Monday, May 28, 2012

Too Sensitive?

So I was looking through Nature Magazine's Future archives the other day--if you don't know about Futures, in each issue of Nature, there's a science fiction flash story that ponders various outcomes of the future. So just to be clear, it's fiction, not non-fiction. Anyway, I came across Ed Rybicki's "Womanspace."    

Read the story first, it'll be quick... Read it? Okay, now, check out the comments posted below the story. Bit of a hazing, right?  

Now I'm a woman (have the ovaries to prove it), and I didn't find this offensive or sexist in any way. The story is clearly meant to be an amusing piece of tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at differences between men and women. And frankly, I think the author was spot on. I know from experience, whether shopping with my mom or friends, that women tend to meander around the store. Whereas with my dad, we go into the store with a specific goal, get the item, and leave.

Of course, this is all generalizing, and I myself don't exactly fit into mold: If I have something in mind, I'll go in and get it; if I'm just browsing, I'll meander.

But I worry that we're becoming just a little too sensitive, that whenever you point out a difference between groups of people, you're immediately condemned as sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. As if differences were something bad.

Newsflash! Men and women are not the same, and that's not a bad thing. There are strengths and weaknesses in both sexes; neither sex is perfect and one sex isn't better than the other. It's this variety that helped us as a species succeed. If everyone was the same, we'd be nothing more than giant amoebas--and how boring is that?

This whole thing reminds me of an incident in 2003, when baseball manager and former player Dusty Baker made a remark that "black and Hispanic players are better suited to playing in the sun and heat than white players." And naturally, he was called out on it, even though all he did was make an observation. Whether that observation has merit or not, I don't know (I don't watch baseball), but considering the guy has been in baseball for over two decades, I doubt he made that observation on the fly.

I wish some folks would take a step back, look at things in an objective light, and not act on their emotions, getting their knickers (haha) twisted. I certainly don't think the author meant any harm, simply making a funny observation--which is something we all do. Like here's an observation: not only do internet flame wars exist in the mindless boggle that is Youtube's comment section, but also amongst intellectual, sciency-type people on a scientific journal. 

But what do you guys think? Does the story debase women, or is it some harmless fun?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Love for 2nd-person

I know the blog has been a bit...inactive lately. Doubtful anyone missed it, tho. :P

So about 2nd-person... Why does it seem to be disliked so much? Yes, I had received a rejection that told me the 2nd-person detracted rather than enhanced the story. But you rarely hear people say 3rd-person or 1st-person (although I know some folks equally dislike 1st-person) say those PoVs* detract.

My theory is that folks just aren't use to 2nd-person, making it unfamiliar and downright awkward for them to read. I've actually seen this as an issue when writing in limited 3rd-person; some people aren't use to reading 3rd-person in a tight, almost 1st-person, format.

Just because you're unfamiliar with it doesn't mean it's bad, but yet, people still have these knee-jerk reactions whenever they come across it. I had done a little experiment with the Shock Totem's bi-monthly flash fiction contest, and wrote a submission in 2nd-person, curious to see the reaction.The number piece of criticism I received: change the PoV. 

Yeah, no. PoV doesn't work that way. I've never come across a story that I thought would've been better if it'd been written in a different PoV. Why? Because the story is built around that PoV. Not to mention, when you choose 2nd-person, or any PoV for that matter, it's because you're going for a certain effect in the writing.


I left the door open like a stupid twit, and all the monsters came in, and now the dogs are looking at me like lunch.
You left the door open, you stupid twit, and all the monsters came in, and now the dogs are looking at you like lunch.
He left the door open, the stupid twit, and all the monsters came in, and now the dogs are looking at him like lunch.

Now each sentence ought to read differently; they're each going for a different effect. With the 2nd-person, it has a self-berating feel that 3rd and 1st kind of lack. Also, how many times have you (or overheard someone) scold themselves in 2nd-person for doing something stupid? Oddly enough, 2nd-person isn't as uncommon as we think it is. Think about it: this blog post has used a lot of 2nd-person, did you notice? 

And to make one thing clear about 2nd-person, it does not always refer to you, the reader. The you is usually referring to the character (i.e. he/she is talking to him/herself). So if you're one of those people who reads a sentence like: You're dancing at the nightclub with all the guys. And you think: I'm not dancing at a nightclub, I'm here at home reading this story. You need to jump off the nearest cliff--okay no, but you need to stop taking the you literally. It's not all about you! 

Yes, there are times when 2nd-person can be poorly done, but that's the same for any PoV. Poor writing is poor writing. But that has nothing to do with PoV--of course, if you're unfamiliar with using a certain PoV, it can come off as amateurish. The important thing is to not give up on a PoV just because certain curmudgeons don't "get" it. Because really, 2nd-person is a perfectly good PoV, and could use some lovin'.

*PoV = point view (for those who are not writerly inclined)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

The quick rundown: The cursed vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) awakens from a 200-year-old imprisonment to the 1972, and quickly discovers that his family’s legacy and home is in shambles. He’s determined to turn this around and restore the Collin’s name, but first he must get through Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green): his former lover and witch who’s cursed him and his entire family.

Now I wasn’t around for the original Dark Shadows series, and I’ve only viewed a few episodes, so I can’t really compare. It’s definitely a spoof. Campy jokes with moments of genuine spookiness—unfortunately, I think it could’ve used more spooks.

Looking at this film as purely comedy, I’d say it succeeded in that I did laugh and found myself grinning most of the time. However, if you’re looking for a film with depth and character development, ehhh….

The story is rather weak, especially the romance. You see, Barnabas had a fiancé, who seems to have been reincarnated as the family’s governess, Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote)—and yes, they cleverly combined two of the characters from the series. Now you would expect we’d be seeing a lot of her in the film. Nope. We get maybe five minutes of them being together on screen. Most of the time it’s Barnabas and his ongoing battle with Angelique. And likewise, the rest of the cast sort of fades into the shadows, at least until the end when they’re actually good for something.

Which is unfortunate because each character had an untold story arc. There was David (Gulliver McGrath), the supposed “crazy” child who talked with his mother’s ghost. Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz) the sassy teenager with a dark secret of her own—and this one was annoying because you weren’t even given a hint. Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) obsession with staying young, otherwise, an unimportant character who’s there to set up a potential sequel. And so on…

Now if I may contrast this to The Avengers--which is awesome and you should absolutely see it—each character is given a bit of screen time where they work out conflicts with one another, and learn to fight together. No one is left out. Whereas Dark Shadows didn’t seem to care about anyone else but Barnabas.

Then there’s the Bella Complex—inspired by Twilight. When you find out that your boyfriend is actually one of the undead, what is your reaction? Is it:

A)     I’m down with necrophilia. Free love, baby.
B)     Dead dudes? No way! I think I’ll check out those lively guys from The Avengers.
C)     Oh noes! My life is RUINED! *throws self off cliff*

I thought we were living in an age where females were strong, capable, and could stand on their own two feet. What, no? Girls still need their white knights? Damn.  

All in all, if like spoofs, watching Johnny Depp in white make-up and Eva Green’s bosom, then you’ll find some enjoyment in this. But, if you’re looking for some great characters, go see The Avengers—no, I can’t emphasis this enough.

Dark Shadows receives 3 out of 5 cursed stars.