Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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(To pre-empt any of those kinds of comments, FYI International Men’s Day is November 19th)

Today, perhaps unsurprisingly, I want to talk about “internet feminism”.

Women of the internet know well how easy it is to make a particular group of online men angry. I’ve written a couple of post that have made that particular community (*cough* red pill thread *cough*) rather angry.

First, I was one of the many online voices criticising Scott Aaronson for saying that life was better when women were simply handed to men when they came of age. I actually had a rather productive discussion with him, after he commented on the post. Though we didn’t come to see eye-to-eye, I gained something from it. This didn’t stop his posse of followers (which, to his credit, he disavowed on twitter) from bombarding my comments with everything from poorly punctuated claims that I was an idiot to actual threats. C’est la vie pour la femme en-ligne, as the French would (probably) say.

Then, I was upset when Tim Hunt said women were too emotional for science. This was a relatively low-key event only, very excitingly, Louise Mensch tried to troll me on twitter. Disappointingly for both of us, I think, when I ignored her she lost interest. No fifteen minutes of Louise Menschy fame for me!

But the piece de resistance came in January last year when venerable medievalist Allen Frantzen’s adorably 80s blog became a matter of public awareness. It became a matter of public awareness because it was a misogynistic, hate-filled diatribe against women. I spoke out. My response got posted in some other media outlets. Then I ended up on some Reddit hit-list. Granted, I was only about public enemy number 7, but I was still bombarded with the kind of comments and emails you think are a parody of what red pill dudebros write. My favourite one told me I would be sorry when the men left “the village” to live in the wild. I may well be! Is Jon Hamm one of these men? Don’t go, Jon. I didn’t mean it. Women are silly and like handbags. Please come back to my village.

Anyway, it’s been an educational time being a woman with opinions and a blog. What I find interesting about the whole “internet feminist” bag is how offended many of these particular individuals are about my expressing my opinion on my blog and my twitter. I don’t much care for their opinions, but I don’t go to their blogs and tell them that I’m going to leave the village (?? because why, actually, would I do that?) and I certainly don’t bombard them with threats. I don’t know why women speaking about this online on their own blogs and twitter feeds is seen as so antagonistic and threatening. I don’t agree with what Breitbart of Return of Kings (oh god don’t google it, they’re awful) say, but I don’t feel the need to shout them down.

So here I am not being shouted down. Here’s to many more days of making those who don’t like women talking (on their own damn blogs!) angry. And to every brave, writing woman on the internet. So many of you are so much braver than me.

 

Lavinia xxx

Facebook Fast

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facebook-banned-300x300This year, I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. I’m not much of a pious person, and I’m certainly not very “into” denying myself things (cake, Netflix binges, acquiring more cats etc. etc.) but I thought Lent offered an opportunity to gain something by giving something up, and what I hoped to gain by giving up Facebook was time.

So far, I’ve subscribed to several online magazines and spent more time than I would like googling “which breeds of dog get on well with cats” as a sort of procrastination methodone to tide me over while I’m trying to go cold-turkey from my facebook addiction. I had dreams of spare five minutes being filled with writing, blogging, tweeting, editing, but it turns out that the problem isn’t Facebook, the problem is me.

I’m sure many writers know that feeling, tell themselves that story, if only x were the case, I would get so much more writing done. The thing is, when I’ve got the idea – when I’m in the writing mood – I make time to write. I write all the time. Even times I shouldn’t. Type type typing away at something for myself when I’m supposed to be doing other work, scribbling on bits of paper, zoning out of conversations in my own little world. It’s not necessarily time that’s the problem. It’s energy and motivation.

facebook-dislike-1And this is the thing – I sometimes feel like the busier I am, the more I procrastinate. The more frazzled and multi-task-mad, the more I have that urge to spend five minutes scrolling through facebook, seeing everything and reading nothing. Not working, but not really relaxing either.

So I’ve amended my Lenten intention accordingly: not off facebook to work better, but off facebook to relax better. To spend some time recovering properly from all the things I have to do. And hopefully, hopefully, giving my brain a bit of a rest will create some space to let the writing back in…

Making a Medieval Dress: PART 1 An Adventure Begins

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I’ve never done live recreation, I’m not a cosplayer or a LARPer, so despite my love of all things medieval I’ve never (!!) immersed myself to the point of getting dressed up. In fact, I remember a rather memorable Air B&B stay at an academic medieval conference and the host being rather disappointed that I emerged for my day dressed not in a glorious costume, but in a jacket and smart dress.

Well, all that’s about to change as I’m embarking on an exciting collaboration with my good friend Lily of Lily’s Vintage Salon. If you happen to look at her site, you might notice that it’s more 1940s than 1240s, but Lily also has a sideline in making beautiful dresses to order. Since this was a little bit out of both of our comfort zones, I thought it was a great opportunity to have a little adventure together.

I know a lot (a lot, like, wayyy too much) about medieval literature, but not an awful lot about how dresses are made. I like to express my opinion (loudly) about anachronistic costumes when I watch historical TV dramas set in the period with which I am familiar, but I don’t know, really, all that much about how clothes were put together.

I also didn’t want to create something that was a reconstruction and that I would only be able to wear in very specific, very medieval-focussed settings, so I turned to pop culture (where else?) for some inspiration for making the medieval modern. Of course, where better than Game of Thrones for a mix of psuedo-medieval and high fashion? I didn’t want to go full Danaerys Targaryen (I don’t want an “evening dress” that’s medieval style) but I wanted to capture some of that modern/medieval fusion that the Game of Thrones costume department manage so well.

So I sent my “idea board” (so amateur, I know) to Lily and the adventure began….

 

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: January 2017

From Chapter and Verse Reviews, my Book of the Month: His Bloody Project!

Chapter and Verse Reviews

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Hello 2017! Very excited to be writing up my first Book of the Month – especially since I couldn’t recommend this book more.

Now, I know this isn’t a very daring choice – His Bloody Project was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2016, so I’m not very far off-piste here – but this book was so brilliant that I couldn’t keep quiet about it.

Graeme Macrae Burnet - His Bloody Project.jpgHis Bloody Project is a sort of murder mystery where we know who the killer is from the start (and in fact he is constantly protesting his guilt) and no one can agree on anything about the version of events that led to the killing, other than on who the culprit was. The culprit, one Roderick Macrae, is a young man from the Scottish Highlands who has brutally bludgeoned three members of the same family to…

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Top 10 Medieval News Stories of 2016

Oh my god how did I not know that this blog existed until now? Strongly recommend to any and all medieval lovers!

Megan's Medieval Museum

DECEMBER 31, 2016 BY MEDIEVALISTS.NET

These last twelve months have seen more discoveries and great research about the Middle Ages. However, in keeping with the theme that 2016 is the worst year ever, our most important story is a depressing tale for medievalists.

1. #Femfog

Allen J. Frantzen is considered one of the leading scholars in the field of Old English / Anglo-Saxon studies, having written several important books and articles. However, it seems after retirement, he turned his words towards attacking feminism and complaining about the treatment of men in today’s society. On his personal website he wrote a post on ‘How to fight your way out of the feminist fog’, where he encouraged readers to “Grab your balls (GYB) and be the man you want to be…” (the blog post has since been deleted, but can be read via Archive.org).

While the post was online for…

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I watched Passengers so you don’t have to (no, really)

So I know I’m late off the bat here and there have already been tons of reviews trashing Passengers, and opinion pieces on what’s wrong with it, but here I am, adding my voice to the chorus. I’d already seen some of my more politically outspoken facebook friends pledging to boycott it because of the subject matter, but I’m ashamed to say that the beautiful beautiful people (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) lured me in, I caved, and several weeks after its release I went. Spoilers ahead – here’s my review. 

Passengers started off well for me. I bought into the concept and into this version of the future. Chris Pratt alone in a luxury spaceship was just the right mix of terrifying and wish-fulfillmenty. This went on for long enough, too, that I whispered to my date (knowing what was going to happen) if I were in his shoes, I’d probably wake someone else up, too. I was on side. I could see that, alone in the vacuum of space, someone could do something crazy. 

But the problem is, Pratt’s character doesn’t do something crazy in a moment of desperation. And that’s where it lost me. He stares at Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s unconscious body for ages and plots to wake her up. He watches videos of her. He has several false starts, but he still decides to wake her. When they finally have sex, it is one of the most uncomfortable and unpleasant watches I’ve had. He has violated her by waking her early, and then he violates her again by lying to her. 

Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular. The best part of the film is her anger, after this moment. Which is quickly dismissed when a crew member wakes and tells her people do crazy mad desperate stuff. 

In the end, we are expected to accept their romance, and I couldn’t. 

The film has failed to meet its expectations at he box office, and to be honest I can see why. It’s disappointing to see the issue of consent half-raised and then dismissed. Audiences aren’t going to take that any more, and films need to be better and smarter. It’s such a shame because in many ways the film was so promising. But ultimately I just couldn’t buy into the human side of it. 

Lavinia Goes Local

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16143300_10211702934358415_211032749235995893_n.jpgThis is a very exciting week for me. As someone who’s lived a life online and who, until now, has only had my books for sale online, this is a watershed moment for me. A small, independent bookshop in Topsham, a gorgeous seaside village in the south-west of England, is now stocking my books. (Don’t worry, they’re still available on Amazon!)

If you happen to be in the area, make sure you check it out. The Topsham Bookshop is an absolute treasure-trove of second hand and indy-published books with everything from old favourites in those adorable pre-loved volumes to, well, me!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved a bookshop. I could lose half a day in there, and often I’ve lost my weekly budget. My local station has a Foyles, which means that every time I miss my train (which, I confess, is relatively often – timekeeping is not my forté) I find myself in there, contactless card in hand, a victim of their three-for-two book offer.

I can’t quite fall in love with a place without a bookshop, and somehow bookshops are always wonky and rickety (apart from I suppose my temptation location, Foyles) and have that gorgeous dusty smell.

Bookshops are wonderful places. It’s something about seeing all of those titles lined up and thinking there’s a world inside each of these. I hope that someone browsing in The Topsham Bookshop will have the same feeling when they see – and pick up – one of mine.

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Author AWOL

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Regular readers of the blog might have noticed I’ve been very quiet recently. I used to post relatively regularly once a week or so, but it’s been quite the last couple of months.

I have a good reason, I promise! I’ve been finishing off my thesis, and last week I successfully defended it (hooray for me) so now that my life has returned to teaching and getting on with my corrections, I have space to return to normal.

become-a-writer.jpgBeing a writer is a surprisingly time-consuming thing, and most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to rely on it as our main (or even supplementary) income. There’s always more I need (and want) to do. Not just updating the blog or running my twitter and facebook feeds, but also reading friends’ books (hi Karen!), keeping up with reading current releases, and (if there’s time left at the end of the day after the 9-5 and everything else) actually writing new material.

49d9da07acf06ad615ae099ac4177a66And that’s what’s been so sad about this last busy period of my life. No time to write. It’s a strange thing, I think, the life of someone who needs to write to feel like themselves. The more firmly rooted I am in reality (rather than spending all day in my own head in a fantasy land) the further away from it I feel. The further away from myself.

So, to the future! I have a huge ‘to read’ pile, but it’s all scrummy stuff I can’t wait to get my (metaphorical) teeth into. And aside from that – the WOP to think about. Wish me luck!

Don’t miss your chance to get #1 Arthurian Bestseller THE WITCHES OF AVALON for a bargain 99p!

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#1 Arthurian kindle bestseller The Witches of Avalon is available for just 99p for a short time only!

Click here to get your copy for 99p! 

Reviewers say:

“As always, Lavinia Collins doesn’t disappoint. This first book sees Morgan grow from an innocent child to a young woman who discovers betrayal, the cruelty of a men’s world, and sex.
[…]
Once again, Collins has created complex, intriguing characters, and a vivid world that makes you forget the Arthurian legends are just that, legends. They seem real. It’s also refreshing to see them told, for a change, by the female protagonists who are often relegated to one-dimensional characters in the background. Here, Morgan comes forward to tell her own story. And it’s a very compelling one.
If you like the Arthurian legends, or even just a good story, check it out.”
Read the review in full here.

Readers say:

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Find out for yourself!

Merry Christmas, Medieval Style

First I would like to say this is not my own work. This is the work of the Gawain-poet, and of course the greatest genius of our own time, Mallory Ortberg, one time editor of the greatest online magazine there has ever been, The Toast. 

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But Christmas can be a tough time, family-social-wise, and everyone needs a good tale to tell. My gift to you this year, is the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Mallory’s version pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of the general wackiness of the original, but if that’s not enough for you, why not treat yourself to the baffling film version, which features a half-shirtless, green glittery Sean Connery in the role of the Green Knight. None of it makes sense, but then again, none of the original does either!

sword-of-the-valiant-movie-poster-1984-1020363538Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has everything. Conflicting promises, dubious bets, a psychotically sexually aggressive woman who doesn’t even get her own name, and our hero’s assertion, in his final hour, that every mistake he has made is the fault of all women. What more could you want at Christmas? Gratuitous sex(ism), gratuitous violence and a pair of magic pants – the medieval world is weird, wacky and beautiful, and Gawain and the Green Knight makes every Christmas a merry one.