GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “Women built this castle”: An in-depth look at sexism in YA.

“In the same opening chapter, Bergstrom’s character attempts to read a “novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future” on the subway. “Which novel in particular,” wrote Bergstrom, in an uncanny reflection of his own quote to Publisher’s Weekly, “doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

Subtle jabs at books like Red Queen and The Hunger Games and Divergent – dystopian fiction that features teenage girls who deal with the emotional realities of relationships and the emotional realities of war simultaneously, things that resonate with teenage girls in high school – weren’t saved for Bergstrom or for the Publisher’s Weekly article.

“Kicking butt to save your dad is actually a lot easier for me to swallow than kids killing kids in The Hunger Games,” said Bergstrom’s agent Tracey Adams to Publisher’s Weekly – missing, of course, that The Hunger Games doesn’t kill for sport or gratuity, but to highlight the actual atrocities of kids killing kids and the powerful bond between Katniss Everdeen and her sister Primrose.

And Bergstrom has made jabs at genre fiction before; in an interview with The Pen and Muse, he wrote that “what troubles [him]about so much of today’s fiction aimed at young adults is that it is set in an imaginary time and place… you’ll see that dystopian future is really the dystopian present,” as if unwilling to acknowledge that fictionalizing ongoing problems can give readers another way to digest the issues at hand.

As Dianna Anderson wrote in her piece “Why criticizing Young Adult Fiction is sexist,” “Before John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars broke records, there was Maureen Johnson, Laurie Halse Anderson, J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton, Madeline L’Engle, and Suzanne Collins. Historically, women have populated the genres aimed at teenagers and children precisely because of a sexist publishing industry that deemed women unable to write adult literary fiction.”

“The problem though is that John Green’s name has become a tool of power and force in the YA world. When mainstream writers talk about YA, his name is held with affection and as an ideal to which others should aspire. Forget Stephenie Meyer and her vampires. That’s laughable, and it remains a means of degrading the entire category of fiction. John Green, though — he’s helped save and revive YA fiction from being a crumbling cesspool of . . . whatever a crumbling cesspool of an entire category of fiction can be,” wrote Kelly Jensen in her post “The reductive approach to YA, revisited” on Stacked.

Despite women being the majority of readers, magazines that review books continue to focus heavily on books written by men, with the Guardian reporting in April that all magazines studied featured more men than women. The New York Times book review, the most fairly distributed of the magazines, still featured a hundred more men than they featured women. And while there are more women writers than men in the publishing industry, Sara Sheridan points out on Huffington Post that not only do men get more coverage, they make more money, with women earn 77.5% of what men earn. (That study does not showcase the difference between what women of color and white women earn, or queer women and cisgender or heterosexual women earn, though other studies prove that women of color make even less.)

Bergstrom chose a narrative that raised his own book by putting down others in the women-dominated industry, of making his leading lady different by having her conform to patriarchal ideas of beauty and behavior. Smith chose a narrative that made him the victim despite admittance of his own faults, chose words that attacked others rather than admit his own mistakes.

Despite a huge chunk of both Smith’s fans and YA readers being female, some argued that Smith’s words and writing weren’t something to be worried about because girls weren’t his target audience. This is foolish for a few reasons: characters (girls or otherwise) should be fleshed out as a part of good writing, regardless of who the target audience is; and because a target audience happens to be of one gender doesn’t mean that representation of the other gender should lack. Some are also quick to point out the issues in YA that reflect poorly on and put pressure on boys, as if claims like that mean that sexism doesn’t exist. But sexism against women creates archetypes and tropes that put constructs on boys. To talk about that pressure without tracing back where it came from is to ignore the institute of sexism as a whole.

“But when men write girls—any kind of girls,” wrote Jensen, “they’re seen as special. As empathetic. As doing new, creative, amazing things.”

YA might be a girls’ world, but at the end of the day, it is men who are more frequently rewarded for writing in it – and women who are left to fight that what they’re writing is worth something.”

[Via]

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Maybe your book will be a better movie/Maybe you should be writing screenplays?

A confession: I didn’t love Andy Weir’s The Martian. Despite all the people telling me at coffee shops/airports/etc. that it was their favorite book, I struggled to get through the prose. (I know, I know…) The story of astronaut Mark Watney and his fully science-enabled quest to stay alive while stranded on Mars was fascinating, but the book’s use of repetitive plot devices and phrasings (“shit,” “holy shit,” and “well, shit” appear regularly) made it a slog. In short, it was fine—I just thought it needed a good edit.

Ridley Scott’s The Martian is that edit. Freed of Watney’s long monologues and Weir’s deep explanations of botany and chemistry, the movie is far more agile than the book. It’s no less compelling and a whole lot more fun. (At one point, I actually spent an evening doing my taxes just to avoid delving into another chapter of The Martian.) Simply put, the movie is better than the book.

And Scott’s not the only one hungry for material. Earlier in Steven Spielberg’s career, the director filmed a mix of scripts he’d been involved with—Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind—and those written by others. (His Jurassic Park was The Martian of its time.) In recent years, he’s steered toward adaptations. His last three films—Lincoln, War Horse, and The Adventures of Tintin—all have been book adaptations of one variety or another. And his next two are adaptations of Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Ernie Cline’s nerd-favorite Ready Player One.

If there’s a future analog to what happened with Weir’s book for The Martian, it could end up being Ready Player One.

Ready Player One, in fact, has a lot in common with The Martian: a good yarn told competently, but not astoundingly. The characters are likable and the worldbuilding is impressive, but frankly, it reads like a movie treatment. (Cline, an admitted ’80s movie obsessive, came to prominence because of his script for Fanboys, a love letter to Star Wars). It’s now up to Spielberg to turn Ready Player One into a story told well.

At Comic-Con International this summer, Cline spoke to me about the adaptation process and said something very interesting. He had written the first two drafts of the RPO script, but told me that “they couldn’t wait to get rid of the guy who wrote the book, because I was too precious about everything.” As the screenplay went through rewrites, it got further from Cline’s original story—and lost a lot of his pop-culture references. Then, as Cline tells it, Spielberg had a meeting with Zak Penn, who was working on the script at the time, and came armed with a copy of the book that had “100 Post-it notes” of things he wanted to re-introduce into the movie. (Penn later told Cline about the meeting.) Spielberg had seen the story, and he knew how to tell it.

Ready Player One was nominally a young-adult title, but not a franchise, and as such is an exception to the recent spate of YA adaptations. However, with the exception of Veronica Roth’s Divergent books, most successful YA adaptations have been qualitatively on par with their literary predecessors: Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were both great stories, well told…

Read the rest. 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.