On Why We Love Reading the Classics

Even though I read and write a lot of future-focused fiction, so many of my favorite books would be classified as classics. I thought that just made me old-school until Edith Wharton enlightened me today.

Edith let me know I just have a taste for stories with ‘irrepressible freshness’. True, her ‘classics’ were different from those works I now think of as classics, but it still applies.

A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.

– Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton - Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University / Wikipedia

Edith Wharton – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

 

On Thor Being a Woman

Part of me doesn’t want to gush and clap and coo over Marvel’s announcement today that Thor will be a woman in the studio’s upcoming comics.

Roughly half the planet is female so seeing the female gender more present and protagonistic in works of science fiction and fantasy should be an everyday kind of thing.

It’s not.

But stuff like this means it’s getting better. So revel I will!  YEEEAHHH!  This is so, so awesome to see the upcoming Thor in all her glory!

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My Hopes for the New Thor

I so love the idea of confronting gender stereotypes and applaud Marvel for making such a great move feministically (sure it’s a word!) but also creatively. What a fun twist. And yet, a few thoughts come a-nagging:

  • Hopefully the new Thor will not be as male-referenced as many other female characters have been. Since Thor has been a man all these years, by default I’m sure the new Thor will be referred to as “the female Thor”. Our world is pretty thoroughly tangled in this mess of male-referencing. (Fe-male, Wo-man, God-dess, Smurf-ette, and now…Thorette? Hope not. The New Thor or something like that is what I’d rather hear people call her. Update, I just found this quote from Thor writer Jason Aaron:

“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

  • Thank you for the new Thor. But I still crave more female characters who are absolutely new superhero concepts with their own identities, powers, and story lines. She-Hulk comes to mind as an annoying example.
  • I like what I’m seeing in these new Thor sketches. She’s not Thor the Object. Her boobs are more realistic and she isn’t posing sexually. Her every curve is not objectified as though body type tells the story of who she is. I hope this remains. I resonate with characters drawn more like her and less like Amazonian near-nudists depicted as exaggeratedly-female above any other trait or ability. This woman’s much more real and awesome:

MarvelThorWoman3

Update: Here I originally made a comparison to how reactions to Thor parallel some conversations I’ve been having about Mormon feminism, but I’ve decided to move these comments elsewhere. It just felt like kindof a distraction here. 

I love that a character like Thor has the potential to inspire more thought and discussion. That’s one of the powers of art.

“The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription. The new Thor continues Marvel’s proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!” – Marvel Editor Wil Moss 

Yup. It’s in fact way past time to update a lot of this world’s sexist inscriptions.

But Thor’s a Man, That’s Just How It Is

Some reactions I’ve seen today about the new Thor–not just a character but a sci fi institution, a legend in enclaves traditionally thought to be just for nerdy males–has hit a controversial nerve. While many like myself are encouraged, others feel Thor ‘just is a man. That’s just how it is. That’s just how I see him.’

Always a compelling argument. :0

Read the response feed here to get an idea. I warn you, it is a fabulous illustration of that brand of indignation unique to anonymous internet posters. I mean, come on! If you say something, put your name behind it! That’s what Thor would do. She most certainly would. Ryan Penagos, an Editorial Director at Marvel tweeted this:

thor

That’s offensive on so, so, soooo many levels.

Finally, I loved The New Thor is a Big Deal and Not Because She’s a Woman by WIRED.com’s Angela Watercutter and this quote by Jason Aaron, writer of the Thor series:

“If you’re a long-time Thor fan you know there’s kind of a tradition from time to time of somebody else picking up that hammer. Beta Ray Bill was a horse-faced alien guy who picked up the hammer. At one point Thor was a frog. So I think if we can accept Thor as a frog and a horse-faced alien, we should be able to accept a woman being able to pick up that hammer and wield it for a while, which surprisingly we’ve never really seen before.”

Thor is a kick-butt character, and not all female characters have to be like that to be considered strong or well-written characters. But nor should we now all decide that female characters can’t be kick-butt if they or their writers feel so inclined! That’s going backwards.

Your thoughts?

Books as Proof that Humans Can Do Magic

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

~ Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, & cosmologist

 

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society