The Cultural Gutter

beyond good and bad, there is awesome

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Lives! Camaraderie! Action!

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I talk a lot. This comes as zero surprise to anyone who has ever met me. But it’s not just a personal preference. No, really! It’s also pretty much required for what I do. I run an independent bookstore: talking to customers is a large part of my job. One of the best parts, in fact. […]

For Worse And For Better. But Mostly Worse.

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Now is the summer of our discontent… We’ve finally gotten down to actual summer weather in the last two weeks. So of course I spent the last two weeks without AC as I dealt with a series of cascading electrical problems. One complete power shut-down later, things are finally back on the level… just in time […]

Powers That Be

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By some strange quirk of timing and location, I am currently involved in or gearing up for three different elections at once.  On the federal front it’s just a by-election to fill a recently vacated seat: it is the least visible and strident of the three. The provincial election is in full swing, loud and […]

And They Call It Puppy Love

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I own several shares of a cat. It’s not a weird as it sounds. A friend with a cat travels travels a lot, so the kitty spends a fair amount of time with me. She’s spending this week with me in fact, while her owner is off swimming, running, and cycling hundreds of kilometres at a triathlon […]

You’ve Got A Friend

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My grade one teacher hung up a lot of art in our classroom. Some pieces were temporary: the cartoon ghosts at Hallowe’en; the fold-out bells at Christmas; the uneven hearts we made for Valentine’s Day. Others were framed and permanent, like the giant map of mostly Canada (the bits of the US that ran along […]

Thieves To The Left Of Me, Killers To The Right.

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This month I thought I’d take a look at some of the bad boy heroes of Romance. I’m not talking about common-or-garden variety bad boys, here. That strain, the rebellious, troubled men, often misunderstood and usually returning from years spent away, are a staple of the genre.  They have a satisfactory character arc and generally […]

No, It Really Is What You Know

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Holy crap, it’s Labour Day weekend already. Seems like one minute I was looking at hopeful seedlings in my garden and the next I was staring sadly at the mashed detritus of spindly broken plants and cursing construction workers… wait, I’m getting off track. What I really mean is, the unofficial end of summer really snuck […]

Strong. Women.

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Ever have one of those months in which several disparate threads from different aspects of your life all suddenly seem to be part of the same cloth? I’m having one right now. The recent truly excellent articles by carol and alex combined with the current interwebs-fueled firestorm over ‘fake geek girls’ and the collective cognitive […]

Beach Reading

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It may not entirely feel like it, but it’s finally summer. Commercial fiction gets its second biggest bump of the year during the summer (the biggest is at Christmas, obviously), and  because the Romance genre is the largest section, its uptick in sales is the most noticeable.   That’s because mild and humid as it might […]

The Many Faces Of Man. Or Rather, Men.

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Alex’s excellent article last week prompted Gutter Overlord Carol to suggest we each use this month to write about masculinity in our own particular capacity. Having been by odd coincidence right in the middle of reading The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine (a fascinating look at the physical and hormonal characteristics unique to, um, the […]

The Measure Of Success

I’ve been thinking about heroes and archetypes again (which is not actually news: story archetype is a sandbox in which I happily spend a lot of time). Feels like it’s everywhere these days.  A few weeks back I was on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention that discussed love and monsters. Alex and Carol […]

Things That Go Bump In The Night

(No, I don’t mean that kind of bump. Sheesh.  You people.) Given the timing of this column, and its proximity to Halloween, it seemed logical to write about the spooky side of Romance.  But it was a little harder than I thought to put together a reading list.  I wanted to concentrate on books that […]

Hitting The Books, Hard

As I said this time last year, I like back to school season.  I love the energy of it.  I miss the sense of anticipation, of knowing I had lots of new things to look forward to.  At least, usually I do.  Perhaps I’m just feeling particularly curmudgeonly this season, or maybe summer was just […]

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

Recently, I’ve been thinking about danger.  Specifically, the kind of danger that runs through a certain subsection of Romance, often called ‘romantic suspense’.  These are the stories that drop the hero and heroine into physical jeopardy in addition to exposing them to all the emotional risks of falling in love.  When done well, they share […]

Catching Up

Last February, I had a chance to talk to Julianne MacLean, a USA Today bestselling Romance author from Bedford, Nova Scotia.   We discussed her career development, her move to a new publisher, and her connection to the writing community.  Julianne was about to see the release of a brand new trilogy, all three books of […]

Heroine Addict

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Apparently, once I get started on archetypes, I can’t stop. So having touched on the archtypes found in stories and in heroes, I’m going to have to complete the trifecta. Theories about the nature of the modern Romance heroine are legion. She’s a placeholder. She’s an expression of modern femininity. She’s an aspect of human […]

It’s Fun to Go to the R.W.A

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The internet allows writers to do the impossible: write in isolation while in company. A writer might still face off single-handedly against blank screen, but behind the accusing blink of the cursor there are thousands of minds ready to offer information, support and catwaxing options. On the other hand, it’s not as if, pre-internet, every […]

That’s a Wrap

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I enjoy this time of year. Partly because I work in retail, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a kind of gift: festive and fun, and landing somewhere between the insanity of December and the dead quiet of January. But also because I get a kick out of all the lists […]

All That Fairy Tale Nonsense

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One of the many criticisms levelled at romance novels is that they’re a poor model for women when it comes to real-life relationships. All that fairy tale nonsense, detractors say, will make women want the wrong things from their partners. I could list a dozen things wrong with that assumption, but I’ll limit myself to […]

These Are A Few Of My Least Favourite Things

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Every now and again, I like to pause in my appreciation of the romance genre and take the opportunity to bitch about it instead. I know it’s not perfect. As the largest genre in the world, it also contains the largest collection of bad books. I don’t review books I think are terrible – mostly […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Video of illustrator and character designer Katsuya Terada drawing and talking about his work. (via @aicnanime)

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    A 1,300-year-old Egyptian book of spells has been translated. “Among other things, the ‘Handbook of Ritual Power,’ as researchers call the book, tells readers how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat “black jaundice,” a bacterial infection that is still around today and can be fatal.”

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    Zack and Steve go through and review Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Module S-1: The Tomb Of Horrors at WTF, D&D?!…so you don’t have to.

    “Steve: Most of the opening paragraph is a warning about difficulty. ‘You’ll never find the demi-lich’s secret chamber’ and the tomb is fraught with “terrible traps, poison gases, and magical protections.” It’s telling you not to play the adventure.

    Zack: Not just in that part. In the DM’s notes section at the start, Gygax explicitly warns Dungeon Masters that if your players enjoy killing monsters they will be unhappy with the adventure.

    Steve: ‘This module is only for parties that enjoy dying immediately and repeatedly.’ Oh, man, we’re not going to play though this thing are we?”

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    Dr. Nerdlove takes a brief break from helping the nerd get the girl to address something that’s been bugging him. “Pardon me while I go off on a bit of a media criticism/ rant here. So I’ve been enjoying the *hell* out of The Flash lately except for one thing: Iris Allen. Her character is screen death; every time she’s around, everything comes to a screeching halt.

    The problem is: it’s not her fault, it’s the writers. Rather like Laurel Lance in the first two seasons of Arrow, she has Lois Lane syndrome. Her (like Laurel and Lois) entire character arc is based around being ignorant of events that literally everyone else in her life is aware of.”

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    Get your own copy of the Satanic Temple’s The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities!

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    At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about Dr. Doom: “Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are  the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.”

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