Elves of Colour

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When writing stories I can’t help being conscious of the people represented even in my fantasy and futuristic landscapes. It’s hard to find female protagonists in popular media, harder to find ones who past the Bechdel Test, and even harder still to find women of colour.

I like to find artwork that, to me, represents the kind of mood or look of my characters. I’m bored of white European fantasies/sci-fis, and so for NaNoWriMo I’m challenging myself to go beyond what I’m familiar with. I want to see more stories about characters from a variety of non-white cultures, and I believe it’s lazy to say ‘I shouldn’t write such characters because I’m white’. Culturally diverse representation is starting to grow in multimedia, like in the new “Star Trek Discovery” series or the “Walking Dead” video game, but so very slowly.

When I try to search for elves, wizards or knights who are not white—let alone non-sexualised women—it takes me HOURS. For every seventy images of a pretty white elf, there might be one elf of colour. Fantasy seems to be a terribly white-washed genre. In part, it’s cultural assimulation—it’s what we’ve grown up to imagine and believe is beautiful/best/most magical.

I want to stretch my own imagination and stretch the imagination of others. Part of writing is to research, and I’ve discovered so many fascinating facts about medieval Bulgaria, Turkey and Arabia. My favourite fact to whip out at parties at the moment (no joke) is this: did you know that in roughly the 7th Century, Volga Bulgarian noble women could not marry until they had proven themselves in war? I mean, it’s bad that Bulgaria was at war frequently enough for it to be a prerequisite to marriage, but still. It’s time to change the erasure of warrior women throughout history by bringing their stories back at least through fiction. It’s a big ol’ world and there’s so much more to imagine other than differing versions of fantasy Europe.

Have you found fantasy PoC images of elves, wizards, and knights? Do any artists spark your imagination? Who are they?

Feature image by Eleonor Piteira

Following my NaNo mood-board on Pinterest!

A World Where Our Family Must Die

The purpose of the Thai commercial embedded below is for a communication technology that is hoped to improve living conditions across Thailand.

However, when I watched it, as a UK citizen who only has to pay about £11 tax for unlimited health care, this ad made me appreciate the NHS even more. Watch the commercial below, because this is why we shouldn’t privatise the NHS or, as written in the Conservative manifesto, make immigrants pay higher tax for health care or have none at all.

Imagine having to let your father die because you could not pay the medical bills. Imagine having to sell your home as the only possible solution. Imagine being an immigrant who works and lives in the UK, like any other born citizen, and not being allowed the same rights.

Imagine what kindness and compassion could do for each other if sectors of the world started acting like healthcare is something that everyone deserves and is, in fact, possible without making families bankrupt or reducing human life to ££/$$ signs. 

Remember the EU Referendum and What it Means for the General Election

For many young people and immigrants in particular they were heartbroken when the UK voted to leave the EU. 49% of the population who bothered  to vote  chose to remain. What’s more, many were shocked the leave vote actually won.

Don’t trust the polls.

There was an air of complacency. “We’ll never vote to leave, besides, all the polls are in favour of us remaining.” So a large percentage of people didn’t bother to vote, since they hadn’t participated in the statistics claiming we’d never leave – clearly other people were doing it for us.

We’re leaving the EU, and that’s that. I’m not here to complain about it.

I’m saying we’ve got to learn from the event. If all those people who wanted to remain but didn’t vote had done so, the result might have been different.

Polls are starting to show that Labour are gaining rapid popularity and beating the conservatives.

Don’t believe them. Do you know who mostly uses the polls? Young people who know how to use the internet but aren’t registered to vote.

The highest turn-out group of voters in the last UK general election were age 65+, the majority of whom voted Conservative. They also did not contribute to polls, which made the data unreliable.

Don’t believe the polls. Keep talking to people. Register to vote and ACTUALLY VOTE. You don’t even have to leave your house. You only have a couple of days left to register.

Let’s talk about Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Of all the things to motivate me to post about something other than food…

I  want to have a genuine discussion with you, dear reader. This isn’t an angry post. I run away from angry conversations faster than a cat from a bucket of water. I just want to talk about Labour in the upcoming UK general election. In particular, I want to focus on the recent jibes so many politicians are making about “increasing taxes won’t fund Labour policies.” Why does Theresa May and her party keep telling us that Labour’s payment plans won’t work? Why does JK Rowling deplore Jeremy Corbyn?

I think it’s important that we talk about this calmly, that we try to really rationale things. If we want anyone to consider our point of view, we have to talk respectfully, right? But we have to, at the very least, talk to each other. I shy away from political talk so often due to the, uh, passion it can evoke in people that I often feel like I’m being shouted at with no room to actually articulate myself – no room for an actual discussion. But discussion is what creates change. Let’s get started.

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Magical Girls: Internalised Misogyny and Genre Rebirth

Let’s be honest. The ‘magical girl’ trope used to suck when I was a kid, especially when girls are taught to hate themselves because ‘femininity = weakness,’ and gosh are magical-girl-shows ALL ABOUT showy associations of girliness. As such, the magical girl trope only pleased young girls who hadn’t yet learnt to think ‘girliness is a flaw.’ The older a girl got, the more she saw that many magical girls were shaped as vapid creatures obsessed with getting boyfriends or hiding their other life as a pop star, downplaying the fighting and dealing with schoolyard problems. Basically: sitcoms. So it’s no wonder women distanced themselves from ‘magical girls’ to try and preserve their sense of respectability. Until BOOM: Sailor Moon. But let’s build up to that.

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What the heck am I talking about when I link magical girls to internalised misogyny? It’s the act of rejecting women, or yourself, for behaving/looking a certain way. The thing is, to quote everydayfeminism, “it’s not always other people or other genders that are responsible for sexism. Sometimes, it’s actually you.” Women oppress themselves and their peers, known as ‘internalised misogyny’—the act of involuntary perpetuating sexist messages within their societies and culture. Enter stage: the magical girl.

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6 things that happen when you write about feminism

Another reblog this morning. This time it’s a little bit of motivational talk to keep you writing where everyone else would tell you to stop.

Sarah Ditum

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1. You will be accused of hating men

At first this will sound ridiculous. Then you’ll feel irritated. Then you might feel riled and want to say: “YES I HATE MEN AND THEY MUST ALL BECOME SOYLENT GREEN.”

But the truth is, I don’t hate men. I just think I am awesome – too awesome for my life to be decided along the lines of what someone else thinks is appropriate to my gender. Too awesome to go around cringing over the fact that I am woman-shaped and have woman interests and woman-y inside-bits.

The people who accuse feminism of hating men have a very fragile, narrow idea of being a man – they’re something like a fluorescent tube. They are worried that any change will shatter them. Feel sorry for them, but not too sorry: like the rest of us, they will probably be OK.

2. You will get…

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Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

There is so much about Foz Meadows’s blog that I love and find comforting to see addressed. Her entire blog is a big stress relief for me, but I’m reblogging this particular post because it is something I struggle with constantly when around my family.

Explaining that sexist/racist jokes are STILL sexist never sits well with them. They will always tell me, in a derisive and offended tone, that I need to ‘lighten up’ or, my favourite (not), ‘get off my high horse’ and learn to ‘take a joke’ or explain to me that they’re being ‘ironic’.

I suppose they dislike it that I scowl at belittling and sexist/racist jokes because, for them, they would have to completely alter their way of thinking about humour. They would have to address that they’ve just said something that either reveals a little bit of their internalised misogyny, or that they are bigoted and not aware of it.

Changing how one thinks about humour does require effort, but only in the beginning, like all things. If they TRIED to be conscious of the ‘ironic sexism’ that they’re perpetuating, they might find it easier not to give into the mindless rhetoric that bigotry is funny. It’s easy to just laugh rather than to think, but the effect this keeps having on the way we subconsciously treat people continues to have negative results.

To quote Meadows’s opening paragraph: ‘All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.’

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced…

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Hollywood and Western Ideology

A discussion on whether Hollywood films “invariably reinforce Western ideological values” and to what extent.

romantic-moviesAs Hollywood was the leading film industry during the development of early cinema, it is not that surprising that it still dominates the market. The culture it portrays is over-saturated in European cinema, in the sense that its stereotypes are widely accepted as the ‘norm’ and are internationally recognised. Indeed, during the 1920s, European countries “began to use legislative measures to resist Hollywood’s domination of their screens” (Ruth Vasey, 1993, p.214) In this essay it is necessary to briefly touch upon what is the Western ideology of Hollywood and what is not; and what is at the ‘other’ end of the spectrum. To help understand its success I will draw from writers like Paul Willeman (click [here] to read his entire essay) who looks particularly at the specificity of nationalism and how films outside of leading Western cinema are alienated.

Ideology of the West
where is it, what is it, and who utilises it?

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Tom Cruise in Top Gun

First thing’s first: what is ‘Western ideology’? Where does it come from and how do we define it?

Western ideology tends to vary depending on the source. It is not a ‘thing’ or a clearly-marked-out manifesto. It is a blurry set of beliefs that have pooled together from different cultures, states and countries that are constantly changing and being argued over. The most prominent ideology is enforced by the leading party in the US as it reaches a larger spectrum of people through (for the most part) the medium of Hollywood films and agitprop news feeds, e.g. CNN, FOX, SKY.

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Religious Reformation in Dragon Age II and Final Fantasy X

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Before we can explore the discourse surrounding the theme of religious reformation in the videogames Final Fantasy X (Square, released in Japan 2001) and Dragon Age II (BioWare, released universally in 2011), it is important to define what is meant by ‘reformation’. The Collins dictionary definition is, ‘1. improve 2. reconstruct – vi. 3. abandon evil practices’ (p. 620) In this case, in order for change to occur within a current system, everything has to be altered; the entire system has to be reconsidered, not slightly altered.

Within the two videogames discussed here the characters take drastic measures to alter their respective societies into what they believe is better, but each story does so with very different tones and moral choices. Reformation encompasses race, class, religion, politics, gender, sexuality but for the sake of focus, religious reformation will be the main study of this essay as it is the most prominent change within these two videogames.

If you’re currently playing the games in question, be warned: this post has spoilers.

Challenging Popular Perceptions
Videogames are undervalued as a ‘low cultural medium’

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Artwork by StellaB

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Fifty Shades of Feminism

This has to be the best “Fifty Shades” marketing pun out there. That’s it, they don’t get better or more tongue in cheek than this. Now stop.

But I’m not posting this to rage about marketing puns, or Fifty Shades of Gray. I want to share with you a new book. A fantastic book. A book that makes me feel solidarity with not just women, but people. If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Feminism edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach, that’s not surprising. It’s a book about feminism, after all. Ech.

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What makes this book special is its informality. This isn’t a preaching book. This isn’t trying to tell you The Rules Of Feminism (because they don’t exist, by the way). Fifty Shades of The F-Word is a book filled with stories, personal struggles, hope and reasons to challenge the equality lie.

It contains three-to-four page entries from fifty women around the world of all ages, sexuality and shades of feminist ideas. I started reading it yesterday and I’m a third of the way through.

So, what I really wanted to do was share with you parts of one story that have resonated with me the most and, I suspect, will resonate with many young women from my generation and younger. It’s an entry by Sharon Haywood, called Owning the F-word. It succinctly puts across the difficulties many people face in a Western world that is entrenched with anti-feminist rhetoric. I hope it reaches women afraid of being ostracized for trying to reclaim a demonised movement.

“I was always a feminist . . . I just didn’t know it.

As a teen and a young woman, I would rattle off misinformed excuses for not owning feminism, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much with up-and-coming generations. Take twenty-two-year-old Taylor Swift, internationally acclaimed pop-country singer, who when asked whether she was a feminist responded, ‘I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.’

It wasn’t until my thirties, when I left my provenance in Canada to explore other cultures, that I came to learn that feminism is not a battle of the sexes, and sometimes working hard simply isn’t enough. It took moving to Argentina, where 15 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients are teenage girls seeking Botox injections, chin implants and lip fillers, for me to become a card-carrying feminist.

By the 1980s, just as I grew old enough to form my own opinion, the backlash aimed at the second wave of feminism was firmly entrenched in popular culture. The media and entertainment industry did (and still do) a fine job of depicting feminists as militant, hairy and angry, strengthening the stereotype that no one I knew wanted to be associated with. I bought into the propaganda that feminists were man-hating, undesirable and humourless, adjectives I most certainly did not want attached to my name.

Although I recognised that many of my basic rights – voting, getting a credit card, attending university and having full reproductive autonomy – came courtesy of earlier generations of feminists, I couldn’t relate to them. A combination of immaturity, widely accepted delegitimizing stereotypes and having never known a real-life feminist shaped my believe that the women’s movement had finished its job.

Even though my core values aligned with feminism, I fervently defended my beliefs in equality by tagging on the disclaimer, ‘Yes, but I’m not a feminist,’ lest I be ostracized from mainstream society. I rejected the F-word when I called out my friends on sexist jokes, when I maintained catcalling is sexual harassment and even when I defended my undergraduate thesis arguing the association between porn and violence against women. The relationship between less obvious forms of oppression in my midst and the work of earlier feminists eluded me.

[. . .]

Since I’ve owned feminism, my life has changed for the better. It has heightened my sensitivity to the different experiences of people as they intersect with various aspects of their identity. It’s improved the quality of my personal relationships with others and myself. And it’s affirmed that a small group of committed people can indeed effect positive change. That said, imagine what our world would look like if feminism wasn’t restricted to the fringe.

Study after study has shown that feminism self-identity lends to greater collective action, thus increasing the likelihood of social change. From Argentina to Australia, the more of who own feminism as part of who we are, the greater our odds of raising consciousness and dissolving the rhetoric that stands in the way of gender equality.

Perhaps with more life experience, celebrity and role models like Taylor Swift and other well-known self-proclaimed non-feminists – actress-director Drew Barrymore, singer-songwriter Björk and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, to name a few – will recognize that they too are in fact feminists, and pave a less-obtrusive path for all women.

Taking ownership of the label doesn’t require abandoning the role of stay-at-home mother, earning a doctorate in gender studies or founding a non-profit organization (and it certainly doesn’t trigger overnight facial hair), but it does mean possessing and wielding out combined potential and power to achieve genuine equality.

Individually, it starts with the assertion. Yes, I am a feminist. Full stop.”

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To read Haywood’s full entry, you should really buy Fifty Shades of Feminism. It’s a great way to tease into a muggy subject; especially if you don’t know how to shape what it means, or if you aren’t sure whether to believe feminists are nuts or not (I advocate not, ta); with fascinating, uplifting, inspiring stories.

LGBT Pride Marches in the UK This Summer

The Tories are continuing to move against gay marriage – and continuing the reality of LGBT oppression – but we can continue to unite against this over the summer. Below is a list of Pride Festivals over the next two months; a list that is not exhuastive. Attend where you can and show that marriage should be equal for everyone.

Claiming someone else’s marriage is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a donut because you’re on a diet.”
— source unknown

The first 12 dates are:

Birmingham ……………………25 May

York……………………………….1 June

Blackburn………………………..1 June

Bradford………………………….1 June

Blackpool………………………..8 June

Oxford…………………………….8 June

Pride Scotia (Edinburgh)……15 June

Essex (Chelmsford)…………..22/23 June

Doncaster………………………..29 June

Swansea………………………….29 June

London…………………………….29 June

Sheffield…………………………..6 July

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The High Horse of Age: Concerning Thatcher

Some of us were not alive during Thatcher’s reign. Some of us were only toddlers, like myself. Some of us saw it all. Dear the latter, shut up about your age. Here is why:

I’ve been frustrated with the amount of people who say, “How can young people protest against the funeral? They weren’t around.” Here are two possible answers.

ONE: some ‘young people’ come from families that were severely affected by Thatcher’s campaigns. They may not have seen first hand what it did to their family members, but they have seen and felt the knock on effects. Some children come from families that really fucking hate her, and I know people who have been reminding me of this for many, many years.

TWO: some ‘young people’ have a brain and like to do this thing we call ‘research’, or go into ‘higher education’. I had two painfully boring years of studying Thatcherism when I was seventeen. I can’t pretend I know everything, I can’t say my family was one to suffer during her reign, but I have studied enough to know that I do not like her and, for the sake of older generations who struggled first hand, I will not let her ‘legacy’ wash past me as if I shouldn’t care.

If we start saying “young people have no reason to care,” then guess what. They’re going to stop caring because they are met with a wall of patronising comments and shunted as if incapable of empathy. If you care about current events then involve them, debate with them and help them to shape the system. We ‘young people’ can care about things other than our university fees. Honest.

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Breaking Dawn Parody by The Hillywood Show

What’s actually great about this parody, and the reason I’m sharing it with you, is that it is not offensive to fans of Twilight, the actors or the author. This is a genuinely funny and gorgeously filmed piece of entertainment that doesn’t seek to bully anyone.

That has been my discrepency with the ‘the whole Twilight thing’. It’s not that it’s a regressive story line, it’s not that it has a shit ending, it’s not even that some of the fans are quite scary; it’s the staggering amount of mistreatment towards those who dare to like it and the bullying of Kristen Stewart and Robert Patterson. It makes me furious. I’m not going to write an essay on how sickening Western culture can be in its mass media spitefullness, I just wanted to share this with you and point out its acheivement. Enjoy!

Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers) via. Jim Haines

Willow: I don’t have time to write my follow up post on reviews until the weekend but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you Jim Haines post about the use of women on fantasy covers. It’s incredibly amusing but highlights how women are posed to give the illusion of strength and courage.

Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers)

A while back, we had a discussion on the blog about the cover art for my princess novels. For the most part, I really like these covers, but they’re not perfect.

Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. I opted for the latter, in part because it helped me to understand it better. I expected posing like Danielle to feel a little weird and unnatural. I did not expect immediate, physical pain from trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do the hip thing she’s got going on.

I recruited my wife to take the pictures, which she kindly did with a minimum of laughter.

Being me, I naturally couldn’t stop there. I headed over to Amazon and grabbed a sampling of book covers, primarily urban fantasy, and spent the evening doing a photoshoot. Click on if you want to see the results (or if you just really want to see a shot of topless Jim).

// For your amusement and food for thought, follow the link to see more: http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/

Writing, the countryside, fan art and bugger it.

I’m afraid I am going to bail out of giving my subjective report on the 26th of March; simply because it was super boring. I have nothing amazing to tell you other than we walked slower than a snail on sleeping pills for six hours through London. The only cool things to report are (A) over 500,000 people turned up, (B) there was so much noise around me I couldn’t hear properly when I got home and (C) the anarchists threw paint bombs at the Ritz Hotel. Eh-heheheheheheheh.

Well, and they threw sign posts too.

As you can see, Piccadilly was well guarded.

How cool is this picture? It’s only a bonfire, by the way, not London streets aflame. I don’t think the anarchists would burn down London JUST yet. Boo to riot police.


I’m now home for the Easter holidays and boy, it feels good. I’ve missed the countryside. As much as I don’t dislike living in the city, there’s no where in England quite like Dorset. OK, so the Lake District is gorgeous, too, but sssh. I’ve spent my morning out in the fields trying to write. The weather is at last warm and wonderful, just as it should be.

Tip for authors: see lots of sunlight. It makes you happy and, let’s face it, all writers need to feel happy lest the insanity claims them at an early age. Yes, insanity is inevitable. Accept your fate now, dedicated writer.

Fan Art
What with my dossier being done, Reflective Log handed in, script nearly completed and rehearsals started, I decided to take a week break from work and concentrate on a other creative skills. It’s been a long time since I did much drawing, especially having finished my A-Levels (I studied art for 6th Form/college). When I put my mind to it or feel like “I have to”, I’m almost certain I can draw anything. So, lately I’ve put out fan-art requests on Twitter. Anything people want of their favourite characters, I’ll draw it. It’s been great fun and now that I have my colouring pencils I can start to finish them up.

Character Vivi with a moogle

Willow and Tobi XD

Character: Vivi again

Character: Cloud Strife

Requests are still open. ^_^

Writing
As for writing, my latest piece is called “Second Coming”, which is an alternate explanation for the carnage that happened in ShinRa Electric Power company; a fan fiction. I’m quite proud of it, actually. Short, gory and full of creepy-headless-Jenova.

I’m working on novels all over the place, unsure which one to make my next big project. Some of you might say, why not finish Drown in a Bottle of Keys? As with every NaNoWriMo project, it’s hard to keep up the writing momentum when November ends. I’ll finish it, I just don’t know how. Can we have a Summer November?

Voice Acting
Angelus chapter three is now complete and available for your viewing/listening pleasure, along with a blooper reel. I’d say this is the best chapter we’ve yet produced. Even if you don’t follow the series, I would recommend this chapter to you.

Shudo Ranmaru is now a voice actor for Froxen Blue (WHOOOOO) and the next chapter for that will…happen. Sometime.

Thank you for reading!
Lemons