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Mermaid

While at Penguicon, whenever I used my phone in the lobby, it would try to connect to the local wireless networks, which means I was routinely greeted with this screen:

I don’t know the story behind the network names. I overheard one rumor that “rape rape rape rape rape” was an official Penguicon network. When I e-mailed someone on Penguicon staff, I was told it probably wasn’t, but they weren’t 100% certain. I haven’t yet gotten confirmation one way or another.

My guess is that someone was trying to be edgy and provocative. As sometimes happens, they overshot “edgy” and landed squarely in the “asshole” category.

There will always be people who try to be shocking and fail. I suspect this wasn’t an official Penguicon network, and was instead just a random cry for attention. (Though if it turns out that it was an official Penguicon network, I think that may be the last time I attend this con.)

ETA: Randy Bradakis, who is on the Penguicon ConCom and Board left the following comment (with the disclaimer that he’s not speaking for Penguicon as a whole here):

I can state firmly that this was not created at the request of the Penguicon ConCom, and that there will be discussions about both the reasons that this is unacceptable and how we can be certain that it is not repeated. While it might, in some specific in-joke sort of way, have been amusing to the creators at whatever other location it was created for, it is not the sort of “joke” that should be part of the Penguicon environment.

There are plans for more specific network requests for next year, and I will make it my recommendation that we at least have someone at the ConCom level give specific instructions to the networking staff about the image we wish to present.

I want you to know that I am deeply sorry for any offense that this caused. At any and all levels of future convention running that I am involved, I will strive to keep the idea of a safe and comfortable environment foremost in everyone’s mind, and encourage this behavior in my fellow Con-runners as well.

#

On a similarly annoying note, I’ve been reading The Becoming by Jeanne Stein. Within the first chapter, our heroine Anna Strong is attacked and raped by the bad guy, who turns out to be a vampire. I almost stopped reading right there, due to the “Let’s use rape to get this story started!” approach, but I’m trying to read more urban fantasy as context for my own work-in-progress.

I’m now more than halfway through the book. The word rape has vanished, and Strong’s character has now begun to refer to the incident as when a vampire had sex with her. (In addition, while our heroine is female, so far every other significant character has been male … but that’s a different rant.)

Writing about rape is difficult, in no small part because everyone’s reaction is different. But when an author uses rape as a plot device to get the story moving, pulls out the “rape = sex” fallacy, and doesn’t seem to indicate any physical or emotional effects on the character (save becoming a vampire, naturally) … well, for me it puts the book squarely into the “Doing it Wrong” category.

#

Comments and discussion welcome, as always.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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beckyh2112
May. 11th, 2011 01:35 pm (UTC)
Well, that puts that book squarely in my Do Not Read pile.

Out of curiosity, what books are you reading/planning to read for your survey of urban fantasy?
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
You know, I can't even remember the titles. I've read Seanan's Toby Daye books, Anton Strout, John Levitt, the first Jim Butcher ... read Huff's series a while back ... an LKH ages back ... I've got others sitting on the shelf, and my mind is completely failing to recall titles and authors.

Mostly I just want to get as good a feel for the subgenre as I can, both so I know what I'm working with, and also to put me in a better position to poke at some of the tropes :-)
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alankria
May. 11th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
Looks like 2 doses of fail to me, with the first one being particularly horrible. Ugh.
chant_1
May. 11th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
Rape as a plot device? Just...ICK. In another lifetime, when I was much younger and "General Hospital" was the show to watch, I could never quite wrap my head around the grand Luke and Laura romance. "So, he rapes her, and they live happily ever after? (Except for gratuitous soap opera twists and intrigues...) WTF?!"
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
It's not an uncommon trope, unfortunately. As someone pointed out below, it comes up in some romance novels. And don't get me started on the old James Bond movies. I suspect some of it ties into myths about "real" rape and no-means-yes bullshit.
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mtlawson
May. 11th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
I wonder if whether that wireless network was named to deliberately provoke you. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but somehow I suspect not.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Me personally? I doubt it. I don't think I'm anywhere near that level of fame. If they were going to try to poke someone specific, they'd have been better off creating a Bacon Bacon Bacon Bacon Bacon network for Scalzi.
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patesden
May. 11th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
When I clicked on my lj friend page at first I thought the wifi list was some sort of spam which had popped up on my computer. I'm not easily shaken, but the rape, rape, rape took me back and made me instantly angry.

jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry about that -- I've put the image behind an LJ cut.
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deborahblakehps
May. 11th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Chant--I thought about the GH plot thing too, although I didn't watch it.

Rape does not equal sex, it equals violence. Bleh.

And Jim, I'd be happy to email you a copy of my UF ms if you want :-)
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
"Rape does not equal sex, it equals violence."

You'd think this would be a pretty simple thing to understand, and yet...

Brain fart -- the GH plot thing?
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saya22
May. 11th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Every day I wake up wondering if today is the day I will finally be raped. Rape is a real source of terror for women and a sad reality for many. I wish people will stop making fun out of it or use it as a dramatic device without pondering the real consequences of rape.

Never stop talking about this Jim. You have my never-ending respect for doing so.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
Exactly - it's not that people shouldn't be able to write about rape. They should. But dammit, I really wish people would stop doing it so *badly*, or so thoughtlessly.
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sixteenbynine
May. 11th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
I suspect it's a "Detroit Metal City" in-joke, but that's the problem with edgy in-jokes. If you're not already in on the joke, it's just plain offensive and tasteless.

And I had enough "rape is romance" for a lifetime after struggling through "Atlas Shrugged"'s first 500 pages, thank you.
sixteenbynine
May. 11th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
it = the name of the network.
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blue_lucy
May. 11th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
I noticed that network at Penguicon as well, and was disturbed by it, but didn't at all consider the possibility that it might be an official Penguicon network. I highly doubt that it was specifically pointed at you though, as one person above commented.

The fact is, we are trying to create a safe and fun environment at Penguicon, and if everyone who has a wireless device (hello, that's everyone at the con!) sees that the moment they try to connect, that's a problem.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
"The fact is, we are trying to create a safe and fun environment at Penguicon, and if everyone who has a wireless device (hello, that's everyone at the con!) sees that the moment they try to connect, that's a problem."

Agreed. And most of the staff and volunteers at Penguicon are awesome people.

I wouldn't have considered the possibility of it being a Penguicon network if I hadn't overheard that rumor. I'm dubious, but since I haven't gotten an official yes or no, I just don't know.
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lavvyan
May. 11th, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
I blame a certain subset of romance novels for at least some of that, where the reader is assured that rape = rough sex = opportunity for the heroine to discover herself as a sexual being = ultimately romantic. Or, you know. "He'll be much gentler once she's tamed his unruly heart."

Or, I don't know if anyone here reads yaoi manga, but they usually put me off with their "No, no, please, no, oh this feels so good!" approach to sex.

Why so warped, world?
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
I've come across the rape = romance trope before. It's not just romance, either. Look at almost any of the older James Bond movies. Ugh...
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jadedissola
May. 11th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
I really hate rape being used as a plot device, especially when it's used to justify bringing two people together. Also, I wonder if it's a matter of rape being something that happens to other women. By that I mean you can't have a strong heroine who is raped because it might make her appear weak. (Certainly not a sentiment I agree with, just something I wonder about.)

(Trigger Warning for drugged rape.)

One of the things that bugged me about Keri Arthur's Riley Jensen series (paranormal romance/urban fantasy) was that in the first book, Full Moon Rising, Riley is drugged by one of her lovers and raped. Repeatedly (though we only "see" it happen once and later learn he's been doing it for months). Riley talks about feeling violated and everyone is in agreement that a crime was committed, but never once is it ever called rape. I am pretty certain at least they don't call it sex either (it's been awhile since I read it), and it is definitely never portrayed as being anything positive. There is talk of rape, but it happens to other women, never to Riley.

Honestly, I really do enjoy the series and found Riley (who is half vampire/werewolf) never fell into the "I'm super strong, but I need a man to get me out of danger!" She was often the one saving her brother's butt or working equally alongside other men to get the job done. Definitely not a perfect series by any stretch of the imagination, but an excellent guilty pleasure.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
Your description of Full Moon Rising makes me think back to rape/crisis counselor training. One of the things we talked about is how difficult it is to use the word rape, and that very often we needed to be the ones to say "It sounds like you're saying you were raped" as a way to put the word out there, almost like we were giving the person permission to label it as rape.

With "The Becoming," as I was reading it ... I don't think the author did this deliberately, and I could be reading into it, but in some ways it almost felt like the character was being "put in her place." She's the only strong woman in the book -- heck, she's named Strong -- and from the very start we're shown that she's not strong enough to protect herself from a man.

Again, I don't think this was the author's intent, but it made that part of the story even more unpleasant.
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rileybear67
May. 11th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
If you are looking to add to your urban fantasy list, I have found a particular like for Chloe Neill. She has two out, on the young adult side, but still good. Chicagoland Vampires and Dark Elite. I have read 2.5 of the 4 Chicagoland Vampires series and a snippet of the Dark Elite. The writing is decent and the stories are engaging. I love her characterizations as well.

Just a thought.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I don't know how many of these I'll be able to read, but the more, the merrier. And since this is going to be a series, I've got several years to keep reading and expanding my UF-cred :-)
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silk_noir
May. 11th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
I am always grateful for these posts.
cathshaffer
May. 11th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
I will share what I heard about that network at Penguicon. We were discussing it in the lobby, and wondering what the deal was, when someone approached our group and asked if we had a suggestion for a better name. He said that "rape rape rape rape rape" was simply a mirror of the official Penguicon network and that "they" were wondering if anyone would be "smart enough" to connect to it. We told him it was offensive and disturbing and we didn't want to connect to it and gave him some suggestions for alternate names, which as far as I can tell were never taken. I do not know if any of this is true, and I don't know the name of the person who joined our conversation to tell us this.

Also said during that conversation, "Uh oh! Don't tell Jim!" :-)
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
Also said during that conversation, "Uh oh! Don't tell Jim!" :-)

I heard about this comment, and debated including it in the post, but it didn't quite fit with the tone.

But I was amused by the comment...
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firynze
May. 11th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
Wow.

Just...wow. That's just...even if the WiFi name was supposed to be "edgy," or somehow connected with/riffing off "freeporn" or something, that's obscene and uncalled for.

...and that book sounds like it would raise my hackles instantly. Dear god. I'm editing a novella for an anthology right now that deals with rape, in which the victim takes quite a lot of the blame upon herself, but it's a historical fantasy in which the victim, a scullery maid, is raped by her employer. In historical context, her mental revising and excuses are very plausible, and very heartbreaking. And yes, it does set up a good bit of the rest of the story, but it's handled...deftly, and painfully, and realistically (as realistically as you can get in Wonderland).

But plot device + [rape=sex] + no repercussions or emotional fallout = total fail. ARGH.
tzigana
May. 11th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
So if you're spoofing urban fantasy, does at least one character have a back tattoo?

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series is a really fun urban fantasy with a strong female lead. I like how she's dealing with the sexual assualt issue (I think it's 3 or 4 books into the series), which is partly because she's actually dealing with it, it didn't just mysteriously go away in the next installment.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
"So if you're spoofing urban fantasy, does at least one character have a back tattoo?"

Maybe. I've got a character I'm working with who's a borderline-parody, but I don't know how big a role he'll have or where exactly he's going to fit into the overall story.
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suricattus
May. 11th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
regarding the wifi network....
I'm actually surprised that nobody chased down the source and asked for an explanation, if not an immediate name-change. The hotel management could not have been happy about it, for certain....


[also: people are often assholes, and use "can't you take a joke?" as a defense against being called on their assholery.]
atdt1991
May. 11th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
Re: regarding the wifi network....
Have you tried chasing down the source of a wi-fi access point when at a technical conference where potentially 1200 people could have their phones set to tether? Honestly, I'm surprised our brains haven't melted from all the conflicting wireless signals. ;)
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twilight2000
May. 11th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
I've read a fair amount of UF and none of it has had rape in it at all, much less in such a failed manner. I'm pretty sure you can read UF without having to subject yourself to that level of vileness.

OTOH, warning us is a HUGE service and one that I thank you for - it's not a trope that I'd want to see in things I read if I can help it.
nathreee
May. 11th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
Have you ever seen Veronica Mars, the tv series? It also has rape as a plot device in the first season, but somehow I don't think it was badly done, because it shows reality. No one believes her, she doubts herself and tries to hide it, it explains why she's so tough on the outside and why she lashes out at sexist men. I recommend it, just to see rape as a plot device used well for a change.
kosarin
May. 11th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
I am a little bit more iffy about it because *SPOILER* in the end she "wasn't really raped" because it was consensual, she just can't remember it... Not that I'm necessarily blaming the person she had sex with because he claims she was acting normally (except everyone said she had been acting really erratically earlier, so at least he must have realized she was drunk?) but dude, that's still rape.
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6_penny
May. 11th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)
A friend and I were discussing the phobic reactions that set in nationally after 9/11. Her reaction was 'welcome to the way women have had to exist - the need for constant situational awareness, the constant evaluating the threat potential of males in the area. What we do is often on such a reflexive level that it is semiconscious. It's interesting to see how the other half of the population resents having to learn some of the same reflexes.
vixyish
May. 11th, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC)
This this this.

I hadn't thought of it in terms of 9/11, but I have had this come up repeatedly in situations where I couldn't believe I had to explain to a boyfriend precautions that were just natural to me when he failed to take them on my behalf. (e.g. leaving a hotel room door open for visiting friends while we showered.)
beth_bernobich
May. 11th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
But when an author uses rape as a plot device to get the story moving, pulls out the “rape = sex” fallacy, and doesn’t seem to indicate any physical or emotional effects...

This. This right here is why I will throw a book against the wall. I see these two mistakes way too often, and in all kinds of genres.

Thank you for writing so well, and so often about this subject. I'm sad that it's necessary, but I'm glad for you and your posts.
dionysus1999
May. 11th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
I recall the "rape" network as well, found it to be very offensive.

I have mixed feelings about the series, but the Rachel Morgan books are interesting by Kim Harrison. I don't know if Kim was meaning to, but she outlines an abusive relationship very well between two female characters. The stories are first person and the reactions by Rachel are pretty much what I've heard from people I've known trapped in abusive relationships.

Of course, the abusive character is a "vampire", she "can't help it", and Rachel uses all the tired excuses to avoid facing the truth.

My wife and I listen to them on audiobook during long trips. Don't know if I'd have the patience to read them. No offense to Ms. Harrison, but the writing is hit or miss, though I see progression in her plot arcs and the character development feels real too.
apis_mellifera
May. 11th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Whoa. I've never thought about the books from that perspective before. How...interesting (in a good and thinky way!).
kylecassidy
May. 11th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
and there's that freaking crossbow again. this must physically exist in some book cover photographers basement, a $30 yard sale score which has redefined the paranormal romance genre. i wonder if someone's collected all these covers somewhere.
jimhines
May. 11th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
Maybe it comes free with that black leather belt with the silver sparkles that was showing up in various UF covers for a while?
joncwriter
May. 11th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Yup. Seems like there's always some doofus out there who'll say or do something shocking for sh*ts and giggles. See any comments section of any online news article.
snapes_angel
May. 11th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
I agree with the "do not read" pile. Rape is not a light-hearted plot device, but a serious offense, which deserves the proper treatment if you're going to use it in your story, because Rape Is Not A Very Nice Thing, and leaves emotional (and sometimes physical) scars. It's not even an act of lust, but an exercise in control, in which the one controlled is the victim of this heinous crime.
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