Elizabeth Bear scares me.
I have trouble reading fiction. And…writing it…writing anything…but onwards –
Sci Fi, Fantasy, Fiction in the Present or Past Tense. I just do. I’ve gotten so used to reading about “real” history that when it really comes down to it…fiction scares the snot out of me.
Because as a fiction writer, you’re un-bound. The sky is truly the limit. Look at G.R.R. Martin and “Game of Thrones”. The books (not the tv series…because they let the misogyny loose on a scale that dear ol’ Georgie actually doesn’t in the books.) are brilliant in that they show the machinations and the maneuvers and the “Machiavellian” truths of true statecraft.
I have yet to meet someone who isn’t pissed off by something that happened in the books. Me? I have thrown his books across the room in fury. Several times. Because he writes realpolitik.
And realpolitik hurts, especially when you turn the page and…oh…well shit. That wedding sucked big time.
But it happens. And it sucks.
Because realpolitik isn’t about ethics or morality. It isn’t about “How can I make the society that I live in a better place for everyone?” (Although that IS there in his books. You just need to search for it under the fugly bits.) It’s about “what can I do to ensure my position where I am right now, and who do I need to take down in order to make that happen?”
We look to fiction to make the world a gentler place. Or, at least one where we understand the stakes because they’re laid out in black and white and NOT in the shades of gray we actually have to deal with on a daily basis. That’s why the Marvel movies have been so successful, and the DC re-vamp of Superman comes under such criticism.
Half of Metropolis was destroyed in the new Superman incarnation and critics were all over that like white on rice, sorting out exactly how many people would have died and so on. And Metropolis is a FICTIONAL city. The “Superman” in this movie wasn’t the one we knew of old. He wasn’t swathed in the bright blue and red of Christopher Reeve and of Raphael (The Artist. Not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) we’d come so accustomed to. This was a “Superman” for the New Generation, draped in the Colors of Mark Rothko.
And it failed. (Relatively speaking.)
It failed because Mark Rothko colors are muted and dark, and the movie was the same, for all intent and purposes.
We don’t want muted and dark.
We want bright primary colors.
When I saw the first Avengers movie, all I kept thinking in the back of my head was “Holy shit. This makes the Twin Towers look like a lame fireworks display.*” My mother’s old office building became semi-toast (maybe McCann Erickson knew something the rest of us didn’t. and moved the hell down a few blocks before all the fuss?.) The blocks I would walk from my mothers apartment along Park Avenue downtown to the MetLlife building (also – fuck you it will still always and forever be the Pan Am building to me), and wander around Vanderbilt Avenue to get downtown into the 20’s? And to look up at that completely screwed up corkscrew street above winding in and out of buildings?
And we loved it.
Because it was Black and White, for the most part. Very few shades of gray. Doesn’t matter that the ‘good guy” leader is an alcoholic, and that he’s got a “Hulk” on his team who really boils down into the “angry boy” of J.D. Salinger with purple pants. And yes, we had a “Red, White and Blue” hero who was out of touch and out of time and fighting to survive in his own primrose way.
(I’d like to mention here that his sweetheart Peggy Carter was a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., because yes, I AM that person. And that Natasha NEEDS her own goddamn series already, because there is no level way that you could tell her story within the timeframe of a film. Sorry, Mr. Wheedon. You’re not that good. “Age of Ultron” proved it. Come back to TV and tell BW’s story).
Loki never stood a chance, no matter what the hell his story was because he’s got a blue-eyed blonde haired brother. Loki was darker colored.. (See how that works?)
(I’ll stop there because this is becoming a rant, and that was not my intention. My intention was to face a fear. Gods help me.)
So, to come back around to Elizabeth Bear.
She writes things like this –
“The Devil can quote scripture, after all. And monsters can say “please” and “thank you” same as any mother’s son.”
That’s from the book ‘Karen Memory’, which I own, and have not yet fully read BUT have recommended to others. Because her writing…is exquisite and blunt and…and..and it makes me feel things.
I’ve discovered that I can deal with the feels so long as they come from within.
This is not necessarily the good thing you might think it should be. Trust me on this.
I leave you with this quote (SPOILERS – she’s referencing Baba Yaga here. But M’Lady Yaga isn’t the point, although her references in the story made me gleeful.. Pay attention to the Dog. Because they do exist.) , and yes, I read the short story all the way through. And I felt.
She scares me, because I wish I could write like she does.
And now, the quote and the link to Tor.com.
“This is how women sometimes turn into witches. We come home from work one day too many to discover our partners curled up on the couch like leeches in a nice warm tank, and we decide it’s better to take up with a hut with chicken legs.
A good chicken-legged hut will never disappoint you.”
Source: This Chance Planet | Tor.com
PS – Machiavelli got a raw deal. He wasn’t evil. He was writing in terms of the statecraft he knew and was asked by Florence to go and practice. “The Prince” in his writings MAY have been based on Cesare Borgia, but the words were written for the Medici’s. Talk about realpolitik…?
*If you wish to be pissed off at me for saying such a thing, go ahead, I was living in a suburb of Seattle at the time, and…My first memory of 9/11 was seeing smoke. Tons of smoke, My second memory was…”So. World War Three then.” After that…? The pit that resides inside of me grew to the point where I could see it in the periphery of my vision, yawning like the devil’s own soul, and I never want to feel that way again. (I have. and it still sucks.)