Friday, December 28, 2018

Talk about your fairy tales

So, on advice from an LGBTQ Horror group I'm in, I picked up the Witchbane series by Morgan Brice, and finished book 1 before work this morning.

I'm really unsure how to do this. It's not that I didn't enjoy reading it, and it's not that I didn't like it, it's just... Well, I get the sense this started like Fifty Shades of Gray, in that our two main characters are semi-analogous to Dean and Sam Winchester of Supernatural. We start with Jesse, who takes his younger brother Seth ghost hunting at the Gates of Hell, a local legend in Brazil, Indiana. Their goal is to make a YouTube ghost hunting video by doing it on Halloween. Seth ends up getting flayed alive, while Jesse gets knocked out and finds the body the next morning. He gets hospitalized, his parents die in a car crash.... Jesse is left with a motorcycle and a motor home.

Two years later, Jesee has linked up with a rather small conglomeration of monster hunters, with the goal of tracking down whomever killed his brother. The set up is something like a Warlock got lynched on Halloween, and now his immortalish disciples sacrifice a descendant of each of the 12 deputies on a twelve year cycle. Seems different disciples are on different cycles, so we start with the Disciple getting ready to sacrifice Evan.

Evan currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, having left home in Oklahoma following expulsion from his church and family for fooling around with a high school athlete. Evan works as a bartender, and has his breath taken away when Jesse walks into his bar. Jesse, for his part, is infatuated with Evan at first sight, even as he doesn't realize Evan is Evan, as he works under the name Sonny. They go on a date, which ends quickly as Evan gets called back in to the bar.

The next night, they try again, wind up back at Evan's apartment, and things happen. Followed by waking up to people breaking in with guns, which is when Jesse finds out his hook up is also the man he's been looking for in a non sexual fashion. Evan's bar burns down, his apartment catches fire, so Evan is stuck living with Jesse, only half believing Jesse's story.

What follows is a dual game of cat and mouse, as the immortal Disciple stalks Evan as Jesse tries to track down said disciple. Eventually, everyone but the disciple and his minions get a happy ending, often in more ways than one.

Now, much as I enjoyed the read, the main narrative spans roughly 48 hours. In that 48 hours, Jesse and Evan explore the Mother's Gift of Pleasure roughly (and I do mean roughly) 9 times, a few occasions getting a refraction period of around 15-20 seconds. While the smut is better written and and more of interest to me than anything Laurell K. Hamilton has written in the past 15 years, it's also really hard to read it when one part of your brain is pointing out that neither man would be able to stalk immortal disciples after wearing themselves out that much. Nor does male anatomy usually allow that short of a refraction period.  Also, given both men have emotional issues with trust, they certainly do seem to forget them with each other quickly.

Honestly, it's fun reading, just remember to put actual biology and psychology out of mind while you read it as a fairy tale.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Liberation or control?

I'm sorry this is getting buried on Christmas Eve, really decreasing my viewership, but c'est la vie.

I finished Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States earlier today, and I'm honestly only posting the review now so I don't forget things I want to remember from it.

The stated goal here was to recount the history of queer folks from around the Conquista to roughly 1988. While his telling has some hits and misses, it does have information I hadn't particularly considered before, better terminology for things I've observed, and some fairly interesting anecdotes. Unfortunately, he also seems to be trying to be a queer Zinn, his bias shows up a few times, particularly at the end, and most of the 15-18th century is the literary equivalent of Lady Cassandra.

AKA dry and dusty.
So, unlike modern pictures that discuss berdache, two-spirits and the like, Bronski at least has the competency to point out that thinking of the Native Americans as a united people is a mistake, as the different nations had different ideas on gender conformity, and relying entirely on racist European observations isn't exactly accurate. That they did exist is one thing, but their treatment in their nations was really reliant on that particular nation. 
Then we get in to the fact that what is now considered queer identity didn't really exist in such terms as where we are now, so really we're chronicling the emergence of an identity as it evolves into forms we now recognize. Yes, we can document same sex relationships in historical figures, but would they have recognized themselves as queer under the current definitions? It's not that homosexuals, transgender folks, aces, aros, and nonbinary folks didn't exist, the language and the recognition of such an identity really didn't exist until fairly recently. As such, particularly during the colonial period, it's not like people were recording their felonious sodomy for future generations to get titillated over. On the other hand, the Puritans of Boston make for a good starting point of showing one of the major threads in history, that of societal control and social purity. 
As we move into the 19th century, we get more into discussions on the changes in gender identity and  how what was masculine and what was feminine changed over time. How the rise of cities and urbanization lead to less living with the family and created a thriving culture for single people. We delve into the World Wars, and how the military helped gays and lesbians to find themselves less alone. We discuss the anarchism of the labor movement (tear down the oppressive society and replace it with a more fair and just one) and the Civil Disobedience of Transcendentalism (make ways to fit into society) and how they influenced the modern movement. (Indeed, he draws in other civil rights movements , and how they also influenced the Gay rights movement, and how long it was until they actually started sort of working together.)
The last chapter mainly deals with the Lavender Menace, the Briggs Initiative, the Dade County Anita Bryant drama, and AIDS. (I'm skipping over some discussions on Hollywood presentations for the sake of brevity.) we end with Queer Nations (and a few other organizations) protest at st. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, leading to an epilogue pointing out that Gay Marriage is truer to the idea of Transcendentalist (and alignment at redefining Social Purity) than Queer Liberation. It's actually a discussion that deserves more space than what it got, and it really needed to mention Gen X, rather than discussing Millennial and Boomer Queers.  
Ultimately, his conclusion is that the movement is a mixture of both the Control and the Libertine impulses of society, and we can find people at either pole within it. Which has been true for a lot longer than I think any of us really know. 
 I enjoyed reading this, even with the occasionally dry stretches. The footnotes would be invaluable to someone chasing down more information of our queer ancestors. While flawed in a few places, it's not fatally so. Well worth perusal for those looking for our roots.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Killer Clowns for Outer Philly

Finished the last few pages of R. S. Belcher's King of the Road prior to clocking in this morning. While I will say his Golgotha series is probably my favorite of his ongoing series, all of them are really good reads everyone should pick up at some point.

What we have here are two major plots and one which wiggles through the narrative, setting up something we'll likely be returning to in future volumes. The major ones involve road witch Lovina and Builder Max pursuing a cult of alchemical harlequins that like to murder people as well as Jimmie and Heck trying to fix problems with the Blue Jocks Motorcycle Club, currently dealing with Cherokee Mike's drug running with as of yet undefined supernatural entity Viper. We also get hints that the Benefactors and the Builders have been working on a project involving the Road (and the Rail) that the Brethren do not know about that would likely cause a civil war if it got out.

So, we'll peel off and start with the clowns. That plot deals with a group of killer clowns run by seemingly immortal clowns recruiting from the ranks of juggalos not happy with the more wholesome ranks of juggalo culture. As such, they join up with the Harlequins, who get special face paint that does tend to make them longer lived, although it becomes addictive over time. This, in turn, leads to special ritual murders related to the Cleveland Torso Murders and the Black Dahlia in LA. Which also gets wrapped up in hobo culture and the idea of the Rail, which predates the Interstate. When Lovina dreams of a specific victim who's mother lives in Louisiana now, she winds up in Coalport, Pennsylvania, where the victim vanished from. This winds up involving Emmet, a hobo clown who got involved in tracking down one of the clowns in the 30s, and Dusty, who's a modern hobo, as well as Max, who enjoys field testing theories. Towards the end, Max gets more involved than she bargained for, and winds up proving herself more capable than she likely imagined.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Heck, who is still Jimmie's squire, is dealing with the Jocks falling apart, since no one has stepped up as President as of yet. While Heck is likely to do so, he has to finish his Squirehood first. Given the uncertainty, the jocks are splitting off, with Cherokee Mike leading stragglers away from the club to do more illegal activities, like Meth. Part of this is done with Viper, who seems to have magic of his own, and the aid of dark fairie creatures. The Viper Mike alliance also is trying to start a war between Heck's faction, and the Bitches of Selene, a female led MC filled with were creatures, including a transgender Werebear who is 50 shades of awesome and deserves their own spin off now.

The plots wrap up in good fashion, leaving you satisfied and wanting more.

I think the real appeal to me with his various series is that while I may not be as far out on the fringe as his characters wind up being, I'm also a bit beyond the hem in real life, so I can relate to the feelings of not being part of the main body of society. That and the fact his stuff is well written makes for an author I'm keeping alerts open for new material from.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Goodbye, crazy people

I'd been looking forward to Night Fall by Simon R. Green since the advertisement for it at the end of his last Secret Histories novel, since it meant the characters from that series were going to finally share space with his earlier Nightside series, which evidently ended before I started this blog.

A quick rundown on the Nightside...

Nightside is kind of a pocket reality hidden in London, kind of an adult version of The Phantom Tollbooth. Normal reality goes out the window in Nightside, where sin is available to all seekers, timeslips bring in people from all over the universe, aliens, alternate dimensions, etc all exist within. The Nightside is supervised by The Advisors, who in turn are represented by someone with the title Walker. At the start of this volume, Walker is John Taylor, who was the narrator of the Nightside series. Trying to to spoil too much, John is the child of the supernatural entity that formed the Nightside, is married to Shotgun Suzie, and is about to become a father.

Edward Drood, on the other hand, is still working with the Drood family, who are bound and determined to save humanity, whether they like it or not. So, when the borders of the Nightside start expanding for reasons they can't easily discern, the Droods send Eddie in along with Molly Metcalf to figure out what's actually happening, violating ancient pacts that have kept the Droods out of Nightside.

This doesn't go well, and we follow both men as a war inevitably starts breaking out. Eventually, the Droods use Alpha Red Alpha to shift the entire manor into Nightside for what they assume will be a bloodless coup.

Which doesn't happen.

Along the way, characters from both series pop in and out of the narrative, along with JC from Ghostfinders, who eventually helps end the war towards the end. In the end, we get resolution on just about everything, although the final wrap up is kind of abrupt. (It also conforms that Ishmael Jones is not part of this universe.)

I really enjoyed seeing John and Edward sharing the same pages, since they're really two sides of the same character. They do end up pulling a Kirk meets Picard towards the end, which honestly had me cheering while eating my lunch today.

I'm sad to see the world end, but what a ride it was. Although you never know how permanent such endings are, sometime things do come back even in a cameo.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

I'm glad I had insulin on hand.

So, I had ran across Beck Albertalli and Adam Silvera's What If It's Us at the bookstore, and decided to find it at the library, since even if I'm not in the target audience, I find it behooves me to keep current on Young Adult books that center on gay characters. Which is good, since, other than two characters who came out towards the end of Christopher Pike novels, they pretty much didn't exist when I was in the age range. Now when we get YA (and adult) horror novels with openly gay characters, we'll know we have arrived.

We open with two narrators telling us about a chance encounter at a post office between Midtown and Uptown Manhattan. We start with Arthur, a 16 year old musical obsessed Jewish kid who grew up in Milton, Georgia. Arthur is in New York for the summer, interning at his mother's law firm. Mom is working on a specific case, while dad is searching for work in Georgia from Manhattan. He meets a hunky guy with a box outside of a post office between Midtown and Uptown. A brief conversation ensues until a flash mob marriage proposal ends the conversation. Switch to Ben, a 16 year old Puerto Rican guy from Alphabet City who's trying to mail a break up box to his ex, Hudson.

Both walk away attracted to each other, but without exchanging information. Like names.

So we spend the first third of the novel with them trying to find each other. Which through a series of plot devices, they do eventually manage to find each other and arrange a first date. The second third concerns their series of first dates and the reactions of their friends to their relationship. Given that the friends helped them find each other, it's fairly positive, even though the friends have drama of their own. The last third deals with the consummation of their affair and the end of Arthur's summer in New York.

It's all very sweet and saccharine, what with even their parents loving the boyfriend and being very supportive of the children. And unlike Albertalli's Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, the ending is a bit less fairy tale and more realistic. Now mind you, my frame of reference is a lot different than that of the authors or their characters, so the near break up over Hamilton tickets seemed a bit silly to me, but upon further reflection, when I was that age and my boyfriend won the lottery for front row seats to see Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic then managed to lose them by being 15 minutes late to get them, I might have horribly overreacted as well.

As nice as it is to see fairly normal teens with supportive families fall in love, and as much as I can hope this is actually what's happening in the world, my own upbringing wouldn't let me fully share the fantasy as presented. I can hope that this is becoming truth, but I chalk this up as a stretched thin fantasy that remains rather charming despite the thinness of the reality attached.