Hello Ello: Why The Pretty White Girl YA Book Cover Trend Needs to End

Hello Ello: Why The Pretty White Girl YA Book Cover Trend Needs to End.

This, so much this.  I’ve been seeing other people talking about this issue of YA shelves filled with covers of only young, white, modelesque girls in….not enough places.  So, I’m adding it here, too.

She Breathes Fire

In honor of the Maleficent film being made, I bring out an old Maleficent fanfic that I wrote several years ago.  This is the kind of thing my brain likes to do when I’m really supposed to be planning out something else.

 

Maleficent’s scales gleam darker in the firelight, appearing black rather than purple. The lighter hue of her underbelly never alters, leaves her feeling exposed. The veins around her heart pounded hard enough to be seen through even a dragon’s thick skin. Maleficent hated it. Hated anything that reminded her of her weaknesses. She spent years attempting to thicken her skin, to toughen her delicate veins till no movement would be perceptible. Eventually, she simply stopped her heart.

The dracal seldom chose to take on human form anymore. Their females felt uncomfortable, as the pointed chins and unusual stature characteristic of them outside their dragon form made them the mockery of regular humans. As there were strict laws prohibiting the mating of dracals in separate forms, the males became accustomed to remaining dragons, as well. Over time the majority of dracals lost even the knowlege of human mating rituals.

It was for this reason that Maleficent’s father encouraged her to retain her human form as often as possible. The females in their clan had grown scarce, and he felt this was the best protection he could offer her. So she grew up apart from other members of her race. She thought through another language, spoke spells rather than fire, admired the bodies of men rather than dragons. At night she slept as a dragon, but she dreamed of men. Dreamed, and desired them.

One day she got her desire. A nephew of the king became enamored of Maleficent’s mystery, of her full-bodied laugh. He taught her the hard way how human joining was conducted. He left her before dawn. For months, Maleficent retreated into dragon form. She breathed fire, hunted mercilessly, and stayed in the shadows. She began to hate the sight of her heartbeat. It was the source of her misery, of the blood he’d spilt from her.

Her parents watched as her scales darkened, and worried.

Finally, she’d managed it. She’d stopped her heart. Stopped thinking about him. The day Maleficent resumed her human form was the last her parents ever saw her. The last time she flew before the day of her death. The day her scales were completely black.

But she still lusted after them. Her heart was stopped, but her blood ran hotter than ever. She took lovers by hypnotizing, by seducing, by coercing. But sometimes she dreams of her first, of her only love. His son had inherited the crown. But it was his grandson, Prince Phillip, who would grow to resemble him. Prince Phillip’s fiance Maleficent is determined to kill. She waits for her invitation to the girl’s christening and plots.

As she had been denied her prince, a kingdom would lose its princess. Without knowing it, she begins breathing fire when she sleeps. A dragon’s revenge is never served cold.

A Maleficent Update ! « FILM LINGO

A Maleficent Update ! « FILM LINGO.

They are making a new film all about Maleficent!?  I am overwhelmed with approval!  Plus, it fits right into the current trend of bringing back fairy tales and especially Snow White, hard.  (I classify it with Snow White because it involves deadly sleeping damsels.)  In all these newer versions I see the pattern of our current society recognizing that now we’re more like the overlord or queen than the oppressed Snow White.  But we’re America!  We’re good!  We’re right!  We can’t admit we’re really like anyone bad….So these new movies have twists to make it seem like okay, we make mistakes, but dammit we’re still the good guy underdog!  Even if Snow White, or our other heroines have to get a little dirty!

This Maleficent movie sounds like its raison d’etre is along the same lines…we’re not perfect, but we’re still great.  Only this one sounds better because, after all, if you’re going to recognize you’re closer to the villain in power and station, you want to go with Maleficent.  She rocks.

Fired For Using Birth Control? It Could Be Possible In Arizona | Addicting Info

Fired For Using Birth Control? It Could Be Possible In Arizona | Addicting Info.

 

This is a new and incredibly disturbing addition to the political story currently being played out.  It’s about so many things: it’s about how people see sexual women, about how the right to privacy is becoming increasingly tenuous, it’s about people being fucking idiots.  This is the point when I become very, very glad that I can claim dual citizenship with Canada.

Behold, Here’s Poison

Behold, Here’s Poison

By: Georgette Heyer

Bantam Books 1973

http://www.georgette-heyer.com/

A historical mystery review

 Behold, Here’s Poison takes readers right to the heart of every murder investigation: family tension.  The Matthews family has lost its tyrannical head.  Heyer lightly leads the way from the bereaved relatives’ realization that they are really all right with Gregory Matthews’ absence to their dawning comprehension that death makes everyone else far more annoying.  It also tends to make neighbors and outside relations both hideously present and far more loathsome.

However painful it clearly is for the family, however, Heyer’s readers are clear to watch the sparring matches, the questionable actions, and the police investigation.  Two bereaved sisters, a theatrical sister-in-law, the artistic nephew, the modern niece, and the “amiable snake” comprise the Matthews’ family.  The local doctor, family friends, and an extra relation or two also appear to pay respects and add to the emotional broth.  Heyer allows the reader to feel a step ahead through most of the book.  The subtle hints and varied remarks-from acid to asinine-guide readers through the twisting plot without being carried along by a cryptic detective.  The detective’s there largely to do the grunt work and draw out clues.  If high suspense or violent actions are your taste in murder mysteries, this is not the book for you.  For keeping investigation skills in practice or enjoying a leisurely look into others’ foibles and trouble, Behold, Here’s Poison is excellent.

Is it possible to see the plot ends before they come together?  Basically yes, but there is certainly enough to discover and piece together to make the journey interesting.  Is it the most satisfying of endings for a mystery novel?  The divulged facts themselves aren’t the most gratifying, but the way Heyer handles her reveal makes up for it.  For a comfortable, rainy day read, or when you want a mystery but know you’ll need to live through breaks, Behold, Here’s Poison offers a good read.

The Turnip Princess

Breezes from Wonderland » Blog Archive » Treasure Trove?.

I have been trying to figure out an overall theme for the recounted lost story of “The Turnip Princess”:

A young prince lost his way in the forest and came to a cave. He passed the night there, and when he awoke there stood next to him an old woman with a bear and a dog. The old witch seemed very beautiful and wished that the prince would stay with her and marry her. He could not endure her, yet could not leave that place.

One day, the bear was alone with him and spoke to the prince: “Pull the rusty nail from the wall, so that I shall be delivered, and place it beneath a turnip in the field, and in this way you shall have a beautiful wife.” The prince seized the nail so strongly that the cave shook and the nail cracked loudly like a clap of thunder. Behind him a bear stood up from the ground like a man, bearded and with a crown on his head.

“Now I shall find a beautiful maiden,” cried the prince and went forth nimbly. He came to a field of turnips and was about to place the nail beneath one of them when there appeared above him a monster, so that he dropped the nail, pricked his finger on a hedge and bled until he fell down senseless. When he awoke he saw that he was elsewhere and that he had long slumbered, for his smooth chin was now frizzy with a blond beard.

He arose and set off across field and forest and searched through every turnip field but nowhere found what he was looking for. Day passed and night, too, and one evening, he sat down on a ridge beneath a bush, a flowering blackthorn with red blossoms on one branch. He broke off the branch, and because there was before him, amongst the other things on the ground, a large, white turnip, he stuck the blackthorn branch into the turnip and fell asleep.

When he awoke on the morrow, the turnip beside him looked like a large, open shell in which lay the nail, and the wall of the turnip resembled a nut-shell, whose kernel seemed to shape his picture. He saw there the little foot, the thin hand, the whole body, even the fine hair so delicately imprinted, just as the most beautiful girl would have.

The prince stood up and began his search, and came at last to the old cave in the forest, but no one was there. He took out the nail and struck it into the wall of the cave, and at once the old woman and the bear were also there. “Tell me, for you know for certain,” snarled the prince fiercely at the old woman, “where have you put the beautiful girl from the parlour?” The old woman giggled to hear this: “You have me, so why do you scorn me?”

The bear nodded, too, and looked for the nail in the wall. “You are honest, to be sure,” said the prince, “but I shall not be the old woman’s fool again.” “Just pull out the nail,” growled the bear. The prince reached for it and pulled it half out, looked about him and saw the bear as already half man, and the odious old woman almost as a beautiful and kind girl. Thereupon he drew out the nail entirely and flew into her arms for she had been delivered from the spell laid upon her and the nail burnt up like fire, and the young bridal pair travelled with his father, the king, to his kingdom.

And now I think I finally have it!  This sounds like the story of a boy becoming a man by coming to terms with his own sexuality!  This is amazing, as usually it is girls who are only accorded adulthood in conjunction with sexual matters.  The boy becomes unable to endure his mother as the female companion in his life.  He becomes aware of his bodily lusts (see: grabbing the nail and the cave shakes like a clap of thunder).  He leaves home, thinking he’s ready to be a man himself, but is frightened by “a monster”, or his own immaturity and fears.  He’s out of the story til he awakes bearded, like the bear he respects and listens to (who obviously represents the manliness he desires to see in himself).  Now  he is grown up to really begin.  Then he goes on a journey, finds his lust again in the blossoming blackthorn, and “pricks” a turnip.  Now when he awakes he’s ready to return to the parent figures he left as an active player and exchange them for a family of his own.  This time the nail “burns up like fire” with the joining of the prince with his princess as a “bridal pair.”  I am pleased with this; now the story shan’t puzzle me anymore.

Mysterious Heyer

I haven’t read a great deal of Georgette Heyer’s mysteries.  To be frank, the couple I read before were not encouraging.  Nevertheless, Behold, Here’s Poison sounded like a good time.  I’m taking time out at about the two thirds mark to say: IT IS.  Thus far my favorite sentence is: “He was dressed with the most finicking care, and nothing could have been more symphonic than the blend of his shirt with his silk socks and his expensive tie.”  Note the use of the word “finicking,” which wordpress is currently claiming is not a word (they also have a problem with “wordpress”).  I have for a long time now believed that “finick” should be able to expand and be used in more ways than “finicky.”  This, right here, is evidence my instinct is correct.  For this alone, this book would be delightful.

However, it also has more to recommend it.  There was a fairly meager start where we meet the staff first (not to figure prominently again, it seems), and the victim is already dead.  Then it picks up, and Georgette Heyer is running with it.  There’s less manners and social conventions than normal, but the twists and turns of the detective’s struggle to find answers are actually unexpected.  Even though there’s a lot less urgency than I’ve found in most murder mysteries, Heyer still contrives to make her insinuations and subtle hints pop up in your head with explanation marks:  Well, it wouldn’t have been her!  SUSPICIOUS!!  So, he’s shady!  And so on.  Unlike an Agatha Christie novel where you feel you’re just trying to keep up with Poirot, or making sure to latch onto everything important, Behold, Here’s Poison is a languid read.  You make more of the connections and predictions yourself without feeling you’re constantly behind.  The detective’s there to do the grunt work and draw out clues-the real stuff thus far remains the reader’s.  (I have my money on X turning out to be innocent in order to become romantically involved with Y.)  When I finish I may draw up an official review, but as I’m enjoying it right now, I wanted a finicking ramble about the experience of it.  After all, a good mystery story really is mostly about the middle, as that is where the suspense, and the draw lies.  The ending is obviously essential, but it doesn’t last as long, and so even a disappointing reveal can’t keep something from being a good read once (providing it’s merely disappointing, not awful).

And now, some sexual….academia!

Beastly Gender Trends

          Throughout my study of “Beauty and the Beast” type fairy tales, defined here as tales wherein either the hero or heroine spend time as both a beast and a human, I paid special attention to the differences between the way each beast was handled based upon their gender.  Many fairy tale scholars have claimed that these “Beauty and the Beast” stories are intended to portray proper marriage roles, or to instill hope in young people consigned to arranged marriages.  While several of the tales do indeed support this theory, I discovered several versions that quite simply did not fit the mold.  Both Austrian versions of this tale, only one of which contains an actual beast, in the other he is simply an old man, end without a marriage between the human and the former beast at all.  In both, the protagonist finds himself rich and free to marry whomever he chooses, or not at all.  Additionally, many of the stories containing a female in animal form portrayed her as preferring the role of animal to that of woman.

            As my research progressed, I found a theme that I contend is more consistently portrayed in these tales.  Namely, the reflection of not only the female’s lack of power throughout history, but also of her enduring ability to create her own self-image, in spite of the world and its rules.  The heroes become recluses as beasts; they are determined to shed the curse through any means necessary, including terrorism and bribery as well as kindness.  And when restored to their human forms, their happiness and relief are immediately apparent through their gratitude to Beauty, and the rejoicing celebrated by himself and those closest to him.  The males associate themselves and their own merits very closely with their exterior form, there is nearly always mention of their restoration to their “true form”, or a proud announcement of their true character.  These heroes not only appeared as beasts, they thought of themselves as animals, despite the knowledge that they were beautiful princes.

           It is true that in “The Pig King”, the hero can don and remove his pigskin at will, and only gives up this power when his parents burn the pigskin.  Yet, even this phenomenal hero behaves only like the beast that everyone believes him to be until he can no longer hide beneath the pigskin.  He remains a beast until after his wedding night, and reveals himself only to her, presumably to keep the option of his animal form open.  Even after his permanent renunciation, perforce, of his animal exterior, he remains known throughout the kingdom as “King Pig”.  Nevertheless, this hero essays to act the part of a human king, because this is the personality he is left with.  When he looked like a pig, he acted like one, and when appearing the beast was no longer an option he acted like a man.  Once again, his exterior form determined the hero’s behavior, regardless of the fact that for most of the story he controlled his own shape.

          On the other hand, heroines who take on animal forms stay consistent characters whether they end up as human or beast.  Those who begin as animals are held captive in their human form by the theft of their animal skin, and the story ends with their repossession of their animal form, and subsequent escape.  These brides act as good wives only until they can discover the whereabouts of their stolen property.  They do not deliberately take on the role of a human, it is forced upon them, and they do not adhere to the rules of faithfulness, loyalty, or honesty when it suits them to do otherwise.  These tales do not detail the time these creatures spend as women; they are animals throughout, the only real difference being that when human they are captive, but when beasts they are free.

Human brides who begin the story as animals, but happily regain their form also reflect this dual philosophy of the female figure, concerning her exterior and interior natures.  These animal brides feel no guilt or remorse at imposing themselves on young men in marriage, not because they are desperate to relieve themselves of their curse as the male beasts are, but because they are confidant that they are still capable of fulfilling the demands of both groom and in-laws.  These animals demonstrate their human personalities by weaving shirts, baking bread, and other feminine tasks assigned to them by either their groom or his father.  Moreover, they always accomplish the best results for their work, and are never surprised when others envy them, even in their beastly shape.  Nor are these characters astonished to learn that their husbands love them, they simply take it as their due.  These females know their worth, in the face of worldly eyes and their own altered skins.

On the other hand, the quality of the love these women are unsurprised to find is highly suspect.  While their husbands grant them appreciation and respect for their merits in fulfilling the general role of wife, male characters cannot accept such general esteem and claim the right to be seen as individuals that is denied their female counterparts.  The male beasts usually require a beautiful maiden to either love or agree to marry him, to appreciate his individual personality.  Heroine beasts, on the other hand, are freed through more general means.  Either it’s a simple matter of taking her animal hide, or the man must prove himself worthy of her through a test.  These tests do not prove any affection for the individual female he is rescuing, they merely establish that the hero is a good man by, for example, offering him multiple gifts and judging his vanity or lack thereof by which one he chooses.   So, while these beastly heroines may be comfortable in their own skins and aware of their own merits, their stories end without anyone else truly knowing them.

In short, whenever a woman onscreen mourns “He was such a good guy!”, or one in real life worries whether she should have break up with someone because “It wasn’t like he was being a jerk,” the remnants of these trends are apparent.  No one really just wants “a nice guy.”  We want to be ourselves and have people respond to who we really are.  I think it’s important to note that even in the genre of stories famous for encouraging people to really get to know each other, and not just judge others by external traits, there’s often still an entire gender being excluded from that consideration.

Hot Cock and the Breech Flaps!

Mitzi Szereto,
Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts
(Cleis Press, 2011)


Mitzi Szereto’s controversial new take on Jane Austen’s classic focuses on what goes on beneath the women’s skirts and behind the men’s breech flaps. Moreover, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts includes a range of erotic encounters spanning from homosexual indulgences and sado-masichistic desires to masturbation and oral sex.

In its favor, this novel uses Szereto’s spicy additions to explore and elaborate on the character’s motivations, thus legitimately reinterpreting Jane Austen’s story rather than simply jamming in the erotica. In fact, Szereto’s often humorous timing inserts itself throughout the book to include erotic flashbacks, as well as current sexual scenarios. The way Szereto’s new material can completely revitalize a well-known scene when inserted in the middle of the dialogue is delightful.

On the other hand, Szereto worked to keep the individual characterizations close to the original, while neglecting to keep the dynamics between her more sexual versions consistent. Unfortunately, this lack of proportion keeps this work from really coming into its own. For example, while certain characters like Lydia have canon traits that make her a much easier target for additional raunchiness, capitalizing on that while keeping Lizzie’s original modesty strong enough that it often affects her enjoyment of her pleasures creates an extreme distance between the two sisters’ behavior that goes much further than the book. The result is that while the individual story lines keep a ring of validity, whenever they intersect things cease to make sense. Since a main plot point in any Pride & Prejudice adaptation hinges on Lydia performing an indiscretion that disgraces her entire family, it is necessary to keep her prior behavior within society’s expectations, if just barely. To keep society’s expectations, Lizzie’s expectations, so much more conservative than Lydia’s behavior for the majority of the book makes her “disgracing” action with Mr. Wickham insufficient for the effect it needs to have on the plot.

Also, when dealing with smaller and more trifling matters where people push the boundaries of acceptability, Szereto constantly apologizes for it. Either Miss Bingley’s new, racy clothes are scandalous, or they are, like Lydia in Austen, tolerable, if rather shaming. To have frequent explanations for how things like Miss Bingley’s clothes are actually scandalous, but there are reasons why people say nothing, seems like apologizing for taking the eroticism too far. These issues with consistency make it difficult to stay immersed in the story at times. Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts should have either pushed as hard as it did against the breech flap of acceptable behavior as it did with Lydia, or it should have kept all its plot lines from thrusting too far. If the acceptable level of “hidden lusts” had been kept in proportion in this work, it would have really made an impact.

In short, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is well worth the time, but is not as credible or engrossing as it could have been. Szereto’s imagination will surprise, her interpretations will intrigue, and her continual focus on breech flaps will eventually bring into existence a band called Hot Cock and the Breech Flaps made up of guys who wear regency-style breeches and at the end of every show tear open their breech flaps to display things like plastic pineapples and harmonicas (at least in a perfect world). It’s worth reading just to find out what else might pop up.

I’ve called you here to name the mystery.

Blotto, Twinks, and the Ex-King’s Daughter
By: Simon Brett
(http://www.simonbrett.com/)
Felony and Mayhem Press 2011
A fictional mystery review

The fine tradition of committing crimes in style while residing in a grand British manor continues in Simon Brett’s Blotto, Twinks, and the Ex-King’s Daughter. When playing host to an exiled king and his entourage, the aristocratic family of Tawcester Towers become embroiled in foreign politics, and of course, murder. Both are highly inconvenient, but with his brilliant sister Twinks at his side, Blotto is good-natured enough to investigate. Through kidnappings, traitors, and a lack of cricket playing, the aristocratic siblings work their way through the twists and dangers of the plot.

The plot of Blotto, Twinks, and the Ex-King’s Daughter adheres severely to the tropes and necessary attributes of a British manor house mystery: dull policemen, significant details, and elaborate unveiling of perpetrators. Brett cheerfully exploits them, with tongue firmly in cheek. The comedic tone is amplified by overly romantic declarations, foreign word substitution, and a writing style reminiscent of Wodehouse.

While some might consider the mystery to be predictable, the humor of situation and tone makes up for it. Blotto, Twinks, and the Ex-King’s Daughter might not exercise the “little grey cells” the way an Agatha Christie novel does, but it’s a fairly quick read that does hit the funny bone, the wits, and the British manor house comfort zone.

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