alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Friday Rant

The Dog: She’s tired of this stuff, too.

This was too long for Facebook, so I guess it’s time for a bonus post.

Be warned: ranting ahead. Ranty rant rant.

I like to listen to audiobooks when I go for a walk in the afternoon. It’s been a busy month, what with all 26,000 of those NaNoWriMo words I’ve been pounding out. So yesterday when it was time to choose a new book, I decided I’d have a mystery/thriller. An intellectual Scandinavian one. Not too vapid, but with atmosphere and plenty of plot.

I chose Jo Nesbo’s, ‘The Leopard.’ I got the audiobook a while ago, but I didn’t remember the description in any detail. I just remembered it was supposed to be good.

I got out on the street with the dog and it started out with some nameless woman being victimized by some nameless ‘he’. And, you know, maybe she gets all empowered by the end. And maybe it passes the Bechdel test and a kick-ass female heroine appears and saves the day and she and the erstwhile victim go on to be smart and funny and talk about things that aren’t men. But you know what?

I don’t care. Because, I just don’t want to listen to this. I don’t want to go along with some poor woman’s mutilation and humiliation one more time. I don’t want to be horrified, or titillated through horror, or whatever you want to call it. I’m tired of that whole trope. Weary, really. So I crossed the road, I turned it off, and listened to music for the rest of my walk.

Today I’m going to listen to “Broken Kingdoms” by Nora Jemisin instead.

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Trick Writer At the Rodeo

Bucking Horse, 1910

I was getting my hair cut today and my stylist mentioned that she thought there was a rodeo coming to town this weekend. Then she confessed that when she was a little girl, she wanted to be a barrel racing, bronc riding cowgirl. My mom used to take me to the rodeo at least once a year (she used to compete at pole bending, which is like the junior version of barrel racing) and while I enjoyed it all, especially the clowns and the chance to eat deep-fried mushrooms and pulled-pork barbecue (hey, this was before I went vegetarian), I LOVED the trick riders.

Fancy riding demonstration at the rodeo of the San Angelo Fat Stock Show, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee, 1940

I could just see myself in a spangled vest and fancy white chaps, vaulting on and off my horse, swinging under his belly, and coming up to stand on his back as I galloped triumphantly around the arena, twirling my lasso. For a few weeks after the rodeo, I would practice crawling between my horse’s legs, turning all the way around in the saddle and facing backwards, and going from sitting to standing on the back on my (patient, sainted) horse, Najmar. I could keep my balance at a walk, but anything faster and I started to wobble and slid down on his back.

“Girl rodeo performer,” by Russell Lee, 1940

This surge of trick-riding memory started mixing up with the SF signal article I read yesterday about directions SF hasn’t taken. Particularly Kelly McCullough’s comments about the absence of Western crossovers:

In particular, given the success of paranormal romance and the rise of steampunk, I’m rather shocked we haven’t seen much in the way of fantasy/western crossovers. Seriously, who wouldn’t be interested in the intersection where Deadwood meets Game of Thrones. The history and mythology of America’s western expansion provides plenty of scope for dark, morally ambiguous stories with tons of drama and very high stakes.

This strikes me as pretty right. The only books I can think of along these lines are Emma Bull‘s Territory (2007), which retells the story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the shootout at the OK Corral–with magic) and Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Flora Segunda series. And, OK, Cowboys & Aliens.

Before I got older and fell into the trap of romance novels (by way of Jane Austen, gateway drug), I was a fan of the Linda Craig pony mysteries. Originally written in the 1960s and re-issued in the 80s, they featured teen sleuth Linda Craig and her intrepid Palomino pony, Chica d’Oro. There are jewel thieves, treasure maps, ghost towns, ghost horses, and ancient secrets. The series was produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, also responsible for Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc. Like Nancy Drew, and that other childhood favorite, Scooby Doo, the stories contained supernatural teases, but mundane solutions.

I’m thinking I should channel all that. I’m thinking historical American West. A girl trick rider protagonist. The rodeo circuit, treasure hunts, shoot-outs, card games and land grabs. Plus magic. What do you think?

I leave you with “Pansy Den, Girl Vaquero of Santa Barbara”

Pansy Den, Girl Vaquero. From the San Francisco Call, November 13, 1910. [Library of Congress, Chronicling America]