Ruminations on Another Year

First and foremost, I need to apologize profusely for neglecting my blog over the past year. My 2022 has by no means been bad, but it has been packed, and most of my creative energies have gone into getting my new novel project just where it needs to be for a solid beginning, as well as drafting plays for the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. But among my New Year’s Resolutions — yes, I know, good intentions — is, “More Writing, Fewer Excuses.” Even if I can’t write as many in-depth examinations of the things I love or loathe, I should contribute something, if only a link or a paragraph, at least once a month in 2023.

So as I sit here at my laptop on New Year’s Eve 2022, I have a few things on my mind.

  1. Men Who Write Women Well (follow-up to my previous blog post):

Frustrating as it may be to see that irksome quote from As Good As It Gets (“I think of a man, and then I take away reason and integrity”) thrown around as if it possesses all the wisdom of Kant or Voltaire, I’ve found that most male authors in the fantasy genre are moving away from that method of characterizing the women in their stories. Some of my favorites include: 1) P. Djeli Clark, author of The Black God’s Drums and A Master of Djinn; 2) Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the Song of the Shattered Sands series, which I started reading earlier this year; and 3) R.J. Barker, author of the Bone Ships series, whose prose I find slightly on the dense side but whose Lucky Meas is among the most fascinating and complicated female leads I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

These authors understand that writing important and interesting characters of a different genre isn’t nearly as hard as we sometimes make it out to be, as long as you think of them as people first and foremost, and women/men/nonbinary second. Gender is not the the key determining factor in our personalities, our interests, or our ambitions; it’s part of us, but not all of us. It helps that neither Clark nor Beaulieu nor Barker adheres to the Smurfette Principle, one crucial area in which quantity is a marker of quality. Women are everywhere in these books — some heroic, some villainous, some in-between, with a satisfying range of personalities.

2. Favorite Reads of 2022

Kaikeyi (Vaishanvi Patel): Like Madeline Miller’s excellent Circe, this feminist retelling of Hindu mythology rehabilitates the reputation of a female character long vilified. While Miller’s book had me from the first paragraph, this one took me a little longer to get into, but its heroic female lead and emphasis on non-romantic relationships won my allegiance and held it to the end.

Ariadne (Jennifer Saint): Another myth retelling, this work confronts us with the uncomfortable truth that in many respects, stories of the “heroes” of Greek mythology have been stories of the use and abuse of women. Theseus is not a man to be admired. Saint takes us inside the minds of not only Ariadne but her sister Phaedra, another woman often vilified, and brings both of them to life as interesting, complicated women.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Sue Lynn Tan): This one takes its readers inside Chinese mythology, and Tan paints her world in delicate, vivid prose. The first-person heroine is a sympathetic figure, if perhaps a little less complex than the female leads of my previous mentions; while she doubts herself at times and feels in over her head, she proves resourceful, and resourcefulness is, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I love most in a heroine.

The Heroine With 1,001 Faces (Maria Tatar): I didn’t read much nonfiction this year, but this one stands out as a favorite, as it examines the journeys made by female characters in both myth and literature.

The Mask of Mirrors (M. A. Carrick): Lush, descriptive prose and complicated characters make this foray into a magical version of Renaissance Italy one of my happiest discoveries of the year.

3. 2022 Movie Releases Worth Seeing

From Favorite to Least Favorite: 1) Everything Everywhere All at Once; 2) Marcel the Shell With Shoes On; 3) Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; 4) Matilda the Musical; 5) The Banshees of Innisherin; 6) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio; 7) The Woman King; 8) Turning Red; 9) The Northman; 10) The Sea Beast; 11) Wendell and Wild.

Movies I still need to see: The Fabelmans; She Said; Till; Nope; Black Panther: Wakanda Forever