Story is powerful
August 25, 2014 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Someone once asked me why "alpha males" were so popular in so much romantic speculative fiction, and I hesitated to answer it. Not because I didn't know, but because I knew I was going to have to have a discussion about teasing out the difference between finding pleasure in something you genuinely find pleasurable and taking pleasure in something you think you're supposed to find pleasurable.
Kameron Hurley talks about Gender, Family, Nookie: The Speculative Frontier.
posted by MartinWisse (7 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
This piece is excellent & well worth the read (and it reminds me, a little obliquely, about this brief Seth Godin musing on authenticity I saw recently - the bit about how our lives are molded from the very beginning by a cultural overlay).

I mean, it's not so much that it's a complicated concept as it's just hard to get your head around & to keep at the forefront of your mind how much your choices are influenced in ways you're not crediting or maybe even comprehending:
But the expectations I brought to the film were romcom expectations: this is how the formula works. This is how these humans will work. Like human beings and relationships are puzzle boxes with only one solvable formula. In fact, life is far more complicated than that, but we don't always want to see that in our fiction. We want to believe it's all quite simple... Even our nonfiction perpetuates this idea that the way we are today is the way we've always been, or will ever be... One of the best ways of keeping people in line is telling them that certain behavior is "normal" and "has always been done that way."
This is so worth considering & analyzing - to think about how much of what we consider "normal" is really only a societal default we have been taught - that we are made comfortable with our "normal" simply by repetition & example, and that rejecting something that is "not normal" to us is often not based on its actual validity as a concept or way of being, but merely on our own discomfort with it due to lack of exposure to the idea.

This impacts so much of how we live our lives from how we grow up to our relationships to our identities - maybe even frightening to realize how much we live on an autopilot of expectations instilled in us.
posted by flex at 7:06 AM on August 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thanks, that was interesting. I've been looking for something to read and am excited to try her fiction!
posted by eggkeeper at 7:16 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

A very cogent and thoughtful essay! It made me want to read some her fiction.
posted by Agave at 7:22 AM on August 25, 2014

What they said! Thanks for posting this, and I will watch for her name.
posted by languagehat at 7:42 AM on August 25, 2014

Oh, that's a really good piece. I almost backed out because of the ponies.

I'm reminded of this story from Sandi Toksvig:

"When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. "This is often considered to be man's first attempt at a calendar" she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. 'My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman's first attempt at a calendar.'

And the question begging in this as well:

Cave painting porn discovered

It seems a bit of a jump to assume that early depictions of the entrance to the birth canal were necessarily created for sexual gratification. But a whole lot of people made that jump without even questioning it. Which makes you wonder how many other casual assumptions we make that we haven't noticed yet.

Even more broadly, through sheer repetition of common narratives, it seems that sometimes we lose track of the nuances and contradictions and loose ends that real life is made out of. Not just in terms of gender and sex and identity, but everything, right down to most basic taxonomies of good and bad, with everything tied up into some overarching just world narrative.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:03 AM on August 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

Really loved The Mirror Empire when I read it a few weeks ago, so I went back and reread her God's War, which I'd found interesting and intriguing on my first read but hadn't loved, and totally loved it too.

I'm pausing between that and the second in the trilogy though, because I have issues with books running together in my head, but would highly recommend Hurley's work to any fantasy fiction fan.

Hurley is currently promoting The Mirror Empire and this is part of her blog tour promotion, she has a list of blogs she'll be appearing on on her site.
posted by Fence at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2014

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