The last whites only literary movement in science fiction

The New Weird might be the only literary movement that wasn’t so much still born, as murdered in its crib by the very same people who first created it. Yet as Jonathan McCalmont explains, it still left a lasting impact on science fiction. Reading that history however, something struck me, especially when reading the quote below by Steph Swainston:

The New Weird is a wonderful development in literary fantasy fiction. I would have called it Bright Fantasy, because it is vivid and because it is clever. The New Weird is a kickback against jaded heroic fantasy which has been the only staple for far too long. Instead of stemming from Tolkein, it is influenced by Gormenghast and Viriconium. It is incredibly eclectic, and takes ideas from any source. It borrows from American Indian and Far Eastern mythology rather than European or Norse traditions, but the main influence is modern culture — street culture — mixing with ancient mythologies.

The New Weird was the last science fiction movement that could still get away with thinking about diversity only in terms of what’s being written about, rather than who is doing the writing. It was the last movement to be able to assume that writers and audience both would be largely white, largely male, largely middle class. Fast forward half a decade and you got Racefail where science fiction and fandom got their noses rubbed in the fact that this was no longer the case, if it ever had been. Another half decade and you got the culture wars instigated by a bunch of sad losers angry that their lazy, rightwing power fantasies no longer win Hugos. It’s a point jonathan McCalmont makes as well:

If the TTA Press forums discussion marked the point at which genre culture gave itself permission to begin ignoring genre boundaries then Racefail was the point at which genre culture began to both recognise its historical failures and begin appealing directly to its readers rather than simply working on the assumption that the default reader of genre fiction was a white, middle-class male and that everyone who wasn’t would just happily put up with the fact that virtually nothing was written with them or their concerns in mind.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits — First Impression

Could a rag tag bunch of high school girls save their home town from amalgamation through putting on a hero show?

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: hero show

When a hero show is cancelled, Kise Mikan decides to stage one herself to cheer up her little sister, who had been looking forward to it so much. She recruits Akagi An, a sporty, athletic class mate and together they work out a show. Meanwhile the student council president and resident rich girl, Shirogane Misaki, is looking for ways to save their home town Hinano City from having to fuse with a neighbouring town. Shirogane stumbles across Kise’s and Akagi’s efforts and is impressed by their work, and moreso by the nation wide attention her video of their performance gets online. So she decides what Hinano City needs is its own regular hero show and drafts the other two into her plans…

Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: as sister's promise

I had no idea what Action Heroine Cheer Fruits would be before I saw the first episode, but what I got reminded me a bit of Rolling Girls, if only because the hero show in the first episode reminded me of the hero fight in that series. No road trip here though, but rather we get a topic of perennial anxiety in modern day Japan, the depopulation of the countryside and seemingly any town smaller than Tokyo and how to reverse this. There have been a fair few series recently where this was either part of the background or even driving the plot, as in the still airing Sakura Quest, so it’s not a far stretch to have a group of school girls try to save their town through hero shows…

I always like this sort of cheerful, upbeat show, whether or not anything actually happens in them. Having an actual plot just makes it that much better, though I do hope it doesn’t devolve in the usual anime antics, which the ending to the second episode, with the introduction of a villain/rival type character seemed to hint at.

Clione no Akari: first Impression

“Yes, she was … the bullied girl” — but actually this is all about how we two kept watching the bullying and felt really sorry for her but moreso for ourselves for not being able to do anything.

Clione no Akari: bullying is bad mm-okay

This started strong and then it ended because it turned out to be only nine minutes long, which was just long enough to set up the situation but not to do anything about it. And so much misery is heaped upon poor Minori-chan it isn’t funny. Not only is she poor, but she has a weak constitution and her parents are dead, so the rest of the class bullies her. Bullying is not a new subject in anime of course, but it’s unusual to see it as it’s portrayed here; is this an actual bit of social criticism? In my anime? The posters shown above and the ineffectual teacher trying to get anybody to lend Minori a pencil after somebody stole her pencil case during a test seem to hint that this is indeed a more realistic bullying story, not just the usual sob story to make us sympathise with a character.

Clione no Akari: happier days ahead

The nominal protagonists themselves are not that interesting yet. Their dilemma of wanting to help Minori but not wanting to go against the class hierarchy is familiar and relatable. But I think this may have worked better had this been the first half of a normal length episode, rather than having to wait a whole week or more to see what, if anything the two will do to help Minori.

Aho Girl, NTR, Tsurezure Children: First Impression

let’s look at three short length manga based series I’ll probably won’t keep following:

Aho Girl: lots of shouting with few jokes

Aho Girl: an idiot girl shouts until her long suffering, abusive childhood friend snaps again and hits her. That’s the joke. Oh, and she likes bananas. Really really likes bananas. But mostly it’s her shouting nonsense until his patience runs out and he puts her in a wrestling suplex. Having read the manga, this formula doesn’t change much but as other characters get introduced it gets extended somewhat, with Yoshiko’s idiocy rubbing of on others. Problem is that it was never particularly funny. The anime might change that but the first episode didn’t impress.

Netsuzou Trap

Netsuzou Trap: NTR is a trash fetish and adding yuri to it doesn’t change much. Two childhood friends go out for karaoke with their respective boyfriends, when the psycho lesbian one starts molesting our protagonist. It’s all abit creepy and unpleasant, not as enjoyable thrashy as Kuzu no Honkai and not as daring either. That actually had people having sex, here there’s only a bit of light anime style groping on the toilet. Had this been a full length episode, there might have been a bit more build-up of why we should care for these people, but now the boyfriends are just cyphers and the two girls not much better.

Tsurezure Children: love vignettes

Tsurezure Children: like Aho Girl based on a four panel gag comic, this one features the love stories of several teenage couples, from the pure to the blatantly cynical. Problem is, with what seemed like a half dozen couples featured in the first episode and no reason to care for any of them, the actual stories are too slight to care about them. Some of them actively pissed me off in fact, like the somewhat rapey student council president forcing the cigarette smoking deliquent into kissing him. Not my humour.

Kakegurui — First Impression

A gambling savant joins an academy where gambling is everything to defeat cheating villains who make faces like this when winning:

Kakegurui: villain o-face

Which in turn makes her make a face like this:

Kakegurui: hero o-face

So if you like crazy faces in your anime, this is the series for you. The first episode was a bit boring, too much time wasted on establishing the audience stand-in Blandy McBlandface and a too realistic a card cheat that the blonde villain used. Second episode was much better, with the student council member that likes to collect nails from her opponent being sufficiently crazy to keep up with our hero. The game too lost all precedence of being anything real humans could do, which paradoxically makes it easier to swallow that she figures out the trick in just one game. Kakegurui‘s success will depend on how well it can keep upping the stakes. Each game should be more over the top, each villain should be more satisfactory to see pulled down and each of our hero’s orgasms at winning should be more intense than the last one. Keep that up and I’ll keep watching.