I was going to write a post about the awesomeness that is Elizabeth Wein's (aka, [livejournal.com profile] eegatland) series that starts with The Winter Prince, and how right [livejournal.com profile] sdn was when she told me to go read it. I even wrote the title in my little Semagic box. But then I had to go home, and I was tired, I was busy, and then OMG Cultural Appropriation! exploded on the internets.

I followed it for a week with my jaw dropped. I haven't commented because, honestly, I don't know what to think. I did run off and ask [livejournal.com profile] lareinenoire for her opinion, and we had a discussion about how guilty and uncomfortable this whole thing makes us feel. I haven't read everything and I'm actually trying to escape it because it's so painful to watch people yell at each other.

But here's the thing. I grew up knowing exactly how much bigger my family would have been if there hadn't been a Shoah. My grandmother told stories of her relatives who died at Babi Yar. I knew that my mother hadn't gotten into Kiev Polytechnic, despite having great grades and acing the entrance examinations, because her passport read "Jew" under "Nationality." I knew how hard my parents had to work to get my sister into the best school in the Kiev, because her passport said the same thing. I know why they left the Soviet Union, and part of what weighed into their decision was that their youngest daughter wanted to be a doctor when she grew up, and there was no way that was going to happen there. (She's since decided to become a doctor of a different sort.)

But on the other hand, as Tevye said, is that I have fought against their fear for a long time. I know how much they heard the word "Yid," and I know how they'd seen Jewish women who wound up married to non-Jews treated. And I know how worried they were when I dated a man who wasn't Jewish. And I know how many problems they had with my now-husband, even though they love him as their own son. (A lot can be overlooked when a man decides do convert, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to accept him for himself before that happened.) And, to be honest, I know the prejudice they hold in their hearts regarding people of darker skin tones (not that that stopped them from voting for Obama and telling off their friends who were afraid to do so). It's something they work through every day of their lives, and it's something I find myself working through as well. I still remember yelling at my mother, as a teenager, that "We're in America now! People don't act that way!" I'm pretty sure that didn't help her fears any.

But love? Well, that does help. In undergrad social psychology we learned that what breaks down the barriers, what makes people see each other as people and not as "Other" (a term I really, really hate) is working together. Give people of different cultures and races and backgrounds a task and make sure they have to work side-by-side, and eventually, slowly, these barriers we put up for ourselves tumble.

My parents have lived in America for almost 20 years. And in that time, a lot of things have changed. Their elder daughter went to the university of her dreams because of their choice. Their younger daughter is pursuing a PhD, and this summer she married a man who was willing to change his faith, in part to be with her for the rest of his life. And his family accepted her, and she goes to his grandmother's house for Christmas.
I got into a discussion with a friend that led to my making a comment about writing. It might have been misconstrued - I don't know, really, but it's sort of giving me cause to think about the way I regard my own fiction.

Because I don't think I write deep stories. I like the themes that come out of my work, but I don't actually put them in there. If I write a story about someone who thinks themselves an outcast it's only because that's the type of person I'm familiar with. Only later it may come to me that they might be dealing with alienation - at the time I largely think in terms of "what would happen next with this character given their mindset?"

I don't think I'll ever support myself with writing - that's not my goal. I don't think what I write will ever be high literature, though to be honest I doubt Dickens ever thought of himself that way, either. I write because I have stories to tell and characters to tell them with. I write to entertain myself, and my friends, and anyone else who'd care to read.

I want it to be a good story - I want to make it as entertaining as possible without sacrificing the things that gave it form. But at the same time, I never aim to hold up a mirror to my psyche or anyone else's. I just don't think in those terms.

It's something I was dealing with in high school - we were reading The Scarlet Letter and Great Gatsby and talking about the elements (the three lights in Gatsby, three town squares in Scarlet Letter), and I made the comment that I honestly didn't believe an author sat down to write and said to himself "I'll put a simile in here, a metaphor here...." I still don't. I think I've learned that there is certainly a framework in an author's mind, and you might build on it when such events appear in your own prose, but when you write you're just trying to put thoughts down on paper in a way that make sense for the story you're trying to tell. When you edit you try to find these things and bring them out.

At The Witching Hour last fall, Patricia McKillip made the comment that when she was first published she was vastly disappointed, as an English major, that her work was not the next Faulkner. That has stuck with me since I heard it because, quite honestly, she's not in a position to evaluate herself that way. History and critics will bear out whether she's the next Faulkner or not (though for my part, I'd agree with her, but in the sense that she is, in ways, better) - Faulkner certainly wasn't able to tell that he was the first Faulkner (well, other than the name). Shakespeare wrote to entertain - he had no idea that one day his words would be synonymous with the height language could conquer. He tried to tell stories, some good, some bad, in a way that appealed to the people who paid him.

I don't even know if I'm making any sense at this point. My point was supposed to be that I concentrate on telling the story it is within me to tell, and let the rest take care of itself.
The monicker, used in Swordspoint to aptly describe one Lord David Campion has been stuck in my head for days. It has been lodged in association with Felix Harrogate, after reading the opening chapters of The Virtu, and it has brought on a case of speculation regarding characters and character archetypes.

Namely, I love those bastards.

Athos was my favorite Musketeer, not the golden D'Artagnan. But I have a feeling that, were I to reread those books today, Aramis would be coming up neck and neck to my troubled gentleman. Likewise, it is the Comte de Monte-Cristo who captures my imagination, not the young Edmond Dantes.

It is never the hero who attracts me, not in the classic sense. Harry Potter with his loving parents who died on his behalf, guided on your typical hero's journey toward the inevitable triumph (though not without proper amounts of sacrifice) is, to me, quite boring. It is, for that reason, I suspect, that while we spoiler! ) in A Song of Ice and Fire, it is Jaime and Tyrion Lannister who hold my affection, along with Jon Snow, who more spoiler! ).

It is easy to be a hero when you're Harry Potter. You might be scared out of your mind, but in your heart of hearts you know you're a good guy. You know that good is what you do, and you know that evil is something you can overcome.

But how much more meaningful is it when you're not said Harry Potter? When you're a kingslayer, a kinslayer, a guy who organizes bum fights, a runaway drugged-up academic, or a former child prostitute and an instrument of your own destruction? When you know that evil you've done, whether it served the greater good or not, is evil you've done, and you struggle to do better anyway?

The odd thing, I find, is that I can only think of one female character who fits into this archetype (Elizabeth Bear's Jenny Casey, of Hammered, etc). Why is that?

And who do you think of?
I actually finished Mélusine Wednesday night, but work-related travel led me to a two-day disconnect from the internet. I did not suffer all that much - got a lot done, some of it writing some of it bio, and the break allowed me to distill why I love this novel so much. Of course, then I remembered that [livejournal.com profile] truepenny rocks like a goddess and ran off to her website to read the first three chapters of the forthcoming The Virtu.

Is it June 27th yet? In other news, I so know what I'm getting for my sister's birthday (which is the 28th, and despite my own being five days later, I absolutely cannot wait!).

Review, of the non-spoilery variety. )
Okay, having finished reading The Mark of Zorro, I've taken some time to put together a general outline for the paper on how Batman's an extension of other masked vigilantes, and tCdMC. Further input is welcome, especially on Comte, as I haven't re-read that yet.

Shiny Preliminary Outline! )
I begun this essay as a way to get over my bitterness about missing Signal2Noise 2k5 when I was two stops down on the T because of soul-crushing work, and resulted in a catharsis on my problems and generally a good way to clear the headspace.

Thanks muchly to [livejournal.com profile] lareinenoire, [livejournal.com profile] rosamund, & [livejournal.com profile] drglam for looking it over and helping me out when I was stuck.

Click here for fairly coherent thought on original and fanfiction, and the social aspects of the two. )

Up next (I hope): A Veronica Mars Primer
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