January 3rd, 2012

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Essay: "Heras and Villainesses"

The upcoming fishbowl theme is "heras and villainesses" so I wanted to write a little bit about that tonight.  Female characters often get short shrift when compared to male characters, whether good or evil.  Let's take a closer look.

First, we have the two terms that everyone knows: hero and heroine.  A hero is a male protagonist, the lead character in story -- especially an adventure or something else dangerous.  He is often portrayed as somehow larger than life.  Although a heroine is often described as a female hero, that's not quite how it works in practice.  She's more of a junior  hero, like the Little Sister at a fraternity.  Often she is little more than the hero's love-interest.  This can fail to satisfy female readers.

A hera is a female protagonist, the lead character in a story.  She is strong and capable; she does not need to be rescued, can get herself out of trouble, and may rush to the aid of others in need.  She has the same proportion of strengths and weaknesses as a hero does, which can vary depending on the type of story.  She may or may not fall in love, and if she does, she is not a subordinate partner but an equal or even a dominant partner.  She might take up with a hero.  Then again, she might choose a heronet -- which means "little hero," the male equivalent of a heroine.  He's the gentleman in distress whom she rescues.

The villainess is a counterpart of the villain.  She is a female antagonist, the Big Bad of a story.  Like the heroine, she often gets softballed in stories, or falls hopelessly in love with the hero and gives up her own goals  to follow him.  Meh, I say to that.  "The female of the species is more deadly than the male."  A proper villainess is both formidable and determined. 

Note that not all antagonists are necessarily evil, or even wrong: they are simply opposed to the protagonist for whom the audience is supposed to be rooting.  Sometimes they steal the show, and people relate to them more than expected.  From this comes the dark sister of the anti-hero: the anti-hera.  We'll get to them in May.


Favorite Heras
Ayla (from the Earth's Children  series)
Cordelia Naismith (from the Vorkosigan series)
Destiny Ajaye (from Genius)
Ellen Ripley (from Alien)
Jirel of Joiry (from the Jirel of Joiry  series)
Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter (from The Deed of Paksenarrion)
Sarah Connor (from Terminator)
Tarma and Kethry (from Vows and Honor)

Favorite Villainesses
Cruella de Vil (from 101 Dalmatians)
Grendel's Mother (from Beowulf)
Irene Adler (from Sherlock Holmes)
Lady of the Green Kirtle (from The Silver Chair)
Marquise de Merteuil (from Dangerous Liaisons)
Mother Gothel (from Tangled)
Poison Ivy (from Batman)
The Wicked Witch of the West (from The Wizard of Oz)

See also "Heroines and Villainesses."

Clockwork War

New verses in "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will"

The leftover linkback perk poem from Winterfaire 2011 has been shifted to a comment perk for the discussion "Let's Talk About Ebooks of My Poetry."  There are several new verses, and "With Mortal Flesh and Iron Will" is now halfway visible.  This poem belongs to the Clockwork War series and introduces the next step in the conflict as humans study alien technology.  Find other poems in this series through the Serial Poetry page.
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Poetry Fishbowl Open!

The Poetry Fishbowl is now CLOSED.  Thank you all for your time and attention.

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "heras and villainesses."  I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

Watch for the linkbacks perk to go live.  Click to read "Zee" (Monster House) or notify aldersprig of linkbacks to reveal more verses.

NOTES: As there is already a mid-month fishbowl slated for January, the $200 perk this time is a piece of background material, a cast list for Fiorenza the Wisewoman (currently just over 5 pages long).

We're also discussing the possibility of poetry ebooks from the fishbowl project.


What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "heras and villainesses." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.


Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Swim, Fishie, Swim! -- A new feature in conjunction with fishbowl sponsorship is this progress meter showing the amount donated.  At $150 you get a free series poem; at $200 you get a piece of background material.


253 raised, first goal MET, second goal MET

3) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

4) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Commission details are here.  See latest photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Sample Scrapbooked Poems 1-24-11"

5) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network.  The Twitter hashtag is #poetryfishbowl.  Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl.  If you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published.  If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Linkback perk: I have a spare series poem available, and each linkback will reveal a verse of the poem.  One person can do multiple links if they're on different services, like Dreamwidth or Twitter, rather than all on LiveJournal.  aldersprig has volunteered to post the verses this month, so you'll need to notify her of your linkbacks in a comment to her post, in order for them to count.  "Zee" belongs to the Monster House series and has 17 verses.


Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.  While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category.  Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those.  I've also posted a list of other donor perks there.  I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.

4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.

5) If donations total $150+ by Friday evening then I'll post an extra series poem after the Poetry Fishbowl.  Everyone will get to vote which series gets a new poem.  (If it's one that already has unpublished poetry, you'll get to pick from that.  Otherwise, I'll write something new, and December donors will get to offer me prompts.)  If donations reach $200, you get a guide to the characters in Fiorenza the Wisewoman.


Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "heras and villainesses."  I'll be soliciting ideas for female protagonists, female antagonists, unexpectedly relevant women, women behaving badly, women who make history, men who are taken horribly unawares by women with agency, magical or technological artifacts that choose female bearers, adventures that appeal to women readers, challenges particular to female characters, plots that would be interesting if formerly male characters were replaced with females, nurseries and battlefields and other places where women may be found, harems and other places where women are kept, the war of the sexes, hijinks resulting from having two heras or a hera and a villainess and no man in sight, sensible armor, and poetic forms in particular.  But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have the first edition of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation, an extra series poem  if donations reach $150+, and a series bonus  if donations reach $200.  Linkbacks reveal verses of "Zee.") The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.
Fly Free

Poem: "El Zócalo"

This is the freebie for today's Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from aldersprig and an odd bit of Mexican history.


El Zócalo


The square in the heart of the city stands empty.

There was a statue there, once,
erected in honor of Señora Sabiduría
with her gold and red robes
and the Book of Knowledge in her hand.

When the people abandoned wisdom for dogma,
Señora Sabiduría came to life,
stepped down from her pedestal,
and stalked away into the the desert beyond the city.

The square in the heart of the city stands empty,
except for the abandoned pedestal ...

but sometimes, girls go walking in the desert.