A few years ago I wrote a blog post about, among other things, why white folks such as myself should amplify the voices of people of color when they talk about matters of concern to their communities: Queer Plus, or Intersectionality Isn’t Just a Noun — more adventures in dictionaries. So, when Lil Nas X released his new single, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" along with its even more creative/compelling music video, I figured that since the them was about coming out as a gay man within the African-American community and reconciling the teachings of his childhood church with his lived reality, my job was not to pontificate, but share links. So a couple of weeks ago I linked to the video and to two articles about it in the Friday Five.
I thought the video spoke for itself, though the two articles did offer some context.
I thought my work here was done. Until this week when a news site I read just about every day posted an op-ed about how brilliantly Lil Nas X used the conservative outrage machine to make the video go viral before the single was available to stream or buy.
It started out with a fair assessment, but then things went pear-shaped. Nas and his fans and supporters crossed a line, you see. They (or rather we – I’m an unabashed fan) betrayed our religious neighbors because we failed to understand that those religious people sincerely believe that the devil is literally the source of evil in the world.
When I read that bit, I said "What the f–!" out loud, then re-read the entire paragraph to make sure I was following the guy’s point correctly. On the second reading I noticed another bit that had slipped past me. He notes that recently polling finds that 47% of Americans say that they belong to a church, synagoge, or mosque, and then later he asserts that those 47% of all Americans are the people offended by Lil Nas X’s latest video. But also, yes, he definitely said we were all being insensitive to the sincerely held beliefs of the most conservative religious people who took offense at the video.
Before I explain how bass-ackwards this i, in case you you haven’t seen the video, here is a summary. Young Lil Nas is portrayed in an idyllic field playing a guitar, when a huge sinister serpent whispers in his ear and leads Nas away. A group f blue-heaired drag queens admonish and scold Nas, and eventually he hops on a stipper pole, slides down into into Hell. Where he gives the Devil a lap dance, before stealing the devil’s horns, causing the devil to explode, and then Nas sits on the throne.
Nas, by the way, plays almost every character in the video.
So it’s one way of describing the journey of a queer man raised in a conservative religion. You start out just innocently being yourself. You become aware of desires you have that you have been told are wrong. You get bullied and or rejected by the community of faith. Eventually you realize your truth is stronger than the lies you were told. You embrace your true self. Unfortunately there will always be those who continue to believe the lies, and now they see you as the evil one.
The entire point of that metaphor in the video is that many of the haters believe that the devil is literal and the source of all evil. The entire point is that they tell us – again and again – that we are tools of that literal source of evil. It is part of the dehumanizing process. Queer people, in their minds, don’t deserve rights or respect or even the chance to live because we aren’t actually people, we are merely tools of the devil.
At no point in the writing of the song, the recording of the song, the filming of the video, nor in the writing of the poignant letter to his younger self that accompanies it, did Lil Nas X ever forgot that those bigot sincerely believe in the devil.
It’s not betrayal; it’s holding up a mirror and saying, "This is what you believe? Own it!"
And while we’re on the subject, not all of the Americans who belong to a church or another house of worship are anti-gay bigots and Biblical literalists. A whole lot of progressive, pro-queer straight people belong to and regularly attend church in this country. Not only that, a lot of out and proud queer people do, too.
Once again, a concern troll has looked at an act of self-defense from a bullied, oppressed survival of an abusive religion, and construed it as an unprovoked attack.
I’ve said many times that I’m not an ex-Christian because I just decided one day to give the church the finger. I’m an ex-Christian because the church I was raised in rejected me and actively drove me away. Long before I understood what was different about me, the church told me again and again that queers were abominations to the loathed and punished, spurned and ostracized. While out of the other side of their mouth, they claimed god’s love was unconditional and insisted that they were instruments of that love.
Then, as soon as they see us for who we are, the bullying and abuse begins. Unconditional love is only for people who conform to their beliefs. Now that is betrayal.
Calling their betrayal out, particularly of our childhood selves, is not a betrayal. It is a reckoning.
Hugo 2021 List
The Hugo finalists were announced on Tuesday on the DisCon III YouTube channel, and it is a really good ballot, again. I’ll first just give the list, then follow up with my comments.
- Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK)
- The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris)
- Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
- Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris)
- Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
- Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
- Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
- Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)
- Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
- Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
- The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
- “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 7-8/20)
- “The Pill”, Meg Elison (Big Girl)
- Helicopter Story, Isabel Fall (Wyrm)
- “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 5-6/20)
- “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/20)
- “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com 6/17/20)
Best Short Story
- “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny 1-2/20)
- “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny 9-10/20)
- “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com 4/8/20)
- “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20)
- “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order)
- “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20)
- The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
- The Lady Astronaut, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris; Audible; F&SF)
- The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
- October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
- The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor; Tor UK)
- The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
Best Related Work
- A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City)
- Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals)
- FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis, Brent Lambert, Iori Kusano & Vida Cruz
- “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible 8/20)
- The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)
- CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan & Alasdair Stuart
Best Graphic Story or Comic
- Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams ComicArts)
- Die, Volume 2: Split the Party, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans (Image)
- Once & Future, Volume 1: The King Is Undead, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora (BOOM!)
- Monstress, Volume 5: Warchild, Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
- Ghost-Spider, Volume 1: Dog Days Are Over, Seanan McGuire, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe, and Ig Guara (Marvel)
- Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything, G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Christian Ward (Berger)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
- Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
- Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
- The Old Guard
- Palm Springs
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
- Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon”
- The Expanse: “Gaugamela”
- The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”
- The Mandalorian: “The Jedi”
- The Mandalorian: “The Rescue”
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: “Heart” (parts 1 and 2)
Best Editor, Short Form
- Neil Clarke
- Ellen Datlow
- C.C. Finlay
- Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
- Jonathan Strahan
- Sheila Williams
Best Editor, Long Form
- Nivia Evans
- Sheila E. Gilbert
- Sarah Guan
- Brit Hvide
- Diana M. Pho
- Navah Wolfe
Best Professional Artist
- Tommy Arnold
- Rovina Cai
- Galen Dara
- Maurizio Manzieri
- John Picacio
- Alyssa Winans
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- Escape Pod
- Strange Horizons
- The Full Lid
- Journey Planet
- Lady Business
- nerds of a feather, flock together
- Quick Sip Reviews
- Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog
- Be the Serpent
- The Coode Street Podcast
- Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel
- The Skiffy and Fanty Show
- Worldbuilding for Masochists
Best Fan Writer
- Cora Buhlert
- Charles Payseur
- Jason Sanford
- Elsa Sjunneson
- Alasdair Stuart
- Paul Weimer
Best Fan Artist
- Iain J. Clark
- Cyan Daly
- Sara Felix
- Grace P. Fong
- Maya Hahto
- Laya Rose
Best Video Game
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Final Fantasy VII Remake
- The Last of Us: Part II
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo)
- Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (McElderry; Simon & Schuster UK)
- Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
- Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet)
- A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
- A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
- Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
Astounding Award for Best New Writer
- Lindsay Ellis
- Simon Jimenez
- Micaiah Johnson
- A.K. Larkwood
- Jenn Lyons
- Emily Tesh
In every category other than the Artist, Video Game, and Editor – Long Form, at least one item from my nominating ballot made it to the final ballot. And in eleven categories two or more items I nominated made the final list.
On the one hand, I suppose this means I have similar enough tastes to much of the regular Hugo nominating community. On the other hand, this means that in a whole bunch of categories I have a lot of reading/watching to do. On the gripping hand, well, that means I have to read a bunch of stuff for the next few months! Which, as a bibliophile, that’s a good thing.
Let’s get a little specific: in the novel category, two books I nominated made it. All four of the other titles that made it to the ballot were already on my radar to read. In fact, two of those four I’ve already bought, I just hadn’t started reading them, yet.
I should mention that four of the six people who made it to the ballot in Fan Writer are people I nominated. And honestly, the other two are people whose works I’ve read and if I could have nominated more than five people they very well might have made it to my nomination list. Which means that much like last year, this is going to be a very painful category to rank. Some of these I read some much that they basically feel like extended members of my family, so I want to put them all at position number 1 on my ballot. Dang it!
I feel like one particular entry in the Best Short Story list requires an entire post or more on its own — and it already got a post on this blog 13 months or so ago! So I’m not going there.
The only book that I nominated for the Lodestar Award, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a book I loved so much last year that I bought many copies of it to give to various friends and family members for Christmas and birthday presents. I also wasn’t absolutely certain it belong in the Young Adult category, so I nominated it for both Best Novel and Beat Young Adult Novel. In addition to how awesome I think the book is, full disclosure, I should mention that while I don’t expect the author to remember me, the two of us have had dealer’s den tables across from each other at certain conventions, so I may have an extra level of bias in regard to her work.
Finally, thanks to the uncertainties of the pandemic, the committee running this year’s WorldCan has decided to reschedule to convention for a date when they are certain they can host an in-person convention. So instead of being in the latter half of August or the first bit of September as has been tradition for a number of years, this year’s WorldCon will begin on December 18 in Washington, D.C. Way too close to Christmas and in the middle of Advent season for a lot of people.
You Know Things Are Bad if the Guy Whose Boots You’ve Licked for More Than Four Years Won’t Meet You
Liz Cheney On Matt Gaetz: ‘As The Mother Of Daughters, The Charges Certainly Are Sickening’ – Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Sunday said that sex trafficking and other allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are "sickening."
Glenn Greenwald Defends Gaetz’ Right To Have Sex With ‘Consenting’ Teenagers – Frequent Fox News guest, this week said that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has the right to have sex with a "consenting" 17-year-old girl.
Mass Shootings Everywhere
Cops Killing Unarmed People
Derek Chauvin’s defense begins its case by highlighting George Floyd’s prior arrest Because of course they do!
King County Executive Dow Constantine urges Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht to retire – Sheriff sent an internal email to staff saying the settlement is “not a reflection of how I view the actions” of the deputy who shot unarmed 20-year-old Tommy Le This one has the complication that we King County voters approved a charter amendment last fall that ends Sheriff elections and makes the position of county sheriff an appointed position. In just 9 months the request from the executive (and calls from several county council members) will no longer be requests…
I’ve started, scrapped, and re-started my review of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode four, “The Whole World is Watching” several times. The episode is a big improvement over episode three, but the basic story still appears to have more than a few major flaws. I think the way to stop myself from digressing down a lot of rabbit holes is to focus on what I think the source of the flaws is, before talking about the plot.
Before I get into that, I have neglected to mention that this show is on Disney+, and the parent company, Disney, continues to refuse to pay royalties owed to Alan Dean Foster and others for novelizations and similar work.
I can’t really talk about the episode without spoilers, so:
Warning: Spoilers Below!
Television shows and movies and the like have always had problems when trying to incorporate the real world and real history into their narratives. Sometimes it is mostly an annoyance, such as all the times that shows are supposedly set in the City of Seattle, where I live, but are very obviously being filmed in Vancouver, Canada (which means most of the world doesn’t even notice). This particular shows shares a sin with lots of American shows in that the Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is being used as a stand-in for several different European locations, much of which bear little resemblance to Prague.
That kind of muddle doesn’t usually create plotholes, so those of use that do recognize the difference can still enjoy the story.
Unfortunately, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is also suffering from another kind of dissonance with the real world. For example, the villain, Zemo — who is still belng played deliciously well by Daniel Brühl — makes several references to his family’s legacy and his own childhood that just make absolutely no sense for a person who is supposed to have grown up in a fictional country which is, according to previous films in the MCU, sandwiched inbetween the real nations of the Czech Republic and Slovokia. Nor does another of his references to a childhood visit to the real world city of Riga, capital of Latvia.
At least they don’t make sense if you assume that these stories are taking place in the year 2021, which they appear to be. I should pause here to point out that Cora Buhlert goes into much more detail about these discrepancies in her reviews.
Rather than retell this information, I want to present my theory for why the writers or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and other MCU properties are making this mess. I think it comes down to two things. First, Americans (by which I means inhabitants of the U.S., not to disparage our Canadian or Mexican neighbors) or embarrassingly ignorant of both history and geography. Second, the comic book origins of the Marvel Universe have a particular time warp baked into the origins and themes of most of the classi villains and heroes.
To the first point, I want to hasten to point out the most of my fellow citizens are woefully ignorant of the geographic of Europe, Asia, Africa, and so one. But they’re also extremely ill-informed about our own country. I spent my late teens and early twenties traveling around the country in a touring choir, and do not exaggerate when I say I met thousands of people who did not know that Washington State, where we were from, is not the same as the city of Washington, D.C., and that the two Washingtons are literally on opposite sides of the continent. More recently there was that viral meme about how many millions of people were shocked and sometimes angry to learn that Alaska isn’t an island. And let’s not forget the Trumpers from the U.S. state of Georgia who were running around the capitol waving not the flag of their home state, but the flag of the Eastern European Nation of Georgia (because they search for Georgia flag on Amazon–I kid you not!)!
So, Americans, including most of the writers and show runners of any series you can name, literally do not know the difference between Albania, Austria, Latvia, Serbia, or Romania; let alone have any idea of their relative histories. Similarly, if they’ve even heard of events like the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, the Kosovo War, the First or Second Chechen Wars, the Romanian Revolution, the Hungarian Revolution, or any of the Albania Civil Wars, they have no idea what the conflicts were about nor which ones came before and which after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union.
So fictional European characters written by Americans are going to have backstories that make no sense and contradict history at every turn.
Then there is the Marvel timeline problem. Most of the classic Marvel heroes and villains have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s. Things about American culture and which parts of recent history were important to Americans during that time are baked deeply into the DNA of the fictional lives, themes, and backstories of those characters.
One of the concepts that ghosts along just under the surface of the very essence of a huge number of Marvel characters is that World War II was only 20 or 30 years ago. Trying to translate those origins into modern times means that writers wind up half-heartedly tying major turning points in the lives of both heroes and villains to a more recent conflict, which likely has little culture or economic similarities to WWII as perceived by Americas during the Viet Nam War era. This results in some very confusing elements to the personalities, motivations, and backstories of those characters in a modern setting.
Enough explanation of why most of the socio-politico motivations of any of the villains in this series makes absolutely no sense. Let’s get the the actual episode. “The Whole World Is Watching” is a significantly better entry than episode three. The action sequences (particularly the one involve the Wakandan Dora Milaje) are much more exciting, engaging, and have a lot of emotional heft.
In a completely different arena, we see Sam using his skills as a PTSD counsellor to try to get through to Karli, the leader of the flag smashers. I should note that Cora Buhlert has pointed out the Sam’s true superpower is empathy, and I have to agree that this comes through really strong in this episode.
Karli cross the line from activist to terrorist last episode, and in this episode we see that even some of her most loyal followers are uneasy with this shift. Even so, Sam does seem to reach a moment of understanding. And it is during the conversation with Sam that Karli herself acknowledges that her philosophy, goals, and tactics have some contradictions.
During Karli’s conversations with her followers and with Sam, we get a lot more details of what happened to at least some of the people who didn’t vanish in the blip, and a slightly better explanation of why Karli and her followers are doing what they’re doing. It would have really made episodes two and three make a lot more sense if the writers had found a way to include some of the information in episode one. For example, some of it could have logically been brought up during the scene where Sam and his sister try to take out a small business loan. Just sayin’.
Sam isn’t able to talk Karli down, however, because USAgent, aka Captain Nationalism aka the new Captain America, is too impatient to give Sam the ten minutes he asked for. Zemo uses the ensuing fight to shoot Karli and destroy most of her vials of super soldier serum. Unfortunately, New Cap finds what might be the last surviving vial, and later in the episode we learn he’s injected himself with it.
It is during the second fight with the Flag Smashers that we see that New Cap has super strength. When his loyal friend seems to be killed in said fight (I’m not convinced he’s dead, because the camera cut back to his motionless body at a really odd moment after all of the rest of the characters left the building, chasing the Flag-smashers), New Cap gets even more reckless, leading up to the extremely bloody and shocking final scene.
I’m going to put a stake in the ground here and say that if the rest of the series doesn’t use that final scene, where an unarmed man who is trying to surrender it brutally murdered with the entire event caught on the cameras of hundreds of smart phones as a metaphor for real live incidents of police brutality, than the whole series has missed the boat.
Despite a lot of improvements, we don’t get anything as enjoyable as the banter between Bucky and Sam in episode two. Which is a shame.
While this episode did a lot to salvage the mess of episode three, there are still a heaping pile of details to wrap-up with only two episodes to go. I suspect it’s going to be a wild ride, whether they succeed in tying everything up or not.
These reviews might be of interest:
Note: When I mentioned above how poorly Americans know geography and history, I am including myself. I literally used to read Encylopedias cover to cover for fun, and I love reading reference books of all kinds, but I also know I have some big and occasionally embarrassing holes in my knowledge. I can draw, from memory, a fairly accurate map or the borders of European countries circa 1914, for instance, but give me a blank modern map of Europe and tell me to fill in names and I know I’ll get several of them wrong.
While discussing with my husband the middle bit of my review of episode four of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier I was reminded of this truly bizarre argument I was involved in during college. The setting: a freshman level World History class at a Community College in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. in 1980. Several students in the class were adamant that the instructor (and those of us who sided with him) were absolutely incorrect to say that the Spanish Civil War was not a portion of the U.S. Civil War that spilled over into Mexico. And why in the world would we think that it happened in Europe?
Sadly, it was not the dumbest thing I ever heard a college or university student argue over the course of my academic career…
And a few links:
Explosive eruption rocks volcano on Caribbean’s St. Vincent – There were no immediate reports of casualties. The La Soufrière volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people
Fact-check: Was Matt Gaetz the lone no vote on an anti-human trafficking bill? One of the few times that when a headline asks a question that answer is ‘Yes’
The giant parking squid has come to Ballard My old neighborhood!