Tag Archives: Sheroes

We’re Getting Warmer! (Status Updates for the Sheroic Fundraiser)

As most sheroes members know, this forum is a relatively new home for us, and even though we’re happy to be here, there are some features we miss from our old forum. So, we’ve started a fundraising campaign to pay for some software upgrades to help us feel more at home here. This thermometer will help us track our progress.



Questions about which upgrades the fundraiser will pay for? Want to know how you can get involved? Come join us on the forums!

Who is Your Favorite Fictional Villain?

Today, some of the Sheroes Blog editors dive into their favorite fictional villains and sheroes.

Zoë says: 

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My favorite villain is Hell (or an aspect thereof) from the book Summon the Keeper (Book #1 of The Keeper’s Chronicles) by Tanya Huff. The Keeper’s Chronicles are an incredibly engaging comic-fantasy trilogy, and the first book features the adventures of Claire, her feline sidekick, and a cast of other well-developed characters after Claire is called to deal with a gateway to you-know-where in the basement of a Guest House in Kingston, Ontario.  Hell (or some incarnation thereof) is discovered to be hanging out in the basement, sealed in by the actions of a previous Keeper, but trying quite persistently to escape.  Huff imagines this aspect of Hell as a multi-personalitied, witty, but not altogether brilliant “villain” desperately trying to encroach on the minds of the inhabitants of the Guest House.
Read this if you like light, witty fantasy along the lines of Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, or Patricia C. Wrede.
Ratesjul says:
coverI always find it hard to pick favourites of anything, whether it’s books or authors or characters (or even specifically villains)…. So I’ll give you two. One of my favorite characters is Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter of Three Firs (Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter and sequels). I like Paks because, well, she’s human. She has flaws, and admits to them, and strives to better herself. She goes from little or nothing to honors, and back again. She stumbles into traps, and extricates herself, but will also give in, when it seems best. I guess what I like most about her is that she fights, she doesn’t really give up (and giving in is not giving up), and even as a mercenary she won’t just follow blindly.

20020712022127_105Another favorite character is Elizabeth from V M Caldwell’s The Ocean Within and Tides. I like Elizabeth because she struggles to continue to be herself, to fit within a tug of war between her need to not let anyone matter in case they go away, and to find her place. Particularly when it comes to a small boy who calls her turtle and worms his way into her heart. I read somewhere that there was originally a third book, set between the two of these, and I’d love to read it and see how the family changed in between. Even discovering these books as an adult, I love the characters.

TamLinAs for a favorite villain, I’m not so sure…. So many of them don’t really stick with me as much as the heroes and sheroes do. (I guess I like the happy endings!) One that sticks the most is Tam Lin, who doesn’t particularly have much of a choice in the matter of being a villain. In some ways he isn’t the villain – he is a product of the life he lives (or is forced to live) – but to Janet, in some ways, I guess he is.

Marie says:

119322Compelling villains are the backbone of good literature! I don’t even know where to start. I’m always most taken in by insidious, surprise villains, where you don’t know they’re bad until close to the end. Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is one of those villains. You can almost feel how evil this cloying, beautiful woman is but it’s not until the main character herself figures it out that you realize just how truly horrible Mrs. Coulter is.

As for a favorite character, again, I could pick a thousand! But I’ll stick with His Dark Materials, since those books are fantastic and if you haven’t read them yet and you like young adult fantasy that is deep and sweet and smart, you need to read them ASAP. My favorite character is Lyra Belacqua, the main character,  the girl-who-saves-the-world. She does this, with extreme personal sacrifice, at the age of twelve. She is wild and tough and vulnerable and loving and her sharp as a knife little-girlness is pitch perfect, as is her wrestle with what it means to grow up.

 

We want to know: who is your favorite fictional villain? Who is your favorite fictional shero?

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Marie, Ratesjul, and Zoë are Sheroes Blog editors who fight crime…er…read a lot of books in their free time.

 

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Hey Adriana! Can we go thrift shopping? Whut whut whut whut

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I am a bit of a thrift store aficionado. I can tell you the pros and cons of at least five different Seattle Goodwills and another three Value Villages. On any given day fifty to ninety percent of my clothing is used. I hand out Fossil wallets like Oprah because I just keep finding them.

A lot of people I meet say they have never had any luck at thrift stores and are astonished to find out that most of my clothing is, in fact, used. I get a lot of semi-serious requests to come along on shopping trips to share my mojo. As much as I wish my mere presence made pretty dresses magically appear, it’s really about certain habits.  I have to clear through a lot of junk in one sitting to find that diamond in the rough.

1. The “touch” test. 
Do the rows of knit short sleeve shirts seem to go on for miles? The easiest way to scan through miles of clothing racks quickly is to go by touch. Pull out what feels good. This is going to eliminate a lot of clothes that you wouldn’t be interested in wearing because they’re uncomfortable, and some cool-looking ones you might buy, but would never wear. By feel you can often learn the wear on the item, the quality, it’s purpose and more.

2. Try to get an idea of how clothes will fit by sight.
When I was a wee tween, I could not figure out jeans. I would try on five million pairs in five million different sizes as my body changed, and the hope of finding something mildly stylish that would stay on my butt while covering my ankles dwindled. Then one day I let my mom help. She gave me three pairs and all three fit. I was astonished and asked her how she did it–and she told me she just looked at the cut of the jeans before the size. I started studying my jeans and shirts to see how certain cuts fit better than others on my body. Get an idea of the length of the waistband. Look at the space between the back pockets to  see the size of the seat. Check the length of your favorite shirts. Looking at what fits you now can help you instantly eliminate things that won’t work. Since, at a thrift store, you’re looking at clothes from so many different companies, sizes mean less than they would in a department store or fashion boutique.

3. Don’t be afraid to modify.
I’m not talking major tailoring or completely reassembling clothing, but you can make simple changes to alter the look of an item. Blazer a little too ’80s? Consider cutting out the shoulder pads. That cool dress make you look like a sack of potatoes? Play with its shape; see if pulling it in at the waist (like a tie in the back would do) could make it more form-flattering. Tack on ribbons or a cord to add a tie. Don’t sew? Pair it with a belt!

4. Always, ALWAYS check the washing instructions.
If you know you’re never going to dry clean anything, make sure the item you are buying isn’t dry clean only (or, if it is, consider whether it is worth the money to try washing it and seeing if it holds up). This leads nicely into the next rule which is…

5. Don’t buy it unless it’s just right.
Cool fabric but it doesn’t fit quite right? Gorgeous dress but it’s made out of half inch thick polyester and you sweat enough to fill a small kiddie pool? Don’t go for it. I have made this mistake a billion times where I think an item is cool enough to overcome its faults. It usually isn’t, then you don’t wear it, and then you donate it right back.

6. You can pull off more than you think.
One thing I’ve found over the years is that a lot of items that I thought I might not be able to pull off because they were just a little too bold, odd, or out of fashion, were some that I got the most compliments on. If you think you look good in it, and you think you will wear it, go for it!

Happy thrifting!


Adriana is a microbiologist and aspiring medical illustrator in Seattle, Washington. She enjoys backpacking, hiking, belly dancing and wandering around Goodwills. She lives with her cat Melisande Shahrizai and her fiancé, whom she looks forward to marrying in a second-hand dress.

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Very Specific Book Recs: Bringing up babies

Throughout human history, all over the world, babies have started out life pretty much the same – slimy, squishy, and totally unable to take care of themselves.  Whether their first moments are in a sterile operating room or a tent with a dirt floor, newborns want to be warm, full, and snuggly.  But from that first breath onward, the way adults perceive and treat children varies tremendously between cultures.  As a nanny, I love reading about childrearing practices of all types – it’s a good reminder that there’s no “right” way to raise a child!  Here are some of my favorite books and movies for the baby-crazed.


Babies ‘round the world

12470851How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood

What it’s about: A journalist and mom combines personal experiences with research to cover childrearing practices from a variety of world cultures.  It’s a quick read with lots of anecdotes about babies all over the world.

Read this for: An overview of styles without any preaching.

Don’t read this if: You’re looking for something comprehensive or scholarly.

 

 

 Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman13152287

What it’s about: An American mom raising her young daughter in France discovers the significant differences between parenting styles in each county.  Interestingly, the common French methods fall well into line with RIE or respect-based parenting, but the French parents Druckerman talks to don’t see their parenting as following any specific philosophy.

Read this for: A personal exploration of French and American parenting styles

Don’t read this if: You’ll be offended that she has strong preferences and opinions about the two philosophies.

 

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein8565083

What it’s about: Raising girls in an era of “princess culture.”  Orenstein discusses the Western focus on pretty pink princesses, early sexualization, advertising to children, and the negative effect on girls. This is easily my favorite book on the list, possibly my favorite nonfiction book of any sort, and I wish every American parent and caregiver would read it!

Read this for: A very readable feminist smackdown.

Don’t read this if: You are fiercely loyal to Disney.

 

Babies, then and now

15594 A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

What it’s about: A biography of an 18th century New England midwife by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (author of the now-famous quote “well-behaved women seldom make history”).  Martha Ballard kept a daily record of her life and work as a Maine midwife and nurse for nearly 30 years, and, amazingly, the diary has survived to the present.  It gives a remarkable look into the untold history of women’s lives in an era defined by men’s political actions.  There’s an associated PBS documentary which I recommend as well.

Read this for: A scholarly historical work.

Don’t read/watch this if: You are looking for a light, quick read, since it’s long and quite dense.

 

 6114607The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

What it’s about: A memoir of a midwife in 1950’s London – this is the book and the woman that the popular British TV show Call the Midwife is based on.  Worth was a district nurse and midwife in one of the poorest areas of post-war London, delivering babies in often miserable conditions before the advent of birth control or hospitalized birth.

Read this for: A world of bicycles and babies that will make you want to join a convent.  Then watch the TV show!

Don’t read/watch this if: You are easily grossed out by birth, blood, or grime.

 

Bonus! documentary

Babies (2010) babies-documentary

What it’s about: A documentary that follows 4 babies from the US, Japan, Mongolia and Namibia for their first year of life.  It’s entirely footage of the babies, and the simplicity of the format emphasizes the differences in parenting and the similarities in the babies themselves.  You might be surprised at which practices you identify with!

Watch this for: The babies.  Duh.

Don’t watch this if: You will be bored by the lack of narration or plot.

 


Stellata is an infant/toddler nanny living in Washington, DC.  When she’s not baby-wrangling, she loves baking, handcrafts, reading, and museum-hopping.  Online, she is on the Sheroes Blog editorial team and serves as the Sheroes Central rep to the Board of Directors.  Her book blog can be found at The TBR Shelf.

 

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When authors change the story

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Not too long ago, JK Rowling, beloved author of the even more beloved Harry Potter series, confirmed that hindsight is, indeed, 20/20. In an interview for the February/March 2014 edition of Wonderland magazine conducted by Emma Watson (the acclaimed actress who played Hermione Granger in the eight-part Harry Potter film series), Rowling revealed that, if given her druthers, major supporting characters Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley would not have ended up as a romantic couple. Even worse, she went so far as to suggest that Hermione might have been better off paired with the main man himself, Harry Potter.

Putting aside both the fact that this is straight-up blasphemy to Harry Potter lovers worldwide, and the fact that speaking of a kick-ass female heroine in terms of which one of the boy-heroes she should’ve married undermines her important role in the series, there are other, more philosophical reasons why Rowling’s opinions on the matter are irrelevant.

The furor over this situation in the world of Harry Potter fandom brings up really interesting questions about the nature of literary characters and of literature itself, as well as an author’s authority over his or her own works of literature. Is an author always “right” about his or her characters? Can characters exist outside of their text? They are born in an author’s mind, but are they really brought to “life,” so to speak, until they are published and read?

If the answer to the latter question is “no,” as I think it must be (for example, Hamlet would no more exist in the literary canon if Shakespeare hadn’t been widely read and published than the crush I wrote about in my diary at age 12), then, by the same token, characters are contained, or “live,” wholly within the published works in which they feature. What an author says or thinks outside of those works amounts to nothing whatsoever. For example, imagine John Green saying, twenty years for now, “It’s okay, fandom. Ansel Elgort Augustus Waters actually lives.” Do we reinterpret our understanding of The Fault in Our Stars based on the author’s opinion of his own work?

Of course not. While the above is an extreme example, it demonstrates that if authors hold an incorrect opinion about their own books, they’re not granted any more “rightness” than anyone else just because of their relationship to the material. Once a piece of literature exists, its interpretation is passed into the hands of its readers. An author’s opinions may be considered secondary or tertiary or completely irrelevant when it comes to an interpretation. Like any other reader, an author may correctly or incorrectly analyze a given work, even if that work is his or her own creative property.

So when Rowling says that Hermione and Ron might not have worked out together after all, even though there is an (admittedly poorly written) epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that says that they did, readers are rightfully infuriated. Their vital role in the conversation between text and reader is being ignored, while Rowling is failing to take up her proper place as a reader like anyone else. However, it should soothe readers to realize, even if Rowling doesn’t, that as a reader, she is just as susceptible to wrong or unsupported interpretations of her own text as anyone else.

Harry Potter is finished (as much as it pains me to admit it). Not just finished, but edited, published, and offered for sale in both physical and digital versions. Had Rowling still been drafting the novels at the time of the Wonderland interview, her opinion on the matter would have the utmost importance, and she could have gone home and rewritten the scenes that so clearly demonstrated Hermione and Ron’s growing attraction and affection for one another. However, given that the complete series has been available for public consumption since 2007 (and new paperback editions with gorgeous cover art were just released in August 2013), the content of those books are now outside her control.

Then again, Rowling owns her characters and she can do whatever she wants with them by asserting her absolute authority in published writing that reaches a widespread audience as an obvious continuation of the series. While her interview comments are irrelevant, readers should beware: she could always wave her magic wand and conjure up a new novel in which Hermione and Ron divorce and split their wizarding belongings between them.

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Marie is a writer and editor who lives with her feral cat, and, like most people, prefers dance parties to homework.

 

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Very Specific Book Recs: Queer ladies who kick ass and take names

We’ve all been in that “I want to read a very specific kind of book” mood and then had to go on a mini-quest through the wilds of the internet to figure out which books might hit the spot. Since books about stompy, badass queer ladies who kick ass and take names own one of the happiest places in my heart, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time searching them out and now have a short list of all-time, hit-the-spot favorites to show for it. So, if that’s the mood you’re in, allow me to shorten your quest! If you want some Stompy, Badass Queer Ladies Who Kick Ass and Take Names (and really, who doesn’t?!), here’s what you should read.

1. Aud Torvingen Books (The Blue Place, Stay, and Always) by Nicola Griffith

blueWhat they’re about: Aud Torvingen, a Norwegian-American ex-cop turned sometime-PI, sometime-bodyguard, and all-the-time-badass, solves mysteries, kills people who need killing, falls madly in love, makes good friends, and tries to deal with having feelings she can’t shut down for the first time.

What’s awesome about them: Nicola Griffith’s breath-catchingly glorious writing, which creates the immediacy of a first-hand experience. Aud Torvingen’s complete and total badassery and amazingness. The well-rounded cast of supporting characters. The attention to detail. The intricate and true-feeling emotional journeys. The everything.

What’s not so awesome: These are some of my favorite books ever, so I’m going to say everything about them is awesome. But you should be warned that not all of the books end happily, some of them get very dark indeed, and the second and (to a lesser extent) third books deal heavily with emotional and physical abuse and rape. (It’s handled very responsibly, but it’s there, it’s disturbing, and it could potentially be triggering.

2. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

santa oliviaWhat it’s about: Born in a militarized, no-man’s-land, dystopian quarantine zone between the United States and Mexico, Loup Garron uses her secretly enhanced DNA, fearlessness, and general badassery to go on a crusade to get justice for her people through secret vigilantism and competitive boxing.

What’s awesome about it: What’s not to like in a book about a queer social justice fighter sticking it to The Man? The dystopian aspects are well-developed and completely believable, and the writing style is spare, straight-forward, and lovely—modern-day speculative fiction really seems like Jacqueline Carey’s forte to me! Loup and her friends/chosen family are real, complex, flawed-but-lovely people. The plot is intricate and navigates multiple strands of character concerns with seamless grace. And while I generally give exactly zero fucks about boxing,  Loup and Santa Olivia made me care while I was reading this book.

What’s not so awesome: Again, I’m going to go with everything is awesome! However, be warned that there are some sexual assault triggers (again, handled responsibly). Oh, and the ending clearly leaves space for a sequel, but after hearing my good friend’s thoughts on how bad-fanfic-y and strange the sequel is, I’ve decided to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

 3. God’s War by Kameron Hurley

9359818What it’s about: Nyxnissa so Dasheem—a badass, hardass, bisexual war veteran in a country fighting a centuries-old religious war—starts off as a government assassin, becomes a bounty hunter, and is offered a bounty by the government. Then all hell really breaks loose.

What’s awesome about it: Feminist dark-and-gritty-realities-of-war speculative fiction! Planet exclusively colonized by Muslims, most of whom are people of color! Completely badass and heartbreakingly awesome protagonist! Plotting and world-building so intricate that any brief summary feels woefully inadequate. Characters so real that it hurts. Nuanced exploration of gender roles, race, power, oppression, religion, and a whole host of other social issues, all integrated seamlessly into the story and never given easy answers.

What’s not so awesome: The fact that I haven’t had time to dive into the sequels yet? Honestly, I think everything about this book is awesome!  But you should know going in that it is pretty fucking dark, and it is not the book to read if you want an uncomplicatedly happy ending. Sexual violence is also hinted at a few times but always handled responsibly.

 4. Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

ascensionWhat it’s about: A down-on-her-luck woman of color starship mechanic with a chronic pain disorder stows away on a cargo ship whose crew is looking for the mechanic’s metaphysically gifted sister. Interstellar intrigue and action sequences, complicated sibling relationships, and adorable polyamorous romances ensue.

What’s awesome about it: Queer, disabled, completely badass woman of color protagonist! Insubstantial starship pilots! People who might be wolves who might be people! Really hot, really competent, really badass starship captains! Sisters who are really different and can’t stand each other, but still love each other fiercely and will do anything to protect each other! Polyamory!

What’s not so awesome: If you spend more than five seconds thinking critically about the world-building, the character development, the plot progression, or the villain’s motivations and actions, the entire thing will collapse in a heap of inconsistency and “Wait, what??” But who needs to think critically when there are badass poly queer ladies running around blowing things up? Not me!

5. Gossamer Axe by Gael Baudino

790426What it’s about: A 6th-century Celtic harper who escaped from Fairyland discovers that the way to free her lesbian lover, who is still trapped there, is to form an all-women ‘80s metal band in Denver, Colorado.

What’s awesome about it: ‘80S METAL BAND IN DENVER, COLORADO FIGHTS FAIRIES THROUGH THE POWER OF ROCK AND ROLL. Do I really need to say more? I especially love this because heavy metal makes me ridiculously happy, so badass queer ladies being literal rockstars and making close female friends and fighting evil fairies with minor-key power chords is just kind of a trifecta of things that make me happy.

What’s not so awesome: Everything about the way the one major character of color is written is racist and paternalistic. Also, there is a bunch of pretty explicit “Wicca and paganism are the best, most enlightened religions ever!” proselytizing. Also, trigger warnings for physical and sexual abuse apply.

 6. Dust by Elizabeth Bear

2353644What it’s about: Two extraordinary women with biotechnologically-derived super powers (and their allied angels) battling it out with their evil, corrupt, super-powered relatives (and their allied angels) for control of a stranded generation spaceship.

What’s awesome about it: Centuries-old, half-forgotten biotech giving rise to a mythos of angels, basilisks, necromancers, knights, and chivalry on a spaceship, all narrated in gorgeous prose. Lots of badass ladies with specialized knowledge of everything from swordplay to science! People with genetically-engineered wings! Asexual and sexual people creating relationship structures together that work for all of them! Nonbinary characters!

What’s not so awesome: The main romance is between women who are biologically half-sisters, and even though they didn’t grow up together and incest is culturally common among their family and justified by the world-building, it’s still a little weird. Also, Dust is the first book in a trilogy, and while the trilogy as a whole ends fairly happily, Dust doesn’t…and the two sequels are not quite as well-written or fun, so it takes a little slogging to get to the happier ending. (I don’t actually mind that Dust doesn’t end 100% happily, but I think it’s only fair to warn you guys.)

 7. The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

185867What it’s about: Katherine’s eccentric ducal uncle invites her to court, but instead of giving her the traditional court debut and young noblewoman’s social season she expects, he orders her trained as a swordsman.

What’s awesome about it: Courtly intrigue and swordplay! Katherine’s determination to make the best of her weird, not-what-she-would-have-chosen situation  and carve out an unconventional place for herself in high society. The close female friendships with undertones of feudal vassalage, which are really rare in a fantasy novel about women. Katherine’s innocent and joyous discovery of her own sexuality in a completely no-fuss, “Hey, I think I like those girls! And this boy! Whee, this is fun!” sort of way.

What’s not so awesome: Even though Katherine is bisexual, this is not the book to read if you’re in the mood for queer lady-on-lady action. Also, it deals a lot with sexual assault and its aftermath, and even though they are handled very responsibly, there is an unrelated sex scene later on which sets off all of my “WHOA, BACK UP, THAT WAS NOT CONSENT!” alarm bells, even though the writer very clearly meant it to be a consensual scene.

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Liyana is a queer actor, aerialist, bookworm, and tea enthusiast. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and is confused by the concept of “free time.”

 

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