Category: General


Trigger warnings in lit courses

Posted 18 May, 2014 by Nikki in Academic, General / 2 Comments

The latest thing I’m seeing coming up a lot on twitter is trigger warnings — not in fandom, this time, but in literature courses. Here‘s an article in The New York Times about it; I’ll wait.

The thing is, trigger warnings are pretty widely accepted in fandom. Not completely, because there are various arguments against them, like the fact that giving a trigger warning takes away from the intended emotional impact and any surprise factor. That’s fair enough, and it’s why fanfic archives like AO3 have a “choose not to use warnings” option. People then are aware going into it that it could be anything, and perhaps the fact that the author chose not to use warnings is enough of a warning in itself. Certainly, you can’t then blame the author that they didn’t warn you: they told you they wouldn’t.

The idea of trigger warnings, though, is to help protect people from things they’re not in a safe place to read. An abuse victim can avoid stories about abuse that might take them back into the part of their mind where they were so badly hurt; a rape victim can avoid being taken back to memories of that rape, etc. With PTSD, certain triggers can make you have flashbacks, panic attacks, maybe even lead you to hurt yourself — or others.

A lot of arguments against using trigger warnings in lit courses and other serious settings revolve around censorship, narrowing the discussion, etc. I think it depends on what you think trigger warnings are for. For me, in that context, they’d be saying, “We’re giving you advance warning that you need to be in a safe space to read this. Don’t try to cram it in at the library before class. Give yourself time, and space, and kind people around you. It’s still required reading, but we’re giving you a chance to make yourself as safe as possible.” And if you then make the choice not to read it, the impact on your grade is your responsibility (unless you can prove extenuating circumstances through existing methods).

It’s not actually a good idea to use trigger warnings to avoid stuff all the time. Avoiding something increases your fear of it. Take it from the person with GAD. You know, I actually have an appropriate bookish situation to bring up here: in Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged stirs up an awful dark power which chases him, which intrudes into his life in nightmares and shadows, even when he thinks he’s safe. And as long as he runs from it, it gains in power. When he finally turns to chase it in turn, to hunt it, he is at last able to defeat it.

That’s where I am with my anxiety, with the aftermath of bullying and all sorts of attached problems I don’t want to talk about (and let’s avoid discussion of the specifics of my personal issues). I’m chasing it. I like to think I’m somewhere out on that impossible shore, like Ged, closing on my fear and about to name it with my own name and make it part of me, a part of my strength, not something which oppresses me. It helps. This isn’t the only narrative there is, and maybe some people will never be strong enough to turn and face their fears, and that’s not their fault. The least we can do is give everyone the opportunity to take care of themselves, though.

It’s difficult to make a hard and fast rule. Some triggers are just not common — I’m terrified of insects and parasites, for example — and it’s hard to figure out where the line is between ‘this is offensive’, ‘this may cause harm’ and ‘this isn’t a comfortable read’. But to my mind, warnings for basic triggers like abuse, violence, rape and gore would help protect people and actually foster debate, not stifle it. If you give people the tools to protect themselves, they will know they’re safe engaging with the material you’ve set, rather than holding back out of fear.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 17 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

Time for the Stacking the Shelves meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. Busy week! These actually came in an assortment of omnibuses, but seeing the individual books with their old covers seems more fun to me.

Cover of Taltos by Steven Brust Cover of Phoenix by Steven Brust Cover of Athyra by Steven Brust Cover of Orca by Steven Brust Cover of Dragon by Steven Brust Cover of Issola by Steven Brust Cover of Dzur by Steven Brust Cover of Jhegaala by Steven Brust

Also received my print ARC of Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life! <3

Oh, and some comics…

Cover of Marvel's Captain Marvel, issue three

Oh, and one final review copy…

Cover of Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

I’m not a big fan of Emma Rios’ style, but I do enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work, so I’m excited. And yes, this post is pretty much the Steven Brust and Kelly Sue DeConnick show.

What’s everyone else been up to?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 15 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Most recent was The Twelve Caesars (Matthew Dennison), which was disappointing in its total inability to make any concrete statements. Like being wrapped up in wool. Ugh. I’ll stick to getting round to Suetonius. Before that was The Door into Summer (Robert Heinlein), which I liked well enough but didn’t blow me away (and creeped me out in the place it usually creeps people out).

What are you currently reading?
My Real Children (Jo Walton). I gulp it down when I get a minute, but I haven’t been in the mood to read as much so I haven’t been making the minutes. Also The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), same issue.

What will you read next?
For once, I’m fairly certain: it’ll be Steven Brust’s Yendi. Otherwise, I’m still going to work on the endless currently reading list, though I am for some reason very tempted to try Jim Butcher again, and to try reading more Vorkosigan (Lois McMaster Bujold). Because it’s not as though I have enough on the go already, right?

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 10 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 34 Comments

Aaand time for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. It’s been a busy week, book-wise. I didn’t think it would be, but then I ended up in an indie bookshop, plus I ordered one book Jo Walton recommended, and have now ended up ordering the whole series. Most of them haven’t arrived yet, though, so I’ll save them for next week’s post!

Review copies/ARCs

Cover of The Bluffer's Guide to Rugby by Steven Gauge Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton

Library

Cover of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell Cover of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson Cover of The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley

Bought

Cover of Jhereg by Steven Brust Cover of Yendi, by Steven Brust Cover of Teckla by Steven Brust Cover of Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley Cover of A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney Cover of The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

The Vlad Taltos series is the one that’s dragged me in kicking and, well, not at all complaining, just flailing vaguely to get my book-balance. Enjoying it very much, so far. Will probably have finished Jhereg by the time this post goes live. That’s the plan, anyway. And of course I’m very excited to have My Real Children, though time and Steven Brust are conspiring against me getting round to reading it.

What’s everyone else up to?

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On being Welsh

Posted 8 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

I went looking for reviews of a book I picked up from the library yesterday, and boy, do I regret it. The book in question is The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, and the problem was the protagonist’s name. See, the protagonist’s name is Welsh: Myfanwy Thomas. I don’t think you could get much more Welsh unless you had a guy called Evan Evans or something. Now, the author screwed up to begin with, because he decided he didn’t like the way ‘Myfanwy’ is actually pronounced. He wanted it to rhyme with ‘Tiffany’. So that’s what he has his character say, on the first page. That’s… actually annoying enough to me that I’m considering dropping the book without even opening it, but that’s not really the thing.

The thing was, going to look at reviews and finding a whole bunch where the reviewers are just so amused by this weird name. One of them said they constantly read it as ‘my fanny’. Some of them couldn’t spell it, even with it right there in front of them on the book or, even without the book, on the blurb on the very page they were reviewing on.

I remember as a kid asking my mum or dad why I didn’t have a Welsh name, since my mother’s all about being Welsh and proud. The answer I got was, “We thought other kids would make fun of you.” But there I was growing up with a strong Welsh identity in England, so although I’m assured by English people that this doesn’t happen, I was nonetheless bullied for that anyway. And the school sucked at dealing with it: a boy said ‘nigger’ to a friend in the playground, and the whole school got a half hour lecture about cultural sensitivity; I was bullied to tears, called Taffy and thief, on and on, and it was ignored. Inappropriate suggestions about me and sheep were also made, very graphically, from when I was eleven on up, but that wasn’t harassment of any kind.

I didn’t read a book by an author people recognised as Welsh until I was twenty-one (it was Margiad Evans’ Country Dance). In the introduction, Caitrin Collier wrote this:

I grew up in Wales in the 1950s and 60s, yet [Margiad Evans’] work was never mentioned at my school or local library. Whenever I asked the eternal question ‘What should I read next?’ I was directed towards Russian, English, American, German and French novelists. I discovered a few — a precious few — Welsh authors for myself, which only added weight to my teachers’s pronouncement that ‘people like you (translate as South Wales valley born) don’t write’.

That was my experience, too, though granted in England in the 90s and 00s. It mirrors stuff I’ve read about the experience of many more widely recognised minorities — people of colour, the queer community, women, people of non-dominant religions… Some of the discussions I’ve had about figuring out identity, about language — specifically, not speaking your ‘own’ language, or being encouraged not to — and fitting in all chimed with this issue for me.

I pointed out to a couple of these reviewers what kind of cultural issues they were trampling on. But nobody gives a shit, it’s ‘only’ Wales, it’s just a personal sob story about a name that isn’t even mine. (The fact that I don’t have a Welsh name because of exactly these issues doesn’t seem to mean anything.)

“Go and find your own place to tell these stories,” someone said to me, when I brought up that issue of identifying with those issues of other minority groups. “People will listen to you because you’re privileged, and they won’t listen to us. By talking about it here, you’re taking away the attention we need for our issues.”

I can understand why they wanted to keep the boundaries of their space clear, but I wonder why on earth they thought anyone would listen to me? I’m still looking for that mythical place where people will. Half the time, I find myself wondering if I’ve got anything interesting to say at all, but every now and then, someone else reaches back and says, yeah, I felt this too. So I’m not quite alone.

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What are you reading Wednesday: the sleepiest edition

Posted 8 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. I was riveted in a way I haven’t been for a while, in that rare enchanting way that makes you want to grab everything written by the author. I still need to write up my review, but I think that’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I enjoyed it, though: he comes up with really cool ideas, and creates fantasy worlds that don’t feel in any way typical.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve rescued Elantris (Brandon Sanderson) from the stack of books languishing on my currently-reading pile, on the strength of Warbreaker and a memory of enjoying what I did read of it. I’ve started over to make sure I remember all the details, so I’m not very far into it.

The other two books are The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), which I still need to finish, and My Real Children (Jo Walton), because now I have an ARC. I’m only two chapters into that, which is only really enough to whet my curiosity. Must try and turn down work tomorrow, and just curl up in my nest of teddies, pillows and blankets to read.

What will you read next?
It’s pretty much been established that if I claim to have any real idea, I’m telling lies, but I think it’ll be a library book. My library today had a fun discussion with me on the somewhat baffling subject of how many books the machine will let me have at once: it started at twelve, spiked to fifteen, and then dropped again to twelve — only for me to find out that it’s only meant to let me have ten! Quite bemusing, but they checked out the books I wanted anyway, which made me a happy bunny. So I think The Rook (Daniel O’ Malley) or Attachments (Rainbow Rowell) might be next — though The Rook annoys me by, in the very first page, announcing that Myfanwy is pronounced like Tiffany. Granted, it notes that it isn’t the traditional pronunciation, but still. Arrghh.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 3 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 17 Comments

Yep, you guessed it, it’s Saturday, time for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. I haven’t bought anything this week, either, but for some reason the library has increased my borrowing limit so I indulged a little there, and I have one ARC.

ARC/review copy

Cover of Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood

Library books

Cover of The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein Cover of Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton Cover of Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews Cover of Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve already started on Warbreaker, since I enjoyed The Rithmatist earlier this week. I wasn’t quite ready to dive into the Mistborn books…

What’s everyone been reading?

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On the Hugos

Posted 1 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

I’m sure nobody was desperate to know what I think about the Hugos and the controversy about Theodore Beale/Vox Day, etc, but I do have thoughts and a supporting membership to Loncon. I’ve been following the various commentaries: Kameron Hurley’s On Writing the Good Fight, Scalzi’s views on reading everything that’s on the ballot and the criticisms thereof, posts explicitly talking about Vox Day’s track record… and yes, I even revisited some of Vox Day’s greatest hits, like that one where he calls N.K. Jemisin “an educated, but ignorant half-savage”.

So here’s my thoughts. A lot of great writers are on the ballot this year, like Catherynne M. Valente, Aliette de Bodard, Rachel Swirsky, Kameron Hurley, Brian K. Vaughan, Max Gladstone, Brandon Sanderson… not to mention at least one great editor, Angry Robot’s Lee Harris. And other authors I haven’t read yet, but really must. I think there’s probably more diversity than ever before, and certainly I’m really excited to see how this all pans out.

My personal approach is going to be to give everyone a fair shake. I suspect me and Vox Day are never going to get on: I’ve never read anything of his, but nor have I ever heard anything good, and I do believe that we can’t entirely separate the writer from the writing when we’re talking about an award that gives such real clout like the Hugos. I’ll read his novella, though, when I get my voter packet, and do my level best to be honest and fair in voting. The Hugos is to some extent a popularity contest, but given the stature of the award, I’m not gonna half-ass it or base it solely on my experience of the writers on Twitter or whatever.

However, I wouldn’t presume to advise that approach for others or suggest it’s unfair not to do it that way. Vox Day’s words are poisonous and upsetting, and refusing to give him time or space in your life is a valid response. This isn’t some kind of freedom of speech issue: the idea is freedom of speech, not freedom to make people listen. Go with your gut: it’s as fair an assessment as any, and however fair you try to be, that gut reaction is going to creep in anyway. He pretty readily admits that they were gaming the system (allegedly to “test” it): I suspect people that nominated according to that slate are equally likely to have gone on gut reactions based on politics.

Let’s be at least as honest as them, and more. The Hugos recognise achievement in science fiction fandom. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden said, ultimately, ‘The awards we give out are are a giant signal saying “This is what we love, this is what we value, this is what we think is important.”‘

Let’s do that.

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What I’m reading Wednesday

Posted 30 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
White Cat (Holly Black). Which was completely disappointing for me — I was intrigued at first, and then I figured out the entire plot, and felt that people were being stupid just for the sake of the plot.

What are you currently reading?
The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), which I think I’ve talked about enough that people get I was excited to get it. I’m about halfway through; I really need to sit down and get on with it.

And then I also randomly picked up The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson). Other people complained about the amount of stress laid on the magic system here, but I kinda like it. I started it at the beginning of my volunteer library shift earlier, and I’m already halfway through. I sort of hope I’m going to be able to finish this tonight.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I think the plan is to read That Way Lies Camelot (Janny Wurts), mostly. Obviously I still have a bunch of books that are stranded somewhere half-read, and I’m partway through a few series. But I’m feeling a bit unblocked about reading after the readathon and all, so I’m hoping that just letting myself roam about my shelves a bit will have good results. I may well finally get on with Elantris (Brandon Sanderson), since I know I was enjoying that — I only stopped because the ereader I was using at the time went phut and I lost my place.

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Readathon Progress Post

Posted 26 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

The 24 Hour Readathon starts in an hour, and the opening meme is already up, so it seems like a good time to do my first post. I’m still working for now, up until the readathon actually starts, but once it begins I’ll be diving straight in. Read More

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