Myst IV: Revelation is an impressive accomplishment: surely no other work of art in human history has managed to be so immersive and realistic while simultaneously preventing any degree of credibility. Where it’s good it rises to great heights…which unfortunately gives it that much more distance to fall. Exile set a fairly low standard, and while Revelation largely improves upon Exile‘s mistakes, it fails to emulate Exile‘s successes. This makes for a frustrating game: too flawed to be great, but with too many good bits to be written off completely.
Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t read The Book of D’ni, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy all three novels here.
Myst: The Book of D’ni is not a particularly successful book. It doesn’t really have any characters, its plot is disjointed, and its events have little to no bearing on the rest of the series. I’ve slotted it into the fourth place here because its events take place between Riven and Exile, but in all honesty it could have gone anywhere; in fact, its presaging of the themes of Uru might actually make it more relevant there. These are the challenges when working with a book as disorganized as this one. Like Riven, The Book of D’ni is highly ambitious, but unlike Riven, it falls very short of its goals.
As promised, here is my sociology paper on feminism in webcomics. I’ve now turned it in to my professor so I think it’d be okay for me to post it here. I’m afraid the formatting may leave something to be desired, but it is after all an eleven-page academic paper being forced onto a blog. Any sources which are online can be accessed by clicking on the in-text citation (with the exception of those for LICD, because mentioning it here is too much encouragement as it is). Read the rest of this entry »
Through some clever finagling, I managed to find a way to write a paper about webcomics for my sociology class. My central thesis is that webcomics have provided fertile ground for comics which explore strong female characters and other feminist themes by offering a space completely free of the restrictions the comics world had in the past. I just finished the first draft. It references the following:
- The Penny-Arcade rape joke controversy
- User Friendly: the original webcomic, complete with one female character
- xkcd: The comic which tries so hard not to be sexist, or maybe it doesn’t, who can say
- Least I Could Do: The despicable piece of misogynistic drivel so disgusting that I won’t link to it directly because that would only encourage them
- DAR!: Erika Moen’s diary of life, love, and crude humor
- Octopus Pie: The comic I don’t actually like very much but which supports my thesis nicely
- Girls With Slingshots: Good female characters, funny jokes, and basically everything that LICD isn’t.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Proof that men can write good female characters too. You should be reading it, what are you waiting for?
- Kate Beaton’s honest request for less-sexist compliments. Really, was it too much to ask?
The full essay, complete with one of the longest lists of works cited I’ve ever seen, may be available at a later time.
I recently learned of the Bechdel Test, a three-part test used on works of fiction to determine how well its female characters are developed and integrated. It was devised by none less than Alison Bechdel, author of the remarkable graphic memoir Fun Home (which you should read if you haven’t yet). There’s already an entire website devoted to evaluating movies with the test, but of course my immediate concern was how well my own works would fair under scrutiny.
The test is as follows: A work must have (1) two or more female characters (2) who talk to each other (3) about something besides a man. Sounds simple enough! Let’s see how I fare.
Sunrise. (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! There are a few examples, mostly from Issue 4, but some from other issues as well. Still, it couldn’t hurt to try harder, as I do notice that these examples are few and far between.
Realm (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Back to the drawing board for Realm. Luckily, I haven’t plotted out the entire book yet so there’s still plenty of time to revise.
Zirconius. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. This is not an entirely fair application of the test though, as the Zarks are basically genderless. Still, they are referred to with male pronouns so I suppose this still counts as a violation.
Let’s look at some recent short stories (not available online, unfortunately).
“Imagine the Violin.” (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Only one female character, and she’s going insane. Sigh.
“Constance.” (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! A story about two women who talk to each other, and only briefly about a man! As clear a pass as anyone could want.
“Real Space Experience.” (1) Yes. (2) No. Verdict: Fail. Quite a few female characters, but they never speak to each other. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in the story, but it’s still a violation.
Let’s look at a few other things.
Barnacle Bert in “Hands Up, Jellyfish!” Oh, no. You can’t be serious. Ah well, here goes: (1) No. Verdict: Fail. But– but–two of the jellyfish are female, and they’re talking! I think! No, wait, if they are talking they’re probably talking about Bert. Argh. Well, at least the anglerfish is female.
The Violinist. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Having a female protagonist is not enough to pass the test.
Remnants. Some of you may recall this novel from a few years ago, which was available online for a while. Let’s see how it fares: (1) Yes. (2) Yes. (3) Yes. Verdict: Pass! Finally. Flawed as this book may be, my brief foray into it just now yielded three Bechdel-Test-worthy conversations. Yena, the female protagonist, talks to Mrs. Tamila (a grouchy customer), Rimel (an utter imbecile), and Morica (the villain). All loathsome characters, unfortunately.
Just to round out the number to an even ten, we’ll look at “Lander,” my astronaut story that probably a few of you have seen. (1) No. Verdict: Fail. Sigh.
So, to summarize:
Works examined: 10
Works passing Bechdel Test: 3