April 2017 Sexbots & Poetry @AlinaMeridon

I have been reading… Leona Carver’s Transformation

Transformation by Leona CarverLeona Carver’s Transformation (LT3, goodreads) caught my eye. I’m not sure I knew that it was the third novella in the series when I bought it, but I gave it a go anyway. (While it’s not really necessary to read the other books, it would probably be better to.) Lesbian romance and terraforming – what’s not to like? Plus, I adore the cover.

I dislike stories where the reader is well ahead of the main character, and nearly abandoned this at the start, but once the story shifted onto the planet I found it much more enjoyable. Not only the characters, but the careful thought that went into the science and technology of terraforming a hostile alien planet. (Reminded me a little of Sheri S. Tepper’s Hobbs Land Gods.)

I have been listening to… Elektra

I enjoy listening to BBC Radio, and two plays stood out this month. One was Catriona Knox’s Almost Like Being In Love. The main character describes herself as heteroflexible, in a very philosophical way, and finds herself falling for a lesbian. The script is full of the almost clichéd responses to this apparent change (or non-change) of orientation that you might expect, adding an element of not-quite-comedy to the romance. It’s really a sweet and simple tale of an open-minded ‘straight’ girl discovering she’s bisexual and everyone generally being in denial of bisexuality. What it isn’t, really, is what the description said: “What does love look like in a world of non-binary, gender-fluid, constantly hyphenated thinking?”

The other play was Sophocles’ Electra, which is all about Orestes and Elektra complaining about how evil their mother is. Never mind that Agamemnon murdered Clytemnestra’s first husband (and child, possibly), or that he sacrificed his daughter (and their sister) Iphigenia, or even that he’s been away for over ten years doing whatever it is kings do with captured slave-girls (he even brings one back with him), no, the only thing that matters is that their mother took a lover and killed their father.

It’s tragic, really. But it inspired this little tale of Agamemnon’s home-coming:

  • Cassandra, The ill-fated princess speaks; her last prophesy falls on deaf ears…

Salma Harek as EverlyI have been watching… Everly

Everly (2014) blends kick-ass girl, vengeful woman and determined mother in the talented and beautiful form of Salma Hayek. A desperate attempt to escape a life of confinement, abuse and slavery fails, putting her mother and daughter’s lives in danger. As a string of deadly assassins try to kill Everly, she struggles to guide her family to safety. Often dark, often funny, always brilliant.

Almost Adults filmAlso on Netflix, Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman (who were Carmilla and Laura respectively in the fantastic Carmilla webseries) star in Almost Adults, a delightful coming-of-age film with elements of humour and romance.

And the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, was also much enjoyed.

National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)

Last year I didn’t have a theme for NaPoWriMo (see April 2016 Iphigenia @AlinaMeridon) but in 2015 I had a theme of steampunk, and in 2014 (my first NaPoWriMo) I chose Supergirl – which started my poetic love affair with Kara El.

In the spirit of perversity, for April 2017 I chose the theme of sexbots. They are of course a recurring theme on this blog, in connection with my unpublished and ill-fated novella Alexis 5-1-8. I recognise that this is a subject that few are interested in, and one that is somewhat antithetical to poetry (sexbots being base sexuality versus the elevated refinement of poetry), but in challenging the assumptions about and the instinctive reactions towards sexbots, it’s intriguing to see the mirror they hold up to society.

sexbot
some mirrors reflect
too well

The following collection of poems and articles is not erotic. Sometimes there is humour, and sometimes darkness, but I have aimed for compassion and truth.

Sexbot Articles

Sexbot Poetry: Mythology

Sexbot Poetry: Sexbot as Lover

Sexbot Poetry: The Dark Side

Sexbot Poetry: The Sentient Sexbot

Sexbot Poetry: Objectification

Sexbot Poetry: Humour

March 2017 Trolling @AlinaMeridon

I have been reading…

Love and Friendship, based on Lady Susan by Jane AustenLove & Friendship is on Netflix. The trailer had me in hysterics last year, but I never managed to get to the cinema to watch it. It’s great fun, and Kate Beckinsale is gorgeous as Lady Susan. It’s based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan (free for Kindle), which I’m currently reading and very much enjoying.

Vagina Dentata by Lauryn PantsAlso free, Vagina Dentata may sound absolutely horrible – although it’s definitely worth reading the Wikipedia page on the subject (e.g., “In Shintoism the Ainu legend is that a sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman and emasculated two young men on their wedding nights.”) – but it’s a beautifully written short story and full of humour. It’s also, no surprise, erotic and explicit.

Supergirl & Shipping & Trolling

After my complaints last month about Supergirl, my frustrations reached the point where I needed to have a more coherent rant: Another Super Rant – What the ’El? Apparently, tagging this as #Karamel made me a troll, e.g.: “Keep this crap out of our tags, troll!” I was almost tempted to reply, “Keep your shipping crap out my #Supergirl tag!” But that probably wouldn’t have achieved very much…

Perhaps the most interesting thing in all of this is the way people are so focussed on ‘endgame’ romances. In other words, the series needs to pick a romantic partner for Supergirl who will be her One True Love by the end of the final season, if and whenever that may be. In the case of Karamel, this means that Mon-El is here now and here to stay, and we may as well call the series The New Adventures of Supergirl and Mon-El – and if you don’t like that, then tough. Stop watching, you ‘salty, bitter betty’.

(Karamel shippers are fiercely protective of Mon-El. The absurdity of it is, if you swapped genders so that the hero, Superboy, was falling for a female Mon-El who constantly disrespected him, slept with people at the drop of a hat, frequently endangered lives and even sometimes beat people up for money… would there be any love at all for her? Can you say ‘double standards’? (*))

I think it’s not that I object to a soulmate per se, although it is a tired and severely limiting cliché, but the pairing has to be right. It has to make sense. And… er, why does it have to happen straight away?

Or at all?

Anyway, on a lighter note. Sort of. A year or so ago I wrote a Supercat poem, and now here’s a Supercorp poem:

In Lena’s arms she fell at last
and wept such bitter tears
“Why have I had to wait,” she asked
“so many lonely years?
For one to ease my aching heart
and soothe away my fears?

“I’m tired of men – their arrogance!
their blind and selfish ways!
I’d quit this planet were it not
for Sol’s sweet golden rays
So cold and dark the too-long nights
while waiting for the days…

“Hold me, Lena, keep me warm
you’ve sunshine in your eyes
The passion in your heart is bright
your actions quick and wise
Just promise always to be true
I’m sick from human lies.”

“Kara, love, my heart is yours
my soul and body too
I’d give up all I am and own
to spend my life with you
You are my hero, super girl
and love you true, I do.”

((*) I’m reminded suddenly of 7 of 9’s takeover of Star Trek: Voyager. I was already in love with Jeri Ryan from her Russian assassin on Dark Skies, so of course she was a welcome addition to the cast, but Voyager was growing stale and Janeway’s tedious and limited morality was never inspiring, and 7 of 9’s frequent rebellion was so much more fun.)

Oh no, not sexbots again!

I followed a link from Sententiaeantiquae’s A Fanciful Story with a Surprising Climax, about a man lusting after a statue of Aphrodite, to Philosophical Disquisitions and The Ethics of Robot Sex:

Whether robots should be treated with the same ethical respect as humans … depends on whether or not they display the external evidential marks of personhood. If they do, we should err on the side of caution and treat them equivalently to human beings.

A very interesting article, although I feel there are additional issues that need to be addressed – and are partly so in the linked article Is there a Case for Robot Slaves?

Slippery-Slope Objection: Even if it is not intrinsically wrong to create robot slaves, it does give rise to a morally worrying slippery slope. Specifically, it seems like it will desensitise us to the needs and interests of human persons, and will thus condition us to act callously toward them when they do not wish to do our dirty work.

Some arguments against the slippery-slope objection follow, but I don’t find them entirely satisfying. But certainly thought-provoking…

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Winter 2016-17 Day is Done @AlinaMeridon

I haven’t been writing much lately. In part, my day job has been keeping me too busy of late, but mostly I’m weary about the state of the world.

  • Brexit left me feeling wounded and confused, and the determination of Britain’s politicians to follow that path to our doom, like lemmings off a cliff, is… well, understandable, but deeply saddening. And especially worrying, since:
  • Trump. Oh. Dear. God. Damn, America, I get that you weren’t overly fond of Hilary, but why would you vote for an immature, entitled, egotistical, bigotted, woman-hating white supremacist? All I can say is, thank God for:
  • Supergirl? Oh, dear. I mean, I know I bitched a little about the pseudo-feminism in Season 1, but Season 2 is a mess! It’s even more illogical than Season 1, and while it’s great to have Alex finding true love with Maggie, it feels a little excessive when Kara barely gets any character development. The truth is that Cat Grant was a necessary balance, a good and powerful human female influence, in a series otherwise dominated by aliens, soldiers and cyborgs. (“After losing Cat Grant, the world of Supergirl feels completely imbalanced. It’s almost as if the fictional Cat Grant kept all the very real writers in place. Because let’s face it: Cat Grant would stand up for Supergirl.” – How The CW gave Supergirl a second season, then ruined it) The closest we get in Season 2 is Lena Luthor, and she’s sadly under-used; instead we have to endure an inexplicable relationship between Kara and Mon-El. But it’s increasingly clear that the writers don’t really care about the characters or the artistic integrity of Supergirl.
  • [On the plus side, I’ve watched some great series on Netflix: 3% (Brazilian post-apocalyptic), The Expanse (space opera), Luke Cage (Marvel), Jessica Jones (Marvel), Cyborg 009 (anime), and others also, but these are all definitely worth a shot.]
  • Oh, and also, my computer broke. The Apple Store has pronounced it “beyond repair”. One silver lining here, though: I extracted an old MacBook Pro from a cupboard and have managed to get Ubuntu Linux working smoothly – I’m continually astonished by how well Linux works these days. I remember installing it onto my 486 off a handful of floppy disks, and having to spend days fiddling with X Server parameters to get the monitor to work. These days the only thing I fight with is EFI, but I won’t go into that…
  • And last, but not least, I made an intelligent (I thought) and innocuous (I thought) comment on a blog article that kicked off an entirely too stressful discussion/argument, which left me feeling emotionally battered. It has been three weeks now since I baled, and I haven’t found the strength – or given in to the weakness – to see how much worse it got.

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November 2016 James Bond @AlinaMeridon

Cold War Relics – A James Bond Adventure

One of the discussions that people often have about Dr Who is whether he could, or should, regenerate as a woman. For gender balance in the Tardis, she might then travel time and space with a male companion. Ultimately there’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen, though it seems unlikely that it ever will.

Earlier this year, Daniel Craig’s uncertainty over James Bond led to an inevitable flurry of speculation over alternatives, posing even the question of whether James Bond needs to be White British. Of course, the source material, Fleming’s stories, were suddenly a holy reference stating absolutely that James Bond has to be white, male and British (ideally Sean Connery) and a bit of an all-round bastard, in a suave and sophisticated way.

If the plots are absurd, and often the acting also, the spectacle of the films – the music, the exotic locations, the action sequences, but especially the stunt work (Die Another Day being a sad travesty of a Bond film from the moment the invisible car makes its appearance – or disappearance, rather) – makes them watchable.

The plots are also rife with misogyny, mainly through sheer inertia. (Anyone who isn’t Bond, M, Q or Moneypenny can and will be sacrificed or forgotten, and any women need to be beautiful and sleep with either Bond or the villain – or both.) There’s no real need, however, for Bond to be ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,’ as M says; ‘a relic of the Cold War.’

Thandie Newton as James Bond

Thandie Newton as James Bond, 007
(With apologies for copyright infringement…)

There’s no real need even for Bond to be a man, except that people have a fondness for men who are sexist, misogynist dinosaurs. Just ask the next President of the United States of America.

So, it should be possible to have a female James Bond (Ah, Ms Bond! We meet at last…) – or, indeed, a female-identifying, polyamorous, pansexual, intersex James Bond – who kills bad guys and beds beautiful women…

for one little kiss
I would sacrifice my breath
and drown in your arms

double-o seven
the cold assassin enjoys
one more little death

james bond in heels skirts
many fearsome enemies
to strike at the heart

  1. The obligatory pre-credit sequence
  2. Moneypenny and the Quartermaster
  3. An exotic location
  4. A bloody business
  5. A new dress and heels
  6. The predictable card game
  7. An over-complicated death
  8. Search for the Secret Base
  9. The dastardly plan
  10. An explosive end
  11. Getting the girl

All About Freya

I was delighted to have a guest post from Freya Pickard, a fellow haiku poet and fantasy author. We share a love of dragons, structured poetry and Gilbert & Sullivan…

Cover of Insides by Freya Pickard

“I managed to retain my sense of humour throughout most of my cancer experience; it was only really chemotherapy that made it disappear… Most of my other writing is humorous, particularly if I’m writing about Dracomagan. But I do have a serious novel coming out next.”

Failed Again!

Two of my haiku were accepted for the December edition of Failed Haiku.

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September 2016 Veiled Haiku @AlinaMeridon

The Veil

Henry David Thoreau, a poet and philosopher whose writings I wish I were better acquainted with, once said, “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.” It certainly conjures up some interesting images, but I suspect the point he was making was that if clothing were simple, primarily functional and generally stripped of its layers of meaning, then we would necessarily have to judge people by who they are rather than what they wear.

Clothing is full of meaning. Clothing is seldom ‘just clothing’. Clothing is a cultural statement indicating power, wealth, identity and intention. It is a language, one of many spoken across the world and throughout recorded history, each with its local dialects. Cultural misunderstandings are easy and all too frequent: someone might make the statement, “I am a confident, independent woman and open – perhaps – to sexual advances from the right someone,” only for someone else to see them and understand instead, “I am a woman of no intrinsic worth and may be treated entirely without respect.”

Defenders of the veil (in its many forms) often argue that it’s ‘just clothing’ and people should be allowed to wear what they like. If people genuinely were allowed to wear whatever they liked, then there wouldn’t be such an outcry at public nudity. In truth there are rules upon rules of what is permissible. Some are enshrined in law, some are simply convention and fashion, some are tokens of cultural identity.

Arguments in support of the veil are so often presented in the guise of feminism (‘the liberation is in the choice’) or religious freedom that to speak out against the veil is perilous indeed. Intelligent people with legitimate concerns are reluctant to speak out for fear of an organised backlash from a religious mafia.

I am a feminist and I find the sight of a woman concealed head-to-foot, save perhaps for a glimpse of eyes, highly distressing. Does, I wonder, the woman have any real choice? Is she happy to be isolated from the outside world, or utterly miserable? Is she content to be the property of a man? Added to that is the offensive implication that men are unable to control their desires, or that it is the responsibility of a woman to conceal herself from the uncontrollable desires of men.

If you genuinely believe people should be allowed to wear what they want, then you should fight for the right for all people to wear what they like, and to be safe and treated with respect no matter what. In communities where the veil is the norm, a woman who chooses not to wear the veil cannot be assured of either safety or respect. Sadly, neither can a woman who does choose to wear the veil be assured of either.

Refusing the Veil by Yasmin-Alibhai-Brown

I have been thinking much about the veil this past month, and stumbled across Refusing the Veil by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who writes with the clarity and the passion of one who sees a hard-won freedom slipping away.

Alexis 5-1-8

In August I started writing a sequel to Alexis 5-1-8 without a real sense of where to take it, but it occurred to me eventually that it would be far better to rewrite much of the new material and thread it into the original story. Alexis 5-1-8 is now sitting at 24,000 words, edging into novella territory.

I sent the new version off to yet-another-independent-publisher – three weeks ago, and have heard absolutely nothing so far. Not even a receipt. Sigh… Getting very tempted to just publish it myself.

Failed Again!

On a happier note, four of my haiku were accepted for the October edition of Failed Haiku.

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August 2016 Summer @AlinaMeridon

old man willow singing
a web by the water’s edge

a vision of gold
breathing light into the dark
the old worm slumbers

At the end of July I was in Veliko Gradište in Serbia, entirely without internet access for over a week. Instead of writing for my blog, I was chasing mosquitoes around the house, or enjoying beans cooked over an open fire (they even had a competition for this in Veliko Gradište, dozens of groups clustered about barbecue fires by the side of the Danube), or drinking beer (every visitor to Serbia quickly learns the word ‘pivo’), or reading Lord of the Rings for the nth time (I got all the way to Shelob’s lair)…

Silver Lake near Veliko Gradiste in Serbia

Until 1971, Silver Lake (a popular holiday destination near Veliko Gradište in Serbia) was an arm of the Danube.

I have done a fair bit of writing these past two months, but not for my blog and not for publication – although I have also been writing a second part for my ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8. Maybe I can extend it from a novelette to novella. On a related note, here’s an interesting article about sexbot prostitutes: Robot Brothels Could Soon Become A Reality.

Joo Yeon Sir and Irina Andrievsky playing the Porgy and Bess fantasy by Igor Frolov Joo Yeon Sir and Irina Andrievsky playing the Kreutzer sonata

In July I had the great fortune to attend a concert in Buxton where violinist Joo Yeon Sir and pianist Irina Andrievsky played Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata (image/link on right) and Igor Frolov’s Porgy & Bess fantasy (image/link on left). I had often heard of the Kreutzer sonata, but it wasn’t a piece I was familiar with. Joo Yeon Sir played it beautifully and passionately, and I was delighted to find the same pieces and performers on YouTube.

Silk Over Razor Blades by Ileandra Young

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June 2016 Britain Likes It Hard @AlinaMeridon

I Like It Hard – and Cinderella

My novelette I Like It Hard, a satire on Reality TV talent contests, with a bisexual aromantic woman as main character, was published on 8th June, almost exactly eleven months after submission. Less Than Three Press has been excellent all the way through the process, and I hope my novelette sells well as much for their sake as for my own. My editor, V.E. Duncan, with whom I corresponded only through comments in the margin of the manuscript, so to speak, forced me to revise the story significantly and for the better, and for that I am hugely grateful.

The one downside to choosing a romance publisher is that, although the story is explicitly not a romance, it keeps getting tagged as one. Amazon.co.uk lists it as ‘lesbian romance’ (wrong on both counts), while Amazon.com lists it also as ‘bisexual romance’ (half-wrong). Smashwords has it under ‘Gay & lesbian fiction’ (which at least doesn’t claim to be romance). At least one reviewer has complained that it wasn’t what they expected because of the labelling.

I do not intend this as a complaint about the publisher – LT3 are one of the very few publishers that have an aromantic category. This is simply a consequence of publishing categories that barely recognise the existence of ‘bisexual’ and are oblivious to ‘aromantic’. It’s also a world where the LGBTQIA community views the ‘B’ with suspicion and the ‘A’ often with outright hostility.

For the release of I Like It Hard, I wrote a guest post for Elaine White’s Vampires, Crime and Angels blog, where I deconstruct Cinderella and also propose an allo-aro interpretation of the fairytale: Aromancing Cinderella. Later this month I stumbled across an aro-ace interpretation at The Fairytale Project.

Britain and the EU Referendum

Those squabblers and separatists fight
And wail of their terrible plight
In a big pond they’re small
On an island they’re tall
And power they feel is their right

they built a new stairway to hell
so slippery that everyone fell
on a mountain of cash
they dropped with a crash
for the pound had not fared very well

Britain’s referendum on whether to ‘leave’ the EU has preoccupied me (and indeed the whole country) for the past month. Most people agree that there are problems with the EU, but there will always be problems with any kind of government. The EU’s main problem in Britain is in the way the British government has always used the EU as a scapegoat (‘We’re sorry. We can’t help you – our hands are tied!’) and the way the media have always given racist egotists like Nigel Farage so much coverage while the positive aspects of the EU (being complex and subtle) get almost none.

In the past it has led to the insane logic of: ‘We’re angry with Westminster, so we’re going to vote for the aggressively anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the European elections, just to teach Westminster a lesson.’ Hmm. Yes, let’s waste tax-payers’ money and damage our potential for influencing the EU by sending a [beep] to the European Parliament. The awful irony of the EU Referendum is that its intention was to weaken the influence of UKIP.

Just over half of British voters chose ‘Leave’. Their reasons were various. Many believe that our trading position with the world will be stronger. Many believe that we can control immigration better if we’re not in the EU – many communities have suffered as a result of immigration. Many believe that what we get out of being in the EU is less than what we put in. Many believe that voting ‘Leave’ was the best way to express their distrust of and disgust with the British government (i.e., a bunch of posh rich kids who couldn’t give a damn about anyone) and that it would be good to ‘shake things up’ and ‘make history’ [ugh!].

Unfortunately, the only clear campaign message has been UKIP’s outrageous xenophobia. Both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaigners were parading ‘facts’ and ‘statistics’ that were wrong, and were busy shouting at each other to conceal the ugly truth that no one had any idea what the hell was going on. Boris Johnson’s statement following the result amounted to: ‘Maybe we can sort-of half-leave the EU?’ To which the EU promptly replied (in much the same way that an exasperated parent might respond to a troublesome child’s request for a third helping of chocolate ice cream): ‘No.’

So now the whole country is confronted with the reality that no one knows what ‘Leave’ actually means, and both of the major political parties have gone into melt down. To make things worse, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar are desperately trying to escape from England’s insanity. In the recent Scottish referendum – in which I didn’t vote, not living in Scotland anymore – I was very much against Scottish independence. Now, though, I have a great deal of sympathy for the idea of an independent Scotland.

I, along with half the country, am feeling broken by the result. All my life I have been Scottish (mostly), British and European. Now Britain is trying very hard to shatter that unity, and I feel a profound loss of identity. I really like Vasilina Orlova’s comment on it:

I wonder, do some strata of the British peoples feel like they are expelled from their own country right now, like they are in exile without moving beyond the borders? That’s the position many people found themselves in with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Borders trembled and shifted beyond your feet. Maybe you didn’t move but they did.

Some of my frustration is worked through in the following posts:

Helen & Paris

cassandra was cursed
with attention of a god
what pleasure she took
in telling agamemnon
of the fate awaiting him

This month I wrote a little haiku sequence about Helen and Paris. My usual obsession with the Trojan War centres on Iphigenia (in December I had a little haiku sequence about Helen & Iphigenia, and in April a sequence with Iphigenia, Cassandra and others: a father’s love) but the story of Helen is central to the Trojan War and is pervasive throughout European culture.

Sometimes she is framed as villain, sometimes as victim. But I have to ask: what could make Helen leave homeland, birthright, divine responsibilities and even her child? Could it really have been a romantic impulse to be with a young, foreign prince? More likely she was abducted against her will, or was escaping a life made wretched by an abusive husband, or was driven to an irrational passion by Aphrodite – and if it was any of these we can hardly blame Helen for leaving.

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

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