Medicine is broken. “Drugs are tested by people who manufacture them, in poorly designed studies, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer,” says Ben Goldacre in his book Bad Pharma. He also says quite a bit more beside, because medicine really is very broken. This is 1) terrible, because all of us rely on medicine at one time or another and have a basic faith in the white-coated ministers who provide it, and 2) a marvellous opportunity to make an extremely evil strategy game.
It’s like having one last short to get your head straight before you leave the bar, or necking an espresso to bring you down as you head up for bed. It makes no sense, and it makes you feel horrible. Stardew Valley is a PC game that repeatedly needles you about how detached you are from the natural world and how soul-voiding it is to live your life through a screen. “There will come a time when you feel crushed by modern life and your bright spirit will fade before a growing emptiness,” says your bed-ridden grandad, stretching his hand towards you with a serious-looking envelope. Cut to: your character, skivvying miserably at a computer for the oppressively cheerful Joja corporation. Cut to: my heart withering in ashy despair as I realise I too am hunched over a screen.
But the answer to your wage-slave woes are right there in that letter from gramps. In it, your grandfather gives you his old farm in Stardew Valley. Of course, it needs a bit of work. Actually, it needs a lot of work. You are deposited in an overgrown shrubbery littered with rocks and bits of wood, and given a handful of tools to get started with. Chop down trees, break rocks, till soil, repeat. The cheery 8-bit look with searingly bright colours cannot hide the fact that you’ve been dropped into a world of chores. Chop, break, till. Forage as you go, selling your finds for in-game cash. Buy seeds. Chop, break, till. Plant your seeds and water them. Chop, break, till, water.
I don’t know which of the following is weirder: the idea that Idris Elba is the only black British actor, the idea that James Bond is the highest role available in UK film, or the idea that only by putting the two together can we be sure we have vanquished racism in our entertainment industry and in our hearts. I almost feel for Anthony Horowitz, who ballsed up the Elba question in an interview with the Mail on Sunday to promote his newly-authored Bond adventure, Trigger Mortis.
2014 has been a pretty good year for me and writing. There are three reasons for that. First, I’ve had the attentions of an outstanding editorial team – Helen Lewis and Caroline Crampton at the New Statesman, who say yes bravely and no wisely and whose suggestions often turn into my best ideas. Second, I’ve been able to do a lot of reading, and there’s nothing like spending time in other people’s heads to sharpen up your own.
Third, I’ve had feminism – proper feminism, in the form of a group of loving, fierce, intelligent women who constantly provoke and inspire. Michaele Ferguson writes about the importance of taking “pleasure in politics”, and now I know what she means, and I know she’s right.
I think a lot of people who come across my work assume I write full-time. I don’t. Writing is my third shift – after a full-time job and a family. I share my life with the kindest and cleverest person I know, who also happens to be an exceptional writer and one of the very few people I will permit to sass me about grammar. I can’t give him special credit for this year, because he’s always been there, but I know that without him, I wouldn’t be anywhere. Thank you, Nath.
Here are the 10 things I wrote this year that I like best.
Decent of you to allow that I may be a real person after all
The idea that he might be an object in someone else’s subjectivity upturns Mark’s sense of his importance, so he belittles Marianne and attacks her abilities. It is not tolerable to him that she should be the authority in this world of which he is a part, so he proclaims that her sex makes it impossible for her to have such powers. Nor is he alone as a male disturbed by the force of female imagination.
Against cool girl feminism
I wouldn’t deny any man the pleasures of porn culture, or make any awkward announcements about male violence, or ask for any rights really but the right to make oneself as pleasing as one could choose to be in a patriarchal world I treated as inevitable. What I was doing was what I think of now as Cool Girl Feminism.
The left is addicted to smartarse debunking. But arguments are won by telling human stories
Rallying accurate information is important, but there is a danger that we have become so absorbed in displaying our own liberal cleverness against the flattering backdrop of stupid racism, we forget the people we are supposed to be arguing on behalf of.
Be that you are: on gender as class
But the destined livery of women is too often violently imposed. Forced marriage, domestic violence, FGM, rape, sexual harassment, the denial of abortion, the compulsion to sacrifice oneself to the care of others – these things are not imposed on women because we are feminine, they are imposed because we are female.
Shakespeare as radfem.
The whole damn literary canon needs a trigger warning
There is nothing exceptional about this content. Wanting to be warned that it is coming is like wanting to be warned that there may be some exhaust fumes in the air you breathe. Well of course there will be – what do you want to do, live on a Hebridean smallholding in isolated purity, breathing in a clean, cultureless atmosphere?
Hilary Mantel’s Thatcher story: this author is no innocent in need of defence from right-wing critics
It’s hard to reject the suspicion that Glover has been mislead by his subject’s sex into a ascribing her a sensitive constitution that she simply doesn’t have. Mantel, in novel after novel, has demonstrated one thing: an intimate affinity for violence and power.
I didn’t fully understand what it means to be pro-choice … until I decided not to have an abortion
Before that conversation with my GP, I had no concrete idea what it meant to be pro-choice, although that’s what I called myself. But by giving me that choice, my doctor gave me my life back when I felt it had just been taken from me irrevocably.
“No platform” was once reserved for violent fascists. Now it’s being used to silence debate
The no platform of now doesn’t target groups such as the National Front or the EDL – instead, it’s aimed at individuals who certainly do not trail the organised muscle of a thug army behind them.
Why we shouldn’t rebrand prostitution as “sex work”
When we talk about “sex work”, we endorse the idea that sex is labour for women and leisure for men – men who have the social and economic power to act as a boss class in the matter of intercourse.
My body, my choice: from now on, abortion rights must be fought for from first principles
But giving away a bagful of gore or a chunk of liver that you’re not using because you’re dead is trivial compared to what is asked of the pregnant woman. For at least nine months, she must dedicate her body to the sustenance of another.
See you for more in 2015.