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Way back in the early days of the millennium, I chose ModernWizard as a screen name, a practice that I have continued over the past 10+ years to create a coherent online identity.  I specifically chose it because it combines connotations of magic and fantasy with a more up-to-date sensibility. I also specifically chose it because it's not gender-marked, although, now that I think about it, most people think "wizard" to be a gender-marked word, the male equivalent to "witch." Also informing my choice was a T-shirt I had at that time with glow-in-the-dark constellations, which, I decided, would be appropriate for a modern wizard's garb, as opposed to the stylized astronomical symbols of yore. ^_^

Anyway, people who don't know me continually assume that I'm a guy. Well, let me rephrase that -- straight cis white dudes continually assume I'm one of them by using masculine pronouns on trade references or calling me sir. It is interesting that women do not do this.

I could go off onto a whole tangent about the gendered ways in which people write only and how people interpret other people's gender from what they write [For example, I very rarely see masculine-identified people use ^_^. :), :( and :p, yes, but ^_^, no. :p ] and what happens when one reads "conflicting" cues. I don't wanna, though. The end.
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When I first wrote about Jodi Anderson's tedious slog of a novel Tiger Lily, I predicted that Pine Sap, Disabled Stereotype Extraordinaire, was going to die.

Now, having finished the book [give me a medal for endurance], I would like to apologize. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Pine Sap does not die. Instead, he becomes Tiger Lily's Consolation Prize Husband after Peter leaves Neverland to grow up in the UK as Wendy's husband. [I'm not gonna even go into how narratively wrong that is.] Pine Sap's status as Permanent Runner-up is not at all an improvement over my assumption that he would be the Tragic Dead Guy. He's still portrayed as inherently pathetic and not as awesome as Peter because of his disability.

So guess who dies? Tik Tok. Yes, Tiger Lily's adoptive dad bites it. On insistence from a shipwrecked "Englander," the Sky Eaters force Tik Tok to change his gender presentation and wear men's clothes. He loses his spirit and commits suicide as an instructive object lesson to Tiger Lily about what happens when you try to deny your true self.

Really, Anderson? You're gonna go with the Tragic Dead Queer trope? You realize it's a fucking evil stereotype, right?

...No, apparently you don't. Boy, you really do have shit for brains.
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Trans people are actual people, not Thematic Elements That Underscore the Protagonist's Ponderous Musings About Mutability. It's stupidly disingenuous of you to claim, through your protagonist, that you are not making the protagonist's trans girlfriend a Thematic Element when you end up explicitly making the girlfriend a Thematic Element a few hundred pages later. Kindly fuck off until you learn the secret to writing trans characters.

Hint: It's NOT A SECRET, and you, being a published author of some experience and renown, should know it already. Here's the hint: you write about a human being with the attribute of being trans, instead of writing about the concept of Transness that incidentally has the attribute of being human. You can do it with your queer cis female characters. Why can't you do it with your queer trans female character?

Do you care about trans people at all? [Do you even known any?] Or do you just think that writing "tr***y" makes you grittier, edgier and more shocking? I'm going with option C, given your colossal cluelessness.

I am so disappointed in you. I am never reading anything you write again, which is a pity because I liked The Red Tree.

You do realize that The Drowning Girl, catalyst of my ire, is nothing but a flaccid, digressive, anti-trans Red Tree wanna-be in need of ruthless editing, right?

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Peter Pan was published in 1911 by the British author J.M. Barrie, based on a 1904 play called Peter and Wendy. It’s the story about three British kids, Wendy, John and Michael, who go to the Neverland of their imaginations. There they have adventures with pirates, mermaids, wild animals, lost boys and, of course, the boy who wouldn’t grow up: Peter Pan.

The concept of Peter Pan and the crude outlines of the story have exerted a fascination over US and British readers for more than a century. Thanks to Disney’s 1953 animated adaptation, most US fans have rather superficial ideas about Peter Pan, chiefly involving flying, fairy dust, pirates and maybe a crocodile. Naturally, the play and the novel are much messier and more interesting than our cliched ideas about them.

Having read Peter Pan many, many times, I could provide you with rants on everything from the authorial interruptions to the treatment of female characters, but right now I am focusing on the Indians. Yeah, there are Indians in Neverland. They are members of the Pickaninny tribe, referred to by that narrator as “red men,” and they scalp people. I am not making this up; Barrie specifically writes that the name of the Indians’ group is a racist term for African-American people. Furthermore, the Indians have silly nature-related names like “Great Big Little Panther.” They also talk like stereotypical Japanese people who can’t pronounce their Rs. In short, the Indians are a horrible farrago of Edwardian racist stereotypes, which kind of makes sense, if you figure that Neverland is populated by Wendy, Michael and John’s ideas of Indians gleaned from idealized and disparaging media they have consumed.

The only Indian in Peter Pan to develop something like an individual personality is Tiger Lily. Described as the trite Ice Maiden who “staves off the altar with a hatchet,” she is beautiful, imperious and aloof to all potential suitors. For some reason, though, she has a rather pathetic crush on Peter, declaring, “Me his velly nice friend.” [See what I mean about the stereotypical broken English?] Her major scene occurs when Smee and Starkey kidnap her, but untie her at Peter’s orders, as they think he is Captain Hook. Tiger Lily does the smart thing and immediately jumps off Smee and Starkey’s boat and swims away to freedom. Other than that, though, she’s a barely personalized bit of scenery.

One hundred years after Barrie published the original novel, Jodi Lynn Anderson decided to vomit forth her revisionist response entitled Tiger Lily. In this version, narrated by an observant but mostly uninvolved Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily is merely referred to as a “native,” a member of the Sky Eater tribe. A teenager, she lives with her adoptive father, the cross-dressing shaman Tik Tok, and excels at “masculine” pursuits and suppressing her emotions. She meets Peter Pan and falls in love with him, an experience that, of course, feminizes and gentles her. [I fucking hate that trope.] Her impending marriage to a cruel lout, as well as the arrival of Wendy, John and Michael, messes everything up. Angst ensues. As far as I can tell, this is a cheap attempt to capitalize on the paranormal romance subgenre by employing, for no discernible reason, the trappings of a previous author’s universe.

As soon as I heard about Anderson’s book, I began to cringe. Why is she so interested in rehabilitating stereotyped Indians? What makes her think she has the authority to tell Tiger Lily’s story? Why do we need yet another white author with no native connections treating the Indians of Peter Pan like shit? [I’m serious. In all sequels and adaptations of the story that I’ve read or read about, the Indians fare extremely poorly. Please check Debbie Reese’s "Peter Pan" and "Peter Pan in Scarlet" tags on American Indians in Children’s Literature for details. Reese is an author and activist tribally enrolled in Nambe Pueblo (New Mexico), and she knows what she’s talking about.] The answer to these three questions appears to be 1) no idea, 2) absolutely nothing and 3) we don’t. Yet Anderson forges ahead.

I decided to give Tiger Lily a chance, though. I was right – it is cringeworthy and terrible. The persistently clueless portrayal of the Sky Eaters combines with the talentless writing to create a literary disaster.

This book is so bad that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start, for want of a better place, with the subject of consistency. All of the “native” tribes of Neverland appear to be named after their location – the Bog Dwellers and the Cliff Dwellers, for example – except for Tiger Lily’s tribe, the Sky Eaters. Why aren’t they named after their location as the Forest Dwellers? What’s this irrelevant business about the sky and eating it? Here’s just one clue of many that Anderson hasn’t thought her world through.

The Sky Eaters behave like a loose collection of Native American stereotypes. They live in huts; they have a medicine man, Tik Tok, even though he is called a shaman, who heals people and works magic; they wear deerskin clothes; they have long black hair and high cheekbones; many of their names follow the stereotype of Literally Translated Natural Phenomenon; they worship many gods or spirits…argle bargle bargle. Despite this, they don’t seem to have any culture. Anderson will often add asides about the Sky Eaters’ marriage customs, religious beliefs or bathing habits, but we never see these things affecting the characters’ actions or the development of the plot. Tiger Lily’s little village, populated by the Loving Adoptive Dad, the Disabled Kid With a Crush on Her, the Teen Exemplar of Femininity, the Evil Suitor, the Evil Suitor’s Mom and Various Uncomprehending and Gossipy Tertiaries, could appear in any other setting without a problem. It’s a thoroughly generic story and a thoroughly generic setting, which Anderson only gestures at making specific. And, unfortunately, her idea of making the Sky Eaters specific involves tossing them into a pit of Indian stereotypes.

Even though I’m only halfway through, I’m dogged by the sense that Anderson is telling the wrong story. As I mentioned, the depiction of Tiger Lily and the other Sky Eaters is so vacuous as to deter sympathy, identification and investment in Tiger Lily’s experiences. Furthermore, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan have a tediously formulaic Forbidden and Doomed Love piece of crap going on, which is also boring. I’m much more interested in…well, basically anyone except them. For instance, what’s Tik Tok’s history? How does Pine Sap [Disabled Kid with a Crush on Tiger Lily] feel about being a sensitive, thoughtful butt of tribal jokes? What’s the relationship between Smee and Hook? Why does Tink have a crush on Peter? Where the hell are all the other faeries anyway? Where’s the magic?

Neverland holds such a grip on our imaginations because it’s a problematic, messy, dangerous, powerful place. Anderson commits a crime against fiction by sticking it somewhere in the Atlantic, leaching out the magic and populating it with racist and sexist cliches that wouldn’t grow up.

P.S. I just know that Pine Sap is going to die. The disabled character always bites it in this kind of ableist tripe.

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I'll say a phrase, and you tell me the first words that come to your mind.

Okay? Ready? Here we go:

"Lesbian vampire erotica."


Read more... )
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Now that I have a month-long trial of Amazon Prime [free 2-day shipping!!!], I can't stop buying books. Yesterday I got Whipping Girl by Julia Serano and One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Dreger. Today I got Alison Bechdel's two memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Yum yum yum, so much to read!
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Holy poop, there are practically no up-to-date, non-self-published books about having a trans partner.

I am deeply disappointed.
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I ordered $150.00 worth of books today from Amazon. I don't think I've ever bought so many books for pleasure at one time [purchasing college textbooks does not count]! Spoils include Mindfulness and Hypnosis by Michael Yapko, Beyond Binary [genderqueer sci fi!] by Brit Mandelo, Engines of Desire [dark fantasy and horror collection] by Livia Llewelyn and Laird Barron, Trans/Love by Morty Diamond, plus some stuff that I am not mentioning. I'm very exciting for all these cool queer and trans books to arrive on my doorstep. God knows I'd never be able to get them from any library in this state...
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The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior and Oracle's Queen, all by Lynn Flewelling, have an unusual premise for your standard Training of the Fantasy Prince trilogy. Prince in question is actually a princess who, through the help of necromancy suffered shortly after birth, has appropriated the body and likeness of her dead twin brother.

Critical details within. )

On the level of an adventure fantasy, this trilogy works well. High points include universally appealing characters and an appealingly matter-of-fact treatment of both magic and ghosts. As a ghost story and/or a transgender story, the trilogy, for all its interest in matters ghostly and transgender, doesn't do so well. While making central the subjects of spirits and transgender identity, Flewelling ultimately uses them as unusual, skillfully rendered, but uninsightful, plot points. Good fantasy.

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Breeds of Man by F.M. Busby about the development of cyclical sex-switching after destruction of human population by the AIDS virus.
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Gotta read this. It has an inherently interesting premise, about a high school girl who changes into a boy for a few days every month. It's also a YA book, which piques my curiosity even more. 
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This is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married, which I have discussed previously in two entries [1 and 2]. She's a writer and activist for transgender rights, and you should go see her if interested. I am excited to hear her in person. I really hope her reading/presentation is good....
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I didn't know, but Helen Boyd wrote a follow-up to My Husband Betty. The follow-up, She's Not the Man I Married, chronicles her husband's transgender transition. [I think...I haven't read it.] I may have to look at it.

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She's the one!
She went and joined the army, passed the medical...don't ask me how it's done!
She's got medals...
--David Bowie, She's Got Medals

That's one of my most favorite songs ever, especially the bouncy tone in which it's sung. It's from his early years, when many of his songs sounded like nursery rhymes or children's play songs, even as they addressed child rape and murder (Please Mr. Gravedigger), sexual masochism (Little Toy Soldier), depressed veterans (Little Bombardier) and stupid people using drugs (Join the Gang). He was just around 20 when composing and singing most of these songs, and he just sounds so gleeful about the whole business.

Oh right...I was going to write about a blog I found. First off, let me recommend Helen Boyd's book, My Husband Betty. It's about her relationship with her cross-dressing husband. I think this is one of the strongest books on sexuality that I have ever read because the author describes her ambivalence very well, as well as her confusion about the sex and gender significance of cross-dressing. Also, she writes strongly, with psychological and critical insight, not to mention emotional balance, even as she describes emotional tumult. Anyway, she has a blog, (en)Gender, about trans news and debates and media and topics, and I'm poking in it now.

So there are your three recommendations for today: She's Got Medals by David Bowie, My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd and (en)Gender, also by Helen Boyd.
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So I'm reading Ovid's Metamorphoses [translated by Allen Mandelbaum] for the nth time, enjoying it immensely. Ovid is such an overwrought, yet mellifluous, writer with a constant sense of fun.

One of my favorite Ancient Greek/Roman myths concerns Tiresias, a seer. He was walking along when he saw two snakes mating. He struck the female snake with his staff and changed sex to be a woman. After being a woman for 7 years, Tiresias came upon mating snakes again. He struck the male snake with his staff and changed sex to be a man.

After that, the gods had a fight about who enjoyed sex more, men or women. Zeus said it was women. Hera said it was men. They asked Tiresias to decide, since he had been both. He said women enjoyed sex more. Hera got pissed and blinded him in vengeance.

Tiresias passed the Amazing Transsexual Stick on to Hermes, messenger god, whose symbol is a winged staff called a caduceus with two snakes wrapped around it. This is not the same snake on a cane as Aesclepius' rod, a medical symbol which probably comes from the way that ancient doctors tried to get, say, tapeworms out of people: by wrapping one end of the worm around a stick and pulling. More than you ever wanted to know here.

Aesclepius' rod most properly symbols the medical practice that performs transsexual operations. Hermes' rod most properly symbolizes transgendered persons who have had sex-change operations!

See Snakes on a Cane [a caduceus] below...

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