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Summer Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Last January I blogged about the winter worlds I wish I could visit. Now that we’re well into the month of August and temperates are soaring, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic from a summery perspective.

One of the differences between this list and the one I did for winter is how loosely I’m defining a summer world. Some of the places I’ll be mentioning in this post never get cold or snowy at all. Others have seasonal changes that don’t necessarily match up perfectly with Ontario’s yearly weather cycle. A couple of them are places that aren’t so much “worlds” as they are countries (or parts of countries) that really exist.

It’s the presence of hot, often humid weather and everything that comes along with such a forecast that I’m looking for in these tales regardless of where they are set. I hope you’ll understand why I loosened the definition of this label and have a few ideas of your own of summer or summer-like settings that might be interesting to visit.

The Congo

 

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Caveat: I’d pack plenty of practical items like bug spray and I’d spend very little time with the main characters of this tale.

The setting, though, tickled my imagination. I wish the audience could have seen the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium from the perspective of someone who was born and raised in the Congo. The parts of this struggle that the main characters witnessed were fascinating. They made me wish it were possible to see the beginning of this movement for myself, and they were the highlight of the storyline for me.

The Deep South

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

While I’ve only been to Louisiana once, I did spend about a year of my childhood living in a different southern state. It wasn’t enough time for me to think of myself as a southerner by any means, but it was a period of my life when I developed some of my earliest memories that I am pretty certain are accurate and genuine.

The warm, humid evenings down there are something I’ll never forget. There’s no way to escape them. Like getting through snowstorms up north, you simply have to learn to adjust the rhythms of your day to what the weather is like. Assuming I could avoid the vampires running around there in this universe, it would be interesting to see if my memories of southern evenings are as accurate as I hope they are.

Any River That Huck Finn Paddles Down

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck was a character I liked a lot when I was a kid. The thought of a child deciding to leave home and go on an adventure without telling any of the adults in his or her life where they were headed made my heart skip a beat. I didn’t actually catch onto the satirical elements of the plot until I was older, but I do remember being envious of how much freedom this character had to design his own idea of a good time over the summer.

Also, I love bodies of water in almost any form. There are few things more soothing to me than spending time as close to a lake, river, pond, or ocean as possible. The sound of water lapping against the shore (or a seaworthy vessel) can lull me to sleep in minutes.

The House Where Justin’s Dad Lives

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern.

How is that for a vague title? About seven or eight years ago there was a popular Twitter account that quoted all of the odd, funny, and sometimes disturbing things the author’s dad said without necessarily realizing that he was embarrassing his son. Eventually those quotes were compiled into a book.

As someone who has my own fair share of relatives who are known for putting their feet in their mouths over and over again without no signs of learning from their pasts, I’d know exactly how to respond to the cringeworthy stuff Justin’s dad said back in the day (and maybe still does).

 

A Summer That Refuses to End

Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury

Raise your hand if you feel like this summer is going to last until the end of time.

This book is part of a series that is still on my TBR list, so I can’t give out any specific details about it yet. What I can say is that I, too, feel as though autumn is a decade or two away. It’s funny how some parts of the year speed by while others drag on forever, isn’t it?

What summer or summer-like worlds do you wish you could visit?

Suggestion Saturday: August 18, 2018

Here is this week’s list of links from my favourite corners of the web. Last week’s list was a little sparse. I think I more than made up for that this time around.

Don’t Worry About Feeling Sad – on the Benefits of a Blue Period. What do all of you think of this idea? I know I’m intrigued.

How a Disabled Person Feels When Someone Stares at Them via SarahJBpoetry. This is a blog I’m going to be keeping my eye on in the future.

It’s Never too Late to Be a Reader Again. Raise your hand if you’ve ever regretfully stopped reading something. I like the idea of returning to a book later on in life to see if it fits you better then.

Sand Castle Marketing via cynthiaharriso1. If you have a mailing list or are thinking of setting one up, go read this. I love this blogger’s approach to marketing. If only more authors and other creative folks thought this way.

Losing Earth – the Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. Buckle down for a long read here. I’d be especially curious to hear the thoughts of everyone who clearly remembers 1979-1989. How much do you remember talking about climate change back then? Do you agree that we came close to finding a solution during that decade?

Broken Thoughts – The Story of My Two Broken Legs via sonzyb. Ooh, this made me wince. I also found it interesting because I’ve never broken a single bone and so didn’t know the details of how such an injury is treated. Keep in mind that there is one photo of her injuries and vivid written descriptions of them as well. It didn’t bother me, but I thought you all should know this in advance. If you like this post, be sure to click on part two at the end of it. There were four parts in all, and the author did link to the next one at the end of the first three parts in the series.

Inside the Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning. Seriously, how is this not the stuff of science fiction?

Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage. I don’t normally pay attention to the lives of celebrities, but this article was interesting because of how private Beyoncé generally is. It makes me wonder why she decided to share such personal details about her family all of the sudden.

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Is Mary Sue a Sexist Concept?

Thank you to my friend Berthold Gambrel for coming up with the idea for today’s post.

For anyone who hasn’t already heard of this term, a Mary Sue is a (female) character who is so idealized that she’s honestly too good to be true. Picture someone who is good-looking, smart, athletic, talented, charming, and good at virtually everything she tries.

If she has any flaws at all, those weaknesses are trivial things that don’t make a real difference in her daily life or current quest at all. For example, she might have a terrible singing voice, but her storyline has nothing at all to do with whether or not she can sing.

You’ve probably noticed that I used feminine pronouns in those last two paragraphs. I did this on purpose. In all of the years I’ve been reading various fiction genres – including, and sometimes especially, the science fiction and fantasy genres – I’ve never seen a male character being accused of being a Mary Sue even when he meets all of the criteria for this label. The very thought of a Marty Stu existing is controversial in some circles.

Sometimes I’ve seen people use the term Mary Sue to describe an author’s possibly subconscious desire to be loved and admired by everyone they meet. There have been times when certain critics of various well-known series have insisted that a Mary Sue character was written as a projection of everything the author wished she could be.

Intention Isn’t Everything

While the original Mary Sue character was first written as a lighthearted parody of unrealistic characters in Star Trek fan fiction, she’s since evolved into something else entirely.

If we lived in a world where Marty Stu was thrown around as easily as Mary Sue, I’d say that both of them were intended to shed light on the dangers of writing flat characters. As someone who has written hundreds of reviews over the years, I have seen plenty of books whose characters never felt like real people. It’s not easy to create a character who appears to have all of the same hopes, dreams, fears, and realistic personality flaws that you’d find in any random person walking down the street.

When a term is created to criticize one group of people for doing something while ignoring other groups that do the same thing, the original intentions quickly become less relevant over time.

Double Standards

What bothers me the most about Mary Sue as a concept are the double standards it enforces and the disproportionate amount of hate Mary Sues receive when compared to their male counterparts.

Yes, stories that portray a female main character as someone who has few if any flaws and who is somehow good at everything she tries aren’t an example of good writing.

This applies to every single even vaguely humanoid protagonist who has ever been invented, though, as well as quite a few who were created to be as unlike humans as possible.

Which gender they identify as doesn’t matter at all. I’ve sat through far too many stories about Marty Stus who were just as unbelievable as any Mary Sue has ever been. Yet I can’t remember the last time I saw or heard someone use the phrase Marty Stu in real life or complain about how unrealistic his character development was.

If we lived in a world where this wasn’t the case, I’d be much more willing to use the phrase Mary Sue to describe characters who were poorly developed or seemed to be an idealized version of who the author wishes he or she could be.  These are issues that I occasionally see pop up in the books, movies, and other forms of entertainment I review, but they are in no way limited to one specific gender. They happen everywhere.

Yes, It’s Sexist

It is for all of the reasons listed above that I believe Mary Sue is a sexist concept even though I don’t think that most people who use that phrase are purposefully trying to be sexist.

Sexism – and many other forms of prejudice – are so deeply ingrained into western society that it’s easy to overlook the milder examples of them like this one. Honestly, I know that I’ve occasionally said things that rubbed other people the wrong way because I wasn’t aware of why a certain phrase or topic was a sore spot for a particular group.

I can’t and won’t speak for every woman here, but my reaction to someone using this phrase wouldn’t be an angry one. The first thing I’d assume would be that they’ve never thought about the different ways characters who behave in very similar ways are treated based on their gender or why it’s a problem to hold one gender to a much stricter standard than you’d expect from another gender. This would be a teaching moment, just like I’d hope that someone else would be willing to explain to me why they found something I said to be offensive if I accidentally crossed the line when talking to them.

Is It a Good Idea to Take a Blogging Break?

No, this isn’t my way of saying that I’m taking a break from blogging. I’ve done it once or twice in the past for various reasons, but I have no current plans to ever do it again.

(If that ever changes, I’ll take my own advice and let you all know in advance that I’m going quiet for reason X and expect to be gone for Y amount of time!)

The real reason why I’m asking is because this question came to mind recently after a new post popped up on a blog I follow that hadn’t been updated in three or four years. Honestly, I’d forgotten it was even still on my RSS feed because of how long the gap between posts had been.

As soon as I realized the owner of that site had begun writing again, my face broke out into a grin. I’d missed his stories, and I was eager to see what he’d been up to while he was away. He’d disappeared so quickly that I hadn’t had any idea what had happened to him. This was something that had made me feel a little sad even though I respected his right to fall silent.

This Is a Guilt-Free Zone

I know I could very well have readers out there who have abandoned their old blogs or other sites. If this applies to you, know that this post is a guilt-free zone. There are many different reasons why someone might need to stop writing, and in no way am I trying to make anyone feel bad for making the choice to step away from their site whether it was a temporary or permanent decision.

Quality vs. Quantity Content

Raise your hand if you’d rather wait for an excellent post, vlog, or other update than settle for a mediocre one that arrives sooner!

One of the things I wish I could change about Internet culture is its focus on churning out new content on a regular basis regardless of how well-developed that video, post, or other form of communication actually is.

I’m all for blogging on a schedule if you have the time and energy to devote to posting a certain number of times a day, week, or month for the long term. However, I also believe it’s better to not post anything than it is to post a half-baked idea simply to stick to a predetermined schedule.

From what I’ve observed with friends who had to take breaks from their blogging or other activities online for various reasons, your core audience is still going to be there when you return. Speaking as someone who considers herself a part of the core audience of a few different folks, I will still be around in a month, a year, and even longer than that if or when a favourite writer ever decides to return to his or her blog, Youtube account, or other online hangout.

If You Can, Say Goodbye

I do have one request for friends who find themselves needing to pull back from their regular posting schedules. If possible, I’d love to see some sort of message from them saying that they’ll be gone for a while. You don’t have to say why you’re leaving if you’d prefer not to (although I’d love to know if it’s due to something that might change again in the future if you don’t mind giving out enough details for this question to be answered).

Once again, this is not intended to make anyone feel guilty. Sometimes life makes it really difficult to leave that final update on a site or channel when you’ve decided to stop updating it for now or forever. I’ve known people who stopped writing after they received serious diagnoses of diseases that required the vast majority of their energy. Others fell silent after getting a new job, or having a child, or going through any number of major life changes that drastically altered how much spare time they had to share with the world.

Still, it’s nice to know a little in advance when a site is shutting down and if there’s any hope of it ever being revived. I find myself growing emotionally attached to some of the people I meet online. While I’d never ask any of them to share details of their private lives that they want to keep hidden, it sure would be nice to know why folks occasionally disappear and if it’s okay to reach out to them every so often to see how they’re doing (assuming they’ve become a friend and not just a blogger I follow).

When people choose not to do this, I always wonder what happened in their lives that made them walk away from the audience they’d built up.

  • Did they develop a mental or physical health problem?
  • Were Internet trolls bothering them?
  • Was it a bad case of writer’s block?
  • Did they say everything they had to say on the topic(s) they chose to talk or write about?
  • Have they finally discovered Okunoshima, Japan, and are they planning to live with the bunnies there forever?
  • Do they want to be checked up on, or do they not even have enough energy for that much interaction from the folks who care about them?

The possibilities are endless. If only we could have even the slightest clue as to what is going on in the lives of these people and if it’s okay to send a friendly message asking how they’re doing.

Respond

Have you ever taken a blogging break? Has one of your favourite sites ever stopped getting updated? Do you think content creators should alert their audiences when they need to stop publishing posts or uploading videos?

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