I have been “off” facebook for, I think, about 6 months now. It feels exactly the same as being “on” facebook, from an emotional standpoint, except for the fact that I no longer feel that clingy addiction-buzz that I used to get when I was a user. I like how the word “user” has a double-meaning here. Convenient.
I have also quit WOW relatively recently; it hasn’t even been a full month yet, and again, it feels emotionally around about the same.
It’s not the same, though, and that’s good.
To make up for these pasttimes, I have been picking up others – not new ones, not really, but they feel pretty new. Specifically, I’ve been reading.
Even more specifically, I’ve been reading The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and the Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead. Do I have problems with them? Fuck yes. I could – and maybe will – write several long, ranty-ass opinion pieces about them when I’m through, or when my problems become so intense that I can’t keep myself from venting any longer.
But goddamn, I need this. I need so badly to be reading, a lot, and without any designs to write revies about them. I enjoyed my YA kick a few years ago, but at least part of that was motivated by an urge to gather material for this blog. This blog really hasn’t seen much use from me lately – or it feels like that at least. Mostly because I’m not writing as much. Maybe writing a whole book plus a whole MA manuscript has taken it out of me more than I realise. Whatever the reason, I no longer feel that urge to create content for this blog, which means that it’s inevitably growing stagnant and stale. And I’m okay with that, but it’s not exactly a winning formula for running a blog. I’m okay with that too, though.
Mostly because I’m enjoying what I’m doing currently, more than I’ve been enjoying much of anything for quite a while. It’s nice to just read, and these books especially facilitate that activity – problematic content abound, but fuck are these things easy to get through. It’s a similar feeling to binge-watching, only with less of an effort on my part. No need for an internet connection or to even sit upright to enjoy this media; all I have to do is just lie there and let it happen.
Speaking of which – yeah, I think I will have to at least give an overview of these books at some point. Particularly the Dark Swan series with regard to my above innuendo.
Fuck it I’ll do it now SPOILER WARNING.
While reading Storm Born today, I literally asked myself out loud how this could possibly be the premise of a book, and wondered much earlier how this was even possibly published. Not because it’s badly-written, obviously; this shit is not high literature but it’s designed to be readable, and that is a form of good writing. No, it’s because I have never come across a book – or any media product – so obsessed with rape, and handling the topic with all the thoughtfulness and tact of a comments section. And yes, that is hyperbole, but if you’ve read it you may be able to appreciate my use of it here.
Then there’s The Dresden Files, and while the issue there is more general, insidious, “no that’s just how the character thinks it’s totally not really actually sexism actually” sexism, it’s bad enough by book 3 – Grave Peril, for those interested – that it’s almost enough to make me stop reading.
Because both of these series, again, are remarkably readable. It’s kind of hilarious, in a depressing way, what I will actually tolerate content-wise if it’s delivered in comfortable enough prose. Like Harry Dresden in Grave Peril, for instance: by the end of the book he’s basically a full-on mass murderer, and all that happens is that he feels bad about it, kinda, for a little bit, a pain that is quickly superseded by that of his girlfriend – who has been bitten by and is on the verge of turning into a vampire and suffering the psychological, physical and emotional consequences of it – breaking up with him. Man, poor Harry. He has it so hard.
It’s also gross in Storm Born how main character Eugene becomes the target of every male Otherworld entity because of a prophecy concerning her child reigning in the Otherworld’s conquest of the human world. You know how in typical urban fantasy novels, the action sequences generally revolve around trying to get information out of supernatural beings or avoiding being killed by them? Here, the action sequences are all sexual assaults. Every single fucking one.
And then, Eugene enters into a weird contract-based relationship with Fae lord Dorian, wherein she will make out with him in public and make all the other Fae think she’s sleeping with him in exchange for 1) him teaching her how to use her latent Fae powers (she’s half Fae, specifically half-the-most-powerful-fae-to-ever-live), and 2) getting all – or at least most – of her would-be rapists off her back for fear of reprisal from Dorian. During his training, he ties her up to chairs a lot, for the purposes of forcing her to focus her thoughts to control her powers. Of course, she finds this secretly really hot, while being put off by the fact that he’s Fae and she’s been raised to see his kind as marauding rapist monsters that she’s trained to kill. They make out a couple of times, and both times she feels an instinctual urge to stop, and blames herself for feeling like she wants to stop. Literally, she asks herself why she can’t just force herself to fuck him despite her instinctual urge to not do so, in the same way you might ask yourself why you never really appreciated your ex while you were still together.
Because, you see, she finds him tying her up to be quite exciting, and even though she doesn’t trust him while they’re making out, she does trust him when he ties her up, and this is conflicting for her.
And then they do actually fuck, and the way she gets herself to do it is by telling him to tie her up. Her inner monologue informs us that this is because she wants the decision taken out of her hands. Dorian, to his credit – or something like credit anyway – does ask her to tell him what to do and not do, they have pretty vanilla kinky bondage sex, she likes it.
AND THEN she next day she feels bad, because after all of these other Fae dudes trying to rape her, she “gave in” and “submitted” and “what does this say about me” and, like, yeah that’s actually a nice bit of character-work and I appreciate it. It works, it makes sense, it feels real. I always appreciate that.
What I do NOT appreciate is that fucking DORIAN is the one to then go on a big rant about what does and does not constitute rape. And that’s where I’m up to, because whatever kind of deal I need to make with myself in order to read beyond this point, I have yet to make it.
The bit that really gets me is when he says this: “rape is brutal.” The general patronising tone is bad enough, but this?
It’s just untrue.
Rape is horrific, but it’s not always brutal. Sometimes it’s soft and gentle. Doesn’t make it any less horrific; probably makes it more horrific in some cases. But it does make it fall outside of the narrative parameters that we have set up around rape, particulary what does and doesn’t count. And look, I’ve become a lot more tolerant of problematic shit just from reading these 3 books; I don’t have any less of a problem with it on a moral level, but I can get through it for the sake of enjoying myself overall. Hell, even Storm Born falls into that category. And at the very least, Dorian wraps up with an important point: if there’s consent, it’s not rape, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of having the kind of sex you like as long as there is consent.
I might be able to appreciate this more if it wasn’t … I mean, Richelle Mead is a woman, so this maybe doesn’t count as mansplaining in a literal sense, but … no. This is mansplaining. And not just mansplaining; it’s mansplaining rape, to a woman, who spends the entire fucking book fighting off potential rapists. And this dude is the main love interest.
Even so, I’ll take him over Kiyo, the red-herring love interest. At least he doesn’t mansplain rape; but he is a whingy, jealous, manipulative liar. There’s actually a serious level of Edward/Jacob mirroring going on here; Kiyo is not only the Ethnic One (Japanese), and therefore obviously not the proper love-interest, but he turns into a giant fox. Bigger than normal foxes. And he’s primal and aggressive and made of sex, whereas Dorian is refined and elegant and pretty and has pale fucking skin and OH MY GOD HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS UNTIL NOW, UNCLEAN, UNCLEEEAAANNN …
I have said that I prefer Jacob to Edward multiple times, but not to the point where I’d rather Bella had ended up with him instead. Neither of them deserved her; and while she’s a pretty shitty person, she’s at least a shitty person who could potentially amount to something better if given the chance, like some decent friends or role-models. I feel similarly about Jacob, but not Edward. He’s a lost cause, and it’s the lost cause part that makes me prefer Dorian to Kiyo. Kiyo reminds me of Clayton from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, which I also wrote a sort-of review about a while back. Not because he’s a literal rapist, which Clayton is, but because he’s played up to be sexy based on the fact that he’s so primal and animalistic. But that same animalistic nature is what also makes him feel extremely “set”, unable to change. Dorian, I feel, could learn to stop fucking mansplaining and become a better charming asshole. But Kiyo would surprise me if he proved capable of learning a sex position other than missionary or, of course, doggy-style. (How Richelle Mead kept herself from making that joke after 4 sex scenes between Eugene and Kiyo, I do not know.) And in the end, even a character who fucks me off tremendously will escape the full extent of my ire if I feel there is any potential for redemption, and Kiyo doesn’t have that potential.
Having said all of this, I am still going to finish not just this book, but the whole series – it’s a four-parter, so it’s not that much to get through, and I have to admit I’m just kind of morbidly curious. Not to see the ending; thanks to goodreads I’ve had that spoiled and, well, I’m hardly surprised. But just to see how it plays out.
And because, at the end of the day, readability is the most important aspect of these books for me. I fucking read Beautiful Creatures in one fucking day, and that’s not a short book, nor is it written even half as well as Dark Swan or The Dresden Files. But it was utterly captivating, and right now I just want to be captivated. Perhaps there is higher-quality captivating media that I could be consuming – but honestly, I don’t care if there is. Not yet, anyway. I can feel my internal reserve of tolerance for this shit waning, but until it’s gone completely I’m sticking it out, because it is fun. I am having a good time. And that’s more important to me than critical thinking right now.
Just hopefully not forever.
But what’s really important to me is that, while the specifics will always have issues, on the whole I can feel a shift in my life and how I feel about it – something has changed within me; something is not the same. And I’m down with that.