Friday, June 16, 2017

The Refrigerator Monologues and a Bloody Mary

New York Times best-selling author, Catherynne M. Valente is here today cooking up Drinks with Reads for her new illustrated novel, The Refrigerator Monologues. She is the author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.

A series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress. In a new and original superhero universe that is nevertheless full of winks and nods to the grand history of comic books, these voices subversively explore the core ideas and themes of the genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share.  

The Refrigerator Monologues pairs ideally with a Bloody Mary. After all, it’s a book full of bloody Marys, hanging out in the underworld, trying to sort out how they feel about getting murdered because they happened to date a superhero, or happened to turn up one day with superpowers themselves. Spiced with rage, salty with tears, full of rich, savory characters with a kick of 80 proof humor--perfect for breakfast! 

A lot of us have been mad about the treatment of women in comic books for years. Gail Simone famously coined the phrase “girls in refrigerators” to describe the more unfortunate cases of women being thrashed on the page in order to forward the stories of their heroic male partners. Treated as props to be wielded by the real people in the tale. I wanted to really dive deep into that anger, flay it open and examine it, to achieve a little catharsis. The most powerful way to invert that old, old narrative was to wrench the story around and center the cast aside, tortured women who were cast aside in the first act, to give voices to the voiceless, to make them, not props, but protagonists. I’ve spent a career telling fairy tales from unusual points of view--the villain, the side character, the damsel in distress, the dead mother, somebody’s horse. This is something I know. And for our modern culture, superhero stories are our grim fairy tales. 

So why not tell the tale from the point of view of the damsel in distress?

Now, this may sound dark and angry and depressing. It’s my Pulp Fiction, I suppose. Full of pop culture references and connections between seemingly unrelated stories, violence, comedy, and mysterious lights. It gives me space to send up not only feminist issues, but everything in the world of superheroes that ever made me go “grrr.” But it’s also one of the funniest books I’ve ever written, wry and sly and snarky, loving and affirming. The underworld’s not the worst place to be, if you gotta be somewhere. 

At least, down here, the Bloody Marys are top-notch.

Makes 1 pitcher
(altered a bit from The Guardian recipe)
300ml vodka
5cm piece of fresh horseradish
1l good tomato juice
2 tsp sriracha 
½ tsp tabasco
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp celery salt
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2 tbsp amontillado or cream sherry 
Celery, to serve 
Cut the horseradish into chunks and stuff them into the vodka. Seal and leave to infuse for a day, then strain and discard the horseradish.
Mix together the tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and celery salt and briefly squeeze each lemon wedge into the jug, leaving some juice in each. Season well with black pepper, and check the spice level for your taste, adjusting if necessary. Drop the wedges into the jug and stir together well. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the vodka and sherry into the jug and stir well with a celery stick. Serve immediately.

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