Travellin’, Travellin’

I thought the summer and fall of 2012 were ridiculously full of travel, but it appears I’ve surpassed that this year. I’m almost to the point where I get to stay in Massachusetts for several months in a row, but not quite yet.

Here’s what November looks like, writerly-travel-wise:

November 7-9, World Fantasy 2014, Washington, D.C.
Driving down Friday with that Hillary Monahan – I’m not on any panels, but if you see me wandering around, say hello!

November 19th, Sturgis Library YA Fall Fiction Panel, Barnstable, MA
Advance registration requested. Participants include: Hillary Monahan (Mary: The Summoning), Scott Blagden (Dear Life, You Suck), Trisha Leaver (Creed), KR Conway (Stormfront) and me, moderated by beloved local author and teacher, Mick Carlon. Book signings, prizes, & book swag galore!

After that, I’m done travelling for 2014. Hoodie sweatshirts and fuzzy socks for the rest of the year!

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NaNo 2014 – Day 3

Hello, NaNo-ers.

I did something very silly. Scrivener, I’ve discovered, has a shiny progress tracker. You can fill in your total target wordcount, and a smaller one that you’d like to hit during your writing sessions. As you make more words, not only does the bar expand from left to right, it turns from red to orange to yellow to bright green. Pretty nifty!

I set my session bar for the daily NaNo target, and told myself, y’know, I’m already a full day behind (guess who got zero writing done on the 1st), so let’s aim for double the goal on the 2nd and be alllll caught up.

I hit the first goal around 7:00 last night. Kept going past it. Crept up on the second one, and thought, this seems way too easy.

Then I looked at my counter.

I’d set the goal for 1167, not 1667. So while I was nearing 2300 words, that still left me… 1000 words shy of being totally caught up.


I kept going a little longer, got myself up to the 2458 you see over on the side. For a while, I debated pushing through. That’s only 900 or so words behind, right? I’ve done 4,000 word days before. Hell, I think at the end of writing Gid I had a 6,000 word day.

Then reason kicked in. In general, 2K is a good, solid writing day for me. Trying to slog toward a goal when my brain is beginning to rebel is a terrible idea. Chances are, I’ll be writing stuff I’m only going to delete when it comes to edits. Why waste my own time like that?

So I saved and closed, and wandered off to read.

Point here is, if you’re in the same boat, it’s okay. It’s super easy to think “oh god, it’s only day 3 and I’m behind.” But y’know what? To hell with that. Are you writing, every day? Are you making a serious effort at butt-in-chair time? Then keep going. Maybe you’ll catch up. Maybe you won’t.

But you’re writing, and that’s what matters.

Onward, brave NaNo-ers!

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Happy first of November, cats ‘n’ kittens.

If there are writers in your life, you might have noticed a bit of frantic activity starting around, oh, midnight. Or, if you are the writer in your life, you might be staring at a page, rejoicing that you’ve hit 1667 words already, or wishing you could throw your monitor out the window because you’re stuck at 16.

Yeah, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is here, where writers vie for an average of 1667 words per day for 30 days, aiming to write a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month.

I’ve participated off and on for about 11 years, or so my profile tells me, and I’ve never won. I’m declaring this month NaNoGetMyShitTogetherMo, which includes, theoretically, writing a good chunk of Night Owls book 3, tentatively titled Dead Letters. I don’t know if I’ll get to 50K. I doubt it.

But if you’re NaNoing yourself, feel free to add me as a buddy over at the NaNo site (I’m falconesse over there, too.) and stop back in through the month for cheers, sympathy, and encouragement.

Now get writing!

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Mary: The Summoning

A very happy book birthday to my best friend and partner in crime Hillary Monahan, whose YA horror novel Mary: The Summoning debuts today!

/throws confetti

I’ve seen this book through all its incarnations, from the night she mentioned the idea for the story through first draft and edits and now it’s a real thing in the world. If you’ve ever scared the shit out of yourself and your friends at a sleepover, playing those games you save for after midnight when everyone’s ripe for the spookiness, this book’s for you.

Hie thee to Indiebound (or the bookstore/bookseller of your choice) and pick up a copy!

9781423185192Congratulations, Hill. I’m proud of you. <3

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WorldCon Schedule and Updatery

In two weeks I will be in London, at WorldCon, staying near Canary Wharf and hoping there aren’t any Cybermen lurking nearby.

This will be my third WorldCon, but my first time attending as an honest-to-FSM author. I’ll be wearing both of my writerly hats plus my bookseller one, with panels on bookselling and RPG writing and an autographing. If you’re there, and have a copy of Night Owls, I will happily scribble my name in it for you!

Here’s where you can find me:

How Does Bookselling Shape the Genre We See?

Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)

This panel will explore how bookselling works, and how it’s changed over the past decade. How do booksellers and publishers interact, and what information do they use to choose what to stock, and how? How do these decisions affect readers’ image of the field? Have the habits and demographics of the book buyer changed? Are non-Amazon booksellers doomed?

Alex Ingram, Justin Ackroyd, Malcolm Edwards, Lauren M. Roy, Michelle Sagara

Medieval Languages and Distant Vistas: Using The Past in Games

Friday 20:00 – 21:00, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)

Although we might not notice it, history plays a huge part in modern gaming. Not only historical games such as Medieval War, but worlds created using our perspective of ‘historical times’, fantasy landscapes where the people speak with odd, archaic accents or cast spells created in ancient tongues. Why is history so important to games, and how is it used? Should we take more historical care in the way we present these people, places and tongues, and what sort of potential does the recreation of the past have for gaming worlds?

Emma Newman, Ada Palmer, Mel Phillips, James Swallow, Lauren M. Roy

Signing: Ian R MacLeod, Ellen Datlow, Anne Lyle, Leigh Bardugo, Gabrielle de Cuir, Jenny Blackford, John Hornor Jacobs, Lauren M. Roy, Matthew Hughes, Den Patrick

Exhibits Hall Signing Space (ExCeL), 11am – 12pm

Writing Roleplaying Games

Sunday 12:00 – 13:30, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL)

What makes an engaging Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and what ways are there to write these in order to appeal to people, to allow for the creation of varied and vibrant roleplaying spaces, and to create coherant, understandable rulesets? The panel discuss ways of presenting worldbuilding, character design and rule systems, as well as some of the recent developments in TRPG design that are pushing the genre forwards in interesting ways.

Melinda Snodgrass, Helena Nash, Emma Newman, Marcus Rowland, Lauren M. Roy

We tacked a couple of extra days onto our trip – I’ve never been to London before, so if there’s something we ought to be sure to see/do, let me know!

On the writing front, I am finishing up some freelance work and my world for Storium before I plow back into Adrift. Well, okay, back to Adrift after the next round of edits for Grave Matters, that is.

Also, look, look! Things that I have written appearing in meatspace!

From Green Ronin, Dragon Age Set 3 is now available in PDF form. The print edition’s coming out soon, too, if you’re partial to dead tree form.

From Pelgrane Press, Mythos Expeditions is coming soon! I’ll throw confetti and update with a link when it goes on sale.

I have other super-shiny news to share, but I’m holding my tongue while I await permission. Watch this space for more good stuff to come.

Burning questions: will I have to decide between hats and books when packing for London?



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Writing Fat Characters

It’s a safe bet that, at any given time, I’m in the middle of two or three or more books: work reading, research reading, pleasure reading. My pleasure read — which I’m otherwise enjoying* — just pushed one of my buttons when it comes to characterization.

The setup:

The main character (male) attends a meeting with a bunch of women he’s never met before. One of them – one – is described as plump. She is, of course, eating as she is introduced.

Several times throughout the rest of the scene, this character gets up to provide refreshments to the roomful of people. The scene does not take place in her house, so she is not the hostess. Although everyone else in the scene partakes of the food, only the plump woman is ever mentioned individually as eating. In fact, whenever she speaks, she talks with her mouth full. She sprays crumbs. All but one of her speaking lines in the chapter have an eating action associated with them, most of them unflattering.

The only other character who gets an eating-related action is the other male character present. He snags a bowl of popcorn and eats a handful. Difference being, we’ve had a couple books’ worth of characterization on this guy. Him taking the popcorn is more action than description. All it says about him, really, is he’s into the story being told. The moment is the prose equivalent of /popcorn.

The plump woman has been around for six pages. The only thing we know about her is she likes to eat, and never seems to stop. That’s it. That’s her characterization: fat. Likes to eat (see: fat.)

The author has several other scenes in the series that take place over the course of a meal, many shared with other female characters the narrator has described as beautiful. In those scenes, the food gets the kind of good, detailed description that can make readers hungry. To the author’s credit, the women eat as heartily as the men, and don’t seem to be ashamed at enjoying it.

But how the beautiful women eat isn’t really described. We know they eat the food. We know sometimes they ask for seconds. These women don’t talk with their mouths full, or slurp their coffee, or do any of the things that are associated with messy eating. Like with Popcorn Guy above, eating is an action the character does, not a statement about who the character is.

Now. Do I think the author intended to point and laugh at the fat character? No. There’s no reason for the reader to dislike this character, and simply by being in the group she’s in, she has to be pretty formidable. My guess is, to the author, those descriptions added details to the scene, made it feel more real. It’s a thing we do as writers, recording our characters’ quirks. It’s entirely possible that the author doesn’t view the talking with her mouth full or the crumb-spraying as negative descriptors.

But intent isn’t magic. It pulled me right out of the story, and every time that character’s dialogue tag or action came up, I cringed.

Here’s why.

I have a post that’s still only in head-draft form about my own anxieties when it comes to eating in social situations. It’s personal stuff, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing it, but one of the worries I want to unpack is this: I’m not a small girl. When I eat around people I don’t know, I am afraid of being judged: what I’m eating, how I’m eating it. So when a writer shows a fat character eating in an unflattering way, I see myself. And I think, Is that how people see me? Is the fact that I’m eating all they see, all they’ll take away from our interaction?

On one hand, fuck ’em if it is. That says more about them than me. On the other, it still stings. Coming across it over and over in stuff I read means I internalize the hell out of it.

Let’s hop over to Supernatural,** specifically two episodes from Season 9: “Rock and a Hard Place” and “The Purge.”

You don’t see many fat characters in Supernatural. There’s a running joke (go ahead and read that with air quotes) that the CW is the network for thin, pretty people, so whenever I see someone who doesn’t conform to that standard, I brace myself. Usually for good reason. In “Rock and a Hard Place,” the one fat person in the chastity support group Sam and Dean join is constantly slipping extra cookies into her purse at the end of the meetings. When we first meet overweight Sherriff Donna Hanscum in “The Purge,” she goes for the box of donuts. When she looks up, there’s powder on her face from the one she bites into. The implication: these fatties can’t stop eating. And they’re messy and gross.

Now, Dean Winchester does the same thing. Gets the same mess of powder all over him. But it doesn’t feel like we’re supposed to laugh at him. Dean’s not getting mocked for his weight. He loves his cheeseburgers and pie, but he’s never fat-shamed for it. I’m sure there’s a whole post in there comparing the brothers’ vastly different relationships to food, but even when Sam is disgusted by Dean’s eating habits, it’s couched in terms of “you’ll clog your arteries,” not “ugh, you’ll get fat.”

I’m so tired of it, cats ‘n’ kittens, and it’s everywhere. Got a fat lady character? Need to add description? Show her eating! BOOM. DONE. AMIRITE?

Come on, writers. We’re better than that. We conjure worlds full of creatures that don’t exist and make them feel real. We create cities readers know as well as their own hometowns. We make fans experience the gut punch of a favorite character’s death. We have all these other characters who step off the page with the descriptions lavished upon them. The way this one’s cloak drapes, how the other’s hands flutter as she speaks, His smirk. Her laugh. But the fat one? Eh. Put a piece of cake in their hands and call it a day.

Next time you’re writing someone about who isn’t conventionally thin, go back and reread. Are they eating every time they’re on-camera? Why? Is anyone else? If not, and there’s food present, why not? If that’s your main descriptor, how about getting rid of it? How about thinking up other things that character can do that aren’t related to her weight?

If you can’t fathom non-food things fat people might do a) this is me side-eyeing your abilities as a writer and b) maybe spend some time perusing Shakesville’s Fatsronauts 101 tag to learn some shit.

I want there to be more fat characters in fiction. But I want them to actually be characters, not caricatures. Write them as people.

Because that’s what we are.

*I really do want to stress that I’m enjoying the books otherwise. They’re a fun read. I’ve giggled on public transportation at some of the lines. A friend recommended them to me, and I have in turn recommended them to friends. I’m not calling out the specific book or author because this isn’t the first time I’ve come across this sort of characterization; just the most recent.
**Before you say it, I know. Supernatural has a whole fuckton of problems with its women. That’s another post.

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How Not to Respond When Women Make Things

I put this out there on the twitters yesterday, so here ’tis again:

If your first reaction to an article about RPing written by a woman is to type “Dude, is she single?” Go slam your fingers in a door. Or anything else it takes to prevent you from typing and posting that.

If you later wonder why there aren’t more women in gaming, that shit is part of it. “A lady gamer! Maybe she will date me!”

Maybe we’d like to, y’know, enjoy our hobby (Hey guess what, it’s our hobby, too) without having to get hit on. Or reduced to single/taken.

It’s a thing that happens all the time, not just in the gaming community, but pretty much anywhere women exist on the internet. We’re reduced to “is she single?” and “She’s so hot/so ugly” and “WHOA. A GIRL.”

I don’t care if you think it’s well-meaning.
I don’t care if you think it’s flirty or cute.
I don’t care if you mean it as a compliment.

So do hundreds, thousands, of other dudes, which means we don’t have to just wade through one of these comments, we have to wade through fucking oceans of them. All the time. Sure, we can ignore them, but they’re always there. It’s tiresome. It’s boring.

Ignoring the “compliment” or shutting it down runs the risk of the exchange turning sour. Suddenly we have to deal with comments like “you don’t have to be a bitch about it,” or “why are you so sensitive,” or “I was just trying to compliment you, sheesh. Don’t you know how to take a compliment? Couldn’t you just say ‘thank you’?”

Women have to weigh the possible outcomes of pushing back, of saying I don’t like that or Please don’t or Could we focus on the topic of the article? Over and over and over and over. We have to wonder which poster is going to level up from “UR so hot lol” to rape threats when he’s told to cut it out. And who’s going to have our backs when it inevitably happens? (Hint: it’s getting better out there, but a lot of the time the crickets are louder than the voices of male friends saying “dude, not cool.” If you see it happening and you think it sucks, CALL THEM ON IT.)

When you ignore the content of an article to comment on its writer’s looks/relationship status, it sends the message that your work is not as important as your sexual availability.

It says I don’t actually care about what you think, what you create, what you have to say.

It says I do not take your work seriously.

It says I do not think of you first and foremost as a person.

If that is not what you intend to communicate, then don’t post it. You have a backspace key. Use it.*

On the other hand, if that’s exactly what you are trying to say, see my handy-dandy twitter guide above. Do it for each hand. Twice.

Before anyone suggests it’s just random clueless dudes who don’t know any better and are nice guys we swear doing it, bzzzt. It’s out there, happening all the goddamned time on a professional level, too:

See Neko Case’s reaction when Playboy said she was “breaking the mold of what women in the music industry should be.”

Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli had to take time out from celebrating her victory to address commentator John Inverdale’s criticism of her looks. Which of course became as big a story as her win, if not bigger.

Kelly Sue DeConnick — who has been working in comics for years, and is currently writing an amazing Captain Marvel — was listed as “wife of Matt Fraction” in a news article about the guests at the Dublin International Comics Expo. None of the male creators (including Matt Fraction) got the same treatment.

When rocket scientist Yvonne Brill died, the New York Times led her obituary with how great her beef stroganoff recipe was, and how she followed her husband around when he switched jobs, and how she raised three kids. The paper’s concession was to drop the beef stroganoff mention and slip in the words “rocket scientist.” But kept the rest of her being a mom, bumping the stuff about, y’know, her career into the second paragraph.

Katherine Freese wrote a book about dark matter. The New Scientist review focuses on her experiences with Women! In Science!** before getting to what the reviewer admits is “the meat of the book” – the scientific discussion of dark matter. (Hat tip to Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) for this one. Are you following her? Go follow her.)

These are all off the top of my head. It happens all. the. time.

Don’t contribute to it.

*Better yet, don’t type it in the first place. You have control over your motor functions. The incident that sparked this piece was a guy posting “Obligatory ‘dude, is she single?'” on a message board I frequent. Same guy got very upset a few months ago when we were discussing Schrödinger’s Rapist on another thread, because it made it sound (to him) like women think men don’t have control over their urges. Aaaaand then goes and makes a post like this, implying he just couldn’t help himself. NOPE.

**Do I think we need to recognize women’s achievements? Abso-goddamned-lutely, especially since women’s contributions are so often erased or obscured. So the reviewer gets half-credit for acknowledgeing those scientists and their achievements. But the awestruck “it must have been lonelys”? Eh.

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So About That Pre-order…

The disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed on this site are my own, and not those of my employer. I have no insider knowledge about the negotiations going on between Amazon and Hachette — all I know is what’s out in the public sphere already. Okay? Onward.

The backstory:

Just about two weeks ago, readers who went on Amazon looking for certain current Hachette Book Group titles and backlist bestsellers discovered odd 2-5 week wait times listed on the site. These books included bestsellers like Stephen Colbert, James Patterson, and Malcolm Gladwell, but also hit midlist authors, books on the children’s list, Orbit titles, and even J.D. Salinger (not The Catcher in the Rye, though whether that will change if their stock runs low will be curious to see.) As HBG spokespeople have said, the books are in stock, and if Amazon were to reorder them, they’d ship right away.

Amazon also removed or lowered the discounts on HBG books. They implemented a new “feature,” pointing out books that are similar in theme to the Hachette title you’re looking at, but are cheaper.

The backstory’s backstory:

This isn’t the first time Amazon’s thrown its weight around when a publisher wouldn’t give it what it wanted. Back in 2010, Amazon pulled the buy buttons from Macmillan titles in a dispute over ebook pricing.

New bullshittery:

Now Amazon has pulled the pre-order buttons for Hachette’s forthcoming titles. Go ahead and search for James Patterson’s Burn, his September release. Can’t pre-order it. Can’t pre-order Cibola Burn, the next book in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, the acclaimed space opera that’s being made into a SyFy show. Can’t pre-order Ancillary Sword, the sequel to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice — y’know, the book that’s taken every major SF award this year so far, and is a Hugo nominee for Best Novel?

What it means for authors:

Amazon is not afraid to harm authors to bully a publisher into doing what they want. Pre-orders matter to writers. If you follow your favorites on social media, you’ve probably seen tweets and posts saying “Hey, pre-order my book!” in the months leading up to publication. It helps the publishers know there’s demand ahead of time, gives them a heads-up that there’s early excitement and buzz. It lets them know if they’ll need to order another printing earlier than they’d anticipated.

Authors who have self-published, especially those who only do so through Amazon, ought to take note of this as well. Every now and then I see someone prematurely dancing on bookstores’ graves and hailing the age of Amazon. While I am on the record all over the place stating my doubt that bookstores will actually ever go extinct, if they do, don’t act surprised when Amazon eventually pulls this shit on you.

At the very least, self-pub/indie/author-publisher writers, don’t put all your eggs in Jeff Bezos’ basket.

What it means for readers:

Couple-few things. Amazon is not doing this for you. Don’t think that if they wear Hachette down, you’ll reap the benefits.

Those cheaper alternative books still aren’t the ones you were originally trying to order, the ones you came to them wanting to read. I’m not sure what their play is here. I mean, hey, maybe some buyers tried something new in the meantime and discovered a new author to like. Great! But Patterson fans will still want to know wtf happens to Alex Cross. Fans of both Harry and Pseudonymous Bosch will want to keep following their adventures.

Also, readers, kindly remember this is not on the authors. They have no say in what Amazon’s doing to their books’ availability. Don’t leave 1-star reviews because Amazon’s being a shitheel. Don’t pirate their books to make a statement. Don’t swear off their series.

What you can do:

Go to your local bookstore and buy books there. If you don’t have a local bookstore, visit IndieBound and make a new friend. If free shipping’s a dealbreaker, Barnes & Noble offers it to members with a $25 purchase, and their membership fee ($25/year) is cheaper than Amazon Prime ($99/year). I mean, talking about cheaper alternatives is a fair tactic, right?

Follow the #ReadHachette hashtag on Twitter. Recommend Hachette books you dug, maybe discover new ones. Pick ’em up at your local indie, or B&N, or library.

A reminder: delaying shipment of currently available books, or keeping customers from being able to order forthcoming ones is simply not what good booksellers do. A bookseller’s job, their #1 priority, is to get books into readers’ hands. What does it say about Amazon that they are actively, willingly, keeping books out of readers’ hands?

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Chicago! I will be at C2E2 this weekend.

If you’re attending, I hope you’ll add my very first panel, ever to your schedule. On Saturday at 3:00 in room S402, I will join Kevin Hearne, Chloe Neill, Kerrelyn Sparks, and Jacqueline Carey for a discussion entitled Supernatural City. The panel will be moderated by Mia Garcia.

Look! A description:

Join Authors Jacqueline Carey (the Agent of Hel series), Kevin Hearne (the Iron Druid Chronicles), Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires), Lauren Roy (Night Owls) and Kerrelyn Sparks (the Love at Stake series) on a guided tour of cityscapes populated by supernatural creatures, both friend and foe.

Afterwards, we all trek to the autographing area from 4:15-5:15, and I will scribble my name in your book if you would like.

I’m excited and nervous, and hope I can answer the questions and participate in the conversation coherently. If anyone wants to jump into the comments and drop some panel-member wisdom on me, I’m all ears!

Also, how geeked am I that going to cons is part of my job now? SO GEEKED.


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Game of Thrones: Breaker of Chains

(Trigger warning: rape)

Here there be spoilers for both A Game of Thrones the HBO series and A Song of Ice and Fire. Proceed at your own risk.

I’m almost always in the read-it-before-you-see-it camp, which often puts me on Team The Book Was Better. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is to translate every tiny detail from page to screen. Scenes get cut, several characters are rolled into one new, conglomerate character. Casting choices, filming choices, choices that boil down to how can we tell this story in X hours?

The first time I really got it was with the miniseries of The Stand. (Act surprised, regular readers.) Four nights to tell that sweeping story, with all the intricate plot threads weaving together. I absolutely did my share of “But that’s not how it happened in the book!” but I understood. Details change in the translation, and if you look closely, you can often see why, whether you agree or disagree with the screenwriters and directors.

The why of the rape scene in Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode “Breaker of Chains” utterly eludes me.

Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I can come up with several whys, but none of them make that scene any less infuriating.

For those not watching, Cersei stands vigil over Joffrey’s body in the Great Sept of Baelor. Jaime enters, tells the septons and guards to leave, and after a conversation in which Cersei begs him to kill Tyrion for murdering their son, he rapes her. It is clearly non-consensual, with her repeating “No” over and over, trying to push him away, and struggling. While saying no.

Westeros is not a nice place. This has been well established both in the books and throughout the HBO series. The writers aren’t pulling punches — how could they, when the deaths of Ned Stark and Joffrey Baratheon are so central to the plot? It’s a brutal world, it’s an ugly world, and not a single character is safe.

They have, however, been consistent. Ned and his honor, Brienne and her loyalty. This isn’t to say characters can’t change. Sansa Stark has long ago stopped believing life will be like the pretty stories of ladies and their true knights, even when Ser Dontos is playing Florian to her Jonquil.

Jaime Lannister’s whole POV arc in A Storm of Swords not only flips the readers’ perceptions of him on its head, it begins an arc that makes one of the previously most-hated men in Westeros (behind like, Joffrey, Viserys Targaryen, and Tywin Lannister to this point) into one of its more likeable*.

*I want to pause here and acknowledge that hooooooly shit is a lot of what goes on in the books and the series problematic. With regards to women, characters of color, sexual assault and more. Seriously, go read Sady Doyle’s piece. It’s brutally honest. Also for  reference: How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things. Okay? Okay.

In A Storm of Swords, Jaime and Cersei do indeed meet in the Great Sept of Baelor while Joffrey lies in state. They have sex. It is consensual. The evidence for this is both in the text, in Jaime’s POV chapter (excerpted at the Onion AV Club here— again, go read the whole article), and from George R.R. Martin’s comments in reply to a fan’s question on his blog:

Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.

That’s not how it happened in the episode. Martin mentions what he calls the “butterfly effect” of how differences in the show’s plotlines can affect the characters as we know them, I’m not sure this holds up for the Jaime Lannister Benioff and Weiss presented to us in season 3. He’s well into his redemption arc at this point, trying to put distance between the boy everyone calls the Kingslayer, the man who shoved Bran Stark out a window, and the man he’s trying to be. We’ve heard his speech about why he killed Mad King Aerys. We’ve seen him go back to save Brienne from Harrenhal and its bear pit. We watched him get disowned rather than give up what few shreds of honor he has left. He still loves Cersei, would very likely still kill for her. But rape her? It’s out of character.

And boy was it hard for me to type that last line. Isn’t that what people say about men accused of rape? Of men convicted of it? “Oh, he’s such a nice guy, he’d never do a thing like that.” So, yes, maybe Jaime is simply the Nice Guy Who Would Never Do That and Just Fucking Did. I mean, the draw of the series is that it shows how messy life is, how ugly things happen. How bad shit happens to good people and only very rarely do the perpetrators suffer the consequences.

But from a writing perspective, that feels just plain weak. Fiction is supposed to be less messy and senseless than real life. You don’t have a character take an action without there being a damned good reason for whatever it is they’re doing. You don’t have them act contrary to what the audience knows unless it’s for a reason. Sometimes, an action that seems out of character is a clue, or is part of a Big Reveal, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

It’s been suggested that this was done to make Cersei seem more sympathetic. We’ve watched her pick off Starks and be a terrible person for three seasons, and now the writers are maybe trying to steer away from that image. Again, potentially accurate, but if so, that’s lazy fucking writing. If the only way you can think of to make a female character more likeable is to have her raped, kindly go flush your laptop down the nearest toilet.

Unfortunately, I think there’s something even more despicable at work here, and the more I think about that scene in the context of the last few episodes, the more I fear I’m right.

In episode 1, Arya kills Polliver. Fans cheered because he had it coming.

In episode 2, Joffrey is poisoned and dies. Fans cheered because he had it coming.

In episode 3, Cersei is raped by Jaime.

Go ahead and fill in that next sentence.

We’ve seen her be scheming and manipulative. Cersei Lannister is a character we love to hate. Tyrion told her that someday her joy would turn to ash on her tongue, and oh, we wanted to see that day. We did see it, in “The Lion and the Rose,” but I’m not convinced the writers thought it was enough. How do you punish a headstrong woman? How do you break her even more? How do you get her as low as she can possibly be? Rape her.

And another thing, with regard to Jaime’s redemption arc that I’d mentioned earlier: we’ve watched him trying to become a better man. Since he’s come back to King’s Landing (much earlier than he did in the books), we’ve seen Cersei reject him over and over again. But he’s such a nice guy, you’re supposed to think as she flinches away from that missing hand. All the good stuff he’s done — leading the battle against Robb Stark (good from Cersei’s perspective, since King Robb would have possibly equalled dead Joffrey), being held captive by the Stark bannermen, his time with Brienne, his friendship with her, and through it all, trying to get home to the woman he loves. Doesn’t Cersei see what a nice guy he is?

What a Nice Guy. How dare she reject him? Doesn’t she owe him?

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong and something in the episodes still to come will address this. But I don’t have a lot of hope for that, especially after reading this excellent piece by Genevieve Valentine, “It’s Complicated.”

Twice now, we’ve seen what were consensual (if highly problematic) scenes turned into rapes. The first was in the pilot, with Dany and Drogo. In the books, she’s a 13-year-old girl sold to a 30-year-old man, so if you said her ability to consent was non-existent, I’d agree with you. The same can be asked of Cersei, whose age when she and Jaime first had sex currently escapes me. Setting those questions reluctantly aside, however, the characters both consented. In their situations, they had the agency to say yes. What does it say that the show is taking those away for shock value (Dany) and quite likely Punishing the Bitch (Cersei)?

Will I keep watching? For now, yes. The show usually gets more right than it gets wrong. In rewatches, I’ll skip over that scene, or get up and refill my drink. But the trust I had in the writers has taken a serious hit, and I’ll be watching with a more skeptical eye than usual for quite some time.

I highly recommending reading every piece I’ve linked so far. Some further reading for you:

The episode’s director, Alex Graves, considers the sex consensual. Also gross, the person who interviewed him, Alan Sepinwall, also seems to think Jaime’s been deprived of his rightful sexytimes, stating: “Jaime in turn seizes the moment to finally perform the act he’s been denied of since the war with the North began, even if he has to get very rough at first to get what he wants.”

Show writer David Benioff at least recognizes that yes, that was a rape scene.

Alyssa Rosenberg, on what this means for the show going forward. “The Game of Thrones Sex Scene Can’t Be Both Rape and Not Rape” by Eliana Dockterman (thanks, Marty) I hadn’t seen Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s quote on it. Sigh.

Also, as pointed out by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville: no one seems to be asking what Lena Headey thought of the scene. We’ve heard from several of the men involved in it. How about the woman at the center of it? “Yes, Of Course That Was Rape on Game of Thrones by Margaret Lyon

My friend Reuben Poling, at Dorkadia: “Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, fraught, and conflicted and generally fucked-up as it is, is also separated from the power dynamics that define the rest of their lives – a two-person feedback loop of mutual dependency, as much a bizarre expression of self-love as it is incest. Pressing the cheap, easy add-a-rape button that’s so common to “edgy” media doesn’t just do the source material and the characters a disservice; it cheats the audience.”

More as I get them.

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