Review: The Whitefire Crossing

Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He’s in high demand as a guide for caravans that carry goods all the way from the mage-ruled city of Ninavel to the nation of Alathia. He makes good coin smuggling contraband charms from Ninavel–where all magic is permitted, no matter how dark–into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

Smuggling a person through, however, is another story, but, having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev agrees to take Kiran–an apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in the land–on the perilous trek across the Whitefire Mountains, ignorant of the true reason behind Kiran’s desperate plight.

Yet Kiran is hardly the only one harbouring a deadly secret, with enemies on all sides and no idea who to trust, can the two men learn to trust each other in time to prevent their own destruction, and that of the entire city of Ninavel?

This book, what can I say about it?

I originally learned of this book’s existence by reading Fangs for the Fantasy’s review of the sequel “The Tainted City” (ALL the spoilers!) and, determined not to make the same mistake they did, added the first one to my wishlist. It has been sitting in my queue since Christmas, so that’s how distracted I’ve been by other books that I wasn’t able to get around to it. I think I might have also been intimidated by its size (don’t be fooled by the bulky look, the book is a fast read

Now that I’ve read it, I honestly have no idea why I like this book so much.

Let’s start with the premise. The idea of a magocracy where there’s unrestricted use of magic (including the type of magic that requires a pile of corpses in order to work) is an interesting one, the magical system is the type that has definite rules, but not so many that you need an appendix (or, gods forbid, a guidebook) to decipher all of them. Ninavel in particular really comes alive, and I wish there were more scenes set in the city before they set out.   The story is told from the perspectives of both Dev and Kiran (Dev in first person, Kiran in third) with the perspective switches clearly marked out in the text.

And then there’s the mountain climbing porn.

The author has a lot of experience climbing mountains, and the actual act of crossing the Whitefire mountains takes up a good chunk of the book (hence the title), a chunk of the book that involves avalanches, risky climbs, and sheltering in caves from a storm, you know, all the things you would expect from an adventure involving mountain-climbing.

Even if you’re not a fan of mountain-climbing, there’s still plenty of character drama to keep you engaged. Dev is a man who has very recently been cheated by his conniving ex-partner and is singularly driven to complete his deadly mission for the sake of a promise he made to a dying friend to protect his daughter (currently destined for a life in the world’s most unethical pleasure house) and Kiran is on the run from a mage who practically owns him (and he’s keeping his share of secrets as well, not from the reader, but definitely from Dev). Other important characters are Pello, a spy of the sort who would sell out his own mother if he had something to gain from it, and Cara, who heads the team of outriders (scouts) which Dev and Kiran join as a pretext for their smuggling operation. The characters are all very human. Some books that I’ve read (Maledicte being one of the worst offenders) have characters that seem more like prose-dispensing machines than flesh and blood people, not so here. One of the more memorable scenes for me was when Cara cusses Dev out for doing something really, really stupid. She was saying pretty much what I was thinking. Also, Ruslan is one of my favourite types of villain, arrogant, powerful, cruel, brilliant, even tender….before he goes back to being cruel.

Speaking of Cara, it’s nice to see a very sexually-active woman who isn’t slut-shamed. In fact, when Dev complains that she’s been wasting time and possibly compromising their mission by making out with a potentially dangerous man, she replies: “Spy or no, he’s not bad-looking” (and that he has a nice ass).

It’s also refreshing to read an epic fantasy that isn’t Whites-Only-Except-On-This-One-Continent-Full-of-POC. There are a bunch of people of colour in The Whitefire Crossing, including Dev himself (brown skin and dark hair and eyes appear to be dominant in his country). However (and this is a big however) all of the antagonists except one are described as having “slanted eyes” (the third has brown skin, like Dev). Jylla, Dev’s ex, has the same trait, and she’s a conniving, selfish twatwaddle (although Dev admits that damn, he could use her skills, because she was always so much better at manipulating people). On the “well, that’s kind of creepy” front, we have one of the antagonists lustfully leering at Kiran as he lovingly describes how he’s going to make Kiran a mindless zombie slave for the rest of his life. Which is not creepy, or in any way suggesting that same-sex attraction is predatory OH WAIT YES IT IS! To be fair on this front, though, there is the casual suggestion from Cara that it would have been easier if Dev had just brought Kiran “for a little fun in bed” and Dev has his entire motivation to take care of his friend’s daughter, although that’s more of a father-son type relationship.

I’m telling you this because, judging by the review of The Tainted City, POC and LGBT+s get a bit more positive exposure, but you wouldn’t know it by reading The Whitefire Crossing, or it could be that I’m just over-analyzing everything.

Anyways, you can bet I’ll be picking up The Tainted City, because I like these characters, and I want to know what’s happened to them, and apparently IT’S SET ALMOST ENTIRELY IN NINAVEL!

Necklace + Mani Prayer Card

Here is a photo of the “carnival” necklace and prayer card I received from the amazing Galina Krasskova. I would have shown you when it first arrived, but I wanted to wait to leave it out during a full moon first, so I kept it hidden away until the right time.

Sorry for the poor picture quality.

I tried putting it on for the first time yesterday, and it felt heavy, (not surprising, since it was worn by Mani via possession during a ritual) but now that I have it wrapped around my arm, it feels different, much lighter. I have no explanation for it that doesn’t delve into woo territory, but if its happier on my arm, it can stay there.

You can find a selection of prayer cards and other things for sale here:

Game Review: The Royal Trap

It’s only been a couple days since I posted my first impressions of Hanako Games’ new title The Royal Trap. I have since bought it (using the discount coupon I got for blogging about it) and played through it a few times.

I only have one thing to say:

Buy this game. Right now.

I don’t care who you have to bribe, fuck, or do whatever else you do to get money (I recommend putting in some extra hours at work, I paid for it by selling off some books I didn’t want.)

I don’t care what you need to do to get this game. Get it. Tell your friends about it and get them to buy it.

That’s all I have to say. Good night!

……What do you mean, you want more information? Is my word not good enough for you? *huffs* Fine, I suppose I can tell you a bit about it.

However, I’m going to do something a bit different for this review. I do try to avoid spoilers, but the nature of this game makes it difficult to talk about anything without horribly spoiling things. Therefore, I’m going to try very hard not to spoil things here, and then I’ll go crazy with spoilers after the jump.


Don’t worry, I’ll warn you again when it’s spoilery time in case you came here via a direct link.

For now, the spoiler-free review.

As I said in my first impressions post, The Royal Trap is a the latest game from Hanako Games, which is probably my favourite indy game company ever. It is a visual novel (in particular, it could properly be called an otome game if it was made in Japan instead of the US). In this world of many competing kingdoms, Kings are guided by their Queens (called Wisdoms) and everyone, noble and peasant alike, is bound by a rigid social structure.

You play as Madeleine Valois, a prince’s companion from a noble (if low-ranking) noble house whose parents had always intended her to grow up in her sister’s shadow. (It’s worth mentioning here that daughters are favoured over sons when it comes to matters of inheritance.) Fortunately for her, she is saved from a life as nothing more than a lady-in-waiting by (unknowingly) befriending the king’s son, Prince Oscar. As his companion, she is expected to be his confidante, advisor, agent and to help him win the hand of the beautiful Princess Cassidy. Part of her job is not, however, to allow him to fall into a complex web of intrigue where everyone has a secret, and certainly not to fall in love with him, ever.

Our heroine, Madeleine Valois

So begins a story of “swords, pistols, and palace intrigue” (as the forum charmingly puts it) that is mind-numbingly awesome. Gameplay is simple….in that there really isn’t any gameplay. You read a section of text, click the left mouse button, read more text, occasionally, you will be asked to make a choice, which will determine which ending you get (there are six main story branches, four of them have three endings each, one has two, and the last has one, for a total of fifteen different endings). You have the option to skip passages you have read before, and you can pretty much save wherever you want.

So, that’s basically it, your job is to read and decide which of the characters you want to pursue (embarking on a character’s route may or may not end in a romance with that character, it could even be fatal, depending on your choices), and before you ask, yes, there’s same-sex romance, and a “lone wolf” option.

Regarding the characters, The Royal Trap has a nice assortment of characters who wouldn’t be out of place in any shoujo anime. Our heroine, Madeleine, is very down-to-earth and takes her job very seriously (and isn’t afraid to kick some serious ass when needed). Prince Oscar, her employer, is the “nice guy”–a character type I usually find irritating. Prince Gaston is a very flamboyant individual who has a tendency for dramatics, Prince Nazagi is mysterious (and comes off as almost sinister), Prince Callum is a jerk, and Princess Cassidy, the woman the princes have all come to court, is sweet, naive, and PINK! OH SO PINK!

The thing to keep in mind is that everyone (and I do mean everyone) in this VN has at least one secret, and no one is quite what they seem to be at first glance. Like other games by Hanako Games, you won’t be able to uncover all these secrets in one playthrough, and events that might merit a passing reference in one route are the entire focus of another. This isn’t a VN you want to read once and put away. Think of it less as a story and more as a puzzle, where each route gives you a new piece of information (although the individual character arcs are self-contained, the over-arching story is revealed in multiple routes, without spoiling anything, you’ll be exploring four different routes if you want all the awesomeness).

You will want to replay this, trust me, or you’ll miss the awesomeness. (Or, of you just don’t care, read the spoilery bits after the jump.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that there were moments reading through this VN that made me cry. I completely identified with one character’s struggle with their nearsightedness, and the notion that they are “flawed” because of it. There were also moments where I laughed, moments that were nail-bitingly tense, and plenty of moments where I needed to pick my jaw up off the floor. The game explores themes ranging from parental neglect to class issues (including love between people of different social classes) identity (including gender identity, which is a plot point in every route and VERY significant to the story as a whole) self-worth, finding independence, you know, light and fluffy stuff, most importantly, these themes are all handled in a very sensitive way. Okay, so there’s plenty of light and fluffy stuff too, Gaston’s dramatics and the palace staff believing that Nazagi is a vampire are  just two such incidents. While you may find yourself initially disliking particular characters, they have a tendency to grow on you. (This is, of course, helped by the writing, which is great, and better than some of the work I’ve seen from professional teams.)

Visually, the game is gorgeous, especially the CGI, whoever did the CGI could easily find work with a triple A studio, IMHO. The character art is also very well done, the only flaw visually is in the background images, which are much less detailed. However, I would much rather trade gorgeous CGI for simplistic backgrounds.

Don’t believe me? Here. have some CGI directly from the gallery:

This small picture does not do the image justice.

and another, in case you aren’t convinced….

His Royal Highness Prince Pain-in-the-Ass Callum not being a pain in the ass.

The actual gameplay footage is not as pretty, but the character designs are quite detailed.

The backgrounds are meh, the character art is something else.

The music, as I said in my impressions post, is mostly made up of stringed instruments (particularly guitar). Tracks that stood out for me are the opening theme (which is JPOP-esque), the “sneaky” theme, and the track that plays during battle sequences/particularly tense moments. The one thing with the music is that it tends to get repetitive.

If there’s one flaw in The Royal Trap, it’s that Madeleine’s inner monologues tend to go on past the point where she’s regurgitating stuff we already know (how she was raised to be demure and refer to her sister, for instance) and while each story branch has it’s own unique ending path, some sections of text are repeated because the first four chapters are the same no matter which route you’re on. If this were a printed book, I’d definitely be giving it looks for repeating itself so much, but in this medium, I’ll forgive it. Suffice it to say that the issues the game addresses are way more significant than the fact that the text repeats a few times (and, actually, replaying each route will take a bit more time than Hanako’s previous games, because quite a bit of text is changed between routes).

Overall, if you like stories with plenty of intrigue and politicking, and don’t mind coming back to it to unravel more of the story (and you WILL want to come back to it). If you like the politicking but want more gameplay, my earlier recommendation for Long Live the Queen still stands. Most importantly, is if you want a game that handles topics like gender identity seriously, you NEED to buy this game, and seriously, that is all I can tell you without delving into serious spoiler territory.

As a matter of fact, let’s get to that, right now.


Read More »

Moon Blood (A Poem)

I hear His call in my blood

the Moon, bright pearl in the depth of night

and my body responds

wracked with pain, I bring my knees to my chest

and curse loudly, those who do not bleed

for the pain is a knife stabbing

or a hand, holding my womb in a death grip

Maddened, I want to tear parts of myself away

and fling them to the four corners of the Earth

snarling and snapping like a wolf

like a wild woman in a cave

a madness

only eased by chocolate

and small white pills

and a very hot bath

(and, at times, orgasms)

I rock, as if pulled by the tides

and cry

when all I want

is to howl with the wolves

at the pearl-bright Moon


Review: Swordspoint

[Note: This review will contain SPOILERS for this book and The Privilege of the Sword, read at your own risk.]

So, finally, after mentioning it a bunch of times on this blog, I was able to finish this novel over the weekend. Some of you may remember my glowing review of The Privilege of the Sword, and how I was so impressed with it that I resolved to quit being so indecisive and finally purchase the first of the books that are set in Ellen Kushner’s unnamed city.

Swordspoint, like PotS, is part of the “fantasy of manners” genre (with Kushner practically invented) that is, fantasy that is less like epic fantasy and more like a comedy of manners. As with PotS, there’s no magic or fantastical creatures in Swordspoint, only highly-trained swordsmen and buckets of political intrigue.

Swordspoint tells the story of Richard St. Vier, a master swordsman in high demand for his skills as a duelist, Alec, a bitter young man who is St. Vier’s lover, and Michael Godwin, a young lord who is infatuated with the Duchess Tremontaine.

I should probably say more about the plot, but the fact is that the plot is a bit harder to pin down than it is in PotS. In PotS, you have a young woman learning swordplay at the behest of her crazy uncle. In Swordspoint, you have a lot of political maneuvering and angst before the plot says “Ahem, I am here and would like to get moving now….” and I’d tell you more about it, but then I’d just spoil the entire book.

So, since I can’t say a whole lot about the plot, let’s focus, like the book does, on the characters. St. Vier and Alec definitely fall into that category that, while they aren’t entirely unsympathetic, they also don’t seem very real. Alec’s character in particular took some getting used to. He’s still as difficult to pin down as he was in PotS, but now he seems much more cruel and petty, goading nobles into starting fights just so St. Vier can kill them. I suppose you could sum him up by saying “Alec is a troubled young man.”

St. Vier, I felt, fared a bit better, but that’s because he’s much more subdued than Alec–until the very end, when he does something horrible (for honour’s sake) and then I was kind of side-eying him a bit.

The third P.O.V. character (besides the major villain) is Michael Godwin, who reminds me of Katherine from PotS. He’s a young noble with a major crush on a duchess, who wants to learn swordplay to impress her. You don’t see as much of him as either St. Vier or Alec, but his scenes are a nice change from St. Vier and Alec running around killing random nobles or angsting at each other (did I mention Alec is troubled?).

I guess to sum up how I feel about this book is that it wasn’t a terrible book, I just vastly prefer PotS. I felt as if it was very slow to get going, but once the plot did finally realize that it had a part to play in the book (around chapter fourteen, and then it kind of drops away until chapter twenty), everything fit together into a satisfying conclusion.

As far as any potentially triggery things, there are hints that Alec has been abused and that the abuse was sexual in nature, but he never really comes out and says anything. There’s a point where the antagonist gets a little aggressive with his servant/mistress, which read more like particularly angry sex/necking than rape to me (it’s certainly not as explicit as the rape in PotS), but YMMV. As with PotS, the sexual aspects of the book are explicit enough so you know what’s going on, but definitely not smutty unless you’re really sensitive to this sort of thing (or, as some Amazon reviews indicate, you think that two men in love who are holding hands amounts to exhibitionism).

Overall, I don’t know whether to tell you to read this first because it sets up the events in PotS or to read PotS because I felt it was the better novel. I should note that both novels are pretty self-contained, so don’t worry about missing out unless you really want to know about Alec and Richard’s past with Lord Ferris. As I’ve often said, I’ve read much worse, but it just seemed to lack the heart and chuckle-worthy antics of PotS in favour of something a little darker and dramatic. Again, it’s not terrible, it’s just not as good as her later work. Clearly I’ve been spoiled, but I’m intrigued enough that I probably will purchase The Fall of the Kings.

Shameless (Tarot-Related) Plug of the Day

Have you heard of the Stolen Child Tarot? It’s currently a majors-only deck created by freelance illustrator Monica Knighton, inspired by the Yeats poem of the same name. It is a nature-based deck with no human-made things depicted on the cards (er, except for the children).

I thought about buying this deck, but I said “Oh, she’s thinking about making a 78 card deck? I can wait.”

And so I waited….

….and now there’s a Kickstarter up for the full deck. I backed it right then and there, and then I upped my pledge.

So this is my shameless plug for the day. If you or someone you know might be interested in this, for the love of gods, back this project! Pledging $24 (+12 shipping for us non-Americans) nets you a deck, which isn’t really a bad price for a deck, especially since the majors only deck is $40 on Etsy.

TBH, the project needs a lot of pledges to succeed, and I don’t know if it’s possible to make that kind of money in eighteen days, so this is me doing my part to make this deck a reality, because I want to see it happen.

Now I need to write books to pay for my tarotitis treatment. I think it’s becoming manageable. I’ve only bought one deck this year. Books and video games are a lost cause, though (the books aren’t my fault though–they’re reproducing, srsly).

Anyways, here’s the link to the deck’s Kickstarter page again, pass it on.

First Impressions: “The Royal Trap” Demo

I’ve been waiting for this game to come out ever since I bought Magical Diary and found Hanako Games’ forums. As you may know, I’m a big fan of Hanako Games’ stuff, so, in the interests of giving Hanako and co. more exposure and because I get $5 off this game if I blog about it, here are my first impressions of the demo, which you can download here: (You can also go there to purchase the full game.)

First things first, The Royal Trap is a visual novel. You play as Madeleine Valois, valette (er…valet, but the closest female equivalent doesn’t sound badass enough) to Prince Oscar. Her job is to guide and advise him, as well as keep him out of trouble, with the end goal of helping him land a royal bride. What she is not supposed to do is let him get caught in a web of court intrigue, and she is especially not supposed to fall in love with him.

Things…don’t really go according to plan.

In all honesty, even though I’ve loved every other game that HG has put out, at the time I wasn’t sure if I would like a “pure” visual novel (ie. one with no gameplay apart from the text-based portions). Of course, since then I’ve played and loved VNs like Cinders and Date Warp , so I must conclude that I should just stop worrying and enjoy every game Hanako comes up with.

But, for those of you who want concrete reasons why you should pay $20 for a game (don’t start about VNs not being games, srsly) with no gameplay, here are some good ones:

The Art

The art is gorgeous. Full stop.

In a visual novel, where your task is to entertain an audience via text and visual alone, the art (IMHO) is very important, and The Royal Trap‘s art delivers. There’s plenty of eye candy in this game, and it’s not just for lovers of either bishonen or outrageous costumes (although there’s plenty of both). Bright colours predominate, particularly jewel tones (appropriate for a courtly setting), but I was particularly impressed with the scenic art, which was simply eye-popping. The character art is similarly well done, from the dark-haired, mysterious Nazagi to the very flamboyant Gaston (that HAIR!) to Princess Cassidy’s pink….everything, it all looks very nice and, most importantly, very consistent (as I believe multiple artists were involved in creating the art). The only area where the art suffers are the backgrounds, which I thought were quite plain in comparison, but that hardly matters when you have characters that look like this:

Prince Gaston and his glorious locks…and sparkles.

The Music

The music is an eclectic mixture of JPop-ish tunes (the trailer theme/main theme), slower instrumentals (stringed instruments are predominant), to an adrenaline-pumping guitar riff that was completely unexpected and plays during tense or more action-oriented scenes happen. I didn’t expect to be this impressed with the music, but this is honestly heads and shoulders above HG’s other offerings.

The Shut Up Factor

There is probably an official name for this, but I’m going to call it the “Shut Up Factor”. In a nutshell, the SUF is the point where the characters shut up and either let the player do something (such as make a choice or play a mini-game) or something happens that increases the tension and gives the player a break from more ponderous exchanges between characters (or internal monologues). If the characters go on past a certain point, I become bored and my interest in the game plummets. A great example of a VN where the characters don’t know when to shut up is Aselia the Eternal, where characters not only will not shut up, their dialogues take the form of a made up language that isn’t translated for the player’s benefit until the protagonist has heard enough to learn it. You might see this as a realistic portrayal of what being immersed in a language is like, but in practice it’s pretty annoying, and this is from someone who loves to read. Seriously, if your visual novel can manage to annoy a prolific reader, your VN needs work.

Fortunately, The Royal Trap has a good mix of dialogue, internal monologues, tension-building scenes and just plain stopping and letting the player make a choice to hold my interest. It helps that the writing is great (as usual for HG) and the characters are interesting and all appear to have their secrets. Madeleine herself is a very down-to-earth protagonist, raised to be a “proper” lady and always in her older sister’s shadow. Romance, courtly intrigue, dual-wielding daggers, all of this is in the demo, but there’s also the persistent theme of the “gilded cage” of a society where people (even nobles, especially nobles) are given a role to play and certain expectations to fulfill, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it will probably be examined more closely in the full game.

I was a dummy and didn’t take a screenshot from the demo, so here is one from the official page.

Bottom Line

If you like stories with adventure, romance, and courtly intrigue and don’t mind a lot of reading, this might be for you. I’ve played most of Hanako Games’ other games, and the production values in this one are nothing short of impressive (especially for a small indy game studio). If you try the demo, and like this but wish there was more gameplay, I’d definitely check out Long Live the Queen, by the same company, which has courtly intrigue (and a bunch of ways for your character to die horribly) wrapped up in a raising sim, or Date Warp, also a VN with a bit of gameplay and more of a modern/sci-fi feel.

Once again, if you would like to try the demo, the link is here:

Oh, and for those of you who are concerned about replay value, I’ve heard from Hanako that the game is seven chapters long, the first four are shared between all the possible “routes” (which, I’m assuming, depend on which of the four princes you decide to chase) but the last three are completely different depending on which route you’re on. Considering that other HG titles tease you mercilessly with questions that remain unanswered until you play a different route, I’d say you’ll probably want to play it more than once. Thankfully, there is a “skip” option, so it’s not like you’ll need to wade through mountains of text to get where you need to be.


Things you must never say to a librarian:
“Libraries are irrelevant in this day and age.”
“Libraries are just book repositories.”
“You get paid to work in a library?!”
Okay, that last one is my particular annoyance, but still, don’t say it, or I will shush the Hell out of you. Don’t make me shush you!

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

If someone too poor or otherwise unable to buy a specific product is given that product for free, has the product’s creator lost a sale?

In most instances, I’d argue, the answer is no. You can’t lose money that doesn’t exist in the first place, or which your potential customer is unable to spend on whatever it is you’re selling. What you’ve lost, if anything, is a specific product, and therefore the opportunity to sell it to someone who can pay. If Lamborghini were to give me a free car, for instance – or if some altruistic third party were to do so instead – then either they’ve lost the money they could’ve earned by selling that specific vehicle elsewhere, or they’ve lost the opportunity to sell to me directly. In the latter instance, though, they haven’t lost a sale, because someone actually did buy the car; and in the…

View original post 1,618 more words

Ever See a Stupid Review on Amazon

….and wish there was a site that compiled them for your amusement?

I asked the Internet if there was such a thing, and the Internet dumped this site in my lap:

Least Helpful

The best part about this site is that you can sort it by your favourite form of idiocy, so if you only want the homophobic ones, click that category.

I have been laughing my ass off since yesterday.

There’s also Stupid Amazon Reviews, where I found this little gem:

Cutting Off Layton’s Little Protrusion  (it’s SFW, don’t worry)

in which a very confused person doesn’t understand why the cartridge for a 3DS game doesn’t fit in their regular DS. Read it and despair!

And since I brought it up, here is my current favourite least helpful review for Swordspoint (potentially triggery for homophobia):

Lable me naive, but when I picked up this book I did not know that it featured a gay couple. Lable me politically incorrect as well, but I have to admit that this was uncomfortable for me as I was half way through the book before I relized the two main charactors (Richard and Alec) were a couple and I had already come to care about what happened to their charactors. Kushner has a great warm style, and I’d love to read any book of her’s. About a HETEROSEXUAL person, thank you very much (you know guy+girl instead of, well, guy+guy). The plot was good and the story was interesting, but I just couldn’t get past their sexual orientation:( Maybe this won’t be a problem for some people, but I personaly couldn’t enjoy it.

Wait so, it took you until halfway through the book to realize that teh ghey was in it? Did you miss chapter four? Here, I’ll quote it for you:

He came up behind Lord Horn, sliding his hands onto the man’s shoulders. Horn took his hands and seemed to wait. Touched by the formality of their moves, Michael turned him in his arms and kissed his mouth. He tasted spices. The man had been chewing fennel seeds for his breath The expert tongue flicked eagerly. Michael pressed closer. “Lydia’s eldest,” Horn murmured. “You have grown up.” With nothing between them but the costly fabric of their clothes, Michael felt the man’s need, twin to his own. Over the roar of blood he heard the ticking of the clock.

That’s on page thirty seven, that’s not even a quarter of the way through the book.

Also, I love how the reviewer feels the need to spell out exactly what heterosexuality is as if the author has no idea.

Oh, and Ellen Kushner is a lesbian.

Spelling aside, basically, what this reviewer is saying is that they would read her books as long as she doesn’t write about people like her.

That makes so much sense.

Erasure or Absence?

I have a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve touched on this before, but now I’m going to finally write a whole post on it, and hope that I didn’t write a whole post on it before and forget about it. If I have, you get another post on this topic, so, yay.

My dilemma is that I tend to get very attached to LGBT characters.

“So what?” I hear you say. “How is that a big deal?”

Well, it’s not, not really, but my problem is that I tend to get attached to them regardless of how they are actually portrayed in the work. I watched Spartacus: Blood and Sand and was all “OMFGS, Barca and Pietros!” while ignoring that by the end of the first season, both of them are dead and Pietros commits suicide after being abused by Gnaeus. Now, to be fair, Spartacus was worse than Game of Thrones when it comes to killing off characters, and that’s hardly the most problematic aspect of the show, like how Doctore is yet another “Angry Black Man”–and my favourite character–and why the fuck did I keep watching that show, anyways?

No, topless Lucy Lawless had nothing to do with it.

Okay, that was a bad example. My point is that I tend to latch on to LGBT characters like a remora on a shark because they’re either not there or relegated to subtext.

But, I have to wonder.

Is it really better to accept bad portrayals and express a desire for something more positive? Or is it ultimately better to just not include certain people in a work?

I don’t know. On the one hand, it would probably have to be on a case by case basis, and what one person might find problematic won’t be a problem for other people. There are a ton of people who go on about how Avatar as ableist. As a person with physical disabilities myself, I didn’t see why it was unreasonable that Sully would want the use of his legs back. Fuck, I want those legs, my CP makes it hard to keep up with people. But seriously, WTF is up with that old wheelchair? Where are the cool hoverchairs? It’s the fucking future, James Cameron! Seriously!

Then again, I have issues with my CP fucking CP won’t let me get health insurance so it’s entirely possible that I have internalized ableism and that’s why I don’t find Avatar nearly as problematic as others. (I do have some experience with a wheelchair, but I’m fortunate in that I’m quite mobile without it.)

Anyways, still doesn’t mean it isn’t Mighty Whitey….again….

I watched Avatar for the banshees, dragon birds are fucking awesome.

Anyways, I’m digressing.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d rather take a problematic portrayal (and yell at the creators to do better next time!) than complete erasure in most cases.

Oh, but homophobes like Orson Scott Card can just stay the fuck away from any fandoms ever. There’s problematic, and then there’s reworking Hamlet so that Hamlet’s father is a pedophile. I’m still trying to figure out who had to lie to him to get him to give a blurb for Swordspoint (written by a lesbian, with m/m kissing and stuff).

Anyways, apparently there’s this show called Downton Abbey that I need to watch, so I should go do that. I was not influenced in any way by that clip I saw on YouTube of two men kissing (actually, I watched a segment on this other show about it, and was interested, then I forgot about it).