Some thoughts on Wankery, genre and otherwise,
The thing that always surprises me is how many folks either make their disappointments the core of their identity, or, worse from my POV, go out of their way to annoy and upset people to compensate for feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and resentment for the lulz.
In my professional life (don’t laugh!) when I encounter people like this I file them under the heading of Button Pusher. They’re the folks who look to annoy and bother people, and I find they’re looking for people to push their buttons back. That’s discourse for them and feeds their need for attention. They’re also most comfortable operating at that level of zingers, and if you keep trying to have an actual conversation with them they move on in disgust, probably calling you boring as they go, because you’re not playing their game and they need to get one last button push in.
Related to button-pushing is something I’ll call kid-brother-itis. I don’t know how kid sisters behave, but I have pretty good grasp on being a kid brother, and one obvious tendency for us KB’s is to be as annoying as shit, not to everyone, but to a person we think is a bit full of themselves or needs to be taken down a peg or two. It can feel like doing god’s work, going around humbling conceited souls.
Of course, it’s not.
Fortunately someone acting under kid-brother-itis can often times be shown the error of their ways and corrected. It might take time, but it’s possible. On the other hand someone who’s a Button Pusher just sees engagement as more chances to push a person’s buttons.
I have no patience for this.
Where this comes back to genre is that it’s not just that Button Pushers are there, but that the internet coupled with fandom’s resentful puddletrout has made Online Asshole a profitable brand, and that’s like the golden ring for Button Pushers. And if they’re a real shitboil, they’ll up the ante from simple annoying button pushing to full on abusive behavior. What’s happening though is that people seem to be moving on, because so many other issues are happening, and the Button Pushers can’t stand it. They are trying desperately to keep the attention on themselves, while no one has time for them anymore.
None of this should be construed as casting aspersions on actual wankery. That’s not my place to judge. You do you.
I’m out of the Transfer Towns for better and worse. Better, because after six years dirty ole Pohang has started to feel a bit like home. Worse, because I had a book-reading writing/gaming buddy I could hang out with almost everyday living right up the street. I haven’t had anything like that in years, possibly even decades. It was great!
On to the books…
The Lais of Marie de France by Marie de France: Most summers I get this desire to read Arthurian tinged stuff and that led me to reading Jessie Weston and she got me reading Marie de France. Decent editions of both are available at Gutenberg. In France’s lais we’re dipping into the Chivalric tradition centuries before Mallory with stories of knights and their lady loves, magic oaths and spells, even a noble werewolf (BISCLAVRET!!!) Collected together these make for a series of great words and the like a collection of fairy tales you can dip in, read one or two stories, then put the book aside. Although you can certainly read it straight through. One thing that makes France’s handling of the material so enjoyable is how separate it is from the Christian tradition. That tradition is present but it’s not hitting you ever the head like it would by the time Mallory’s recounting the Grail Quest. I might use this for a yesterweird series of posts.
Jhereg by Steven Brust: Suddenly so many of the D&D characters my friends and I rolled up as teens make sense. Wicked Awesome Super Assassin Wizard does wicked awesome super assassin wizard stuff with his wicked awesome super assassin wizard powers and wicked awesome super assassin wizard friends. Yes, I’m mocking this book a bit, but it was a fun romp and I enjoyed its pace and flippant attitude. I know there are a lot more books in the series, but I’m in no real rush to read them. I’d rather save them as treats between other books.
Laura by Vera Caspary: Of all the books I read last month this one had me running around the most and recommending it to friends. Laura is pitched as a Femme Fatale, but really she is a modern professional woman in the world of 1940s advertising, doing her best to be an independent woman. What results because of that is like a Gothic novel set in the hard-boiled worlds of New York cops and savage murderers. Definitely give this a shot if the hard-boiled tradition is at all a thing you enjoy.
A Lady’s Guide to Ruin by Kathleen Kimmel: I haven’t read a lot of romance novels, but I’ve been told that there are two kinds: the first kind has the love-struck characters boning in the first twenty pages, and the second kind where there’s pages and pages of angsty, yearning, and flushed groin business before the boning happens somewhere in the 3rd act. This book is the latter type. It’s about a lovable thief and con-artist masquerading as a noblewoman in order to escape her criminal past. Of course she falls in love with the Earl who believes she is his cousin. To Kimmel’s credit, by the time the boning happened I was more interested in all the plot machinations and wished the groining would finish quick so the character could go back to resolving the plot.
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson: If you had handed this grim fantasy ballad to the Viking era to 13 year old me, I would have gobbled this up and thought it was the greatest book ever: a dark brooding antihero, a quest to forge a demonic sword, monsters, war, sexy weird elves… the whole book is a witch’s brew of moody heroics that even though I’m less in love with such beverages now I can remember how much I loved the taste of them back then. If you’re a pulp fantasy fan and you’ve never read this, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt: The Sisters Brothers, Eli and Charlie, work for as hired killers for the Commodore and the Commodore wants them to kill a gold miner named Hermann Kermit Warm. So begins a picaresque novel as the two set out from Oregon and make their way to the gold fields of California. Along the way they encounter an assortment of odd characters and circumstances, all of it narrated by Eli Sister the more pensive and over-weight of the two brothers. This was a fun if deceptively easy read and with a level of artful construction that I appreciated. If you like atypical westerns this is worth tracking down.
And special mention goes to…
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand: This is a delight of a book, and if you have an afternoon to spend and want to spend it with a wry smile plastered to your face this is the book to do it with. How can you not love a play that gives stage directions such as: “A MUSKETEER, superbly mustached, enters”?