So, one of the things I've been up to in this long silence since posting regularly is getting caught up on my Vernor Vinge reading. I first got started reading Vinge a couple years back, picking up A Deepness in the Sky whilst traveling through Union Station. I fell in love with Deepness and kept meaning to read some of his other work, but found it oddly difficult to locate it in the local bookstores. At the beginning of the summer I picked up copies of Marooned in Realtime and A Fire Upon the Deep from Amazon. Marooned reminds me a lot of G.R.R. Martin's Dying of the Light (which I very highly recommend). I'm still reading through Fire, which has a lot of what I loved about Deepness: namely detailed consideration of the cognitive nature of alien life, especially the effects of alien bodies on cognition, as opposed to the "everyone's human(oid)" perspective familiar from Star Trek and most SF.
For those unfamiliar with Vinge, one of the major themes in his works is the idea of the Singularity. Much of this was novel when he was first writing about it, though it's a mainstream idea these days. There's been a lot of discussion on the technical, technological, and philosophical considerations behind Singularities; just google for transhumanism and you'll run into it. However, I just ran across a post by Elizabeth Bear which comes at it from, IMO, a more interesting direction: namely, analyzing the Singularity as an artistic movement in literature and analyzing it through the lens of critical theory, feminism, etc. I definitely believe that SF is, and has always been, a tool for exploring the current world around us and especially for trying to interpret the effects that current technologies have on social life; but the problems we're working out are not always obvious at the time. Perhaps the Singularity is now old enough that we can start to untangle all the concerns it was invented to address. Bear's posts (both the one I linked to, and the 2006 post cited therein) are a good start in that direction.
I've said it all before (and been harangued for doing so), but maybe it'll be heard better coming from someone else's mouth. Here's the shortest excerpt I can give from Why I'm leaving feminism:
My ‘issues’ being things like the rape of people in institutions, the fact that the average transgender person can expect to live for 23 years, forcible institutionalisation of people whom society doesn’t want to look at, ridiculously high domestic violence and sexual assault rates for transgender people and people with disabilities. The widening pay gap between white women and women of colour, the fact that the median net worth for Black women is $5. The fact that fat patients die without treatment due to fat hatred in the medical community. The fact that industrial pollution disproportionately impacts communities of colour, that class mobility is at an all time low, that the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer, that protections for worker safety are steadily being eroded, that unions are under attack in the United States.
These barely scratch the surface of ‘my issues.’ Because I believe that no human is free until all humans are free, no human is equal until all humans are equal, no gains for one group at the cost of another are acceptable. I believe in social justice, in liberty for all. These are my issues. And many people who identify themselves as feminists tell me the issues need to wait. They pay lip service to them until something more important comes along and then it becomes all-consuming. They repeat the same mistakes make by older generations and appear surprised at the inevitable outcome.
People who continue to be celebrated as feminist heroes leave a legacy of ableism, racism, classism, transphobia in their wake. The feminist movement has never gotten away from this, despite the best attempts of many of its members.
For a long time, I genuinely believed I could change the feminist movement from within. I thought if I fought hard enough, and long enough, feminism would make a place at the table for me, that I would be welcome in the feminist community. But it’s painfully evident I am not wanted, not in mainstream feminism, which is the ‘feminism’ most people are exposed to. I know well enough to know where I’m not wanted. The leaders of the feminist movement don’t just have a lack of interest in ‘my issues,’ they actively want to suppress my voice, and the voices of people like me. They want us to shut up and go away. It’s evident from the palpable sighs of relief when they manage to quash us, it’s evident from the total silence when a disabled women talks about why she is leaving feminism and not one person, not one, says anything about it.
So many disabled people, nonwhite people, transgender people, people of colour, poor people, adamantly refuse to identify with feminism in its current incarnation in the United States. ‘Feminists’ talk about this in the sense that we’re all really feminist in how we think, behave, and act, we just have some irrational resistance to the label. No, we’re not really feminist. The model of feminism we see is one where oppression perpetrated in the name of ‘activism’ is acceptable, where casual ableism, racism, classism, transphobia run so deep that many of us don’t even bother to point it out anymore. The model of feminism we see is one where a handful of people profit at the expense of others. And that’s not how we think, behave, and act. That is not what we believe.
I've always been a fan of the Metroid series because it was one of the few franchises with a strong female protagonist. From the first game, her being a woman was not a plot detail, but rather just a fact about the character. She can wield a gun with the best of them and wears real armor instead of prancing about in neglige. Being tough as nails doesn't mean you have to be a sexbot, the most competent and effective women can be practical too! But this well-done analysis of the latest installment calls all that into question.
August 31st marked the release of Metroid: Other M, the latest installment of Nintendo’s Metroid franchise, and the most aggressively marketed game in the series. Produced, directed, and written by franchise patriarch Yoshio Sakamoto, with game design by Team Ninja, it represents a significant change of direction for the series. Plenty of reviewers have already dissected its gameplay, with mixed but mostly favorable impressions.
But this is not a gameplay review.
I’m here to address the game’s writing — not so much where it failed artistically (though there are some legitimate complaints to be made on that front), but unfortunately where it succeeds. When it comes to the game’s story, there is an elephant in the room which very few reviewers have addressed head-on.
To put it bluntly, Metroid: Other M is a story that consistently portrays an abusive relationship between two of its main characters, and romanticizes it, painting the depicted behavior as justifiable, even laudable. No single moment in the game bears the blame for this (though a couple are problematic on their own); the entire story, taken as a whole, is the problem.