property of an originating author. I feel like characters develop independent lives, such that they are bigger than one single author’s interpretation of those characters. We collectively narrate pieces of their existence. They become more real, in cultural terms, the more people tell stories about them in different iterations.

So this is another reason why I can come to fanfic that considers characters that I never met before in the source material. The fanwork becomes, for me, that first encounter, that source material. In some cases, I end up reading backwards to the “original” source material because I’m interested in that dialog between fic and canon. Other times, all I care about is the intra-fanwork conversation, the characters as collectively presented in the body of writing considered to be fannish vs. canon (however we define that). It’s about falling in love with the characters, for me, and becoming invested in the characters. And I can get to know those characters through a million shards of fic almost more intimately than I can get to know them through the singular voice of a specific published author or the narrative constraints of a television series or film.  Continue reading

reading and writing #fanfic as a non-fan? some thoughts

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http://www.deviantart.com/art/Team-free-will-354911394

Team Free Will by Jasric.
Possibly my favorite piece of 
Supernatural fan art ever produced.

This blog post is written in direct response to the latest episode of the Fansplaining podcast, “One True Fandom” (episode eight), the transcript of which I read this afternoon. I had some thoughts about the conversation which I shared briefly on Twitter and wanted to expand them into a post.

Here’s what I wrote on Twitter:

Expanded thoughts…

  • I was introduced to fanfiction as a genre — a genre that resonated with my own “homegrown” approach to fictional narratives (more below) — rather than coming to it through a particular fannish community. My now-wife was the one who introduced me to the language and conventions of fic, specifically slash, because she thought I would be interested in slash fiction as a form or cultural critique and also countercultural / queer erotica. I mean, it was also a wildly successful form of nerd-flirting. But I think my introduction to the activity of fanfiction as an idea rather than as a form of participation in a specific fandom continues to shape my relationship to the practice — and to fandom culture more generally.
  • I love fanfiction as a genre in part because it’s a language to describe how I have approached fictional narratives throughout my life. Some of my earliest memories from childhood involve spinning out narrative “what if…” tales about my favorite fictional characters. Oftentimes with rampant self-insertion. As a teenager, one of my favorite category of narrative was retellings of folk- and fairytales, or mythologies from various cultures. I collected, and wrote, multiple versions of certain tales, reworking, updating, critiquing classic interpretations. Think Beauty and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley, Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, Wicked by Gregory Maguire. When I was fourteen I wrote a 200-page adaptation of the Cinderella tale on a DOS word processing program. So when I was in my late twenties and someone said “here is this thing called fanfiction and this is how it works…” I was like Oh, yes. That. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this earlier?!
  • I read fanfiction for canon narratives with which I have zero or passing familiarity. Gundam WingTeen Wolf. Daredevil. I’ve never seen them. Hawaii 5-0. One episode, only well after I read widely in the Steve/Danny pairing. To me, fanfiction is both critique of (or elaboration on) the specific source material and also a broader response to popular culture. It offers up new ways of seeing what are, often, very tired stories. And stories that I as a queer, feminist-minded woman struggle to relate to. Fanfiction is a restful genre for me in many ways. I know I can come to it for queer intervention. For feminist intervention. Increasingly for intersectionality in its exploration of issues like racial inequality and dis/ability. While there are published authors whose work share these features with fic, as a genre fic has delivered most reliably in these ways. So my ability to access, and take pleasure in reading, fic is only loosely related to specific canonical ‘verses.

Continue reading

october on minden st.

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CShFc8pWoAAlIpUMinden St. from Heath St. across the Hennigan school yard. October 2015.

October is one of my favorite months, generally speaking, in terms of both weather and rhythm of life. We’re passed the dog days of summer and over the panic spiral that is the first month of school. I’m mostly spared the academic stress these days, due to no longer being in school, but Boston being one gargantuan college town it still seeps into the cracks on the pavement affecting everyone. We’re all, more or less, on the academic timetable in these parts.

This year’s October careered by at inadvisable speed. Hanna and I were both busy at work with that busy that seems to move various deadlines closer yet never quite manages to shorten the list of things to do. I got some things done, had to postpone others.

Hanna and I both at that point in our working lives where we’re figuring out how to “lean out” perhaps more than we lean in — carving out time to enjoy each other and our life together while still taking pride in our work and bringing home enough income to put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads, and have enough “pin money” left over to enjoy our morning coffee and maybe take a trip every so often. Continue reading

the universal is specific and the specific is diverse

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(This is an expanded version of a Twitter rant I went on this morning.)

This morning on Facebook a friend shared, critically, this story at the Guardian about a crank objecting to the pleasure others’ find in diverse literature:

Campbell had said that “there are so few books for queer black boys, but there are just too few books for all our marginalised young people”. Rosoff, author of How I Live Now and other bestselling titles, responded that “there are not too few books for marginalised young people. There are hundreds of them, thousands of them”, and that “you don’t have to read about a queer black boy to read a book about a marginalised child”.

“The children’s book world is getting far too literal about what ‘needs’ to be represented,” wrote Rosoff. “You don’t read Crime and Punishment to find out about Russian criminals. Or Alice in Wonderland to know about rabbits. Good literature expands your mind. It doesn’t have the ‘job’ of being a mirror.”

On the commute to work I couldn’t stop thinking about this notion that advocates of diversity are being “too literal,” and that what we expect is “a mirror” in literature that maps one-to-one against our own personal life experiences. I kept thinking about how, elsewhere in the Guardian piece, the Ms. Rosoff is quoted as saying (in response to social media pushback:

I really hate this idea that we need agendas in books. A great book has a philosophical, spiritual, intellectual agenda that speaks to many many people – not just gay black boys. I’m sorry, but write a pamphlet about it. That’s not what books are for.

This framing of increasingly-diverse participation in the world of literature and public speech as agenda-driven and somehow antithetical to “Good literature [that] expands your mind” is a tired, reactionary position. And it tells us far more about the speaker than it does about the individuals who are busily creating an ever-more-diverse literature that fully represents our human experience is all of its’ myriad universal-yet-specific particulars. Continue reading

quilting: moomin hanging finished!

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Today, I put the finishing touches on my quilted moomintroll hanging, started in August under the tutelage of Kate Herron Gendreau in a slow sewing class at JP Knit & Stitch. The pattern is a modified version of Carolyn Friedlander’s circles.

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I really like the way the quilting stitches, with their combination of straight seam lines and free-hand curves came out, as well as the buttons that I purchased at Gather Here. I bought them on a whim longer after starting the project, but they turned out to be a great compliment to the colors and textures in the overall piece.

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I added the moomintrolls and, at Hanna’s request, a wee bumblebee.

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And in the lower left-hand corner, below the moomin-inspired flowers, a tongue-in-cheek “handmade by…” label.

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It’s been lots of fun to have a non-textual project to work on during evenings and weekends — on to the next one! Stay tuned for more #GratuitousQuiltingUpdates.

stuff to watch and listen to while quilting

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quilt_buttons2As many of you know, Hanna and I have been quilting this fall. Having handwork means I need something to keep my brain occupied — since I have a really hard time just doing something physical. So, for the first time in about eight years, I have a substantial amount of time in the evenings and on weekend to listen to and/or watch things while my hands are occupied. Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve been enjoying.

Podcasts

Fansplaining. A new podcast about all things fandom.

Reality Cast. Reproductive health and sexuality news.

Sex Out Loud. With Tristan Taormino.

Welcome to Night Vale. (I’ve finally caught up to new episodes!)

Television Shows

Outlander. As a longtime fan of the books, I’m best pleased with this adaptation.

Sense8. Best watched for the character development rather than the labyrinthine

Strange EmpireDeadwood crossed with Penny Dreadful