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Kaia

Kaia

Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

Currently reading

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
Neuromancer
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Progress: 380/501 pages
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Perdition
Ann Aguirre
Chicks in Chainmail - Esther M. Friesner, Margaret Ball, Mark Bourne, George Alec Effinger, Laura Frankos, Holly Lisle, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Eluki bes Shahar, Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz, Janni Lee Simner, Nancy Springer, Jan Stirling, Harry Turtledove, David Vierlin What. The. Hell.I am stunned. I love, love humor that mocks, averts and/or subverts fantasy tropes, especially the ones applied to women, and I thought that's what this was. Sure, it's called Chicks in Chainmail, but that's part of the joke, right? I had high hopes, even though I don't really like anthologies most of the time. In particular, part of the forward made me think I'd enjoy this one this time. In Esther Friesner's own words:Wake up call time: Not all comedy needs to be cruel. Not all humor depends on ridicule. Most of the best relies on holding up the mirror to our fallible human nature. It lets us laugh at ourselves without making us feel belittled, hopeless, disenfranchised, or dumb. We make mistakes, we laugh at them, and we learn.Should be golden, right? Well, not so much. This book is a mistake, but I'm not laughing. I only made it through three of the stories (well, technically I didn't quite make it through the third) before I had to quash the urge to fling this against the wall. There's no hope of a refund if I do that, and yes, I will be trying for one. The first story was Lady of Steel by Roger Zelazny. I suppose this one could have been amusing and inoffensive, but it's so short and so shoddily written that it's hard to tell. It stars "Cora", a man who has disguised himself as a woman and worked hard to be a warrior, echoing the idea of women dressing up as men to do the same. (Incidentally, the latter has actually been necessary; have you ever heard of the former?)I suppose the story could have been making a point about how ridiculous it is for women to have to do that, but it's only about two pages long, with absolutely no world-building or character development to speak of. And it truly is an effort that feels slapdash, as if Zelazny wrote it in five minutes and only took enough time to proofread it before hitting the submit button. As well, it ends with someone discovering "Cora's" secret and immediately agreeing to keep it safe, something can be arranged, wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Ick. It otherwise never addresses the very real consequences that a woman in such a position might face, either. The end result is that it felt like it was mocking such women. The second story is And the Ladies of the Club by Elizabeth Moon, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I disliked and was offended by this one. What I've read from Elizabeth Moon gives me the impression she's rather fond of thinking that feminism is all about matching the raging bitch stereotype. Not surprisingly, some of her characters do, their heads often filled with thoughts of murdering and maiming people for even small offenses. The story centers around a kingdom wherein the king has declared a tax on chainmail bras, because that's extra armor (men only wear chainmail loincloths, you see). Naturally, the tax is actually the brainchild of the stereotypically snide and bitchy sore-loser queen, because hooray for supporting the idea that women should be in constant rivalry with each other.To combat that tax, the female warriors use the kingdom's healthcare to have a "plastic wizard" make a spell for them that will remove their breasts and return them as needed. Like, he puts them in quantum space or something. I wasn't enjoying the story before then, but this is where I got offended. Do you know what women have their breasts removed? Women with breast cancer, who have no choice, and women who aren't women at all, but had the misfortune of being born in the wrong bodies. These are not laughing matters. They're big, serious matters, and making a joke out of breast removal? Not funny. I thought we were laughing at our own foibles? Right now, we seem to only be laughing at serious matters that are often beyond our own control.(First person to use the term "PC Police" will be smacked so hard through the Internet, their great-grandchildren will feel it. Do not tempt me, people.)Finally, we get to Exchange Program by Susan Schwartz. I'm not sure I can even express how crackaddled this thing is.I like historical fiction, but Real Person fan fiction gives me a squicky feeling in my stomach. I mean, historical people are long dead and I'll never risk running into them and having some inappropriate scene from a book pop into my head. But...but...okay, I'm just going to talk about this, because there's no other way to go about it.In this story, the Valkyries summon Hillary Clinton (yes, that Hillary Clinton) to Valhalla so she can stand up to Odin for them. Now, I know what you're probably thinking. "The Valkyries? Summoned Hillary "I'm a Democrat so My Spine is Actually a Hologram" Clinton to stand up for them? Against Odin? THE VALKYRIES!?" Well, in this version of the mythology (please be advised that I use the term loosely) the Valkyries are all the daughters of Odin and the Norn Urd. Yes, that Norn. They also seem to have been replaced with a giggly blonde junior varsity field hockey team (as that is basically how Hillary describes them). Early in the story Odin placates them with trinkets, which they ooh and ahh over like the classic stereotype of the shallow bimbo. Hillary, who can't go back home yet, makes it her job to teach these girls how to be proper, strong, assertive women. The. Freakin'. Valkyries. She also basically becomes Odin's Secretary of State.As a character, Hillary is completely Flanderized. She knows where she is (instantly, and without a hint of shock) but constantly couches things in terms of law and modern earth. When she sees Huginn and Muninn, Odin's ravens, she wonders if he has a wildlife permit. She's always thinking of Nato, and considers the Midgard Serpent an endangered species, because there's only one. I know, this is supposed to be humorous. But is it really funny to so completely break someone down to a few simple, surface traits that they have utterly stupid thoughts like that?Odin is a rampaging douchebag, as is Thor, who Hillary describes as "an overage, hypermasculine juvenile delinquent" and look, I freely admit that Norse mythology isn't my strong point, but this isn't really ringing any bells. But it's the perfect contrived environment in which Hillary can preach about the evils of testosterone poisoning and showing your sons favoritism. The Valkyries, the women who collected the spirits of the dead from the battlefield, are reduced to weak-willed teenage girls in something that appears to be based on something that is based on a Christianized version of Norse myth. Of course you can make some kind of point with that, but it'll be a trite one, especially with your character painted as a one-dimensional nitwit.But I never reached the end. I didn't really give half a flying rat's ass whether Hillary made it home to Bill (whom she makes constant mental criticism of, by the way). But I stopped reading after this:He passed it over, so reluctant to have her touch it that you'd have thought it was Lorena Bobbit's knife--or what it cut.Annnnnddddddddddd I'm done. I draw the line at laughing about genital mutilation. With any luck, the store will take this back. If not, it may end up the very first book I throw in the trash. I didn't even throw Graceling in the trash and really, I do believe it belongs there.P.S. Thor handing his hammer over to someone because they tell him to? Puh-leeze. Even asking sounds like a good way to get a precision lightning strike right up your nose.