Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Meme of Alphabet, Conclusion

Damn you, Avengers! You were so good, you totally made me forget to post this.;)

Part Thirteen, And Last:

Y is for—Yu Ming-ch'in

Aka, the hex formerly known as Songbird, who I frankly made up as a bit of a human plot twist, the way you do—she appears early on in A Book of Tongues to basically perform three functions: Confirm the parasitical nature of most hex-on-hex interaction, deliver exposition along with a particular item and be creepy, with a side-order of demonstrating just how effed up someone else raised in the same whorish San Francisco subculture as Chess Pargeter was could be. I made her Chinese because of the San Francisco connection, made her an albino because I was thinking of Bridget Lin Chin-hsia in The Bride With White Hair, and made her twelve-or-thirteen because I liked the idea of this tiny little girl who happens to have been raised in a tradition that makes her far more knowledgable about hexation than the Rev is topping a guy the size of Clancy Brown. And since I thought I wasn't going ever to see her again, I convinced myself that that meant the fact that she conforms to a bunch of Wily Oriental stereotypes wasn't quite as gross as it might be...but even then, I think I also knew I was fooling myself.

One way or the other, by the end of A Book I'd realized that Songbird was far too useful and snarky a character to dispose of that quickly, and by the beginning of A Rope of Thorns, she'd even grown an actual name (though again, if I had a dollar for every time I had to cross-check whether her family patronymic was Yu or Wu, I'd have at least enough for dinner and a movie). We discovered that she both reveres and resents her upbringing, that she thinks of herself as a thousand years of breeding made flesh, a general who is also a slave—that while she doesn't exactly like having been sent to America to manage a whorehouse (and potentially whore herself out as well, on top of it), she just doesn't see any other paths to take. So her partnership with Pinkerton, while mainly entered into to avoid the prospect of being fished in and devoured by Ixchel, is a sort of liberation for her; like Chess, she's young—very young, and triply disadvantaged in her gender, her race and her albinism. And for all her power, she does like being taken care of.

In A Tree of Bones, meanwhile, we rejoin with Songbird at her lowest possible ebb, the point at which most characters start to change in interesting ways; she's been forcibly de-powered by a well-meaning Doc Asbury, captured by a coalition of long-nosed barbarians and American savages, and wakes up every day stranded in the middle of a desert, a bad place to be if you're equally melanin- and friends-poor. In order to survive and prosper, she has to discard some of her assumptions, her hereditary Chauvinism very much included, and form new alliances...indeed, much like Chess in A Rope, what her journey's all about is basically having to grow up, which in her case is about becoming a fully-realized human being, as well as a hex. It was a joy to write, really.

Z is for—Zoroastrianism.

This is something I strive to avoid in narrative generally, because a system in which absolute Good always struggles with absolute Evil frankly bores me silly. It's particularly pernicious when you're writing horror as opposed to fantasy, because a certain moral weight tends to creep in—ie, one set of values is identified with Good/Right and thus another set of values is identified with Evil/Wrong. Given my propensity to write about people who are antiheroes at best, I much prefer the Mexica idea that certain values are simply inherent in the system, and cannot be “gotten rid of” in any permanent way. Or, indeed, the Diné concept of Balance being the most important thing to maintain, especially as the tides of natural and supernatural energy eddy back and forth.

All of which is, I suppose, just to say this: If you're expecting A Tree of Bones to end with a bang, you're half-right. If you're expecting it to end for good, however...not so much. Nothing ever ends.

It's been a fun ride, though, and it's definitely over. For now.  

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