Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 book challenge: month 2, book 2

O.k., this month wasn't much of a challenge. The topic, "near future / postapocalyptic dystopia," is one I often read, and the book, Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac (2013), is one I probably would've read, anyway. Still, I believe that self-improvement consists not only of getting our weaknesses up to standard, but also building on our strengths. To be a reader's advisory "expert" on a topic includes keeping up to date.

The disaster in this one is a "Cloud" that knocks out all electricity, with the result that scores of genetically modified monsters are set free from their cages, and society quickly re-arranges itself in a brutal form of feudalism.

In having a Native American (American Indian, NDN, whatever name you're most comfortable with) protagonist, the author deliberately makes the point that Indigenous people do not just belong to the past, but are in the present and will be a part of the future.

It's interesting to note that the plot interweaves Apache folklore and videogame structure. The teenaged protagonist and narrator, Lozen, draws on the folk stories for inspiration to kill various monsters, gaining fighting experience, acquiring useful items, and making helpful allies as she fulfills a series of quests. The main quest is to free her family from a prison-like feudal compound (literally a repurposed penitentiary), and yes, there is a powerful boss to defeat at the end.

Monday, February 3, 2014

the j. k. rowling brouhaha

J. K. Rowling has made the terrible confession that she made her marriage choices (at least the one for Hermione) for "personal reasons." And she said it as if it were some sort of awful betrayal of her readers.

The fact is, there are always several ways a story could go. What's important is that the choices made fit the rest of the story and as much of the real world as the story world intersects with, which in the case of character behavior, means human nature (if the characters are human, and sometimes if they're not). And human nature, messy, fickle thing that it is, has plenty of wiggle room.

So, does the Hogwarts kids'  choice of life mates really violate either their characters or human mating patterns in general? I don't think so. It frequently happens that young people who have been very close friends from childhood and from that beginning flirt with romance as teens, wind up marrying other people. As for the lead male and the lead female in fiction getting together at the end, that's contrived, as satisfying as it may be. (I personally prefer satisfying and contrived, and still think Anna should have married the King of Siam, because they sang a duet together, but I have the maturity of a three-year old who loves musicals.)

All of the kids, Ginny included, once she enters the series, are good friends and have bonded through life-threatening adventures. Ginny is pretty and fun, and shares Harry's love of Quidditch. Ron's biggest strong points, that he's a nice guy and comes from a loving family and thus has had a role model for being a good family man, make him a great catch for the long run. Literarily, the story of Ginny and Harry's relationship unfolds over several volumes of the series. Hermione and Ron interact throughout the entire series; the theme of romance finally blossoming with a partner one is at odds with or thinks of the other as dorky or annoying or just a pal is a common one in romance novels.

But the main point is this:
In spite of all the talk of stories "writing themselves" and "wanting to be told," characters "having a life of their own" and "surprising the author with what they do," the prosaic fact is that ordinary, human authors actively, of their own imaginations, write stories. It is an act of the will as much as an act of the Muse. All of it, from the most sophomoric Lt. Mary Jane fanfic to the best serious literature,  boils down to some person writing down a personal fantasy. It needs no apology.