Posts Tagged ‘girlycon’

Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913

I remember Ruth Fielding as being bold, thoughtful, creative, brave, and somewhat of a no-nonsense personality, who works hard on achieving financial independence. She was an orphaned teenager who comes to a small town to live with her mean, crusty old uncle Jabez Potter who runs the local mill on the banks of the Lumano River. His arthritic, hunchbacked, ancient, warm-hearted housekeeper “Aunt Alviry” is not actually Ruth’s aunt but is a servant and for a long time is the only person who loves Ruth. Uncle Jabez doesn’t believe in educating girls. But Ruth manages to win him over somehow. Anyway, Ruth goes off to boarding school at Briarwood Hall with her rich, beautiful motor-car-driving friend Helen Cameron, makes friends with everyone, and ends a terrible schoolgirl rivalry by creating just one big sorority, the Sweetbriars. I seem to recall their moonlight and candlelight ceremony where they’re hanging out in togas by a graceful statue, with a harp. Ruth goes on to have a lot of adventures that center around her solving mysteries, helping poor girls get an education. Her companions include the jolly and popular plump girl, Jennie; and the slightly bitter lame girl, Mercy, as well as a rich friend with a cute brother and a motorcar. Nothing new there, right? But…

Ruth Fielding book cover

The cool thing about Ruth Fielding is that she’s a scriptwriter for moving pictures! She saves her school when a building burns down by writing a moving picture scenario for Mr. Hamilton from the Aelectron Corporation! And goes on to become a successful writer, even transitioning from silent film to the talkies.

Note the fashion in the cover picture. It reminds me of the book from the Betsy-Tacy series where Betsy and the other girls try to look like Gibson Girls, with their dresses gracefully draped instead of being tightly fitted, and a “droop” to their figure, slouching rather than standing up straight.

I believe this might be the series where all the girls make graduation dresses from simple white cheesecloth so that the poor girls won’t feel outshone by rich girl satin and lace. Or is that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? There was an amazingly cunning plan for their class valedictorian, Mercy the lame girl, to be able to graduate on stage by the clever and unprecedented use of a podium or a sort of Grecian drapery on a dais. Because it would be impossible for her to graduate on crutches despite her being the damn valedictorian on crutches! Mercy had a sharp temper because of her pain and illness and difference, and all the other girls take that into stride. She wasn’t cured magically like Katy and Pollyanna and she didn’t develop perfect patience; she stays crippled and a little bit bitchy. She’s my hero!

Alice B. Emerson was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Known authors who wrote Ruth Fielding books include Mildred Wirt Benson, W. Bert Foster, and Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward. Thanks to Jennifer at Series Books for Girls blog, which I’ve only just now found while searching for anyone… anyone… on the net who is also obsessed with this stuff!

Click through for my re-read and chapter by chapter summary of Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill in all its glorious faily goodness. Or, you can read the full text here from Project Gutenberg. Summary: The miser has a heart of gold; the crippled girl walks again; Ruth wins the spelling bee and gets a new dress; there is a lone page where a Mammy and a young black girl make cameo appearances. The young black girl does not get to go to school or make any friends or get any dresses…


Books and the garden

Kushiel’s Justice – Cracktastic as the other ones, completely full of drama and trashy angsty sex… Can I confess that the shipwreck made me laugh? Manly beardy men doing manly things singing sea-shanties carving rude shelter from the wilderness with only a hunting knife and drying fish on racks with signal fires & broken legs, shades of Robinson Crusoe and the Kon-Tiki. It was very satisfying. If only there were a little more gay shipwrecked sailor sex. (Well, any.) Or if him and the brooding what’s-his-name would get it on. I can still hope for that since I haven’t quite finished the book.

You can totally see the next book about Alais and the Alban half-breed harpist, can’t you?

Must order the other Rosemary Kirsten books. Quilter was right – they do sustain the story and tone and everything else (though I only read two).

Orphan’s Tales lined up next.

Oh but I have another western book, No Life for a Lady. Agnes Morley fucking ROCKS! She hunts grizzlies! She plays poker with outlaws and rides wild bucking calves and horses and and and! She goes East to boarding school! I’m completely in love with her and her gift for wry understatement. You can see the genius of her chapter titles. “Cows were our universe.” “Satan didn’t like parasols.”

You know how there’s tiny pill-shaped capsules that turn into sponge animals? Moomin and Dragonboy have them in test tubes. “I have created a new life form!” The most boring toy ever, but you can see how test tubes add excitement to anything. Tomorrow I could serve them different kinds of juice in the test tube racks. Maybe with potion names and magical effects. (Now their bird sponges are justice league members. The flamingo one is now Wonder Woman and one of the blue ones has become Black Canary. I’m ridiculously pleased they’re playing female superheroes. Even if it’s with tiny bird sponges.)

I am forcing myself not to work. My brain was melting! And I worked for months without a break, so am enforcing weekends with books and sitting outside and Going Out to Events.

The garden is cool with clover & beans on a trellis and there are tiny vegetables all over. If there’s an oregano contest I totally win. I think those fuckers are going to turn into oregano trees.

What Badger didn’t!

I’ve read “What Katy Did At School” about 20 times. She and Clover go to boarding school and start the Society for the Suppression of Unladylike Conduct, to disapprove of flirting. Somewhere the story gets all mixed up with Ralmadil and The Secret Language (only Els is going to know what I’m talking about…) And Katy gets accused of FLIRTING with the headmaster’s handsome young son and has to live it down through virtuous conduct for the rest of the term. Only the vaguest memories of Katy being ill for a year with brain fever or something defined the first book…

WELL now I have the rather vile first book before me. There are pantalettes and there’s unsuitable friendships with foreigners and an old black woman on the corner and poor girls and dying consumptives whose brutal husbands turn out to be counterfeiters. There are frolics in the loft and the secret bower in the woods where all the older children must make the younger ones behave, by bribing them not to cry with extra plummy cookies. There is mischief done in mid-chapter and regretted by the start of the next never to be done again! Keep that bonnet string sewn on neatly … or else! AND THERE IS THIS

So Cousin Helen comes to visit and she is an Invalid and instead of being cross or prissy or always Good she is jolly and pretty and gives presents and plays games. In her dark past she broke her engagement after the Accident that left her crippled. She brings happy light and beauty and frills to her dainty boudoir. All the children love her so! And they’re sad when she leaves. Then Katy has a bad day and is naughty, cross, sulky, and disobedient, and goes to swing from the swing they are forbidden to swing from without any explanation and there is a dreadful accident and then spine damage and brain fever. She is depressed in her dark sickroom. Cousin Helen visits! Katy fretfully declares it’s no fair, she wanted to go to school and learn things so she could grow up study and help people and become famous! AND THEN THE GOOD BIT

Why, Cousin Helen, what can I do lying here in bed?
“Yes, please,” replied Katy, wonderingly.

“I should say this: ‘Now, Katy Carr, you wanted to go to school, and learn to be wise and useful, and here’s a chance for you. God is going to let you go to His school – where He teaches all sorts of beautiful things to people. Perhaps He will only keep you for one term, or perhaps it may be for three or four; but whichever it is, you must make the very most of the chance, because He gives it to you Himself.'”

“But what is the school?” asked Katy. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“It is called the School of Pain,” replied Cousin Helen, with her sweetest smile. “And the place where the lessons are to be learned is this room of yours. The rules of the school are pretty hard, but the good scholars, who keep them best, find out after a while how right and kind they are. And the lessons aren’t easy, either, but the more you study the more interesting they become.”

“What are the lessons?” asked Katy, getting interested, and beginning to feel as if Cousin Helen were telling her a story.

“Well, there’s the lesson of Patience. That’s one of the hardest studies. You can’t learn much of it at a time, but every bit you get by heart, makes the next bit easier. And there’s the lesson of Cheerfulness. And the lesson of Making the Best of Things.”

“If I only could!” sighed Katy. “Are there any other studies in the School, Cousin Helen?”

“Yes, there’s the lesson of Hopefulness. That class has ever so many teachers. The Sun is one. He sits outside the window all day waiting for a chance to slip in and get at his pupil. He’s a first-rate teacher, too. I wouldn’t shut him out, if I were you.

“Every morning, the first thing when I woke up, I would say to myself: ‘I am going to get well, so Papa thinks. Perhaps it may be to-morrow. So, in case this should be the last day of my sickness, let me spend it beautifully, and make my sick-room so pleasant that everybody will like to remember it.’

“Then, there is one more lesson, Katy – the lesson of Neatness. School-rooms must be kept in order, you know. A sick person ought to be as fresh and dainty as a rose.”

Okay what I want to know is, where is this Katy bitch and her whore-ass Cousin Helen, and when are they going to come clean my room and make it all fresh and goddamn fucking dainty?


Necromancer teenage angst books

I’m enjoying “Lirael” way more than Sabriel. Though I still want to make fun of it just as much, now I’m getting why it’s fun. I can’t ignore the stupid, but fun is in there anyway.

The book opens with a swirl of psychic priestess boarding school angst as the 14 year old orphan Lirael spirals into suicidal despair on her birthday because she doesn’t yet have “the Sight”. When she climbs up a thousand stairs to the top of the mountain glacier to throw herself off… instead she gets caught up there by the head priestesses, who assign her to be an apprentice Librarian because she doesn’t have any talent and is shy. lo & behold she turns out to be a genius powerful magician and learns everything about the library and hacks her way into all the secret doors & etc.

The only thing missing really is some detail about how she is considered ugly because of her nose-freckles or her heavy red hair and unusual green eyes and being too skinny – but really I don’t miss it and the book is just .001% better for not having it. The key thing is the detail of the angst and self-pity and envy as Lirael imagines the triumphant 11 year old classmate who just got the Sight today and wil be crowned with a moonstone tiara in the warm Great Hall right at the moment when she herself will be flinging herself off the top of the glacier to an icy despairing death. Oh yeah! And then – all the ways she decides to lie about nearly everything and invents elaborate cover stories.

I’m in the middle now after reading the bit about the Prince who is clearly her destined lover – battle with zombies, journey into death, a few moments of trench warfare, and some confused stuff about boarding school and cricket – Oh just one example of the badness. why is his sister described as his “fourteen-month-older sister”? WTF? do we care? just say she’s a year older? is the 14 months important? And when the zombie grabs that other kid by the neck and “shook him like a milk shake”? I had to look twice – snake? shake? Does anyone shake a milk shake – no – they mix it in an electric mixer as far as I know – And who or what would describe shaking something by the neck to kill it as “like a milk shake” – so dumb. Details like this drive me insane.

Anyway now back to Lirael who suddenly is not only a happy though lonely librarian genius of magic but has a superpowered magic dog companion and also now she’s 18 and can change into an otter, a bear, and a barking owl. you heard me. a barking owl.


Oh I spoke too soon about the lack of physical description and “un”beautifulness and not fitting in:

In just a few minutes she would be plain Lirael again, with her long, unruly black hair so unlike that of her blond- and brown-haired cousins; her pointy chin so much sharper than their round faces; her pale skin that would never tan, not even in the harsh sunlight reflecting off the glacial ice; and her brown eyes, when all the Clayr had blue or green…

oh horrors! a pointy chin! waaaaaah! how can she not die of shame! no wonder she hides behind her hair all the time in the depths of the library! Oh excuse me… the “Library”, since everything in this book has Capital Letter Disease.

Fooling with the computer

I’m fooling around with my computer and marvelling at my good fortune and the magic of credit cards. My old hard drive stayed alive long enough to transfer all my files and settings.

Moomin is sick so I had to stay home instead of going out to the Double Dutch night at the Transfer as planned… I was going to drop him off at Rook’s rpg game but then… well, he might just be having super bad allergies but I had the horrible mental image of dropping him off all sniffly and coughing and then breezing out in a slutty leather-pants outfit and could not quite bring myself to do that. So I stayed home with him, gave him cough syrup and extra decongestant/antihistamine, and played “Talisman” for many many hours.

I read about half of “Black Powder War” & slowed down on purpose. This series could be stretched out pretty much forever. I mean you could just go all over the world and history adding dragons in, and it would be fucking perfect. No, you know what would be fucking perfect… this series with a group of teenage mystery-solving boarding school girls with dragons.

part of why I slowed down was that I suddenly realized that it was setting up for Young Roland and perhaps the tibetan guy and his girlfriend to get the firebreathing dragons. yes i realized it in a blinding flash during the dinner scene at the girlfriend’s house.

Meanwhile, Twitter is fucking fascinating, more than you’d think… chat room with built in stalking, straight to your cell phone… I can’t wait till it senses where I am on GPS, sends me localized coupons, and fits into my underwear. No but seriously. I can see a lot of functions. One you just want to sort of feel popular in a shallow way, part of the fabulous gratifying thing about all the social software. (Or, twitter seems to provide for feeling unpopular and enjoying it as well… Like how I kind of enjoy seeing little messages pop up about what bar or cool restaurant Min Jung is going to every night even though I am totally way more enjoying being in my pajamas and don’t even know her that well, I get to vicariously enjoy her life. Perhaps in the bar, she would like to know about how I’m reading in the bathtub… So, a pleasant social herd feeling of being aware of your neighbors; I enjoyed the mutual knowing of everyone’s business we had in my old housing co-op. Not for the un-gregarious. What else? Groups of private friends… sure. General chat room… okay. Do I really want my cell buzzing 100 messages about what people are randomly thinking? Sometimes yes. What is it about, the impulse to announce what we’re doing? A narcissist frenzy. Being stuck on broadcast. Generations above us accused us of having short attention spans ruined by television and other bits of pop culture and this is what happens. We produce a collective literature, a collective 5 seconds each memoir, and pay attention to it at other random moments in selective streams, in customized chopped up bricolage… So that 30 years from now someone could construct their slice of “what x group of people were doing”… We are making ourselves into data. I like “gabology” for a term. If you see this sort of mass conversation as a literary medium then what? I need to go read “The Masses are Asses” again… it fits right in.

There could be whole channels… the poet-line channel, the angst channel, the emotey flirty channel that treats it like “socials” in a mud. it looks so amorphous to me but i feel like i could shape it to be whatever… a conversation of ideas or a “my cool life” report…

Really I’ll just fool with it for a bit and then flit off to be fascinated wiht something else. Perhaps if it were integrated with flickr. but people’s information streams are so wide that it coudl be difficult. none of us can really pay enough attention in the moment. and yet afterwards it is often good to be able to look. you meet someone and talk and then go home and look up all their shit. and they’re just fascinating. And I may never really get to know them in real life even though they also seem to find me super interesting. And for me the net result is this amazing feeling like I love people more or have a bit more trust that there are a lot of friends or simpatico people out there than I thought; it’s a feeling of abundance… I felt that with usenet and bbses and muds, and way more with the web and blogging, and this social stuff and especially Flickr give me that feeling even more. It’s actually not all about the “yay, pay attention to me!” though I make fun of myself for that as a motivating force. It’s also about gratifying the part of myself that is like 11 years old and flipping off the school bus yelling “Fuuuuck yooou!” & was so alienated. Assuaging that alienation does seem valuable & has a point. & it’s a push, a motivating force, that drives our culture forward in unpredictable directions. The privileged few people who are dabbling right now, well, you can make fun of us, but it’s spreading & twitterish things will be in more use (as they already are) than computers or the web.. and I believe in it for direct use for activism as well as a connection machine that will bring social change. i see that social change most in places on LJ which is a giant fucking hotpot of consciousness-raising groups, where people are talking feminism and anti-racism and all sorts of stuff like mad, and I really feel it when I read the blogs of trans teenagers who are having their coming out moments so young, like me coming out as queer…but with SO much backup. It means something when you know people have got your back.

I’m off to the bathtub to finish reading Naomi Novik’s Black Powder War and I seriously hope there are like 20 sequels to it. It is like “in bed” on fortune cookies. Take any period in history and add “with dragons” to it and it becomes way better.


Oh, and the Claudine books were neat to read all together. I especially liked the parade scene from book 1.

I don’t have much to say about the gross actual-pedoph1lia sections but on the other hand, the scenes between the girls made me think a lot about girls I knew in junior high. The most surprising conversations at sleepovers! That one super xtian goody-goody girl in 6th or 7th grade, Leera Cardoon, and how bizarre it was when she volunteered a lot of info about her really long pubic hair, and how she had so much vaginal discharge (I believe she used the words “stuff coming out, down there” ) that she had to comb “down there” with a comb that she kept specially for the purpose. And I was like, “Huh, if it’s that bad of a problem doesn’t it seem like you should wash? Or cut the hair shorter?” She showed me her pubic hair and it wasn’t like, hanging down to her knees like spanish moss or anything, so I didn’t get it!

Anyway, it was like getting hit by a truck to be the recipient of Leera’s Strange Confessions. I wondered even then, if all girls talked like that to each other at sleepovers? Or was it that I was known to be a loudmouthed pervert who would talk about anything freely? i.e. I’d say weird stuff in public, and so attracted private confessions.

Back to Claudine. Near the end of book 1 I realized it wasn’t just a mildly dirty book about girls in boarding school, but that it had some fierce feminist messages. Book 2 was sort of annoying but I was touched at the parts where she thinks, “But I’m so sophisticated and know everything, even though I’m only 17! How can I be feeling this confusion and shyness…” I was sighing with frustration that she never was in some sort of exciting circle of bohemian artiness. And of course was screaming NO NO NO at the whole marriage thing. The 3rd one where she’s married, and finally becomes a huge lesbian. Fun! The 4th where we see her from someone else’s eyes and it’s not even really a Claudine book – it’s a novel about a very timid young woman gearing up to even begin to think about leaving her husband. In MY mind she got to make out with Claudine at least once.

We do see in book 4 a more mature Claudine who doesn’t beat up other women… she’s kind to Annie instead of pinching and slapping her… that was encouraging!

I realize how little Colette I’ve read – the really annoying Cheri books – the Vagabond, which was wonderful – and My Mother’s House, ditto. Now I want to devour everything she’s written!

Books this week

I’ll make time today or tomorrow to talk about The Euguelion… a feminist sf/dys/u/topian book from 1976. I enjoyed it very much! I’m still floored that there is such a perfect example of feminist utopian genre that I had never heard of… I wonder how many more there are out there, and from all different countries! But there’s Bersianik, nicely in alphabetical order on Quilty’s wonderful web site – not like I know everything on that list! I think I should write up my “70s/80s core feminist sf” list with short reviews of each book. Oh, how I long for our dream-database.

Meanwhile I’m wallowing stickily in “Claudine at School” which of course cracks me up… Why haven’t I read it before! Dirty girls in boarding school!

Today I’ll pause from Claudine and read the 2 volumes of Peter David “Hulk” comics that Chula lent to me. Rook bogarted them the other night, but he’s finally done, so it’s my turn. He said they were great but “the women were gross”. That could mean anything!

Oh, fudge!

Yesterday I was thinking about cooking something, out of a desire to be mostly sedentary, cosy, and warm in the kitchen. And I realized I had never made fudge.

In girls’ series books from the early 1900s there is always a scene of the midnight feast, in which the girls make fudge over a chafing dish. (It’s a shame how they always get those dishes too tight so that they chafe. You’d think they’d learn.) It wasn’t always an illicit activity at midnight. It could just be something like this:

The rain poured down in heavy sheets. Suddenly Betty looked up from her Cicero. “Girls!” she said brightly. “I know what! Let’s make fudge!”
The room seemed full of bustling sunshine as the busy girls assembled the ingredients. Soon enough they were happily munching the tasty morsels.

It’s always kind of like that. Whether it’s Betty Wales or Virginia or Polly or Ruthie Fielding! And it took me years to figure out what a chafing dish was.
So I was thinking about this and realized it must have been a fad of that particular time. And I got on the net as is my wont – and found this very interesting recipe which explains the science and history of fudge-making! And this further Wikipedia entry on fudge which confirms that fudge was invented at, or at least first documented as being associated with, U.S. east coast women’s colleges, in 1886!

That’s so cool! That means my boarding school books are indeed talking about a current fad – and it is one that must have been passed down from girl to girl. It makes me think of handclapping songs. I’ve always been fascinated with them since I realized that “Miss Susie” and others have a history going back at least to the 1920s and are normally transmitted from one little girl to another in a long, long chain. It is nice to think that fudge is another groovy feminist girlpower thing.

I didn’t make the fudge yesterday but opted for choc. chip cream cheese cookies, which are easier. Maybe today or tomorrow I’ll go buy some unsweetened chocolate and give it a try.

an rrrrrgh of a day

PMS-ing. Burst stupidly into tears. Cramps. Ugh.

Sophie is over spending the night with Moomin. We got out all the stuffed animals in the house to sort them by category into their own terrains. They like playing different games, but “animal doctor explorer rescuers” worked out well.

Sophie: Oh! this butterfly has broken bones! (xraying with etch-a-sketch)
Moomin: Don’t worry! We’re animal doctors!
Sophie: We’ll heal you with… LOVE. Lots of Love.
Moomin: Actually, my robot can fix her bones, because my robot can do anything.
Sophie: But not this butterfly’s bones.
Moomin: Yes! Because my robot… blah blah blah.
Sophie: No. Only with lots of love.
Moomin: AND a robot.
Sophie: Okay.

Then: watching Batman. Pizza. Popsicles. Rook got home at 8-ish and read them some books, yay! It took them maybe 40 minutes to quit torturing each other in the bunk beds. The pre-bedtime butt-shaking and discussion of disgusting hairy armpits – horrifyingly silly!

Eliz, Sophie’s older sister, brought me a book called something like “Midn1te for Ch4rlie Bone” about some kids in magic boarding school… a blatant HP ripoff. I did like the 3 cats and the girl with the purple hair. Really the best part of it was having it recommended to me so eagerly by Eliz, as if I were assumed to be an exciting kindred spirit who would suck the book up like candy. Since I did exactly that I guess she’s right. Even though the book was kind of lame, it was my kind of escapist lame. (And here I thought that all my book-lendings to her over the last 3 years had fallen on deaf ears? Or eyeballs? Apparently not.)


So for this con which i’ve heard about for years as the west coast thing for people who love w1scon and are “creme de la nerd” bookish intellectuals… At least that ‘s how it’s always been pitched to me! But I’ve never made it there yet.

I have talked myself into moderating a panel on Educ4tion in SF, or something like that. Now… given the way I operate I could scribble down an outline for 20 min. and then talk for infinitely long about various wacky books, some that people have for sure read like 3nder’s Game, and lots that no one has ever heard of. But what I would like is to come up with some vague themes and then invite people to be on the panel so that they can share the rambling nonsense and come up with their own wacky examples that astonish and please me.

The thing about some “panels” is that i think it is fun if everyone has something prepared, and trots it out nicely, but that then people on the panel get excited by each others’ ideas and there is a discussion that leads somewhere new.

Ideas loosely bandied about:

– utopian schemes of education
– dystopian horror schools
– the school as a metaphor for something else. larger society. anxiety around “the young” or “youth” and what happens with that anxiety in SF/Fantasy.
– H.Potter and boarding school novels and fanfic. this could tie easily into various anime series that are set in schools.
– the coming of age novel as the pt of view of the Outsider from that system. so the way kids are “educated” in D3lany novels, or in Pis3rchia (yes, no one has ever freaking read her, but I don’t care because they totally SHOULD or in some super groovester book like Sn0w Crash… the “YT” child of the streets or whatever. this Outsider is a disruptive force to whatever the future educational system is
– how educational systems are the way a society’s older generations reveal their weird vsion of what the society “needs” (soldiers, factory workers, revolutionaries, farmers, etc.)

I shall also make some kind of wacky informative handout.


Discuss if you please in comments, or recommend someone who would be good for this panel, or volunteer for it if you like being put on the spot and public speaking and have some amount of being well-read in SF, enthusiasm, etc.