Stuff I Wrote: Hunt the Winterlands

I contributed a story to this fantasy anthology. It’s a shared-world anthology with all the writers creating stories in a harsh, snow- and ice-covered land. Mine deals with a tribe of Snow Elves (a race that I probably didn’t invent, but have never heard of before), focusing mostly on a young mother and her talking baby. Only, just like human babies, Snow Elf babies aren’t supposed to talk either, so it kind of freaks her out and makes her wonder if something horrible has happened. Which it kind of has.

Anyway, it’s available on Amazon both in print and for the Kindle and I hope you’ll check it out. If you don’t feel like checking it out now, it’s also in my store and there’s a permanent link to that on the sidebar. Much thanks.

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Wonder Woman: Thoughtfully twisted?

As I’ve continued looking through Noah Berlatsky’s Wonder Woman posts for revelations about her Warrior of Peace paradox, I discovered a troubling observation in his second article. In his first one, I was encouraged by a simple observation: “You can’t show everyone how strong you are unless you are tied up and break free and dominate others.” That’s about Wonder Woman’s strength-weakness paradox, not her warrior-peace one, but if we can resolve the strength-through-bondage problem, it shouldn’t be much more difficult to resolve the peace-through-war one. Or at least get some good ideas about how to better talk about it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. I knew it wasn’t going to be, but Berlatsky confirms it in his second post.

“You can’t show everyone how strong you are unless you’re tied up and can break free to dominate others” presents the strength-weakness elements as opposed, which is an intuitive way of thinking about it. It suggests that to understand one, you have to also show the other. Like how we can’t fully get what light does without first being in the dark, we see how strong Wonder Woman is by seeing her temporarily weakened. But that’s not really how Charles Moulton wrote her. For Moulton, the two aren’t contrasting opposites, but complementary halves of the same portrait. As Berlatsky says:

Moulton’s Wonder Woman is (ahem) bound up with his very particular set of fetishes and fantasies. Moulton made his stories about those fetishes and fantasies; that’s what he wanted to talk about, and in that context WW’s appearance (girly; uncovered), her tools (the magic lasso; the bracelets), and her contradictory image (powerful, but always being dominated) all make at least a kind of sense. His weird blend of feminism/misogyny (“I love strong women — tie them up so I may love them more!”) which means you can’t get the feminism without the misogyny, but also means you can’t get the misogyny without the feminism. In particular, the way and the extent to which Moulton presents and fetishizes female relationships seems equally tied up with his own sexual peccadillos (lesbianism is never very far below the surface here) and with ideas about girls supporting each other in a feminist or protofeminist way. Certainly, Moulton comics are far, far from the first thing I’d give to my daughter, but I can see why young girls might have found something to connect with in them. Women have power (they are so, so powerful!) and they love each other (oh, please, love each other more!)

I guess the point I’m making is that there’s misogyny, but it’s not gratuitous. Moulton has a vision. It’s not PC and it’s totally sexually twisted, but at least he’s thought about it. He cares about women. You can mock that, or argue with that, or even suggest that it might be better for everyone if he cared about women a little less, but at least there’s the sense that he’s paying attention.

What’s troubling about that is that Berlatsky doesn’t dig into it any deeper than that. (At least not in this post. I’m still reading.) He dismisses Moulton’s portrayal of Wonder Woman as interesting, but “twisted.” The feeling I get is that since it’s crazy, we don’t have to understand it. More than that, we probably shouldn’t try to understand it. But while I get that, it’s not satisfying. I suspect that if I can figure out how bondage and strength are related in Moulston’s mind, it’ll lead me to figuring out how peace and war could possibly connect in other Wonder Woman stories, which is what I’m really interested in.

So that’s where I’m going in my next post. I don’t know a lot about bondage, but I’ll attempt to imagine how that fetish works and what it might suggest about Moulton’s interest in strength and weakness.

Wonder Woman: What’s up with the bondage?

In this week’s What Are You Reading? at Robot 6, I mentioned how much I liked Geoff John’s distillation of Wonder Woman’s mission into something easily applicable to any time or place. In her Golden Age origin, Wonder Woman comes to Man’s World to fight Nazis, but when DC rebooted their universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, that wasn’t an appropriate motivation anymore. Johns restates it this way: “This place is filled with so many wonderful things, but there is also a darkness that lurks here too. One I’m going to fight. That’s what I’m here for. That’s why I’m staying. To fight.”

Replace Nazis with Anything Evil and you’ve got a strong reason for her being here. One that makes a lot more sense than what I’ve always thought of as the post-Crisis mission of an Amazon warrior’s being an ambassador of peace. That paradox never worked for me, so in my ignorance, I assumed it was something that George Perez came up with when he rebooted the series. It wasn’t until last week that I read the latest post in Noah Berlatsky’s series about Wonder Woman on the Hooded Utilitarian. In it, Berlatsky connects the warrior/peace paradox not to Perez, but to Wonder Woman’s creators, William Moulton Marston and Harry G Peter:

Together Moulton and Peter created a comic that had self-conscious ideological and aesthetic content. They set out, quite deliberately, to reconcile and explore binaries involving fetish and feminism, submission and strength, peace and violence, masculinity and femininity.

It was the “peace and violence” duality that caught my attention, because I’ve thought about it a lot, but the others are fascinating too. And since my reaction to the Warrior of Peace paradox has been to dismiss it as stupid, I became very interested in what reconciliation Berlatsky’s discovered in Marston and Peter’s comics. So I’m reading his other posts on Wonder Woman in search of the answer.

I’m not far along in my search, but so far I’ve found this statement in his first post: “You can’t show everyone how strong you are unless you are tied up and break free and dominate others.” That statement raises more questions than it answers, but it’s a start at bringing the ideas of strength and weakness together. This post of mine is just to introduce my study of Berlatsky’s research, but my hope is that in reading the rest of what he has to say (and there’s a lot of it), I’ll be able to not only incorporate a problematic group of ideas into my understanding of what makes Wonder Woman tick, but also learn something about the nature of cognitive dissonance in general.