jump to navigation

I link(post) you to the bones October 9, 2015

Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

This week has been absolutely excellent for people saying brilliant, eloquent, important things.

To journey is to be human. To migrate is to be human. Human migration forged the world. Human migration will forge the future, writes Ishtiyak Shukri in ‘Losing London’. This was the post of the week for me, and affected me deeply.

We already have the table of contents, but now we have the cover of Athena Andreadis’s To Shape The Dark anthology, illustrated beautifully by Eleni Tsami.

I really loved this interview of Aliette de Bodard by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: I’ve come to realize that “appealing to everybody” is a codeword for bland, unobjectionable stuff; or at the very least for something that doesn’t challenge the reader; and, just as I like to be challenged when I read, I would in turn like to do that to my readers!

Speaking of Aliette de Bodard’s writing, she’s put ‘In Morningstar’s Shadow’, the prequel short story to The House of Shattered Wings, up online for free. I read it last weekend and loved it.

I liked this essay by Marianne de Pierres on Australian myths in contemporary SF, but I’ve been worrying away at some of its conclusions for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Certainly I appreciate the recognition of Australian writing’s emphasis on the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, but I worry about her characterisation of the Australian landscape as universally barren, inhospitable and predatory. Let’s just say it is not so to all inhabitants of Australia, and is not represented as such in the stories of all Australians, although it is a really significant theme in Australian literature.

Sophie Masson wrote on authors in a changing publishing landscape. I smiled a little ruefully at this quote:

When my last adult novel, Forest of Dreams, came out in 2001, I was commissioned to write a piece for a newspaper on the historical background of the novel (a paid piece), and reviews of the book appeared in several print publications, despite its being genre fiction. When The Koldun Code, also genre fiction, came out in 2014, I had to write several guest posts for blogs, do interviews for online publications (all unpaid) and reviews only appeared online.

I did not review this book, but I did interview Masson and review several of her YA works for print publications, where I was paid for my work. Now I retweet links to her articles and review things exclusively online for free. Oh, how times have changed!

Authors who are parents have been posting about the experience. There are too many posts to include here, but you can find links to all of them at the #ParentingCreating hashtag.

The latest of Kari Sperring’s ‘Matrilines’ columns, on Evangeline Walton, is up. I’ve been finding these columns both illuminating – in terms of introducing me to many authors whose work sounds right up my alley – and disheartening, in that almost all of them were entirely new to me, instead of well-known figures in the SF canon.

I found this post by Samantha Shannon on judging a literary award to be a very interesting read.

In a departure from these posts’ usual content, I have a music recommendation: CHVRCHES’ new album Every Open Eye. It stops my heart, in the best possible way.

Advertisements

This is the path I’ll never tread/ these are the dreams I’ll dream instead April 21, 2012

Posted by dolorosa12 in music.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

When I go back to that well, that well which to me is so deep and giving, I feel guilt. What if they see that I’m still that girl wearing black in the hallway of some eternal school? What if they see that what obsesses me doesn’t make the cover of Wired like post-scarcity economics or reputation-based currency system? I feel I should not be That Girl. I should give equal time to others. But I can’t help it, I can’t help how the symbols of the story crackle in my head, I can’t help how I see my life in that story, how few stories we have that are about a girl’s journey, and part of the reason this one hits so hard is that there is a rape at the center of it, and we all have to decide how we deal with that elephant in the Sicilian field, whether we say she loved the darkness too, whether we give her all the power, whether we say she was stolen, whether we say she was happy underground, whether we say she was miserable and her mother saved her.

– Catherynne M. Valente, ‘My Dinner with Persephone’

A few weeks ago, I started listening to Kate Bush. I did this because I felt it was high time I listened to her full discography, because I love the music of Florence Welch and Annie Lennox (who are her obvious musical descendants), and the music of The Knife and Fever Ray and Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams and the female vocalists of Massive Attack and Strawpeople. Because I love Angela Carter and Frida Kahlo and stories about Persephone and the way Cat Valente writes about interiority, and maybe by grouping all these things together, I’m drawing connections which these people neither intended nor perceive, but to me, what they are (and why I love them) is women who feel things and communicate those feelings.

When I decided I liked Kate Bush, I took to the internet, as is my wont, to do what I usually do when I like something: broadcast my love to the world, Google lyrics, post video clips. After a while, I noticed something: I was apologising for liking Kate Bush’s music. Every time I posted a link, reblogged a clip, tweeted a Tweet, I was saying things like ‘living the cliché’ or ‘aren’t I such a stereotype?’. I was preempting any criticism for being one of those ankh-wearing Persephone girls that Valente talks about in the above quote.

I have noticed that when people criticise these lyricists – Kate Bush and Florence Welch in particular – they are often criticised for their insistent introversion, for the way they verbalise their emotions. (I once read a review of Florence’s Ceremonials album that essentially criticised her for not being Bob Dylan.) It’s as if what they sing about, what they’re feeling, is small and personal and irrelevant, whereas when a man – say, Neil Young* – sings about his feelings, they’re large and universal and important.**

I haven’t quite worked out what exactly this all means. It is a many-stranded thing. There is one strand that denies these songs any universality,*** or suggests that if you see yourself in them, you are an ankh-wearing Persephone girl whose emotions cannot be anything other than adolescent. There is a strand whereby we put these singers off in a ‘kooky’ category, because it’s easier to look at the swan costumes, the masks, the glittery make-up, than actually listen to what they are saying, to unpack the imagery and literary allusions.

And there is a strand of policing women’s emotions. I’m not saying here that men’s emotions aren’t policed (in fact, this is one of the few instances where men have a more narrow range of options than women), but they are policed in a slightly different way. It’s the notion that yes, of course women are (and should be) emotional, but their emotions shouldn’t be complicated, or they should only be pleasant emotions, or perhaps a better way of phrasing this is that women are taught that they must paradoxically be ’emotional’ (because to be feminine is to be emotional), but that their emotions must never impinge, impose, disturb or inconvenience other people. To allow yourself to feel Florence Welch emotions, Kate Bush emotions, Frida Kahlo emotions, Persephone emotions – and, more unforgivably, to express those emotions to other people – is adolescent.

Self-reflection and self-perception: when a man does it, it’s a mirror of the human condition. When a woman does it, it’s self-absorption. Interiority: when a man does it, it can be universal. When a woman does it, it’s introversion. But I am going to stop apologising. I am a Persephone woman. I will feel, and I will give those feelings words.

_________
* I take him as an example because I’ve had so many conversations with my father where he has said that Neil Young’s music is amazing because ‘it’s so introverted and personal, and yet I identify with it so much’. Kurt Cobain might work as a good example too. Nirvana’s songs are so intensely specific, and yet they’re often held up as being definitive representations of an entire era and demographic.
** This is another version of how literature by a man with a domestic setting is seen as an important exploration of the human condition, whereas literature with a similar setting by a woman is seen as small in scope and petty in concern.
*** Which is patently ridiculous. It is pretty obvious what this song is about, and it is a sadly all-too-common experience.

Hold your colour October 23, 2011

Posted by dolorosa12 in fandom, fangirl, music.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Pendulum as a band is extremely concerned with the visual elements of music. I don’t mean that they care hugely about image, but that their music is all about visualisation. (Most particularly colour: they have albums called Hold Your Colour and Immersion, after all.) Each album is about construction: they start with the kernel of an idea and gradually build upon it. It’s a story, but a small story (that is, not in the same way that Massive Attack’s album Mezzanine is the story of the beginning, decline and end of a relationship), a single idea that slowly expands and becomes refined. It doesn’t progress, it just becomes clearer.

(And thus Hold Your Colour is about a journey through space, In Silico begins in outer space but shifts the focus to a siege or a doomed relationship, Immersion is essentially a journey beneath the waves, with hints and allusions to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.)

The emphasis in particular is on colour, made explicit through song titles and lyrics, but the connection is more complex than that. They evoke colours and imagery through their sounds. (Hold Your Colour, the most electro-sounding album, evokes video games and computer games through its heavy use of smooth, flowing synth. When I hear it, I see pixels and rushing galaxies.)

[This is an old post, a fragmentary series of scribblings I discovered on a handout from some long-forgotten seminar on aideda or death-tales in medieval Irish literature. Obviously it was a thrilling seminar.]

Fell from my heart and landed in my eyes August 25, 2011

Posted by dolorosa12 in fangirl, music, reviews.
Tags: , , , ,
8 comments

In matters of music, I tend to be so behind trends that I’m left chasing the dust of the bandwagon. And while I’m happy to throw myself with glee towards the latest manufactured pop act, if a singer has indie credentials and favourable reviews in the music press – in short, if he or she is the festival darling du jour – I am skeptical.

Hence it taking me two years to bother listening to Florence + The Machine.

Her very ubiquity turned me off. It was not until one friend made a playlist that included ‘Cosmic Love’, and another gave me the whole Lungs album that I realised what I’d been missing. I was hooked. I listened to the album seven times in a row last night, and then went back and forth replaying the four songs that really sang to me: ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, ‘Drumming Song’, ‘Cosmic Love’ and ‘Blinding’.

I wasn’t at all surprised at the suddenness and depth of my love. My favourite music, the stuff I really cling to and identify with, could all be termed ’emotional, quirkily black-humoured, usually ethereal female vocalists’: the soaring voices of the female guest-vocalists of Massive Attack, The Knife, with their way with dark words that enables them to interweave Vikings, ‘Scandinavian socialism’ and misogyny in one song, and the rich grief and strength of country singers like Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris.

The music of Florence + The Machine possesses these qualities in abundance. I’ve seen her described as a kind of musical Angela Carter, and I think the description is very apt. Her songs are a kind of dark fairytale, a metaphorical maze of mirrors and animal imagery. She sings about woman as body laid bare, not just naked but dissected, cut open and reduced to its component parts. And she does it with such compassion, beauty, sorrow, jubilation and power that I’m left feeling like I’ve been run over by a train after listening.

I feel that ’empowering’ is a complicated word and should be used with care, but I know of at least a couple of friends who found Florence’s music to be a source of strength at difficult times in their lives, and I personally found two songs in particular extremely empowering, whatever that word means. They are ‘Cosmic Love’ and ‘Blinding’, and to say that they reflect my own personal experience would be an understatement. You may recall that when I write about music, I tend to look for connections between songs, and in particular identify two songs as being a linked pair in some manner. I feel very strongly that, at least from my perspective, these two Florence songs are a linked pair.

It may be obvious when you listen and look at the lyrics that to me, ‘Cosmic Love’ is about loving someone who is deeply inappropriate and hurtful, while those of ‘Blinding’ are about waking up from that love and walking once again in the daylight and the spring and the sunshine. That’s what they say to me, but I have a particular set of experiences and a tendency to seek the words of others in order to mythologise these experiences and give them voice. I would not be so presumptuous as to declare that that is what the words mean to Florence or to other listeners.

There are so many other words and stories behind these songs. There is addiction (which doesn’t necessarily have to be to a person). There are Russian fairytales. There is Snow White and Persephone (and Florence is by no means the first person to make this connection). There is so much feeling it is almost unbearable, if not for the fact that the feelings being articulated are my own, and they are so perfectly articulated that they give me bravery and strength. They give me a voice.

I don’t go to parties, baby August 29, 2009

Posted by dolorosa12 in fangirl, music.
Tags: , , , , ,
7 comments

Any street cred this blog ever had is going to go out the window, because I am about to write about Regurgitator. That’s right, you read that correctly. Regurgitator. My non-Australian readers are probably scratching their heads right now, befuddled. If you don’t want to read about a rather popular 1990s Australian electronic rock band who sang about apathy, agoraphobia and video games, I give you leave to tune out. My Australian readers are probably scratching their heads in befuddlement for a different reason. Why would I want to write about Regurgitator?

Quite simply because I think they were one of the best bands in Australia in the 90s. Their music, in particular in the albums Unit and …Art was a sign of the times as much as the adolescent shrieks of Silverchair and the melodic, barely suppressed anger of the Whitlams. These three young nerds from Brisbane (and why is it that so much of the best Australian bands came out of Brisbane? I can’t for the life of me think of anything else to recommend the place) captured something essential about the experience of teenagers and twentysomethings in the Howard years.

Our esteemed former prime minister claimed when he came to power in 1996 that he wanted Australians to feel ‘relaxed and comfortable’, not angsty about our past and frightened about our future. The burning debates of his predecessor, Paul Keating, about reconciliation with the Stolen Generation of indigenous Australians, about Australia’s relationship with Asia, about the environment, about the importance of the arts and intellectual life in Australian culture, were swept under the rug, out of sight but certainly not out of mind. And people were not happy.

One of the big differences between my generation and previous generations (aside from Gen X, whose attitudes and tastes did much to shape the tastes of us Gen Y types, much as both generations would prefer to deny it) is that we reacted to unhappiness and dissatisfaction not with protest and action, but with despair, withdrawal and ennui. Not for nothing are we known as the ‘whatever’ generation. We certainly weren’t relaxed and comfortable – in many cases we were simmering with rage, but we preferred a quieter, less public, form of revolution. We retreated inside. And for the first time, we had the technology to help us.

Regurgitator tapped into all of this. They were, now that I think about it, one of the first bands to recognising the potential for the internet and video games to exacerbate depression and disconnect. Take the lyrics for the song ‘Virtual Life’, the final song on …Art. It’s about a television, but it might as well be about the internet:

I’ve got everything
That I could ever need
It’s under lock and key
Just survive all alone me and my screens

(I hasten to add that this is only one way the internet might affect you. For me, the internet has been nothing but a joy, a source of many fantastic new circles of friends and a place that has taught me so much.)

What about ‘Everyday Formula’ and ‘Black Bugs’, which riff on the same theme, but in relation to video games? Again we find this same emphasis on raising the drawbridge, dropping the portcullis and closing the curtains as a reaction to profound fear of, and disgust at, society:

I got killed by black bugs on my video game
And although to myself it doesn’t mean too much
I keep dying and dying over and over again
But I feel I’m alive so I’ll just pretend

People think that because Regurgitator’s music is full of cheesy electronic notes that wouldn’t be out of place in an old school video game, because they recorded an album in a plastic bubble in the middle of Federation Square and because they pepper their albums with silly, scatological songs, that they are incapable of being serious. But they’re deadly serious when they’re talking about the plastic, fakeness of celebrity and society, as in ‘Polyester Girl’, ‘Happiness’ and ‘Freshmint!. Right when they’re at their most humorous, they’re at their most cutting:

I love pointless effluent
It seems to love me
It’s sticking to my heart like polythene glue
Making everything seem so sweet

Big wide world of bitterness baby
Poisoning up this tongue
Giving this life its sweet respite
Let’s rip that packet of fun

Rotting my brain once again
It’s always the same and never ends (x2)

Love me lovely cathode-ray
Mother me in your glow
I’ll do anything you say
If you tell me I’ll never be alone

Touch me shiny magazine
Touch me way down there
I can’t help but imagining
That you really care

Powerful stuff.

Regurgitator’s appeal always lay in the fact that we knew they were a trio of basement-dwelling nerds. But they were basement-dwelling nerds with something to say, deeply worried about what was going on in society, able to sum up the fears, passivity and neuroses of a generation which had collectively decided that what was going on in the world outside was intolerable, unendurable, and impossible to change. They never spoke about our dreams, because how could such a generation possibly dream? They were deeply, deeply daggy, and revelled in their dagginess. How could one forget ‘The Song Formerly Known As’, a riot of rejection, door-closing and denial?

As the song progresses, the singer rejects parties (‘I don’t go to parties baby/ ‘Cos people tend to freak me out’), discos (‘Won’t see me down the disco mama/ Bright lights really hurt my eyes’), concerts (‘I don’t go to concerts baby/ The music’s always up too loud’) and raving (‘Won’t see me tribal raving/ Cos I won’t ever look that good/ Rather dance in ugly pants/ in the comfort of a loungeroom in surburbia’). It’s the petulant whine, ‘no, no, no, I don’t do that, I don’t do anything, everything is too scary, it’s too much, it’s unendurable’ dressed up as a rousing nerd anthem.

Or is it? ‘The Song Formerly Known As’ is also a nerdy chat up line. (‘Things don’t get no better/ better than you and me’, after all.) It’s a rejection of all the meaningless externalities that get in the way of real relationships. Let’s raise the drawbridge, drop the portcullis and shut the curtains against all those vacuous discos, concerts and parties and stay at home, rejecting the world together. Everything out there is meaningless. Whatever. I don’t go to parties, baby.

I leave you with the video clip for ‘The Song Formerly Known As’. Enjoy!