Autumn Culture Round Up

I haven’t done one of these link round-ups in ages, but I’ve been inspired to get back to it by the quantity of good stuff I’ve read recently.

Let’s start with something for the lesbian and bisexual women.  From Autostraddle, a gallery: 150 years of lesbians and other lady loving ladies.  

Also, from The Guardian, here’s an interview with Emma Donoghue

Bonjour Cass has a great post up about her favorite LGBTQ authors with a lot of good suggestions for reading.  She’s also starting an LGBTQ Book Blogger Directory.   

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This Week’s Culture Round-up

From Eclectic Eccentric, a review of Matthew Lewis’s 1796 lurid, gothic, horror, The Monk

Andy reviews The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which is one of my favourite horror stories. The 1963 film adaptation is also excellent if you’re looking for something to watch on Halloween.

From io9, the first lesbian science fiction novel published in 1906.

From Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations a selection of bleak alien landscapes

From Tor.com a post about Joanna Russ’s final novel, On Strike Against God with some great feminist quotes.

Another from Tor.com, Did Ursula Le Guin change the course of SF? 

Margaret Atwood has just published a book of essays about science fiction. From The Guardian, Margaret Atwood: the road to ustopia and a review from Slate.

From The Zoe-Trope, a critique of the way the term ‘Mary Sue’ is being used to denigrate female characters, You can stuff your Mary Sue where the sun don’t shine

A video tribute to Blade Runner

From Bitch Flicks, The Madwoman’s Journey from the Attic into the Television – The Female Gothic Novel and its influence on Modern Horror Films.  Bitch Flicks is currently doing a series on women and horror film.

From Genevieve Valentine writing at Strange Horizons, a review of The Fall

Markgraf  from Bad Reputation went to see The Three Muskateers . I recommend reading his review before spending any money on this film.

From Cracked, Great movies from the villain’s point of view.  I think my personal favourite is Terrible Shepherds!

And another one from Cracked, The 6 most mind blowing things ever discovered in space

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (1995)

To get along with God,

Consider the consequences of your behaviour

Parable of the Sower is one of the most harrowing, intense novels I’ve ever read.  I had a feeling that I shouldn’t read it while in a raw emotional state, but I picked it up one afternoon, started it and couldn’t stop.  Butler has a deceptively simple writing style that hooks you quickly and then grabs you round the throat and shakes you to your core.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across another writer who has less pity on her readers.

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In Praise of Fright Night (well, sort of)

The forthcoming remake of Fright Night (1985) has spurred me on to write a post about the original film, which was a favourite of mine when I was a teenager.  I’m aware that this post may largely consist of me rationalising my attachment to a homophobic and sexist film, but what can I say? I loved Fright Night when I was a kid and, when I sat down and watched it again recently, I found that I still loved it almost as much.

For me, as a teenager, Fright Night appeared extremely queer.  It presented a hero who was more interested in spying on the handsome man next door than in consummating his relationship with his girlfriend.  Meanwhile, the handsome man next door lived with another man who appeared to be devoted to him.   The hero’s best friend, ‘Evil Ed’, could be read as the kind of gay kid who protects himself from attack by becoming the class clown (fun fact: Stephen Geoffreys, the actor who played Ed, stars in gay porn films), as could the washed-up, horror film actor, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), who is represented, at least initially, as the nervous, fussy, effeminate gay male stereotype.

Fright Night reinforces homophobic discourses most strongly in the representation of the vampire, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), as the predatory, older gay or (perhaps more accurately) bisexual man and, in 1985 when so many gay men were dying of AIDS, the homophobic metaphor of infection that he carries as a vampire can’t be ignored.  The film also has little to offer feminism.  Charley’s mother is a silly woman (bad single Mum!) who endangers her son, and Charley’s girlfriend, Amy, who is generally submissive to men, ends up as the object of exchange in a classic homosocial triangle through which Charley and Jerry channel their relationship with each other (another fun fact: Amanda Bearse, the actress who played Amy, is a lesbian).  Also, as soon as she’s vamped Amy manifests the monstrous female sexuality that vampire fiction by male authors has traditionally assumed to lurk in all women, and also treats us to some rather exciting vagina dentata imagery.

So far, so homophobic and sexist, but Fright Night is just so clever, so witty, and winks at its audience so outrageously, that I can’t completely condemn it.  It does something interesting is in its presentation of two gay role models for the boys – “evil” Jerry Dandridge versus “good” Peter Vincent.  It’s very unusual to see the effeminate gay man (as Vincent seems to be portrayed) being represented as heroic at all on film, and rather than simply saying that gayness is bad, the film suggests that there are good and bad ways to be gay.  Poor Ed makes the fatal mistake of identifying with Jerry (but you can understand why he does), while Charley is wise enough to hook up with Peter Vincent instead.  Of course this opposition between “good” and “bad” gayness is in itself homophobic, but it’s a little more interesting than a lot of other horror films.  I also feel that Fright Night is, on another level, sort of about homosexuality and homophobia in horror film, insofar as it acknowledges and plays with the gay subtext that is such a longstanding feature of the genre. In particular, it seems to be saying something about the role that the gothic and horror genres have played in telling coded stories about queerness that have been especially attractive to young people trying to sort out their feelings about sexuality.

At the end of the film, Charley still hasn’t managed to consummate his relationship with Amy and still gets distracted by looking out of the window.  You never know, he might manage it after the credits roll, but you can decide that his options are still open.

Little link round-up

Fashion it So! A Star Trek fashion blog.  Hours of fun.

From Heroine Content, a review of the anime film Blood, The Last Vampire

Ursula Le Guin on the Sci-Fi channel’s whitewashing of her Earthsea series

From the FWord a review of the ‘Bloody Women’ strand at the Bird’s Eye View film festival – this was a mini-season of horror films by female directors

Post about Caroline Herschel, eighteenth-century astronomer and first woman to become an honorary member of the Royal Society

Robert Ebert, A Quintessence of Dust