Thursday, November 15, 2012

the storytellers

So myths used to be the fabric of people's lives. Not just the big ones, like, arguably religion or patriotism or trickle down economics (okay. That really isn't arguable anymore). You could argue that today many scientific theories are our belief system. The big ones, I could offend anyone by keep on talking. I probably already have. I'm talking the every day myths. The folktales. The stories blood to the bone were told around fires when it got too dark to work. The folktales and myths that happened before the Grimm brothers called them children's work. If you look close enough at Joseph Campbell, we're still enraptured by these stories. Even Hollywood sometimes lives them out. We have a hero. The hero defeats great challenge. He gets his just rewards. Simplistic, I know. What Hollywood and other mass media often miss out on is the essential moment I left out above. That great challenge in someway changes our hero. It happens more often in fiction. But what better place to look than in fantasy? Or what I call a mish mash of fantasy, anyway? These are the stories, the good ones, that would have been told around those fires. Our magic and mayhem can't quite hide those metaphors and myths. Those Jungian archetypes--where these figures and moments in our lives are so bred in, they are bred in. It's subconscious each one of us share. The times when the delight of the story is how perfectly executed the new tale has distilled the old. And where the perfect delight is the slight twist--that end moment that turns the story into something it was never meant to be, but might start to be after this. Our stories are in the marrow of humanity. The fad in Literature (with that snide capital letter) is to more examine a philosophical turn or a lit crit method of writing. Fantasy bleeds. You see our meat from times past. You see us pay homage to those stories again as we tell them over and over with our slight twists, changes, and rearranges. How many times have we read Tam Lin? Patricia Dean (part of Teri Winding's Fairy Tale Series) Tam Lin. Peter S. Beagle's masterful Tamsin. Hell, Diana Wynne Jones felt it necessary to write it twice in Fire and Hemlock and Dog's Body. Mine's quite a set of twists, but at the end, all Weaver's Web is, is Tam Lin. Have we read Beauty and the Beast a lot? Have we read it so often we don't even realize it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling unless the back cover mentions it? Did Robin McKinley, always prone to fairy tales, have to write both Beauty and then much later Rose Daughter? Our unconscious brings us back to these places over and over again. Every time there is a little change because every time a new writer writes, and has a different point of view. Stories changed all the time and were born in dozens of ways around those fires. It's the printed word that has us thinking a story is one thing. Every time a reader reads, or listens, they interpret a different thing today. These are the grist of our lives, so it is no surprise that new material, material yet to be trapped. Yet to be accepted--the new grist--we are the ones who set it to paper, read it, and don't finch. Because we are not in the "real" world, we are allowed to explore concepts most genres lag behind on for years. Feminism and feministic worlds appeared in general fantasy when they still would have been stuck in women's literature if we didn't examine feminism through that particular class of sorcerous priesthood. These days, no one ever blinks when the first three paragraphs introduce you to the fact you will be in a matriarchal society. Sheri S. Tepper's fusion fantasy of fantasy and science fiction taught us around fifty years ago. Her books went on into feminism and from there to general fiction and from there to college classes. But we took her on first. She's ours. Margaret Atwood turned gender so tightly on it's head that general literature co-opted her and then put her in college courses. But we published her. Those feminists and college professors "found" her by hanging with us. If you write a book with gay characters and no magic, you still go in that special section for gay writers. Since I started reading fantasy, and I started in the single digits, if you wrote a book with gay characters and magic you were merely alphabetized with the rest of the fantasy. Mercedes Lackey has made a career of gender bending her characters any which way she can think of. And her career has been good. Because we aren't "real" we get to play with concepts that the "real" world scorns. Yet we are real. We're as real as it gets. We can shift and play and examine more concepts and include more of the "real" world that the "real" world can take because we are the storytellers. Our mythos of heros (those are female in fantasy, too. No heroines these days) face moments when the world challenges and changes them just as their readers meet challenges that change them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And I'm back!

And glad to see you, too. Head on over to "Bets Davies" on Facebook if you still can't get enough of me. Come on. I like you. Like me? We can stick our fingers in each others' pockets when we walk down the halls. Sorry about my extended absence. My car rolled down an embankment two years ago and a concussion and herniated disks and whiplash later blah blah blah skip ahead to the end of the summer where, shortly after the acquisition of a cat, I had a humiliating move home to my parents in mind destroying pain, could not look at a computer, had a lot of fun with ice packs and staring at my ceiling, I found out I had a new fun, problem related to the crash--arthritis. Yes. I have no gray hair. Arthritis. So an ergonomically correct keyboard, enough physical therapy so that if I ever hear the words "core strength" again I'll hurl (which is probably good for your core), I am in a test phase for surgery. I'm looking forward to neck surgery. Let's just get that clear. I am counting down the days till I can have neck surgery like it's a hot date. So I hope to be back here to play on a much more regular basis, but sign up for email alerts at the bottom of the page and keep checking back if I check out. I don't know the recovery time for my exciting surgery. So let's reel it back till before that whining started. I acquired a cat. No one ever really needs to buy a cat. Look around. There's one somewhere. Like dust bunnies. This one was crying and trying to get into my parents' place up north, scrawny and desperate. She'd been spayed and knew how to use the litter pan, so she was dumped. It happens a lot. For some reason on busy roads up north a lot. Dogs, too. I know this because my family has a knack for finding them there. Maybe we look too hard. I don't even want to go into what I think should be done to the people who abuse animals this way. Technically, this cat is my mother's fault. She opened the door and let the cat in. I was due up there to meet them, however, and the cat likes me, and my parents already have three cats and a fat mini doxi. And we all promise each other we'll give this one away. We take it to the vet. But it is a really good cat. You have to bond with a stray to make sure they know how to bond before giving them away. No one we reach out to wants a cat. We can't give it to the human society because who knows what kind of screening process they have? Then you let the cat out of the room you've been keeping it in so it can meet the other pets. Then the cat is "she" instead of "it". And you can't call it "stray cat" forever (my parents have a cat named "Black Cat") or that will be her name. Then you start bouncing around names. Then one sticks. Once you've named a stray, you are doomed. That animal is yours. So I now own petite but now fat Lucy Lui. These things happen. Now was that another diversion, or does the tale of Lucy Lui have a point? The closest I have ever come to living without animals was two years of undergrad. But my parents were near, and our mostly golden was getting older, you know. It was very easy to visit. Go home vacations. I was still miserable. I felt as if someone had taken a vital element out of the air I breathed. I mention this because I while back, I had a blog about what was up with all the animals in fantasy? I still don't quite get the wider connection. I know there simply pet people and non-pet people. Almost all my friends are pet people. We cluster in our insanity. Fantasy readers cluster in our insanity. I still don't understand how they meshed, but I can't get animals out of my writing. The one book I tried so hard to keep animals out of still has a fat cat named "Rosencrantz" near the end and the central image, the title, in fact, is Sheep that Stray (peer sideways to get a view of the book and a chance to buy it). But writing without animals appears to be as unimaginable as not having picked up Lucy Lui. What is interesting is that when I write characters I start from scratch. I do not model them after famous people, or roles, or people I know, or me. Most of them (humiliatingly, always a wide array of versions of me) get in anyway. But when I write animals, I steal shamelessly from animals I have known. Here's a for instance of someone you get a brief hint of in Weaver's Web, but get to know better in the sequel, Wooden Weft, is Sam's sidhe (fairy) dog, My Girl. So this is a sidhe (again, picture the scary, big kind of fairy)dog. I'm trying to decide who would bond with Sam, and who would have an intact personality after what they've been through together. Sam is forced to fight My Girl when he is young and on his own (yes, I did just spoil something from Weaver's Web. Sidhe are traditionally cold, nobel, ethereal, ruthless. The "ruthless" word caught me up back when I was sucking on a pen and first filling My Girl out. At the time, my eyes rested on my runt Pit Bull, Jobi. Yes, I just like that name, for you have read Rebirth. Plus, as the female version of "Job", and meaning "One has been through many trials," it fits my pit Jobi perfectly. I did go out of my way to get Jobi. I drove to the humane society on a damp night slightly after my birthday "just to look". Which is why I made sure I brought my hound mutt, Chloe, because I know in order to be adopted all other animals in the family have to be met. But I was just looking. Jobi curled in a pathetic lump in her cage. She would only give me the slightest of glances before staring at some, unknown horror. All around her dogs jumped and barked to be petted (I was in pit bull alley. Apparently the pit bulls weren't something to put out there with the sweet retrievers for the families to see). Jobi had been there for months, and was currently named "Bubbles". I asked for several other dogs, but they didn't really hit a sweet spot. I asked for "Bubbles". The staff didn't even know her by name. I stood out in the damp November wet in a patch of grass often utilized by dogs. Jobi came bounding around the corner, her grin wide, her tongue flapping, hoarse from yanking so hard at the lead. All of my cells lit up. I knelt. She got the better of the attendant and launched into my lap to bowl me over with kisses. Chloe loved her, too. They were playing so hard on leash we could barely get them to the play enclosure. These things happen. Jobi is black, sixty pounds, and her lunk head has to make up at least ten of those pounds. She knows she's a lap dog. Her response to almost any new stimulus is to lick it. She is terrified of water, especially storms, but really, if she's barking too much, you can spit on her to cow her completely. Yet when I walk her, many people are in the pit bull club, but some walk across the street. People get scared when she barks at the window because they can't see her tail wagging. To them, she's a Pit Bull. She's anti social fight dog. So looking at My Girl, quite a bit above average dog intelligence, with a history of fighting, and I don't want her to be that grim fight dog. I don't want her to be that nobel, shimmeringly other sidhe average. I want her to be Jobi. I want her to chase her tail when denied something she wants. I want her to still chase sun spots. I want her to sit in laps and embarrass the other dog and the wolves. I want this dog that should be so formidable, and even could be so formidable, to have an amiable sense of humor and dexterous, often kisses.