My novel would get an A on the Swedish gender bias test!

pol CS cover. . . if it were a movie, that is.  A film group in Sweden has created a new gender bias rating, which is apparently either “A” or nothing, called the Bechdel test.  It has three rules:

-There must be at least two women with names in the film

-At least two women must talk to each other at some point

-T   -The women must talk to each other about something other than a man

But you know, it is close; The Pennants of Larkhall has plenty of strong women — Queen Rowena holds the realm together after her husband is killed, while their son Harlan is away; her daughter, Princess Calandra (Calley), is Harlan’s right-hand woman; and Calandra’s cousin Amira is active, shall we say, and ambitious to a fault — but they do not often talk to each other. Rowena upbraids (male) soldiers, and takes reports from the (male) commander of the army, but that’s not enough to pass the test.

But they talk to each other — more than once! I’ll take the “A.”

Here’s one such passage — two women talking to each other during a siege:

Larkhall did not have a plan if the walls broke down. The castle was the plan; that was all. No enemy had ever broken in. If the northerners managed it, what then?

“We could head to the fortress, but it might be too crowded with other families doing the same thing,” Elise said. “It would be. We’re not close to it; too many other people would beat us there. And the fortress isn’t big enough to hold everyone in the whole castle, not anymore. So what would we do?”

“We’ll keep your longest knives about,” Marlatta said.



Clouting a yard of arrow through your inwards

ba coverProbably my favorite line from The Black Arrow comes early:

” . . . the man that ye have dispossessed and beaten is but the angrier, and some day . . . he will up with his bow and clout me a yard of arrow through your inwards.”

This could be a summary of Blowback by Chalmers Johnson, for one thing. I wish American foreign policy experts would beware the yard of arrow once in awhile.

(Robert Louis Stevenson, in this book, uses a lot of this odd reflexive “me” — is it authentic? I have no idea, but it sounds good.) (And the word “an” used for “if,” also; there’s a lot of that. I’d heard it before, somewhere, and my trusty brain remembered it, fortunately.)

The Black Arrow, Robert Louis Stevenson

ba coverThe Black Arrow is a commonly maligned book from Robert Louis Stevenson which I enjoy.

It’s maligned in large part because Stevenson himself, and also his wife, did not think much of it; in her preface to the edition I have, she (Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson) says that the novel “was continued with almost no effort, and chapter after chapter was despatched” to the publisher. After the novel was done, she said, Stevenson “took up other more exacting work.”

But this novel, set amid the Wars of the Roses, has lying knights, outlaw heroes, and secret castle passages! Desperate villains and a brave young woman! Dramatic threatening letters! And yes, black arrows!

The main character, Richard Shelton, hangs out with scoundrels, but they make no bones about it; for example Sir Daniel Brackley is very open about his plan for the war — sit out as much of it as he can, and join the eventual winner when the outcome seems sure; and Brackley’s lieutenant Bennett Hatch asks Richard for prayers in the event of his death, since Hatch suspects he’ll have a hard time of it in purgatory.

Safe to say that second-string Robert Louis Stevenson is still very good. 

Like biking in Middle Earth!

I biked home today. Of course we are back in Daylight Whichever Time now (I can never remember which is which), and it is getting dark when I leave work.

I have a bike headlight that’s pretty good. When I pedaled up out of the garage into the twilight the headlight seemed pretty weak; but the darker it became, the stronger it seemed–

. . . something like lembas.