procraftination

0

016: Problematic sexualisation in books (and also, a review)

This was written for GoodReads, but I’m crossposting, since I want to use this blog more! Today’s topic: problematic portrayals of women in books.

Since I started my GoodReads account in 2009 I’ve given a total of six one star reviews. I’m generous, usually, because I’ll always appreciate the work that goes into a book, being a writer myself, and usually round up. One thing I can’t stand is men writing questionable portrayals of women, especially teenage girls. The most memorable one stars here are World War Z (review) and Eldvittnet (review), a Swedish crime mystery, translated to English with the title The Fire Witness.

My review for World War Z details how bad it is at portraying women, how few there are (I read 25% before deciding not to finish, and in that time there were interviews with 17 people, of which 14 were male and 3 female (82 vs 18%), 1 male and 2 females (7 vs 66%) had their looks described), and how they’re objectified and their accomplishments are passed by. For Eldvittnet I talk about how problematic it is when a crime mystery is centered around teenage girls with mental health problems, many of them self harming, when a big plot point is them being either used sexually or drugged or restrained in unethical ways by staff at a treatment centre they’ve been committed to against their will.

And then there’s this book, Oktober är den kallaste månaden, translated to English with the title October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson (review, though this is more or less a c/p of this post), which incidentally have won a price for best crime novel for children and teens. (Insert my alarm that a book with this portrayal of a sixteen year old girl won an actual prize?)

The setting is the following: Vega, 16, lives in rural Sweden where things are bleak in every way. Police starts searching for her brother, who goes missing after being present at the scene of a crime. What they don’t know is that Vega was present too, and knows what happened. That sounds like a decent story, right? It would’ve been, if it hadn’t been so rife with unnecessary, gross depictions of sex in relation to this girl, who is 16. I’m no prude, and I’m actually a fan of books that talks about sex in frank terms, because people have sex and that’s just the way it is. I’m not in any way saying that YA it has no place in YA. I’m saying that if you, as a male, write teen girls, you really need to be mindful of how you write about sex.

In this book it’s done in a way that makes it feel… everything but that. Under the cut I’m listing all the sexual references in the first 40 pages, which is as far as I read. They’re graphic, as a warning. (Will using these terms give me gross bots? Time will tell.)

So much graphic ⌲ ⌲ ⌲

0

015: writer burn out

This year for NaNoWriMo I decided to write in Swedish, my first language. I haven’t used it in fiction for well over a decade, and while it worked… sort of… it also nearly broke me. The rhythm in the both languages are very different, and what sounds good in English often sounds clunky in Swedish, and the other way around. I still wanted to try. Afterwards I went head first into a I CAN’T WRITE EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE I CAN’T BE A WRITER, ETC, every writer knows this one very well, I’m sure. I’ve had writing a blog post on my to do list for about three weeks. That’s how much I didn’t want to write anymore

But. I am a writer. I think in stories. Right now I work going through old records and digitalising them to be put in geneology databases. I’m focusing on something called soldattorp — crofts (I think) for military. In the 1600s to 1800s every soldier was assigned one, a small cottage, that they lived in while on active duty. We’re going through every inhabitant and finding as much info as we can, though I’m sticking to the 1800s, because reading old handwriting from the 1600s is beyond me. At least at this point.

This is some of the pretty handwriting from the early 1800s. Most of it isn’t this legible, but this I photographed because it’s basically art. From the left that’s date of birth and baptism, name (underlined), parents identity, and if they died young, their name is struck out and there’s a date on the right with their date of death — död is Swedish for death.

We look in old records, mostly books that priests kept back in the day, noting down births, deaths, marriages, people moving away, military service, etc. Looking through these books we note things like:

  • Birth date, location of birth.
  • Death date, location of death, cause of death when possible.
  • Parents, their maiden and married names.
  • If married, their wife’s name, maiden name, birth and death date, cause of death.
  • Children, birth dates.

And so forth.

This is death records, annoyingly cropped to remove some identifying stuff. First column is name, location, name of spouse. Second is date of death. Third marks whether they’re married, unmarried, widowed, etc. Fourth is just a page number. Fifth is cause of death. Most of these are tuberculosis (lungsot), but pneumonia, heart failure, old age, etc are common too.

The other day I found a man, who was conscripted into the military at age 10, as a musician. We went through so many records trying to figure out if there was an error date wise — who even joins the military at ten years old, even in the mid 1800s? — but eventually found proof that it was indeed true. I kept digging, found his parents names, that he was unmarried, and at last, in a book like the one above, that he committed suicide, at age 31.

I spent probably two hours on him (note: I’m not actually educated in this stuff, it’s part of a program to activate disabled people, and I’m learning as I go so I’ll get faster I’m sure), and as I did it I slowly found myself wondering how a story about him would go. I probably won’t write it, because that’s not really my genre, but this guy’s fate somehow made me want to write again. I haven’t yet, because I’m busy with Christmas prep and trying to give my brain a break, but the feeling of it returning, slowly, over a week or more, is quite something.

I’m not entirely sure how or when I’ll start writing again, but a week ago the answer was NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS (I love a bit of dramatics tbh), so this is nice. I’m not even sure what the point of this post even is, other than that writing a few words seemed like a good place to start, and to note that writer burnout is very real, and I’m grateful that I’m starting to recover.

(As an aside, if you think you have this problem, read this or this for some pointers, I found these three posts helpful, particularly the first two.)

0

014: #fallforbooksmugglers, day 18-31


Part 2 of me being the weirdo that transcribes Instagram challenges so I have them in a nice collection coming up. No, it doesn’t make sense. And no, I don’t care.

  

Day 18: day 18: Shelfie. This is always my favourite prompt. Here’s my big bookcase! Over half the books I own are actually on my Kindle, so it’s not full and shares space with yarn, candles, photographs, a Tardis-mug filled with pens, two My Little Ponies, a yarn winder and some other crap. It’s also the first piece of furniture I bought when moving out of my parents’ house nearby 20(!) years ago, so I love it even more because of that, even though it’s just a standard IKEA-shelf.

Lots more under here ⌲ ⌲ ⌲

0

013: #fallforbooksmugglers, day 1-14

Okay, so I’m an old lady of the internet  and want to save some of my Instagram content onto here, so I don’t lose it. Today this will be my #fallforbooksmugglers month because I almost completely finished it! Which is a struggle with month long challenges. This is super image heavy, and got really long so I’m dividing it on several posts.

Day 1: last SF/F read: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (4 stars). Still have 18% to go but it still counts! This novella was a happy surprise too because I wasn’t a huge fan of book 1 in the series.

Day 2: favourite SF/F read in 2018 (so far!): Impossible to choose, but I decided to give Swedish fantasy writer Sara Bergmark Elfgren some love. Her book Norra Latin, book 1 of Stockholmsserien (review, 5 stars), is about a girl who moves to Stockholm to go to a theatre high school since her local high school doesn’t offer that program.

Side note: In Swedish you have to choose a focus from the start and the classes are tailored to that, with some base classes everyone takes regardless of what you choose. Some of the less common options are only available in bigger cities.

Either way: the school is an old, amazing building (which in reality hasn’t been a school since the 1980s) home to some supernatural fun stuff. The two main characters are both queer, and it took some getting into but I really liked it. As far as I know it hasn’t been translated to English.

Lots more under here ⌲ ⌲ ⌲

0

012: Knitting! Rogue hoodie!

It’s November, which means that I want to blog. (I don’t know how they are connected either. Just run with it.) So naturally, I had to spend three days figuring out how to do name server things and get my domain back and installing WordPress and play with themes and plugins and Google Fonts and… yeah. All those things.

Because somehow the free WordPress blog I had wasn’t enough. So I guess I’ll have to try and blog more than twice a year to make up for it, because that was a lot of effort.

I kind of want to talk about knitting and not writing, though, so let’s do that.

 

Pattern: Good old Rogue, from 2004 or something like that.
Yarn: Drops Cotton Merino (50/50 blend)

I knitted a Rogue about 10 years ago and promptly gained weight and it didn’t fit anymore. This time I made some modifications with this in mind:

  1. It’s one size larger across the hips, since I’m bigger across the hips than the boob area. So I cast on for the 40.5 inch chest size, knitted that for a while, and then slowly decreased along the cable until I hit the stitch count for the size below.
  2. I made it a bit longer as well, since my usual issue with things that don’t fit is a gap over the belly, which is annoying as hell.
  3. The zipper. Omg the zipper. I actually knitted it in the round and did steeks down the front and sewed in a zipper. By hand. Twice. It was hell. But even if I change my meds again and gain weight, the zipper will help me wear it anyway.

Before steeks. This is also about a year ago, because I put it down for Christmas knitting last year and forgot to pick it back up for a really long time.

  

I don’t have a picture of the way I did the steeks, but basically I split the cable around the hood down the middle and knitted a six stitch panel in the middle. (Which honestly, I wish I’d done at least ten stitches wide, in retrospect.) This is a close up of how it looked, and as a bonus, an image showing the moment I realised that I’d bought and spent four days sewing in a zipper that was at least three inches too short. I don’t know how I managed to both buy, pin in, and sew a zipper (and then leave the house wearing it) without realising that the zipper wasn’t long enough, but I did. And then I had to dig through my stuff and found a really old metal zipper that fit almost perfectly. It did take me another two weeks to actually do it, though, because I was so sick of zippers at that point.

My cat, however, was not team ‘finish knitting this damn thing’, since she really didn’t want to lose her favourite nap spot. That’s okay. I managed it in the end, without her support.

2

011: Knitting pattern #1

Here’s my first pattern! Or I’ve been making patterns for literally yearssss but they’ve just been hanging around on my hard drive, half written. So let’s do this.

I call these Claudie for the person I made them for. I’m Bad At Names (ask anyone who’s helped me name a writing project) so that’s usually how I name them. I’m going to make this available on Ravelry too (here), but I’m putting it here too.

Size
One size, which translates to three inches wide and ten inches tall, worked with about 1.5 inches negative ease. If your underarm is bigger than 8 inches around measured halfway between wrist and elbow, go up a needle size.

Supplies
• About 60 grams of worsted weight yarn, 30 grams per colour. Sample is knit using Viking of Norway Superwash (50 gram/100 m, 100% merino) in black (main colour), and a Sandnes Smart (50 gram/100 m, 100% superwash wool) in petrol (contrast colour). These two yarns may or may not be available outside of Scandinavia.
• US6/4 mm circular or double pointed needles
• 2 stitch markers

Gauge
5.5 sts and 7 rows per inch.

Directions
Cast on 40 sts in MC.

Rest of pattern ⌲ ⌲ ⌲

0

010: Reading adventures in 2017

I usually do a summary like this, and I figure I could actually post it in public too. I’m not a big reviewer (I think my best review to date is IT’S LIKE BUFFY BUT WITH UNICORNS about Rampant by Diana Peterfreund), but I do like stats. God, do I love stats. So here’s a small Q&A with myself about the reading year that was 2017. (The best thing about 2017, let’s be real.)

Books read | Books I aimed to read
I read 71 (!) thanks to the Hugos and their novellas/novelette/graphic novel categories (I don’t count short stories in this tally). I burnt out several times over, which isn’t weird given that my goal was just 40. Lesson for 2018 is definitely to pace myself.

Number of authors | Authors with multiple works
51 unique authors. I read more than one book of 8 authors.

Brian K Vaughan (7)
G Willow Wilson (6)
Ebbe Schön (4)
Cath Crowley, Gail Carriger, Mira Grant (3)
Becky Chambers, Linn Ullmann (2)

Gender; author | Gender; main character
I always skew heavily towards female so this is roughly where I usually end up.

32 unique female authors, 45 books total. (63%)
17 unique male authors, 25 books total. (35%)
One book had one male and two female authors (1%)

35 books with a female main character (64%)
7 books with a male main character (13%)
13 books with both a female and male main characters (24%)

Nationality | Ethnicity
I read a lot of books by Americans. A lot. I also read a lot of white authors. It’s something I try to be mindful of, but I could do a hell of a lot better.

USA: 28 (55%)
UK: 6 (12%)
Sweden: 6 (12%)
Australia: 4 (8%)
Norway: 3 (6%)
Austria, Canada, Iran, Nigeria: 1 (2% each)

37 white authors (72%)
14 POCs (mainly Asian and African American) (27%)

Fiction | Non-fiction | Graphic novels
41 fiction, 15 non-fiction, 15 graphic novels. In 2016 the number was 43/5/0, so my commitment to more non-fiction is working even if fiction is my #1 love.

Oldest book read | Newest book read
The oldest were Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847), Männen med rosa triangel by Heinz Heger (1972), and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982). The newest were Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Bromancers (Tansy Rayner Roberts), all published in 2017.

Rereads
Sixteen. Saga, Ms Marvel, the Gracie Faltrain books (Cath Crowley), the Newsflesh books (Mira Grant), and Wuthering Heights. I barely even remember reading the last one before, because my English wasn’t great when I attempted it. Also, it was twenty years ago.

Translated works
Thanks to the library I read more translated stuff this year. My favourite was definitely Norwegian non-fiction, which sounds like a weird sub-genre, but it translates so smoothly to Swedish, and it’s a delight to read. This is the whole list:

47 sekunder/The Gaze of the Gazelle by Arash Hejazi. From English.
Det största brottet/Den største forbrytelsen by Marte Michelet. From Norwegian.
En av oss/En av oss by Åsne Seierstad. From Norwegian.
Männen med rosa triangel/Die Männer mit dem rosa Winkel by Heinz Heger. From German.
De oroliga/De urulige by Linn Ullmann. From Norwegian.
De dyrbara/Det dyrbare (from Norwegian) by Linn Ullman

Works in Swedish
This is actually a high number for me. Most of the time I read ten books in English (my second language) for every book in Swedish (my first language). So this is actually remarkable, being me. I’m aiming to do even better this year.

Grönt! by Karin Eliasson.
I havet finns så många stora fiskar by Sara Lövestam.
Håll käften, jag räknar! by Julia Skott.
Dig blir det aldrig något av by Peter Pohl.
Folktro om ödet och lyckanÄlvor, vättar och andra väsenSvenska sägner and Erotiska väsen by Ebbe Schön.
Döden i skogen by Göran Lager.

Favourite reads | Books that deserve a mention
I’m very generous with my stars so this isn’t necessarily what I loved the best or had the most stars. It’s just what I really want to remember.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I read this in a DAY, which I haven’t done since 2007.

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers. About an AI trying to human and a girl raised by one. Many thanks to the Hugos for this one.

I havet finns så många stora fiskar (available in Swedish) by Sara Lövestam. It’s from the POV of a five year old boy whose parents neglect him enough that a pedophile almost grabs him. It hurts to read. It hurts so much. Sadly not available in translation.

Det största brottet (available in Swedish and Norwegian) by by Marte Michelet. Non-fiction, about Norway during World War II. I cried. A lot.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. So painful. Honestly, after reading this I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch the show.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. What if you lived on a hellmouth and wasn’t a Slayer or a Scooby? Add some mental illness and a dash of queer representation, and you’re good to go.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Loved this one and the chaotic nature of the narrative. Thanks to the Hugos for kicking it in my path.

En av oss/One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway (available in a ton of languages, including English!) by by Åsne Seierstad. I can’t summarise this one, so maybe read this for the quick recap. Or remember that this is the guy who set off a bomb, posed as a police officer to calm a large group of teens about it, and then murdered all of them. Afterwards, when the police told him people were scared he smiled and told them ‘that’s what terror does’.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definite History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X Kendi. Long, academic, hard to read in all ways; both emotionally and literally. It took me two months to read and was absolutely worth it.

1

009: On #metoo

Warning: Potentially triggering stuff ahead. Nothing graphic, because I’m lucky that way. Also based on this Instagram post I wrote in Swedish.

I was quiet all through the #metoo campaign. I didn’t speak up because I felt like my experiences weren’t ‘enough’. After a conversation with a family member (of which, let’s not talk about it, but I didn’t walk away happy) and a subsequent Twitter thread that I deleted almost immediately, there’s something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

I was twelve or maybe thirteen years old; quite shy, quite sheltered, did not understand boys or why people kept talking about them, which is probably why I didn’t realise sooner what was happening. At the time I thought I was just stupid. But that’s how it goes.

A man kept calling our home phone when I was home alone. He said that he was a co-worker of my dad’s. I don’t remember his excuses other than that, I just remember that he kept me talking, making me divulge details, and when I did he always said “oh right, I knew that, your dad told me that”. He called a few times, I think. It was pretty innocent, really. Until the time when I reminded him of my age, which he’d conveniently forgotten (again), and he said: “thirteen, eh? I bet you’ve gotten breasts by now, don’t you?”

I slammed the phone down, unplugged it (and the other phones in the house), and I can’t remember how much of this I told my parents, but it ended in us changing phone numbers.

He never tried to find us, which was lucky, given all the information he’d gotten out of me without me even realising. He probably had a dozen other underage girls he kept calling. That might’ve saved me.

Another time, when I was in my twenties and alone in a laundromat (the unmanned kind, vague clean with ‘doesn’t work’ scratched into the doors of the dryers that sucked but were never fixed or replaced), a guy started talking to me. He had a developmental disability of some kind. He told me people were never nice to him because of it, but I was. Because, you know, why wouldn’t I be? I felt bad for him until he asked me to show him my pussy. I was so startled that I just stared at him and finally told him to never tell another girl that.

I grabbed my laundry and walked home. We lived close, and I made sure he didn’t follow me. I locked the door and folded the laundry I meant to fold before going home, that was shoved into the hamper. I never told my now-ex. I never told anyone, actually. I just forgot about it. Until now.

These two things I didn’t think was enough for #metoo. Nobody touched me, right? Nobody chased me down. I was lucky. Both of these times I was lucky.

It still counts. Even if I was lucky. Even if it was just words. It’s not conflating the ‘real’ stories with things that are smaller, less painful. With stories you can forget, that you can call important until the day you remember.

It counts. count. You do as well. No matter what happened (or didn’t happen) to you. No matter if you’re comfortable sharing the details or just want to say “me too” and leave it at that.

I put these two stories down to show that it doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be brutal. It can be a guy who doesn’t know better, because nobody has taught him what’s appropriate and he’s the kind of person who needs it spelled out, carefully. It can be the sort of man who dials numbers on random, years before there were things like caller IDs.

I don’t really know how to finish this post. It’s just been sitting half written in my drafts for weeks now, and I think I want it out there. Without excuses. Without apologising. So yeah. Here it is.

 

0

008: Chocolate and fudge

Fil 2018-01-05 13 42 35 copy

So, I made things! Lots of things! People ask me a lot of it’s hard, but it’s really not. The chocolates are a bit fiddly (you need to fill the forms, tip it out, freeze it 5 minutes, then fill them, freeze them until the filling is solid, roughly 5-15 minutes depending, and then spoon some chocolate on top, and freeze it again — for a video on how to do it, check this post at How To Cook That), but the fudge is super easy! I’ve found recipes all over the place, and simplified and played with the ratios and things, so recipes of that will follow after the pictures.

(Note that these are all quickish! I always take a shortcut if I can, like using mint extract instead of fresh mint, ginger spice instead of fresh ginger, instant coffee, etc. That’s good enough for me.)

Fil 2018-01-05 14 06 46

My dad always wants nothing but some of my chocolate for Christmas so for his sake I go fancy and make a box from scratch. It’s just card stock thick paper (the above box is made from two  pieces of A4/letter sized papers, cut and folded into a box shape and covered in Christmas present paper. The text above just says the flavours:

Orange ~ Ginger ~ Raspberry ~ Caramel ~ Coffee
Mint ~ Gingerbread ~ Chai ~ Lemon/meringue
Peanut butter ~ Saffron

My basic chocolate filling recipe is based on several videos from How To Cook That, and also advice from my chocolate making friend Claudie:

Recipe for both chocolate fillings and fudge ⌲ ⌲ ⌲

0

007: NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again! I don’t know about you but I’m excited. Super excited. The only years, after 2005, that I haven’t done NaNoWriMo was 2007 and 2016. This year I’m extra ready because of my break last year (I had to, it had kind of become a chore, and I didn’t want to burn out in the middle of editing a thing), and I spent yesterday redoing the spreadsheet that has been kicking around for yearsssss now. I think I’ve used it since at least 2010 myself, but there’s just so much stuff, so I simplified it a bit, and then I simplified the simplified version further, and now I have two spreadsheets I want to share… if anyone finds this blog post. That last part remains to be seen.

All credit to the original creator, whose spreadsheet you can find here, if you don’t get distracted by having too much data in front of you. Spreadsheets are the best, and can tell time! It’s amazing.

These two are mine:

nanosmall
The super simple one! Click on the image for a closer look at it or download it here. Just make a copy and start editing it!

nanobig
The somewhat more complicated one. It has a pie chart and everything, and I like it. Click on the image for a closer view, or download it here. Again, make a copy and get started.