Reviews in Brief: Dreaming Metal (Melissa Scott) and Ardeur (ed. Laurell K. Hamilton)

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OMG OMG OMG. I so needed this after that Dinosaur Mafia BS and Sword of Medina. Dreaming Metal is a smart exploration of the implications of AI citizenship in a future technocracy. Loved it.
Basically, this is the sequel to Dreamships, where the almost-AI Manfred almost murdered Reverdy Jian. Even though Manfred wasn’t AI, his closeness to full intelligence caused a political firestorm, since if he was granted full citizenship, the coolies (Third World peoples exploited for their labor in a technological, colonial enterprise :raises fist in academic solidarity:) will be 3rd class citizens in a world where it already sucks to be them. I get why they’d be so mad — you can’t unsee systemic racism if shit’s so intense the people in power would rather have a machine be a citizen over your brown ass. Anyways, Manfred was destroyed. Buuut Jian’s new system is creeping her out. It feels familiar… in the too-smart-for-its-own-good way. She sells it on the black market, where it eventually ends up in the hands of Celinde Fortune, a black yanqui artist who loves toying with the boundaries of the mechanical and the human in her theatrical performances. She names this new system Celeste… and gradually begins to realize that Celeste is a talented artist in her own right. Celeste is AI! And we’re exploring the implications of that in a world with multiple races, classes, and types of labor! And… the arts are treated as a site of revolution and hope! And it’s not just about cyberpunk consumption and wankery, it’s about classism and racism and structural violence and oh my god I think my HEART just grew three sizes. <3 <3 <3

In short: I highly recommend this novel. Here’s another heart to grow on. <3

Ardeur is a completely different beast. This collection of essays analyzes the impact the Anita Blake series has had on SF/F, horror, and paranormal romance. Each essay is preceded by a little commentary by LKH and examines some of the key issues in Anita’s world, like the ardeur, her sexy vampiric power, the power struggles between the different were communities, the legal status of vampires, etc. A few of articles look at the subtext of Anita’s world, taking on such issues as race, gender, desire, and whatever, in order to argue that the series is generally pretty awesome.

There are some pretty cool ideas in this series, some of which are so interesting that it’s hard to believe that they’re commenting on such pedestrian source material. Other essays are hampered, I think, by the role LKH took in the editing process… I’m curious to see how “Are the Fangs Real?” read in its earlier drafts, since that particular essay’s conclusion felt extremely re-written, in such a way that it contradicted its main point regarding the fetishization of whiteness and the marginalization of characters of color in Anita’s world. Plus, I think it’s telling that there’s a slippage in ALL the essays in what it means to use the first-person collective, as though all the readers of this series (or the only readers that matter?) are all white, monoracial, heterosexual, etc. Meh. This collection could have been more challenging, more engaging, more interesting by situating the series in its genre landscape, much in the same way the essays in Matrix and Philosophy did.
Anyways, what this collection DOES do is highlight the incredible potentiality of Anita’s world, which was extremely nice to read, since the direction the series has taken with the ardeur and Anita’s rising assholery has made it difficult for me, at least, to remember why I so enjoyed Guilty Pleasures. I got a little nostalgic for that Anita, the one who was brash, fragile, and abrasive, particularly since the one we have now reflects poor editing re: continuity (seriously, where the shit ARE her fish? And her penguins?) and an intense, growing misogyny (And why do the female characters she doesn’t like flip flop from being EVIL LESBIANS to being SLUTTY CATTY STRAIGHT GIRLS?). As you might be able to tell, I enjoyed early LKH and the Anita that could’ve been. Anyways, I actually think that some of the posts in the LJ comm associated with that site have produced better articles/spurs to discussion on the series.


Comments

  1. Pretty Pink Unicorns says

    Warren Ellis is usually pretty epic on issues of race/sex/gender, he’s just really cranky.

  2. says

    Yeah, I know. That’s why I thought it might be an interesting read. Also, he just wrote:

    And this illustrates very well why I’m monitoring this thread for wank quite closely.

    The version of comics that’s in your head? Is not necessarily the one everyone else is reading.

    Understand that I am utterly supportive of your needs and goals, but when you open up the throttle on something that, perhaps, not everybody else has read in the same way and a little superhero comic is suddenly ranked with De Sade and Mein Kampf? That’s when the FAIL klaxon goes off here at Ellis Imperialist Heteronormative Patriarchy Castle.

    Please bear that in mind.

    Which pretty much explains it.

    And the thread hi-jack is complete. Sorry!

  3. Maria says

    Heh, a bunch of awkward nerds on a webcomics forum awkwardly talking about race and gender? :gets popcorn, pulls out racism bingo card, waits for wank:

  4. says

    Oh, I guess you can already see some borderline comments early on.

    Ahem. Dreaming Metal sounds awesome. Has anyone here heard of Scott Westerfield’s “Uglies” trilogy? http://www.scottwesterfeld.com/books/uglies.htm

    That sounds pretty intruguing, too.

    The only knowledge I have of Laurell K. Hamilton is through her webrants and Chris Simms’s shredding of the Anita Blake comics, but I really have no wish to read books by her or about her. This didn’t convince me otherwise. :)

    • Maria says

      I’ve heard of that series, but haven’t picked it up. What connections do you see between it and Dreaming Metal?

  5. cycles says

    I read the first book in Westerfeld’s “Uglies” trilogy. The premise was intriguing and full of possibility, but it never fully panned out to my taste. The surprise twists didn’t excite. The straightforward storyline lacked panache.

    That may be because it’s intended for a YA audience, and perhaps Westerfeld didn’t want to weave too much complexity into the series, but it left me feeling deflated and meh, measured against YA greats like Philip Pullman. I really wanted to like it.

  6. Patrick says

    I started reading the Anita Blake series back before it switched genres. I thought it was a very interesting series that took the tropes of the “modern day occult” setting in some very interesting directions.

    Then it turned into porn, and all those interesting ideas went out the window, along with all the good characterization. I stopped reading the series after “Narcissus in Chains,” when I realized the day after reading it that I could not remember the book having any plot.

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