Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fannie's Faves of 2010

Wahoo! Here's a list of some of my favorite things I read or played in 2010 (these items weren't necessarily released in 2010):

1) Comics

I stopped reading dude comics many years ago once I came to the realization that women weren't represented, or represented well, in many of them. (Yeah, I wasn't the fastest to pick up on that). I resumed the habit several years ago when Joss Whedon and company continued Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 via comic book.

The biggest plus of Season 8 is that the writers have really taken advantage of the comic book format to take the story where it would have been near impossible (or incredibly costly) to go in tv or film. For instance, without divulging too much to those who haven't read it yet, Season 8 includes time travel, slayer fights in flying cars, some interesting body changes for Dawn, and Angel and Buffy fucking all over the universe (literally). For those of us who cried when BTVS ended, the comics have been a fun way to stay in touch with the Scoobies we adore.

Of course, I won't be fully satisfied until they bring Tara back. Make it happen, Jane. Kthx!

2) Video Games

I'm not a huge gamer, but I do have a tendency to get really into good Xbox games that are brought to my attention. Thanks to Sarah (who comments here), I was finally convinced to give Mass Effect 1 and 2 a try. What I liked most about these games is that one can make a female avatar, that it passes the Bechdel Test, that it's a neat sci-fi story, and that same-sex relationships are a feature of the game.

Really, given that it doesn't take much to make me a happy gaming customer, it's sad that gaming companies fail so often.

3) Books

Nonfiction: A Church of Her Own, Sarah Sentilles. (My review is here).

Science/speculative fiction: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (My review is here).

Lilith's Brood, Octavia Butler (My review is here).

Fiction: When I'm not reading nonfiction or sci-fi/spec fiction, I am most drawn to novels about everyday nobodies. Sure, I like a Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta novel as much as the next lesbian, but it's the characters who aren't, say, millionaire computer geniuses who brilliantly fly helicopters through snowstorms that inevitably knock me on my ass with the realization that I genuinely care about these figments of another person's imagination.

A great storyteller, in my humble opinion, is one who invites us to look closely at, rather than turn our heads from, some of life's brutal realities, and who then keep the artist's implicit promise for a glimpse of beauty, or at least truth, within the grit. Michelle Tea, one of my favorite authors, does this well. I relate to many of the characters in her novels, as they tend to be queer women and girls who come from working-class backgrounds with absentee (at best) parents.

Reminscent of the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, Tea reminds us that in crappy life situations, sometimes the truth is that gallows humor gets us through. From Rose of No-Man's Land:

"People always say to me that they wish they had my family.... Really these people are massively wrong. It's like when guys say 'Oh if I had tits I'd stay home and play with them all day, I'd never get out of bed.'...

The sort of funny thing is that all Ma does is lie around and fiddle with her boobs, but it's because she's a hypochondriac and she's terrified she has breast cancer all the time."

Lilian Nattel (who has a blog of her own and sometimes comments here in Fannie's Room), also capably blends grittiness with insight. Whereas Tea sometimes uses humor, Nattel has a gift for revealing profound observations with the sensibilities of a poet. For instance, in The Singing Fire, within the particulars of her characters, a perhaps-universal truth is illuminated at the theatre:

"The human heart, knowing it will die alone, needs to belong to others so it can live; those others who are somehow like us- and in being like us raise us out of the uncountable billions that rise and fall, rise and fall, unremarkable as ants, as cells, as the hands clapping when the curtain rises, torchlights burning at the foot of the stage."

In this story of two women living in late 19th-century London, Nattel then uses this continuing theme of the theatre to raise issues of identity, religion, gender, class, and parenting in subtle layers. Throughout, the reader is invited to question which aspects of ourselves are performances and which are authentically "us." It is a treat to read, particularly from a feminist perspective with Judith Butler in mind.

4) Blogs

Shakesville: Other than Fannie's Room, Shakesville is perhaps my favorite place to on the web to hang out and talk about politics and anything else that strikes my fancy. In addition to the astute writing by all of the contributors, I especially appreciate the effort the moderators put into making it a safe space for discussion. It is a rare nook of the web where civility is the norm. The dog and cat pics are an additional bonus.

Geek Feminism Blog: Another blog I've really gotten into this year is Geek Feminism Blog. As a lady gamer and sci-fi fan, I know that geek communities and media can be sexist and unwelcoming to women, so I appreciate a blog devoted to exploring the intersections of geekdom and feminism.

Sociological Images: I also have been regularly reading the consistently-excellent Sociological Images blog. Its analyses of the visual imagery that surrounds us serves as a consistent reminder that escaping the socializing effects of gender stereotyping would be, no exaggeration, impossible.

Those are some of my favorites, what are yours?

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