Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Monday, April 02, 2007

The 12th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans
Estrogen Month: Pop Culture Edition 2007 Wrap-Up
otherwise known as
Iron Chef Blogger Estrogen!

On July 17, 2006 a delightful blogging tradition took root in the fertile online soil of feminist pop-culture communities everywhere, as Chairwoman Lisa "Ragnall" Fortuner created the concept of a Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, which "periodically collects posts from the hazy side-reality where feminist social consciousness meets the outer limits of the imagination. This is to draw attention to lesser known bloggers, to bring individuals of like-minded (or at least, understanding) interests together, and to foster the growth of feminist fan communities." With the Chairwoman standing by, please allow me to introduce a veritable pantheon of virtual virtuosos. Ladies and gentlemen, your Iron Bloggers!

First up is QueerTransGeek Rob Drake, who hails from the UK where blogger cuisine has something of a mixed reputation, but as someone married to an Englishman named Rob your narrator assures you that unfair rep just isn't deserved! Rob's offering is a leftover from Blog Against Sexism Day earlier in the month, but holds up just fine for weeks on end! It's an analysis of female characters in the Sci Fi series The Dresden Files. The judges feel his dish is spot-on, as he whips up a substantive comparison between the TV show and historically weak-on-feminism genres such as hard-boiled detective fiction, and finds the 21st century supernatural 'tec show still lacking! No capable women who aren't defined primarily by their relationship to men? Check! Villainous "queer women who use their sexuality to manipulate men into complying with their schemes"? Double check to the gut! This show doesn't go down well at all to the feminist palate, but we can certainly identify with Rob's frustration and award major points for perception!

Sticking with the TV motif (and who isn't?), our next contestant calls herself tlönista (n. one who invents possible worlds) and checks in as a "godless feminist nerd, ranting and scribbling in the wilds of Toronto the Good, subsists on science fiction, comics, baked goods, ink, and tea." Baked goods and tea, that'll pique the judges' interest right there! The fair tlönista (who gets sun in Toronto this time of year?) shoots down conspiracy theories about Life after Starbuck and segues into a smooth and creamy examination of gender politics via conflicting quotes from Battlestar Galactica bigwig Ron Moore and his wife. Looks like their differences may heat up soon; ready the bamboo steamer!

Another BSG post, submitted via the mysterious Jess, comes to us from John Patrick writing about Feminism in Space over at Bitch Ph.D.'s pad. Apparently the show's plots and turns have slotted in nicely with John's "own personal big fat liberal agenda" this season, and it's always fun to watch science fiction that reflects and supports one's own worldview. "His people are all white on the right side!" was as influential to your narrator's home-baked childhood as "You've got to be carefully taught," after all. Speaking of which, Patrick runs down memorable female characters on SF television from Star Trek onward, wondering if we've come a long way or merely made a circular run in twelve parsecs. I still think Nichelle Nichols is pretty right-on, but then I'm stuck in time, somewhere in the 24th and a half century, and I'm sure those muffins must be done and ready for frosting by now!

Rounding out the viewing course is S.A. Bonasi of Bonasi's Realm, a 20-year old college student who describes herself as "binormal unit vector sexual, which means I'm attracted to math geeks." What's not to love there? S.A. takes a peek at Action and Relationships in Day Break, an interesting-sounding program starring the easy-on-the-eyes Taye Diggs which S.A. "highly recommend[s] to feminists who like relationships, action, or both, regardless of their gender." This satisfying repast is available for repeated viewing at abc.com, at least once one gets past their "new and improved" viewer (dang it all, that sucker better work, I'm an episode behind in Ugly Betty!).

Now we're served a real challenge. The judges absolutely cannot characterize this one, a screed about male jerks by SengAun Ong at Tipskey. Their marks indicate that they found saying "women's awareness about jerks must be escalated" to be rather obvious and unhelpful; furthermore, as we all know, beefs about being jerky are so tough and salty as to be near inedible. One is left wondering what any of this has to do with feminist sf and fantasy.

Thank goodness for the book course, which has produced strong contenders in past Iron Blogger battles and rises to the occasion here as well. First up we have Jen the Tacit Hydra at Venturesome, who reviews Tricia Sullivan's novel Maul, a "post-feminist SF novel with gunslinging girls charging through a mall and a future in which a plague has killed off most of the men" with lots of concepts (both in her review and the book) that your narrator isn't afraid to admit rose above her head like a runaway soufflé and stayed there! The tantalizing aroma of those ideas hangs there still, beckoning and taunting us to greater plateaus that I fear some of us will never quite reach. Alas, the confection in question wound up falling flat for Jen, who feels it didn't follow through on its promise. Isn't it the truth, sometimes no matter how closely you follow the recipe the ingredients just don't mix right. Sounds too rich for my blood to begin with!

More to my speed is the book course from Reb at Adventures in Lame, who gives us a Fast and Fangirly glimpse at a novel she recently reread after not having perused it since young adulthood. Hang on, you mean there are folks who have time to reread books while your narrator has a shelf full of paperbacks whose covers have never been cracked? Not that I'm bitter, or tangy. Reb extols the many virtues of young-adult writer Bruce Coville, an author I've never had the pleasure of reading but who turned out to be a major influence on Reb, who presents a recommended reading list of some of his work. She concludes, "I don’t think I can think of a single other male author –- and very few female ones, for that matter -– who so consistently writes so many dynamic girls." Better for your young readers than an Easy-Bake Oven! Which, of course, would just singe the books anyway, making them harder to read.

Wrapping up the book section of our menu is a Tuesday T&B entry from Maddie at Twisty Faster's blog, I Blame The Patriarchy. This one starts off bafflingly crunchy, as I had to cheat and scroll down to the end to figure out that "T&B" stands for "Truth and Beauty," and dessert before the appetizer is just wrong in most haute cuisine cultures. The confusion continues as this post is apparently spun off from another having to do with Shulamith Firestone's Dialectic of Sex, a book which doubtless contains over 200% of the minimum daily requirement of More Than I Need To Know and therefore one I shall probably never even skim. But to the entrée at hand: it seems many of Twisty's fans and friends are attempting to collate a definitive feminist sf reading list, which appears about as Sisyphusean as trying to serve up a definition of feminism itself, but there you are. I really got frightened and frustrated at the texture of Maddie's ten-dollar words like "approbative" and "enpornulated," but I'll admit I found the second quite tasty although a little slimy on the tongue. I believe she's trying to convey the concept of "chacon a son gout," but that may not sway the judges who still have to arrive at a consensus! Not sure if they're going to appreciate the "heck yes I'm going blame people for not being ahead of their time" sauce, which may be dolloped on a bit thick rather than being portioned out around the edges, but that's not my call to make, for which you can bet I'm grateful!

If you found that rough going, our final course is downright metallic, as Jeremy Adam Smith at Other Magazine's blog whips up The Essentialist Android, which he's hoping will learn the fine art of empathy for future android-human relations. Ah, but can it cook? Jeremy doesn't say, but he does detail studies conducted by Billy Lee, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, designed to help "understand what conditions cultivated empathy, trust, and intimacy." No mention of haggis anywhere, which is obviously a plus for Dr. Lee, but his conclusion? "Women appear to be the gatekeepers of intimacy... If androids are to substitute for the intimacy function of humans, the android body must be equipped with nurturing features associated with the female form." Oh, momma! Looks like our Jetsonian future may be very Rosie indeed unless half the population reconnects their nurture-gene! Especially those Scotsmen. I've heard cooking helps.

Thanks to all our expert chefs for cooking up lots of food for thought! As your after-dinner cocktail, here's a handy conversion table of my and Laura's Estrogen Month: Pop Culture Edition posts from last month:

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
Day 8Day 9Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13
Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19Day 20
Day 21Day 22Day 23Day 24*Day 25*Update*

Due to my Dad's death, I was unable to finish out the month as originally planned and Laura graciously stepped in to do the last three (asterisked) posts. But I did want to briefly mention a few other links I read and liked in the past week: Cranky Girl at Life on Queen Street has begun what promises to be an interesting series about her relationship to comics; Amy at Arrogant Self-Reliance has a terrific analysis of good girl and bad girl comic characters; and, in keeping with our Iron Blogger theme, sbg at the Hathor Legacy examines the dynamics of Take Home Chef and finds the same problems with it that I do. (My thanks to her blog-mate Revena for spreading the word about the rescheduling of this Carnival.) I also wanted to pass on notes from a couple of comic-book Lisas: Lisa at Sequentially Speaking calls our attention to some nifty Sequential Tart t-shirts in real-woman sizes; and Lisa Jonte at Women's Work invites us to be a part of GirlAMatic's fourth anniversary celebration, going on through April 6th. Oh, and my personal culture wouldn't be complete without Melissa McEwen, who's just informed me that her group blog Shakespeare's Sister has now morphed into Shakesville; adjust those bookmarks and blogrolls!

Speaking of which, I've been promising that at least one blogger's cuisine would reign supreme in my sidebar blogroll, so please welcome Raina Telgemeier and Marion Vitus, who not only have the exquisite taste to be respectively married to long-time Friends of Lulu (and friends of mine) Dave Roman and John Green, but who are incredible talents in their own right. Welcome, ladies! I'll continue to read a number of pop-culture bloggers I found during Estrogen Month, and most of the ones not on my sidebar can be found on my Bloglines subscription list in the "Where the Women Bloggers Are" sections. Thanks for tuning in, everyone! Good night and a full stomach to you all!