Robin Hood the Climate Change Denialist

On Authenticity and Relatability in Historical Fiction.

Authenticity vs. Relatability

Many years ago one of the most popular shows in the Rachelloon house was a comedy sketch show of my native land of Britain called Dead Ringers. And one of the sketches that has most stuck with me over the years was a scene they did ripping on the then-airing historical drama ‘Robin Hood’.

The only Dead Ringers Robin Hood sketch that I can find on YouTube now isn’t the one I remember, but I did remember the introduction that was at the beginning of that video, which runs:

And now on BBC One we’ve a brand new series of Robin Hood, where we’ve taken a much loved classic tale, given it a typically 21st century makeover, and made it shit.”

The sketch that I do remember had the Sherriff of Nottingham planning to impose a Carbon Tax on the local peasants, only to find himself facing strong opposition when Robin of Loxley stirs up the people, insisting that the case for global warming has not been proven.

I know you all know where this particular long ramble is going…

[Disclaimer: I know nothing about anything and don’t listen to a word I say or read a word I type. Just give me mindless praise instead.]

*~*~*

As someone with a strong interest in history I’ve always found it very difficult to watch historical dramas or read historical fiction without sniping ‘that’s wrong!’, ‘that’s really wrong!’, and ‘okay, the writers were on crack when they came up with this’. The only exception being Da Vinci’s Demons, which not only describes itself as ‘historical fantasy’ rather than ‘historical drama’, but has the added crucial element of actually being good.

(And even that will probably be ruined by the upcoming new season, just like all my other favourite shows. /grumble).

On the other hand, ‘updating’ historical persons/characters for the 21st century is not done without reason on the part of writers, and it’s easy enough to see why.

To begin, an excerpt—taken from my new book for NaNoWriMo research, which contains a number of extremely interesting writings from that period; this particular excerpt from the pen of Paolo de Certaldo of Florence, in probably the 14th century:

“Young girls should be taught to sew, and not to read, for it is not good in a woman, knowing how to read, unless you want to make her a nun… Feed boys well, and dress them as you can, in a decent fashion, and they will be strong and vigorous… Girls should be dressed well, but it does not matter how you feed them, as long as they get enough to live: don’t let them get too fat.

… I remind you again, if you have girls or young women in the house, that you should discipline them and keep them on a tight rein. And if, as often happens, any of them is looked at by young men, don’t get angry with such youths, but punish and warn the girls…”

(‘The Towns of Italy in the Later Middle Ages’; Dean, Manchester, 2000, pp195-6)

How widespread this sentiment was is debatable, how often put into practice unknowable, but from what we can tell the advice book this extract is taken from was very popular at the time, and if you write a novel set in this period then these are undeniably some of the prevailing views of the day. How can you make a character have or tolerate the above sentiments and still be relatable? If you make your character not have this sentiment, how do you explain why they don’t?

The answer to that last question is simple enough, and yet it raises a much bigger problem. That being (and I can assure you of this), that the extract above is in no way the uniform view of the time, of the place, of the era. The problem is that there is no such thing, and no such thing for far more than simply the care of one’s daughters.

Historians can’t agree amongst themselves about the reality of life in the Middle Ages, and the perceptions of your average readers can certainly be far off from the truth, if they even know anything about it at all when it’s likely the only thing they remember from school history lessons is ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’.

(Well, if they’re British anyway).

Take the Crusades, for example. Few people now would think of them as a glorious struggle to regain stolen land from the evil Saracens anymore, and even at their height there were those in Catholic Europe who didn’t either, but what were they really in that case? Was it just wave after wave of bloodthirsty religious fanatics attacking those of another faith unprovoked? Were there far more Machiavellian motives behind the actions of the crusaders; opportunistic men of fortune seeing a chance to gain wealth and prestige without the disgrace of shedding Christian blood? Or did the whole thing start as a well-meaning attempt to come to the aid of fellow Christians in the Byzantine Empire that went very, very wrong as time went on?

All three of these things? Different things for different people in different places and at different times? None of the above?

And how much of a point in striving for ‘authenticity’ is there when those readers who do have a little knowledge of the subject will differ wildly in their perception of it?

One internet argument that comes to mind concerns a favourite of this blog; that of the treatment of women in Game of Thrones. It runs something like this…

A: “There is no excuse for the excessive brutality committed against the women in this series.”

B: “Except that that was what things were really like for women in the Middle Ages, and the author is just trying to remind people of that to contrast it with other medieval fantasy.”

A: “But fantasy is the operative word here—Westeros is not a real place. Therefore it was entirely the whim of the author that depicted such atrocious abuse of women so often.”

B: “Westeros isn’t real; but fantasy set in a medieval European pastiche is a genre in itself; and part of the point of GoT is to remind people of the realities of that era.”

A: “Especially the dragons and ice zombies, right?”

B: “But that’s also the point of fantasy and speculative fiction—realistic people in unrealistic situations.”

A: “So what reliable data do you have for the violence women faced in the real medieval era?”

B: “Well… to some point that’s going to be a matter of interpretation.”

A: “And of course, G. R. R. Martin interpreted it in a way that made him write as much rape as possible into the series.”

B: “But you can’t ascribe malicious motivations to him for doing that just because you personally didn’t like the results.”

One may take issue with the fact that I suddenly started writing about historical fantasy pastiche here when I had been talking about historical fiction, but I think the same points still stand: people, or some people at least, don’t want the realities other people have interpreted. They want their reality.

They don’t want to see a medieval town of uniformly white faces when they know there were some ethnic minorities in Europe during the Middle Ages, no matter how unlikely it was that you would have seen one in any given town—especially in the north. Or they don’t want to accept that the man widely acknowledged as the greatest painter who ever lived, a genius and an inspiration to millions, was in all likelihood a homosexual—because it’s not like there’s a da Vinci sex tape floating around the internet that would prove it, right?

(Unless it’s Da Vinci’s Demons’ da Vinci, because I wouldn’t have put it past him to casually invent the digital camcorder over a long weekend. Incidentally, the creator of that show got at least one death threat just for making the character bisexual, let alone gay).

And so we get Robin Hood the climate change denialist. And no, to my knowledge no one has ever gone that far and been serious about it, but examples that irk me nonetheless follow fast upon one another.

Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow: ‘Hi, I’ve been transported here from the eighteenth century, but conveniently I hold no views that would be unpalatable to a modern-day liberal audience!’. The female medical examiner in Murdoch Mysteries: ‘I can’t believe my nineteenth century Catholic boyfriend is homophobic! How backwards!’. Achilles in Troy: ‘Allow me to introduce you to my COUSIN Patrocles. *cough* no homo.”. Celaena in Throne of Glass:

Just… Celaena in Throne of Glass.

No doubt the list goes on, and while one can find sources enough that prove unpalatable sentiments were in no way uniform throughout any given period, it ends up that if not only your hero, but every ‘good’ character in the novel goes against the grain of the day, one has to ask why they do so; and the closer the views of the characters get to those of the modern era, the harder answering that question can get.

Ultimately, the easiest answer is that the characters believe what the writer believes because writers everywhere delight in dropping messages as anvils onto the heads of their readers/audience. But to an extent there’s only one way they can do that now that we’re already living in the age of widespread discussion or acceptance of such formerly taboo or radical ideas—by transporting us back to a time when they were still radical so those anvils can fall with impunity.

Thus everyone learns a valuable lesson about whatever. And they learn it over. And over. And over. Forever.

Why not try educating your audience about history, instead of ideas and values they already know about? You don’t have to eject ‘strong’ female or gay characters from the work—it’s not like they didn’t exist. If you want to sink your teeth into the medieval answer to feminism, for example, pick up Christine de Pizan and go from there; fighting misogyny in a way that was authentic to the period.

But if instead your heroine sounds just like a 21st century hipster except that they use the words ‘verily’ and ‘mayhap’, then they sound fake, and if they sound fake, then the possibility of the reader’s immersion ends.

Or it does for me, anyway. As I’ve said before, some people ‘just can’t even’ with characters who they deem unpalatable, and I guess you’ve also got to ask yourself why bother with historical fiction if you can’t stand historical people? So you can have your cake and eat it?

For those of us who can stand to be around characters whose views and beliefs are different—sometimes almost unfathomably so—it’s worth remembering that the people of the past were human too, capable of empathy and compassion. Even if you strive for true authenticity your own interpretation will give colour to the work that some people won’t like, but there’s nothing in true authenticity to any era of history that will make a character automatically unpalatable.

And then again, if something’s good, then it’s good. And if I say it’s good, then it’s good—and my historical novel that I’m going to start for NaNoWriMo this year will be the greatest novel that ever walked the earth!

[It’ll walk when the rats that are munching on the pages after it’s been abandoned in a basement for fifty years decide to make hats out of it, and then scurry away to give people more plague].

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On Women in Nuked Refrigerators

Ya geddit? See, ‘Women in Refrigerators’ and ‘Nuking the Fridge’ are both tropes with ‘fridge’ in them… and I combined them in the title of this post! It’s kind of like, a pun or something.

SEE!?

Anyway, I’ve been on vacation for three weeks, which means I was too lazy to even write on my blog, and instead watched hours and hours of TV. But since I’m in the fiction business, I maintain that watching TV counts as research, and am therefore perfectly justified in my actions.

On that note, I can fully reccommend the series ‘Justified’ to my readers. 🙂

But while I was pretending to be away, I happened to come across several posts/arguments all on the same topic. Women in Refrigerators. For those of you not in the know, this trope refers to a female character being killed off purely to get an emotional reaction from a male character, and it’s really sexist because of… reasons.

Okay, so you all know I hate the idea that all fiction always carries messages about how the author views women/minorities, mainly because you can read anything into anything if you want, and unless the author comes out and says ‘I intended this to be a comment on the issue of X’ you’re just fooling yourself into believing you know the author’s mind better than they do. I’ve already spoken about that, but this one was really annoying me, so I wanted to ramble a little about it.

First of all, being Stuffed into the Fridge is not a trope restricted to women. I’ll admit most instances of it that I can think of are women, and I think that mostly boils down to lazy writing. Have villain threaten/kill hero’s girlfriend. Sometimes it’s the hero’s son instead, but people get nervous about killing off children so that’s not as common–but it does happen. It doesn’t mean the writer doesn’t value women.

Some people seem to think that this ‘devalues’ women as a whole, because they can just be killed by the villain or whatever, but I think those people are thinking less in terms of fiction and more in terms of social justice. From the examples I know, the majority of Fridged characters only had as much value to the story as the value they had to the person the villain was targeting by killing them. I’ve heard people complain that Fridging makes their characters all about the male character rather than having their own storyline, but let’s face it. A lot of these characters never had a storyline and were never going to. Their purpose was always to flesh out the main/more important character, and that’s what some characters are there for in fiction.

As for those who did have their own storyline and always had more impact of the plot than how they affected the main character, being killed to hurt them doesn’t necessarily devalue them as long as it’s put in the hands of a competent writer–sometimes it makes perfect sense to the story–and even if it’s up to an incompetent and they completely mess the whole thing up, that’s not necessarily because of sexism. It’s because of incompetency.

To sum up, killing a female character to upset a male character is not sexist if killing a male character to upset any character is okay. The fact that it’s more often women who are the victims of this trope could be because the death of a woman is considered more tragic than the death of a man, it could be simpy because more heroes the villain would attack in this way are male, or it could be a combination of the two. That might be worth looking into more, but crying sexism every time a woman is Fridged is non-sensical.

So fill your refrigerators with all the women you want! (Wait, that came out wrong…) They’ll at least be protected from nuclear attack.

Or maybe it’s all bullshit, I don’t know, I’m hungry. I wonder what’s in the fridge…

It’s A Christmas Miracle!

The miracle is that I’m posting something.

All is well in Rachelloonland, my meagre excuse for a social life decided to pop up and delayed all the stuff I had planned to post, that and my usual laziness, but never fear! More is coming.

I have purchased a professional cover design from CreateSpace, which was fun. I hope it turns out all right, and then you can all pay an exorbitant price for my book. In the mean time, I will evaluate the Christmas specials I have watched so far:

Midsomer Murders: Pretty Good.

Strictly Come Dancing: Pretty Good.

Call the Midwife: Okay.

Doctor Who: Terrible.

I’m sure everyone agrees with me on those. Except for everyone, that is. Christmas dinner was a partridge in a pear tree, except instead of being in a pear tree, it was in bacon. Anyway the real present is that I’m still not going to post my commentary of Throne of Glass. You can all enjoy life for a little longer.

Merry Humbug, Earthlings!

Telepaths vs. Strawmen: MORTAL COMBAT!

You know what I hate today?

Walnuts. I was sitting around minding my own business this afternoon when suddenly a walnut came tumbling down the chimney and scared me, the bastard!

But the thing I hate today that I’ll likely hate tomorrow as well, is Strawmen, and not just any Strawmen, but those set up by the most annoying, condescending people in the entire world; people I call ‘Telepaths’, because apparently they can read your mind. And this is a behaviour type I’ve seen all over the internet, propped up in defence of all sorts of opinions, often mutually exclusive—so this can be a post that everyone enjoys!

… everyone except the Telepaths, that is.

Let me explain what I mean. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Strawman’, the idea goes something like this: ‘I am opposed to you on a certain issue, but cannot defeat your argument in this instance. However, I can defeat this other argument that has superficial similarities to yours, so I will pretend you used this argument so that I may defeat it and win the argument’, thus they ‘set up a straw man’ to defeat, since they can’t defeat the real thing, and may not even have any problem with the real thing:

A: I didn’t like the Avengers movie.

B: There’s nothing wrong with comic book movies, adults enjoy comics too these days and they have some really complex and mature storytelling!

A: Yeah, I know. I just didn’t like the Avengers; I thought the best comic book movie of 2012 was Dredd.

B: … oh. Did I ever tell you that I AM THE LAW!?

A: LAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

But what I really hate are the Telepaths, people who go a step further than that, and insist, insist, that that Strawman they created really is a part of you, even if you don’t realise it yourself. Take the controversy over abortion, for example—there’s a nice, safe topic that’ll never get me into trouble—because I have seen Telepaths on both sides of the debate:

A: I believe a woman should have the right to safe, legal abortion without any stigmatisation from society.

B: But killing babies is wrong!

A: Uh, I never said anything about killing babies. I just think it’s best if every child brought into the world is a wanted child.

B: That may be what you say, but I know you really just hate God and want to disregard the sanctity of life by killing babies!

A: No, seriously, I don’t think that.

B: I know you do!

A: How could you possibly know what I think better than I do!?

B: My pastor told me, that’s how!

A: ¬_¬

(Or, if you’re on the other side, take a look at this and see if this looks familiar:)

A: I believe abortion is wrong, because life begins at conception and we must preserve the sanctity of that life.

B: Don’t give me that ‘sanctity of life’ crap—you just want to control the bodies of women!

A: Uh, no, it’s really the killing thing that gets to me—I have no problem with women making their own choices in life.

B: Yeah right, you think of women as nothing more than baby-making machines, and if they’re not popping out kids, they’re not doing their jobs right!

A: That’s not how I think of women at all!

B: Yes it is!

A: How could you know what I’m thinking better than I do!?

B: Because I saw someone talking about it on Tumblr!

A:  ¬_¬

I cannot stand seeing people try to tell other people what those other people are thinking (lol, like anyone cares what I think); because if it’s not congruent with reality then you’re never going to get anywhere in a conversation—you’ll just be throwing ‘murderer’ and ‘misogynist’ back and forth at each other ad infinitum, and if it is what they think then they’re hardly like to admit it.

My favourite is people who have tried to tell others I agree with on some issues that they don’t actually believe what they’re saying—they’re just trying to sound ‘edgy’. I’m guessing these are people with a very low tolerance for ‘edge’.

So yeah. People who think they know what you think better than you know what you think, because I guess they’re telepathic or something. Mostly they think their opponent has been ‘brainwashed’. Brainwashing explains everything—much easier than finding real counter-arguments! Telepaths do more than just set up Strawmen, they go up to their opponent, shove straw down their shirts and then declare themselves the ‘winner’.

(Hopefully A and B will come to a better understanding of each other over their shared love of comic book movies.

… actually, knowing fandom wars, that’ll probably only make things worse.)

The Long-ish Wait is Over

Wow, it’s later than I thought it would be. I just spent several hours reading my recently finished Rooks prequel to my dear mama, for she is old and frail… and old, and can’t see too well. And she’s the only person in RL who’s around and willing to listen to my glorious works.

Note I’ve added some ‘categories’ to my blog. For categorising.

Anyway, today I thought I’d talk about Evo and Dread, the two novels of mine that have the least written about them, about 5,000 words each—something I hope to rectify after NaNo—and how they came into being.

Evo, as I said in my first ever blog post ever, is my attempt at seeing if YA Paranormal Romance can be done to a standard that I would consider ‘well’. It builds on the Twilight structure; young girl, paranormal creature(s), love triangle, stuff… okay, it’s not really a structure, but you can’t say I haven’t done my research for this one!

Actually, since I only sought out the books I knew I’d find hilariously bad, I guess you could say that. Oh well. Moving on, ‘Evo’ is set in the 1950s Northumberland, a place and time I know very little about, and deals with many issues I am in no way qualified to deal with, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I lack sensitivity—and if you have a problem with that then you’re an insensitive bastard!

Don’t worry, I won’t actually deal with any issues, they’ll just exist in the book. As I’ve said before, I usually hate books that deal with ‘issues’. But, the main character is half black, and it’s not like it’s ignored by the other characters, it’s just not the focus of the book or of the character; and why would it be, when she’s caught in a love triangle with the Frankenstein Monster and the Invisible Man!?

Well, not so much of a love triangle as… a big mess. Here’s an excerpt, in which our heroine Regina has just met the mysterious new student John Evelyn Mandeville, who we will later discover is nicknamed ‘Evo’, and is conversing with him for the first time about some recent deaths…

Lighting flashed far away.

“You think your arrival warrants all this?” I laughed. “Should I be worried?”

He smiled again, this time for a few moments more than before.

“Well, I was referring to the funerals. I suppose everyone’s a bit  out of sorts over the affair?” His voice was uncertain. “Probably not looking to make new friends so quickly.”

Ah, he was worried about his position in a world still grieving the loss of the guys he’d been sent to replace. That was understandable—as I said before one of the girls had used that very word in reference to him. Unfortunately I couldn’t speak for the others, only for myself, and I especially wouldn’t know what the feeling was towards him at Wells’.

“Some of them are,” I said. “I didn’t know Marigold all that well, and I didn’t know the boys at all, but I think those that did are pretty upset over the whole thing.”

“I’d imagine so,” said John Evelyn, averting his eyes to look out across the moors. “I heard it was a drowning.”

And there he was hesitant. Morbid curiosity? I had to confess to being weak to that myself sometimes. Better he asked me than someone who’d be distressed by it.

“That it was. For the boys, I mean. Damn fools should’ve known better than to boat on the lake in August—pardon my language. ” Words of that sort still sprung out sometimes, despite the elocution lessons. “I’ve been here less than a year, but even I know the place is strangled with weeds. You fall in and you’re pretty much done for, no matter how strong a swimmer you are.”

We went single file at this point to avoid one of the bigger puddles. John Evelyn shook his head.

“And the girl killed herself? But if the lake was overgrown, wasn’t it difficult to get the bodies out of the water?”

“Yeah…” I said. I was frowning, because that question made him seem a little too interested. Of course, maybe he didn’t get out than much—he looked like he’d never seen the sun before in his life. “Only, the bodies didn’t drift on account—I mean, because of the weeds. They were right where the boat was. The locals fished them out within two hours, but it was much too late.”

“Were their bodies buried here though? Weren’t they being sent back to their families?”

“Three of the boys were local,” I said. “They keep a certain number of places in both schools for the locals—not from the village, but from some of the outlying places, there are a fair few within fifteen to twenty miles. John Garrett’s family’s based in India these days and Marigold’s were Catholic, and their church didn’t want a suicide on the grounds.”

“Did you see it happen?” he asked me. It was kind of blunt, probably something most would find inappropriate—indeed, I kind of felt it was inappropriate, and yet I didn’t really have any trouble answering him.

“No one did. She left the note on her bed and the groundskeeper found her early the next morning, called the teachers; they made sure none of us girls saw anything.”

There was something else he wanted to ask, I could tell from the look on his face. Something about my answer had left him dissatisfied and I began to wonder what his angle was. Some kind of dark soul, obsessed with death and that? Or was he just what my classmates would have called a ‘nosy parker’. To be honest I’d have hoped for the former, that was no matter to me; but I didn’t want him to start prying into my affairs or annoying anyone else with it.

“Doesn’t bother you, does it?” I asked him.

He met my eyes briefly. “I wouldn’t say bothered,” he said. “Only I have an acquired interest in pathology.”

An aspiring surgeon? That was kind of interesting.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary about the deaths themselves, it was pretty much just drowning and jumping off a tall building. That tall building.”

Cheerful as ever!

As for Ah-Seti-Ten the Dread, that one’s a bit harder to define. It was a mixture of watching too much anime and being annoyed with moral absolutism. If you’re a moral absolutist, and to be fair I think most people are, I’m not setting out on a futile mission to destroy your world view, but I’m a relativist, and so my works often deal with moral and social relativism—by which I mean the main characters often do things or have things happen to them that modern society would consider terrible, but are not and never will be considered so or considered as much so by them.

And vice-versa, when it comes to things modern society would consider good.

Maybe it comes from all my years of studying history, but recently I saw a conversation online about one of these time travel series, and how they were so glad that this guy from the eighteenth century happened to have social mores about one degree off from modern liberalism, because otherwise they’d be completely unlikeable.

This was exactly what I hated about the character, the show, and all shows like it. Yes, they also made a good point about how boring it would be if the show did a ‘hero learns an important lesson about X-ism’ every week, but they’re not the only options. I mean, would you adjust your morals just because you got thrown into another culture? I’m not saying historical characters always have to embody all the nastiest aspects of history, but making them pretty much a modern-day person who hilariously doesn’t know how to work a toaster is just so… fake.

So I guess there’ll be a lot of people who hate this book, and all my books, if they ever read them. Do I care? Meh.

I went into the premise in my ‘Insert Title Here’ post, so here’s an excerpt–our heroine has just been bought at auction, and goes to meet and greet another girl bough by the same person:

The auctioneer pointed his cane at the carrier and the Lilentine was given a gentle shove towards the stairs leading off the stage. I followed her with my eyes rather than watch the next lot. She seemed a bit clueless; all wide-eyed and clumsy—she almost tripped going down those steps. A few of the girls tittered, and I admit I had to hold my own laughter in.

Then I think one of the Farsuchite girls said something along the lines of ‘it’s true what they say about northerners’ and my eyes narrowed. Nietszenti wasn’t as far north as Lilenti, but it was certainly further than Farsuchia. Well, for all their clucking those dumb hens hadn’t impressed me any more than the Lilentine girl. Less, if anything.

I squeezed past them towards the prettier girls, hoping to talk to my new… colleague? I don’t know what you called a slave owned by the same master that you were, or even if there was a word for it. She was indeed very beautiful, with blue-green eyes and smooth, pale skin. When she’d taken her dress off for the crowd she’d revealed a pretty impressive body too.

She was looking worriedly at the carrier when I approached her.

“Hello,” I said.

Clearly she was surprised I was speaking to her. For a few seconds she just blinked at me.

“He bought me too,” I said with a shrug.

Understanding gleamed in her eyes.

“You know Lilentine,” she said happily.

I nodded.

“You’re Nietszentine? I’m liking your marks.”

Her dialect was a bit odd, not utilising the grammar we were taught at the temple. I assumed by ‘marks’ she meant the tattoos, and I shrugged again.

“Thank you,” I said.

She giggled. “‘Thank you’,” she repeated. “You’re talking nice. Like about from Eelin.”

Yeah, I’d guessed she probably wasn’t from the capital.

“Were you from the mountains?” I asked.

“Aye,” she said. “I’m Sukemi-on-Ealisetnin, my father is Sudi-on-Ealisetnin.”

“My name is Orinetpho,” I said. “My father is Orin, Chieftain of the Lower Gezett Valleys, blessed by T’hiea.”

I had to say ‘is’ because Lilentine has no past tense, not that I knew whether he was still alive or not, but then if he knew I was then he’d probably have disowned me, so either way he was no longer my father. Nor, I suppose, could I really say he was blessed by T’hiea, seeing as his lands had been sacked and half his family killed or sold into slavery, but that was a much larger matter.

“Seyirak! Seyirak!” yelled the auctioneer again.

The last girl looked to be Farsuchite, and quite nervous. The bidding that followed got quite vicious.

“Do you know what that word means?” I asked Sukemi.

“Virgin,” she said, blushing a little.

Ah, that made sense. Had our master bought her specifically because of that, or had it actually been the hair, I wondered. Hers was lighter than any I’d seen before, close to the inside of a lemon.

“Do you know who’s he?” Sukemi asked me, pointing at the carrier.

As I shook my head I studied it further. It was taller and plainer than others I’d seen carried around the Farsuchian city, but it was a prettier colour as well, a kind of blue that shimmered like an opal, inlaid with black timbers. The men on each side of it were in full armour; again, not a sort I was familiar with, and their faces were entirely covered.

“They could be Teytakk, I suppose,” I said. It was a place I knew little of. “But in all honesty I’ve no idea.”

We weren’t to learn anything more after the last girl was sold either. The auction was broken up for the afternoon meal, to reconvene for the selling of male slaves at the third hour. The notary who had attended our owner stopped by briefly to tell us to wait outside the tent where our owner had been invited to dine, a grand affair which many of the buyers attended. Our owner was carried inside before we could catch so much as a glimpse of what he looked like.

One of the armoured attendants slung a length of rope over the large branch of a nearby tree, then tied one end around my wrists, the other around Sukemi’s. It wasn’t tight, but it did mean we couldn’t try to escape even if we’d had anywhere to go, and annoyingly the rope was only long enough for one of us to sit down at a time.

He did bring us some food though, which was nice of him; some flat bread and hrethahl, a kind of paste made out of chickpeas, cashews, and the pureed innards of a chicken. Probably a chicken. Most of the hrethahl I’d had since I’d got to Farsuchia had been made from pigeon, but this had come from inside the tent, so I had high hopes for finer fare.

There were a few dried figs as well, but I wasn’t hungry enough to force down a fruit I’d never liked, so I passed mine to Sukemi in exchange for more bread.

As we sat, we talked a bit. She told me how she’d come to be in a place so far away from Lilenti, how the harvest had been bad in the north and her father’s winter stores had suffered. She told me the same conditions had happened five years ago, and at that time her father had refused to sell any of his children for money that would have seen them through the winter, how he’d decided to brave the winter with what he had.

She told me how a brother and two sisters had starved to death that year. Sukemi was the third of thirteen children, all by the same mother, and had nine siblings still living, of which she was the second eldest. The money her family made by selling her would ensure they could buy imported grain in the coming months. Her parents and siblings had been devastated to lose her, but at least none of them would die.

“It wouldn’t be a nice life there anyway,” she told me. “Papa can’t afford a dowry, so my husband is being whoever’ll have me.” She chewed and swallowed. “Like is here, I suppose. Wish Papa can have some of six hundred jeahl—how much that be in sovereigns, you think?”

There were about ten jeahl in a Nietszentine counter, so Sukemi had been bought for sixty of those, but they were worth three times a Lilentine sovereign. “A hundred and eighty,” I told her.

She hissed as though she’d been burned. “Papa getting thirty-two,” she said.

“Unfair,” I agreed, then stood up so she could sit down—a bit ungainly, with my hands bound. “Though my father got nothing, of course.”

Somehow my being stolen made us both smile.

And now I must go make some food of my own…

A Post About NaNothing

Ladies and Gentlemen, Loyal Fans and Archnemesises (Archnemesi?) today I have nothing to say, so I thought I’d start writing anyway and hope for the best.

Let’s see. I ate Singapore Noodles for dinner, watched some anime, did some work, and my dear mater got a new cutting board in the post, which she will use to prepare her victims for the unsuspecting customers of our family pie shop. Or possibly for her sewing, seeing as we don’t have a pie shop. Yet.

But what I’ve been hearing about mostly in the past few days is the run up to month commonly known as November, and with it…

NaNoWriMo!

DUN DUN DUN!

Yeah, I’m not doing it.

“Awwwwwww.”

Shut up! It’s not my fault I’m a lazy bum!

Apparently NaNo is good practice for writing when you start writing as an actual professional writer, and you have to crank out book after book to pay the bills. But you see, this doesn’t apply to me, because I plan on being so outstandingly amazing that my books will sell millions, and then I won’t have to write as often to pay the bills.

Also, I’ll be getting my mum to pay the bills for as long as possible. And to do my laundry—it’s what she’s there for!

Rachelloon’s Mother: “Please, daughter! Please let me out of the basement! If I could only see the light of day one last time…”

Get back to work, mother! You’ll earn your bread and gruel until I say otherwise!

Ah, I kid, I kid, we live in a block of flats, so I don’t actually have a basement. Anyway, back to NaNo. It’s not that I don’t have yet another idea for a novel, or the time on my hands to write it, or that I don’t want to put all my other projects on hold for a whole month (not like those fuckers are going anywhere…) no, it’s mostly the whole laziness thing, and the subsequent certainty of complete and utter failure that’s lurking in the back of my mind…

Also, what novel is 50,000 words? ‘Rooks’ is 120,000—and even that was tough. I know they say it’s only supposed to be a first draft, but I don’t work in drafts, and you know that means I double definitely won’t finish!

Furthermore, this ‘find a region’ page on the tab I have open right next to this one immediately sent me to a group in Berkshire. I don’t live in Berkshire! There’s already a group in the city I do live in, so why the bloody hell do they want me to go to Berkshire! Is it so I can make puns about going berking mad? Is that it!? It is, isn’t it! I knew it!

All right! You’ve forced me into it! I will do NaNo, and I will fail miserably and get my mum to sew a patch of shame into my clothes, a patch that says ‘HERE BE ONE WHO FAILED NaNo! MWAHAHAHA!’

… as soon as she’s finished her gruel.

(How’s that for a weird post? I started with nothing in particular in mind and ended up committing myself to write 50,000 words next month. And I don’t even drink!)

The ‘Needs’ of the Many…

Yeah, I haven’t posted in a few days because I was busy watching cartoons—uh, I mean hard at work. Because I have a job and stuff. Anyway, I couple of days ago I was flipping through channels when I heard someone talking about Violence Against Women on TV, and how they wish shows would stop ‘resorting’ to it.

And I’ve heard stuff like this time and time again, usually under the stamp of how ‘unnecessary’ such action is. You don’t ‘need’ to make a villain use Violence Against Women for people to know that he’s a bad guy—or in the case of ‘Game of Thrones’, one of my personal favourites (and also favourites to complain about), to show what a horrible world they all live in.

Well, they’re right.

And?

Let’s be frank here. When people say you don’t ‘need’ to have people beat some women up in your show, what they really mean is ‘I don’t like seeing women get beaten up, and I wish people wouldn’t show it on TV/film/books/comics etc.’ Because they don’t like it. And fair enough, I’m not sure I’d find a person who sat down in front of Game of Thrones and watched Sansa getting beaten up and went ‘yeah! Woohoo! Beat her more!’ to be an entirely trustworthy sort, but then there’s a lot of shit I don’t like in fiction, and I don’t think it really makes any difference to anyone but me.

(and I mean a lot, as in, I am one of the pickiest people in the world when it comes to stuff I like)

And you don’t ‘need’ to put any of that stuff I don’t like in your shows/films/books, because none of that stuff is necessary either. But then, since you can say that about pretty much anything in fiction, it’s entirely worthless as a critique. Sure, most of this crap is stupid and badly written, and a lot of it plays into some of those trends I hate personally too, like the villain himself—

“Well, if he’s a villain, he must exhibit every type of villainous behaviour there is; therefore he’ll beat up women! Nuances are for characters I actually give a shit about putting some thought into!”

(Actually sometimes that kind of cartoonish villainy is pretty funny. In the same way Hush, Hush was pretty funny. But I digress)

However, ‘I don’t like it’ is not a reason not to put Violence Against Women in fiction. I mean, personally I wish there was more of it; not because I enjoy seeing women get beaten up (well, not women in particular at any rate), but because I’d like to see this stupid stigma done away with. As far as I’m concerned you can use violence towards any characters you like as a means of making stuff happen in your story.

And if people complain that it shouldn’t be used cheaply because it’s something that has profound effects on people in real life? Well, guess what else has profound effects on people in real life? Murder. Adultery. Disease. Politics. Religion. Death. Animal Cruelty. Loss of property. I’m sure the list continues; some of the above is stuff that I hate to see in fiction, but it’s there, and stuff like that has to be there, otherwise what the hell are you going to write about?

So rage against it if it’s executed poorly, but don’t call every instance of it ‘unnecessary’; just admit that it makes you personally uncomfortable. Alternatively, rage against the number of times I started a paragraph with ‘and’ in this poorly thought-out spiel, and don’t listen to a word I say. XD

Nighty-night!