A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Incubus Dreams’ chapter twenty three


This is a twenty page chapter so buckle up folks. I’m guessing this chapter will not be a return to the A plot, but a continued ramble of bullshit

Nathaniel’s attempt to make me laugh accomplished one thing; it made me feel better, though I have to admit the smell of freshly ground coffee helped lure me through the door. I couldn’t let one ex-fiance stand between me and my coffee, could I? Not and keep my self-respect, so in we went.

What the shit is going on. What time is this taking place. When. What. How.

Richard was sitting at the kitchen table on the side nearest the door. Dr Lillian was standing over the finishing the bandaging of his entire right shoulder and arm.

He was so injured that it barely stopped him from having sex and long conversations. Anyway, Anita is surprised that a medical professional acts like a medical professional. There’s a body guard lurking around because Marcus died (Marcus was a doctor? I don’t know who he is? What the fuck?) and he’s like dripping in knives. Even though he’s a were-animal and has like mad strength.

Anita freaks because she’s clearly going to die, as even though Fredo ‘was on our side, but he was definitely a bad guy’. Who the fuck is Fredo? The bodyguard? Have we met him before, at all? You can’t drop a character name and just expect us to know them because Anita does. NEWSFLASH: I am not Anita, and I’m glad for it. Character knowledge does not equal reader knowledge. Anita panics as her claustrophobia starts to kick in. I want to know how all these people got in the house without Anita’s knowledge. Damian starts to touch her but Anita starts to Hulk up as ‘I need to be angry right now, Damian, it’s all I’ve got’.

I have no idea what’s happening. Anita’s angry about something, but she’s always angry.

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Me too, Bruce, me too.

Dr Lillian demands that everyone give Anita space and some air as her claustrophobia is just sooooooooooo bad you guise, yeah this claustrophobia that she never had until a couple of books ago.

Anita heads out on the deck and flails about seeing colours and panicking and just generally being useless. You see, the tri force is now a five force, as she tied herself to Damian and Nathaniel. Yes, she is now permanently linked to those two wastes of ink.

Dr Lillian orgasms over how amazing Anita is.

“I know you are a constant amazement to the wererats. We never know what you’re going to do next.”

Whine, have sex, flail around, get injured, say disgusting things. That’s about it. Anita heads back inside and Fredo goes all ‘grrrr’.

The white roses that Jean-Claude sent every week framed Fredo’s darkness.

Oh, yeah, he’s a wererat, so he’s Latino. Just to point out how he’s all ‘dark’ and shit, and he’s all super dark against the whitey white roses. Just to prove that LKH puts no thought into her words whatsoever. Anita skulks around the kitchen, wary of the scary brown man.

The days when I would have picked a fight just to reassure myself I was still tough were long ago and far away.

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Being a girl, that phase had been shorter anyway. We are much more practical creatures than men, as a general rule.

Of course, men are just big helpless babies that have to be looked after by women. Because that’s a woman’s job. This sort of shit isn’t feminist fam.

Damien, who hasn’t been the centre of attention for five minutes, has decided to wedge himself between the cabinets.Basically, Damian couldn’t cope that Anita was out the room for two seconds. Ah, codependency. Romantic.

Anita touches him and then suddenly POW. DAMIAN IS SO BEAUTIFUL THEY MUST AVERT THEIR EYES. HE HAS MAGIC VAMPIRE HEALING POWERS THAT LIKE EVER VAMPIRE HAS BUT IT’S SUDDENLY A BIG DEAL BECAUSE BEAUTY.

Micah confirms that Damian is blindingly beautiful and that all of Damian’s flaws have now been fixed, like he’s had amazing beautifying plastic surgery.

I see. People’s flaws are horrible and disgusting. They must be gotten rid of. Because they cannot be loved while they have flaws.

LKH, you’ve got to pay attention to what you write. Because it’s awful and offensive and terribly written.

There’s a page of everyone confirming that Damian is indeed beautiful and then Richard telling Anita how she did it because the Belle vampire line have the powers to make people beautiful.

Wow. That’s such an important and necessary vampire power.

There’s two pages of people wondering how this happened and who did it. THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT. I DO NOT CARE WHY DAMIAN IS SUDDENLY SO BEAUTIFUL. IT’S NOT NECESSARY. CUT THIS SHIT OUT.

Anita calls JC and he says that BM vamps get prettier sometimes. Anita tells him what happened and because JC has the brain cells of a dead paramecium he thinks this is interesting. Damian and JC talk in German which, ha, jokes on them, as Anita sort of speaks German.

Grandma Blake had spoken German to me from the cradle up. I’d taken it in high school as my language, because I was lazy and wanted a leg up.

And you didn’t take Spanish? When there’s a large Spanish community in your area? And your mother’s family is Mexican, so presumably you speak some Spanish anyway? Gee, Anita, you’re kinda stupid. You already speak German, you don’t speak to Germans on a regular basis, you’re not in an area where German is needed, and you weren’t planing on taking an exchange class to Germany or Austria. Taking German was a fucking waste, because after all that, Anita can’t understand that they’re saying.

JC plies praise on Anita as she’s got some amazing vampire powers that no one else has. Of course she does. She has amazing power that no one else has ever had as she’s the most special little snowflake that has ever existed. JC then gives her shit because she doesn’t love him enough to let him walk around in daylight. It also maybe makes her immortal or something.

or something

JC is angry that Anita had sex, BLAH BLAH BLAH, Anita has to raise the dead sometime soon or her magic will just start fucking shit up.

JC then makes creepy statements about how he’ll now conduct all his business in Italian so Anita can’t do a thing about him and what he does.

I should have lied about speaking Italian, but hell, as good as I’d gotten at lying, my first reaction was still to tell the truth. I guess you can’t undo all your upbringing, no matter how hard you try.

Yeah, right, you’re not a liar. And I guess your parents brought you up to be a horrible human being with no empathy for any other living creature.

So, You Want To Create a Female Anti-Hero


Um, yeah. I started this essay last September. I planned to publish it last year as a fun little thing but then life got seriously away from me.

I got depressed, had a slight breakdown, and had to rebuild my life from scratch. It was tough, and I’m still not at 100%. But I wanted to get this essay out there, because it is wonderful and hilarious and just a bit sad that it comes from my life before – now that I’m living life after depression. Well, almost but not quite. It’s a time capsule of me!


 

You’re a fresh new writer with a ton of ideas, and straight off the bat, you want to create a morally ambiguous, flawed yet sympathetic female protagonist. Why not, you say. There are literally thousands and thousands of male anti-heroes that are wildly popular, successful, and well-written; regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Wolverine from X-Men, and he’s pretty much the biggest anti-hero you can find.

Making a female anti-hero, who is fundamentally unlikable but the audience can’t help themselves from rooting for her, is not in itself a bad idea. Why should it be? It posits that yes, female characters can be as complex in their personality and motivations as male characters, which is, you know, common sense. Female characters have a dreadful habit of falling into archetypes that are transparently cardboard. There are many reasons for this; 97% of media is made by men, writers are taught to not write women as complicated characters, and the problem that any character, male or female, may end up being included to fill a perceived ‘hole’ in the narrative.

But no, this work, this art you are crafting, is not going to fall into the problems that many, many writers end up unintentionally throwing themselves into. You write, edit, and publish. And yet, despite promising yourself you wouldn’t, you have not created a female anti-hero. You have just created an anti. You have created, for want of a better word, a complete and utter bitch.* No one can relate to your character. You have made them too hate-filled, too unpleasant, too racist, too sexist**, too ableist, too lazy, and too stupid to be acceptable. This blog is currently dedicated to reviewing all the books of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘Anita Blake’ series and in the process of making Anita a tough as nails vampire hunter, Hamilton has thrown Anita into the anti hole so successfully it is impossible to feel sympathy for her at any moment in any book.

That’s bad.

That’s really bad writing you’ve managed to achieve.

How can you possibly improve?

‘Strong Female Character’

Okay, this is a phrase with a huge amount of problematic implications. The term ‘strong character’ will be used in this post, but not with the meaning that it regularly carries in media about fiction.

The problem with the phrase ‘strong female character’ is that female characters have been judged to be ‘strong independent women’ when they have traits or qualities that are seen as typically male. With your Anita Blakes, it’s that they take no shit and aren’t afraid to shoot and are considered one of the men, instead of one of the girls.*** With your Ripleys, it’s that they are seen to operate in a ‘man’s world’.

If you are playing these ideas straight, congratulations. You are confining your character in patriarchy, and here’s why.

  • By making your female character ‘strong’ through a rejection of feminine stereotypes, you are implying that there is no value to things deemed inherently female.
  • You are reinforcing gender roles by making it clear that there are ‘acceptable’ actions and behaviours for different genders.
  • There are differences between the genders; societal roles, behaviours, and worldviews are taught to children from a very young age, and moving aside the politics, cis-gendered men and women think about things in different ways. Society has taught them that. You can’t make your character ‘a strong female character’ simply by adding breasts and ovaries. It’s ignoring how patriarchy defines gender and makes you part of it. This also applies to thinking that you can be colourblind with your characters. Include all the genders and all the races, be wonderful and diverse – just remember that we are all taught to react to the same situation differently. A white guy will not react the same way to a dark alleyway as a woman, or a black lesbian, or a hispanic mtf transgender. These differences shouldn’t exist, but acknowledging them makes your character’s mindset seem more real and make you seem like less of an ass.

Thinking that performing a hasty hatchet job to a male character and make them, instantaneously, a fantastic female anti-hero who is dark and brooding and badass, is going to leave you with an ill-formed stump of a character that no one will like. So don’t do it.

The term ‘strong character’ is going to be used in this post to refer to a character’s inherent strength as a piece of fiction.  Keep the three Rs in your head.

  1. Is my character realistic? This first one can be a stumbling block for even the most popular of authors. Your character has got to have personality traits, likes, dislikes, favourite foods, hobbies, musical taste, films they despise, a trait that’s secretly awful, some sort of anecdote about celery, and a bad childhood experience with a ostrich; you know all the puzzle pieces that make you you? Your character has to have them too, or they will not seem real. Don’t do overboard planning their life down to the last detail, but show that they have a life.
  2. Can the audience reasonably imagine how my character lives and functions inside my universe? Okay, this is a really long question, but it boils down to something simple. When your book (or TV episode, or video game) ends, can the audience imagine what they’ll do next or will they picture them being frozen until the next instalment? If you have created an unrealistic character, it’s impossible to think of them as doing anything from plot point to plot point. You just imagine them waiting for another mystery to start up. And that kills my wish-fulfilment boner.
  3. Is my character relatable? Aha. That is the crux of the issue. And I will explain this in further detail.

For me, an example of a strong character that ticks these three boxes entirely is Buffy Summers. She has a well-defined personality, interests, hobbies, conflict, history… look, I could write a thousand words on why Buffy is an excellent character. She works because, well, she works as a person. She makes sense as a person. You can imagine meeting her in the street, before rapidly becoming chow for a maddened, on the loose vampire.

An example of a ‘weak’ character for me – and this is controversial, I know – is that of Clara Oswald on the latest series of Doctor Who. She is spunky. She dislikes genocide. She likes children. She has no hobbies, no likes, no interests, no friends, no life outside that we see on the show. Being nice and having generic ‘nice’ things about you does not make a dynamic or interesting character. It just makes me really angry. (This was vastly improved during season eight of Doctor Who, addressing pretty much all the issues I brought up.)

With the basics covered, what are the specific steps necessary for creating a really good female anti-hero?****

Context

It’s a biggie. Why does the environment of your character make them who they are? How does the setting inform who they are?

I asked readers to send me in examples of fundamentally unlikeable female characters that you cannot help but root for, and I’ll be using them in various combinations for each of these steps – and good old Anita Blake as an example of how badly things can go wrong. I’ll try to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum, I promise.

Combing our three historical examples, Madame Bovary, Scarlett O’Hara and Becky Sharp, there are clear reasons for the flaws in their characters. Part of their continuing appeal to modern readers is how their attitudes are shaped by the societal and sexual inequalities that faced women in their respective eras. Becky and Scarlett are charming bitches because that is required to get anywhere in a society where men have ultimate control over your fate. Emma looks for excitement and love because her life as a middle-class doctor’s wife means that she is confined to a home for some twenty two hours out of the day. You feel sorry for their situation and how stifling being a woman was – and can still be.

The two fantasy examples are both stymied by their familial and class duties and definitions. Cersei Lannister and Narcissa Malfoy are defined by their family ties and are thus bound by them. Cersei had to marry Robert Baratheon as it was her duty as a Lannister daughter. Narcissa Malfoy is loyal to the Malfoy name and traditional allegiance to dark magic. Both these duties make them into awful people; Narcissa is a racist snob, Cersei gets so bitter that she engineers the death of her husband to allow her son to become king. The narrow roles defined for them by their family is one they must fit into all their lives. They both come from societies that allow them little growth. Cersei is a queen; all she has to do is produce children. Narcissa is fabulously wealthy, but housewives in the wizarding world seem to have little life outside of marriage and children.

The last two examples are linked by mutually being cold and emotionless. They make for really unlikely female protagonists, as women are supposedly exemplified by their compassion and capacity for irrational emotion. Lisbeth Salander and Katniss Everdeen are both products of awful childhoods that have taught them to view kindness and affection as being dangerous. They are cold, cruel and vicious, but we do not blame them for how they are. Lisbeth saw the abuse of her mother for all her childhood, and then most of her adult life being told she was insane. Katniss makes no effort to know other people, and does not trust anyone. The only people she loves when we meet her are her sister – who is a surrogate mother to – and Gale – who is the only person she sees as being worthy of respect. They both live in worlds where emotion is a liability, and warmth does not help you. Frankly, they’ve been through hell, and their first response is to fight.

With all of these groups, it is clear that the qualities which make them unlikeable are rooted in the worlds they live in and the experiences they have faced.

With Anita Blake, we never know what the full extent of her damage is. She is hateful and spiteful, lashing out at anyone who displeases her high standards, but it is never clear why she does this. She was traumatised by witnessing the death of her mother at eight years old, that is true, but her father appears to have ensured that she had a otherwise happy childhood. She detests her stepmother for apparently hating her ethnicity, but we never witness this. She has a deep seated insecurity based on her Mexican roots; was she racially abused? It is never apparent if she has ever been the victim of prejudice. Her life has been easy, and yet she has this deep well of anger. How can I be expected to support her anger and her hate if I do not know where they come from?

Motivation

Characters want something. Their life, in fiction, is a journey from not having what they want to getting what they want. What does your character want? Where are they heading in life? A character, no matter how flawed they are, is a strong character if we understand their goals and why they want to achieve them.

Scarlett O’Hara wants Tara to survive. She wants to survive. It’s a simple motivation, and it often involves complicated machinations involving men, but it’s understandable after what she’s been through. She’s seen the destruction of everything she knows and holds dear – and if that means wearing a pair of curtains and beating slaves to do it, then she’s damn well going to go out and do it.

Narcissa Malfoy’s motivation is based upon those same guidelines which get her into trouble – her family duties. She spent fifteen years of her life waiting for Voldemort to come back, only to realise that having a genocidal nutbag as your all-mighty leader isn’t very good for your longevity. From Half Blood Prince onwards, she is another mother fighting for survival. She does not care about anything else, just about the lives of her husband and her son. If that means serving a murderous dictator, so be it.

Lisbeth Salander is a little bit harder to determine. At the beginning of the first Millennium book, she appears to have everything she might want – aside from her freedom. She is still a ward of the state, and her life is dictated by a bevy of people who are not her. I view her journey over the three books as a quest to gain freedom, and to find acceptance, in a way. She is defined only by what people don’t want in her. It makes her fight back violently, but she is fighting against a system which has screwed her over again and again. She wants them to stop fighting her, and let her live life on her terms.

And for Anita Blake… well, I have no idea what she wants or where she’s heading in life. She does not appear to have any goals at all. She doesn’t hope or dream for anything. I can’t support her actions because I do not know where they are ultimately going.

Development

A narrative fundamentally implies change. A character must be different at the end of a plot than from when they started. An anti-hero may start out as being fundamentally unlikeable, but as the reader accompanies them on their journey and their arc, they grow to be likeable. Again, take Katniss Everdeen. She’s rude, anti-social, and pretty much hates everything. She still hates everything at the end of the series, but we learn why and how she is – and we see her reach the lowest point possible and build herself again. The unlikeable aspects of her personality are still there but they have changed by the end of the narrative.

Anita Blake does experience change – but not growth. Her mind grows smaller and her mentality only changes to be permissive of murder, rape, and torture.

Purpose

With creating your hard as nails, tough talking female anti-hero, have you considered why exactly you needed to create the unpleasant aspects of their personality? Why exactly have you done this? What is the point of making them this way? Are you exploring racism? Are you exploring the impact of prejudice against disabled people? Are you exposing the pointlessness of the gender binary?

If you added an ‘ism’ to your character’s personality without knowing exactly why you’ve done it, then you’re going to seem like a gigantic ass. Negative aspects of a personality must have a purpose as much as positives, a history, and a favourite ice cream flavour.

‘Is it understandable?’

Boil down every single one of these points into a single, and simple, question: will your readers be able to understand why you have created your character this way, and therefore be able to like, respect, and root for them, despite them being dislikeable or hate-able?

That’s not a question that’s easy to answer. It’s not something I can answer definitively. Different people have different comfort levels when it comes to characters; there are many who hate Katniss Everdeen, and there are many who love Anita Blake as much as I despise her.

You have to ultimately ask what your aim is for your story and for your character. Why does your character deserve to exist and why should I be interested in your story?

That might just be the ultimate conundrum of all fiction writing, like, ever. But a good story should let a reader sympathise and understand any character, even a raging arsehole.

* ‘Bitch’ gets thrown around a lot at proactive female characters by uncomfortable male readers. I like to reclaim the term, but that’s a personal thing, and I do not ever use it against women IRL.

** Oh yes, women can be sexist too.

*** If you have a female character that goes on and on about how they are unable to relate to other women, sit down and have a good long think about exactly why you think that is necessary for your character.

**** If you think there are differences between the genders in intelligence, or kindness, or an inherent ability to blow bubblegum, then turn off your computer and evaluate your life.

***** This can be used for any anti-hero really, gender notwithstanding. But as a reviewer who blogs about supernatural thrillers with female leads, I wanted to focus on the problems with female characters and female anti-heroes.

A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Killing Dance’ chapter one


Do you realise that I have now been reading and blogging about Anita Blake for ten months now? And I’m only on book six? It’s going to take like, four years to get through it all, especially seeing as most of them have 40+ chapters to go.

I am realising this as I have been notified that I have graduated with a 2:1 after three years of study. Including my Master’s Degree course next year, I will be spending the same amount of time reading and ranting about Anita Blake as I will have done at university.

It’s both frustrating and thrilling because I do get a perverse thrill from how bad these books are. And I can tell this one is going to be bad because of the cover.

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It is A LIE that you cannot tell a book by it’s cover. Good Lord, this one looks like someone spent five minutes with Clip Art in Photoshop and thought ‘That’ll do’.

Shall we look at the blurb? Haven’t done that in a while and it may back up my hypothesis.

These days my life is a cross between preternatural soap opera and an action-adventure movie.

The first hit man came after me at home, which should be against the rules.

HOLD UP HOLD UP

there are no rules with where people may assassinate you. They’re hit men. They can do what they like to try and kill you.

Then there was a second, and a third. Word on the street was that Anita Blake, preternatural expert and vampire killer extraordinaire, was worth half a million dollars. Dead, not alive.

Half a million dollars? That’s like a piss in the ocean. That’s not very much money at all.

So what’s a girl to do but turn to the men in her life for help? Which in my case means an alpha werewolf and a master vampire. With professional killers on your trail, it’s not a bad idea to have as much protection as possible, human or otherwise.

But I’m beginning to wonder if two monsters are better than one…

Right, so someone is trying to kill Anita. She thinks this is bad, but I think it is wonderful. So let’s dive right in.

First criticism is that the typeface in my copy is really small. I dislike this. It makes it hard to read and type.

The most beautiful corpse I’d ever seen was sitting behind my desk. Jean-Claude’s white shirt gleamed in the light from the desk lamp. A froth of lace spilled down the front, peeking from inside his black velvet jacket.

I already hate this book because it starts with a loving description of Le Grand Tosspot, Cleaner of Cat Litter, JC. UGH. He’s with a vampire in a black, hooded cape who I’ve already clocked as a villain because he’s on the front cover of the book looking menacing, and a powerful… psychic guy (I think) called Dominic Dumare.

“Ms. Blake, please be seated,” Dumare said. “Sabin finds it most offensive to sit when a lady is standing.”

I glanced behind him at Sabin. “I’ll sit down if he sits down,” I said.

And of course this awkwardly segues into a discussion of how unruly she is as a human servant and how she has been declared as JC’s official human servant before the Grand High Vampire Council. Because, apparently, they have nothing better to do with their time than know what one insignificant Master vampire is doing with his time.

oh and sabin is british and we brits are always evil AM I RIGHT or am i right

JC boasts about how Anita is dating him without the use of glamour to which I counter with ‘because you used the power of blackmail asshole’. Sabin laughs about all this love and Anita demands to know why they are here. I approve of her rudeness for once because I don’t like any friends of JC. Sabin seems to have some sort of illness from not eating blood and when he laughs, it slices up Anita’s forehead. Then blood is flowing down JC’s translucent skin. It’s page three and I am already very confused. Is that a new record?

JC yells at Dumare and Sabin (is that a name?) about abusing his hospitality in Anita’s office. While JC goes on about how cutting people is generally bad form, all Anita can worry about is whether he’s still flawlessly attractive. Get your priorities straight girl. Oh, and adds that she’s annoyed now that JC is annoyed. They only cut her face and assaulted her in HER SPACE. But she’s not allowed to get angry about it until JC does.

Yeah, I’m seeing why she’s lauded as a strong independent woman. When she is only allowed to speak up when the man who intends to force her to sleep with him is pissed.

Sabin floats around the room and exposits. Him and his girlfriend decided it was wrong to feed on people. LKH decided that her vampires should be punished for showing conscience in any way and after he drank animal blood, half of Sabin’s face rotted off.

His hair was thick and straight and golden, falling like a shining curtain to his shoulders. But his skin… his skin had rotted away on half his face. It was like late-stage leprosy, but worse. The flesh was puss-filled –

It was filled with cats? No wonder his face is so bad!

– gangrenous, and should have stunk to high heaven. The other half of his face was still beautiful. The kind of face that medieval painters had borrowed for cherubim, a golden perfection. One crystalline blue eye rolled in its rotting socket as if in danger of spilling out onto this cheek. The other eye was secure and watched my face.

That’s what you get for not being sexy in the Anita Blake universe. Rot face.

Sabin, hearing of Anita’s reputation, has come to seek a cure. Yeah, because a woman notorious for killing vampires is going to stop your rot face. Anita does admit that she can’t really do anything, but is then distracted by the unearthly beauty of JC. Strong independent woman everyone. Dumare suggests a spell, perhaps.

“A spell?” I glanced at Jean-Claude.

Why are you looking for him for confirmation of action? He’s not your fucking master.

He gave that wonderful Gallic shrug that meant everything and nothing.

You mean like any shrug ever. Just because he’s French and a vampire means that the sun shines out of JC’s butt crack, you know.

Dumare suggests necromancy, or the two of them working as a focus for different animators. Anita says that will only raise zombies, so Dumare offers her to teach her ‘true’ necromancy, ‘not this voodoo dabbling that you’ve been doing’. Well, at least someone acknowledged that Anita is dabbling and claiming expertise in a culture and religion that isn’t hers, but I have a feeling that Dumare is a bad guy. He’s talking with logic – he must be bad.

Anita magically works out that Dumare is Sabin’s human servant (no shit, Anita, why else do you think he was helping him? Vampires and humans are never just friends in these books which makes me sad) and accuses him of trying to hide information from her. Sabin cuts them off because Anita has a more pressing engagement, another awkward segeway into discussing another ‘pressing’ issue – that JC is allowing her to date another.

Allowing.

Because a woman should be told exactly what she may do by a man.

Anita announces loudly that while she may not like Sabin, she would drop Richard like a hot potato if she thought she could cure the rot face vampire. Why don’t you like Sabin? He hasn’t done anything to even inspire my rancour. Yet.

“How is the woman you love taking the change in your appearance?” Jean-Claude asked.

Sabin looked at him. It was not a friendly look. “She finds it repulsive, as do I. She feels immense guilt. She has not left me, nor is she with me.”

“You’ve lived close to seven hundred years,” I said. “Why screw things up for a woman?”

Yes, why would you have a moral ephinany and decided that you would rather not kill people for the rest of time? What a stupid thing to do with your life!

And I did notice the implication that no one should love Sabin because of his rot face. I think it’s rather unpleasant that his partner – because qualifying her based on her gender is fairly crude – can’t love him because of his rot face. Her guilt, I can understand; it’s hard to deal with disabilities as a couple, because a rotting face condition is a disability for a vampire in this series, let’s face it. But I cannot understand why JC and Anita feel the need to be all ‘oh, i bet your girlfriend can’t love you anymore LOL’.

Sabin and Dumare leave, and Anita and JC chat about how they must all be nice because there is a law floating around Washington DC that might make vampires illegal. Even though presumably the UN has announced them another form of human life and America could not overturn that. But no, that is my European mindset kicking in. I’ve got to start thinking more like LKH, and authors who write about the supernatural like her – that America is the centre of world politics and only things that happen in America are important, as the north of America lives in a bubble from which we are all excluded.

Sorry, but it is an ongoing peeve of mine that these books never mention anything important happening outside of north America – and that doesn’t even include Canada. It’s a big world as your sandbox LKH, go on and play!

JC then whines about how patient he’s been with the whole ‘blackmail Anita so she sleeps with me AHA’ plan and why won’t she just get it over and done with.

 I studied his face. He was one of those men who was beautiful rather than handsome, but the face was masculine; you wouldn’t mistake him for female, even with the long hair. In fact, there was something terribly masculine about Jean-Claude, no matter how much lace he wore.

I think it might be that dick he keeps waggling about to show how amazing he is. But I could be wrong. I might be just pissed off that most of this chapter has not been about Sabin and his rot face, but Anita going on about how ‘beautiful’ JC is. I get it – this was written one handedly. But you don’t need to keep reminding me of something you’ve already mentioned about ten times in ten pages. It makes it redundant.

Anita tries to leave, but has to remind JC that this is her office. They snog and JC talks about how she hasn’t slept with either of them yet, how brave she is. Before I can rant about how creepy that sounds, he flatly tells her that he would never do anything like Sabin did but ‘what I do is enough’.

What does he do? JC is marked by his chronic ability to arrive in times of danger then actively refuse to do anything to resolve the situation. he insults her and then leaves.

Wow. What a wonderful man.

But truthfully, it wasn’t Jean-Claude’s nearly perfect face –

ARGDKJSDFJKHFSDHJDFHJKDFGKGDROPERGOPJGDFKLGFKDFG

– that was haunting me. I kept flashing on Sabin’s face. Eternal life, eternal pain, eternal ugliness. Nice afterlife.

Yeah, your life IS worthless if you are an ugly vampire. Might as well try to kill yourself with a stake if you are not beautiful enough.

Well.

That was rather awful so

I’m being like Gene Hunt with my dinner and

so.

Discuss how this chapter could become the film ‘How Anita Lost Her Agency’.

Why Kristen Stewart Should Be Your Modern Feminist Icon


I’m going to a BBQ back garden gig tonight, so I’m not going to have time to write up a full review. So I thought I’d actually live up to the whole ‘and occasionally writes about her life’ tagline I have up there.

Kristen Stewart is a much derided actress. It doesn’t help that what she’s mostly known for – the Twilight series – is terribly written, with wooden characters espousing that having your boyfriend control you is a great idea if he makes you into a vampire eventually. Throw in some unfortunate racial overtones, and you’ve got a recipe for some truly terrible films. Stewart’s performance is only a reflection of the character she has been given, the vacuous and emotionless Bella Swan. We all hate Bella Swan, for very good reasons. Stewart also hates Bella Swan, for pretty much the same reasons that we have. As a self-calling film buff, after watching some of her independent films, I know she has more talent than the mainstream media has let on (feel free to disagree with me on this, subjective opinions and all that).

The most consistent criticism of her is that no matter where she is, be she on screen or on the red carpet, Stewart does not smile. This has led to her being labelled as ’emotionless’ and ‘expressionless’, and becoming the frequent butt of jokes about how she can’t change her facial expression, like, at all.

It was actually quite hard to find a picture where she wasn’t smiling. There’s an irony in that somewhere.

But why should we criticise her for not smiling? Why is it such a problem?

Stewart has said that she finds the rigmarole of interviews and photo shoots and walking in front of legions of paparazzi to be uncomfortable experiences. And which one of us would blame her for that? Her job is to act, not to be some object for the media. So she expresses her discomfort by being herself, by not forcing herself to act all smiles and happiness when she doesn’t want to. And yet we all judge her for this.

This strikes a cord with me on a personal level. I’m an expressive and happy person when I want to be and when I’m in a situation where I’m comfortable and not under pressure. When I’m out and about, shopping or travelling, my face is neutral. There’s something about a woman going about with a neutral expression that people in western society seem to find threatening. I frequently get demands to be happy and smiling from random strangers. ‘Oh, cheer up love, it might never happen’, women behind tills chirp at me. ‘You’d be really pretty if you only smiled’, train conductors tell me. ‘Give me a smile darlin’ or I’ll give you something to smile about’, men will say into my face. People find the time to get in my face and tell me this BS out of some misguided notion that the world must see me smile and that I must present a happy face to what I see.

Maybe you don’t see this as a feminist issue. To me, who experiences this on a regular basis, it is something that needs to be combated. It’s a question of my personal agency. How dare people demand that I smile, because that’s how they feel comfortable with seeing women! It’s my choice to go around looking as miserable as bloody sin if I so choose to.

The media and society have led us all to believe that women must be happy. Women should present a happy face to the world. To look stoic, like men are allowed to, is to be troublesome. Women who don’t smile are either being sultry, for the benefit of man, or just being difficult. A woman is a comforting, wholesome image; the ideal woman is a mother, a virgin, a whore, all rolled into one, and accepting what fate presents to her with a wide, unquestioning smile upon her face. To look just plain neutral about it all is to give the impression that you are unhappy with something – as if you have taken the red pill, gone through the veil, and are not pleased with what you’ve found.

So I say we should all praise Stewart for her refusal to conduct her to the standards of our society. It can be a brave thing to go out without a smile on your face. Smiling and looking happy is not a right that people should demand of you. It’s your agency, your choice, your right to be as plain-faced as you want to be.