Monday, May 14, 2012

Music in A Tree Of Bones: The Longest Post EVAR

One day to Release, and I finally make it to the Inevitable Music Post...longer and crazier, as befits the longest, craziest book I've written thus far. It also breaks down into thematic sections, so here we go:

My go-to list of Get Off Your Ass And Start Writing tracks, ie the songs I was listening to while cobbling together Book One of A Tree of Bones, which is called "Rain-Of-Fire Weather", go here. They basically describe the way my characters are supposed to feel—the Rev, Morrow, Doc Asbury, the Hex City and Bewelcome contingents, etc.--now that they've been engaged in a grindingly dreadful, quotidian mutual struggle against impossible odds for upwards of four months.
First off, we have the original version of Alexisonfire's "The Northern" (, a song which has rightfully been described as perfect for either a Supernatural or Carnivale vid, though I also think it'd do really well the The Borgias. I love the call-and-response between fuzzy guitar vs. distinct guitar, between Dallas Greene's painful hallelujah-choir vocals and the more Cookie Monsterish interjections of George Pettit. (I recently learned that they describe their aesthetic as being "the sound of two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight", which makes sense). The acoustic version of this was Sheriff Love, but THIS means full-out war.

Next up is Puscifer's "The Mission (M is for Milla Mix")" (, featuring guest vocals by—oddly enough—Milla Jovovich. Listening to the lyrics, I'm fairly certain this was developed for the soundtrack of her remake of Ms. .45; it also reminds me of the weird pseudo-New York voices the English version of Baccano has its characters affect. One way or the other, the beat definitely works, as does the tone.

Then we go straight to Agnes Obel's "Riverside" (, which apparently featured on the—pilot?—of Revenge. I love the overlapping vocals on this one as well, all Agnes herself, like a lullabye for some drowning girl caught in a wilderness of mirrors. I like the overall regret and hopelessness of it, the sense of bad decisions made for stupid reasons, the idea that whatever you do now will probably be useless at best and utterly destructive at worst. Because I'm like that.;)

And here's a double shout-out to e.e. cummings and Michael Ondaatje, by way of darkest New Zealand: "The Proximity of Death (Blue-Eyed Boy)" (, by Jordan Reyne. Her album is called How The Dead Live, and this song obviously reminds me of Chess, who everybody thinks is dead right now--down in the depths, anyhow, stranded in the Underneath with Tezcatlipoca walking 'round wearing his skin, flirting with both Morrow and the Rev while rubbing it in that he is really not him, not in any way that counts-for one thing, Chess's eyes are green. (P.S.: I found it on by typing in "dark folk", much the same way I found a lovely dirge by the Belgian group Ghent called "Kissing The Anus of a Black Cat".)

Then there's "Heavy Rain" by Torqux & Twist (, which I tripped across because somebody used it to score the American release trailer for Detective Dee & the Phantom Flame. It just seemed to work, especially since one of the ways in which Hex City has been deforming the New Mexico ecosystem has been to make is continually rain on Bewelcome. Fighting in the mud ahoy!

Then it's down to Mictlan-Seven Dials, for some family-oriented fun with Chess and his redoubtable Ma, the late "English" Oona Pargeter. 
We begin with Tom McRae's “For the Restless” (, which contains the image that perfectly encapsulates Oona for me—no, not a train-wreck beauty queen, so much, as You raised me to be cruel, you raised me like a bruise/I'm bleeding still. Part of Chess's action in this book involves coming to terms with not just the damage Oona's done to him but the damage he, all unwitting, did to her; this is a good start.
 After which we switch to Larkin Grimm's “Blonde and Golden Johns” (, a weirdly catchy look inside a hooker with no heart of gold to speak of, just a change-purse vajayjay and legs like scissors and butcher's knives, to quote Nick Cave...Oona as she ended up, as we left her, to be sure. But not as we find her.

Scarlet Town”, by Gillian Welch (, is about disappointment of a truly epic brand. Equally epic, meanwhile, is Sarah Jarosz's murder ballad-esque version of Edgar Allan Poe's “Annabelle Lee” (, which hints at great loves overturned and horrifying prices paid.
 But then there's the ultimate Christmas carol-turned-lullabye for a mother who spent most of her time wanting to shake her screaming, ginger, penis-gifted baby 'til something far more rewarding popped out: “Judas (Was a Red-Headed Man)”, by June Tabor & Oyster Band (couldn't find a video). This is no fairytale, for all its trappings—in a lot of ways, Oona got the son she well-deserved. But in a lot of other ways, they both deserved better.

At this point, we get into songs for one of my all-time favourite bastards, “Reverend” Asher E. Rook. All these songs are about pain, to one degree or another. They're about yearning for forgiveness, from someone specific, from God Himself. From anybody. And knowing you don't even vaguely deserve it.

“Devil with the Green Eyes”, Matthew Sweet (

The devil with the green eyes

Said you were never meant to be mine.

'Cause I came up from a dark world

And every love I've ever known,

Every love I've ever known

Every love I've ever known,
Is dead.

Black Heart”, Calexico (
One man’s close pursuit is another man’s 

Last chance, make it through the divide. 

Last chance, suffer the weight or get buried by this 

Black heart, sweeping over the land,

Black heart, crawling its way 

To the four corners of the world.

Bartholomew”, The Silent Comedy (
Ate the bread that once was stone,

Fell from a cliff, never broke a bone,
Bowed down to get the kings overthrown,
And I'm all alone, and the fire grows,

And I'm all alone, and the fire grows.

The Other Side”, David Gray (

Honey, now if I'm honest,

I still don't know what love is.

Breathless”, Dan Wilson (

Your voice is echoing again

Through catacombs inside my mind
And I've been dreaming of revenge—
To make you love me more than even you can try.

“Poison & Wine”, the Civil Wars (

Your hands can heal, your hands can bruise,
I don't have a choice but I still choose you.

Oh, I don't love you, but I always will.

“Draw Your Swords”, Angus and Julia Stone (
So come on, Love, draw your swords,

Shoot me to the ground.

You are mine, and I am yours—
Let's not fuck around.

Then a few songs that remind me of that dread item Lady Rainbow herself, the Suicide Moon, Queen Rope, She of the Traps and Snares...Ixchel-tzin, hex-ghost-goddess founder of Hex City and initiator of its bright new future, if only so as to use and discard it in the service of resurrecting a far older, far darker world.

First up is “What the Water Gave Me”, by Florence + the Machine (, about a “cruel mistress” with whom “a bargain must be made” requiring self-drowning, pockets full of stones, a sacrifice as certain as the one that initially spawned her. Like Candyman himself, Ixchel seems to have made the most of her original victimization, becoming literally larger than life (and death): Unforgettable, inescapable, the flood that sucks you down and transforms you into something cold, wet, Mictlan-Xibalba-bound. This is a definite aural expression of that sentiment.

Then again, she can also blow past like a storm, enveloping everything around her in terrible, epiphany-spawning darkness. Thus my use of “Dark Storm” by the Jezabels ( and the Scanners' “Salvation” (, which get this point across admirably—the frenzy that will sweep up even a man as firmly-rooted as Reverend Rook and whirl him headlong, 'til his groin pops and his brain leaks out his ears. I’ve been waiting for the dark to come,/My temptation and salvation/I’ve been waiting for the tide to turn...Dark eyes become divine/I need the love I crave/Your hands they burn like mine/I’ll take you to my grave.

As I think I probably indicated in my review earlier this year, there was basically only one good thing in the film Red Riding Hood, and it was a doozy: The use, in a truly freaky drunken Mediaeval “hey-we-killed-a-werewolf! (but not really)” village festival, of Fever Ray's song “The Wolf” ( It begins with what sounds like one of those Swiss alphorns blowing so low you can hear it mountains away, followed by a frenzy of ullulation and a possessed-sounding vocal eking out prophetic poetry: We took you out/From your mother’s womb/Our temple,/Your tomb/Can be your pick/Not pawned/The poison/Is blood. (Owwwwoooooooo!) Suitable for all Hex City-based rituals and revels, with Ixchel slouching on her overseer's throne, accepting—nay, demanding—constant tribute, in that same flowery substance.

And finally, we conclude with the track “Brotsjor” by Olafur Arnalds (, which I first heard on So You Think You Can Dance U.S. as the backing for a pas-de-deux between a thirst-tortured desert straggler and the sexy vulture who wanted to eat him once he died. “Sexy vulture” sounds to me like a costume Ixchel would be entirely in favour of, so there you go.;)

The rest of my playlist is divided neatly into the two halves of my central sort-of-OT3: Yancey Kloves/Ed Morrow vs. Chess Pargeter. As we all know, this is more a couple and their friend-with-benefits, a vector in which big, solid Ed forms the overtly sexual midpoint between Chess and Yancey, who can never be more to each other than platonic compadres—and even that's a bit dicey, since Chess is outright queer and Ed is a straight guy with one exception, so neither of them thinks that what they've had together in terms of physical intimacy is workable in any sort of longstanding way, not least because they're both "in love" with other people. But there's a certain emotional intimacy that all three characters share, by this point, which I've taken great pride in building.

Morrow and Yancey:

“Run”, Daughter (

When I powder my nose

He will powder his gun,

And if I try to get close
He is already gone.

Don't know what we're doing,

Don't know what we've done,

But the fire is coming

So I think we should run.

“Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”, Tim O'Brien (

Señor, señor, can you tell me where we're headin'?

Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?

Seems like I been down this way before.
Is there any truth in that, senor?

“Like A Mountain”, Timber Timbre (

Oh, the mountain-top 

Oh, the visions stop

And I will reap the locust crop,
'cause I love you like a mountain.

Oh, the mountain-top 

Oh, the bleeding's stopped

And down goes the hatchet on the chopping block,
'cause I love you like a mountain.

“Supernaturally”, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (

Once I was your heart's desire—
Now I am the ape hunkered by the fire

With my knuckles dragging through the mire.

You float by, so majestically.

You're my north, my south, my east, my west—
You are the girl that I love best.

With an army of tanks bursting from your chest.
I wave my little white flag at thee.

“Ain't No Sunshine”, Wovenhand (

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,

Only darkness everyday...
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

And this house just ain't no home,
Anytime she goes away.

“Sleeper in the Valley”, Laura Veirs (

So soon, so soon,

And the crows, they swoon
At the two red holes
In his right side, oh.


The Day”, Murder By Death (

It's the shifting of the guard,

Time to start anew
The old gods have all failed,

And their successors too.

My king, my king

Will wipe the slate clean,

Houses become tombs;

My king, my king

Will take the fruit 
of every single womb

And make it his own.

“Queer Eyed Boy”, Rumspringa (

Mama, why's the sky so red?

Well, folks'll say there goes that queer-eyed boy,

Always pointin' at the stars.

“Davy Brown”, Ben Nichols (

Don’t believe in Hell

But he figures somehow,

Even if it’s real,
It’s gonna spit him back out.

The Good Hand”, Wovenhand (

I am nothing without

his ghost within...

I am, I am my father's son.

See the good hand,

see what the good hand done.

Eye For An Eye”, UNKLE (

...a tooth for a tooth.

Run, run, run, but you just can't hide.

(Have you passed through this night?)

“Who Do You Love?” George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers (

Got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, 

I'm just twenty-two and I don't mind dying.

Who do you love?

Rum Brave,” Murder by Death (

When we meet, you will see
I will destroy everything of beauty.

When we meet, then you'll know...

I'll be the axe that clears the forest.
We were left alone, left alone,

Every king on his lonely throne.

We were left alone, left alone,

Every king on his lonely throne.


Enjoy the carnage, everybody. Tomorrow's the day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fanfiction And (Not Vs.) The Hexslinger Series

Four days to go! So here's a new essay on a complex topic, one which hopefully won't draw too many trolls. I guess we'll see.

A new piece from Alyssa Rosenberg, here (, got me thinking about the role of fanfiction in the Hexslinger Series' development. Or actually, more accurately, it was the juxtaposition of this article—just one more in roughly a million ruminations on the potential impact of 50 Shades of Grey and its success—and the fact that while I was searching under the tag-term “hexslinger” on Tumblr, I cam across this (

In case you're wondering (or are too chicken to click), it's a screen-grab from the “Making Of” feature on James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma remake which highlights the part of Charlie Prince (Ben Foster)'s outfit you almost never get to see, ie the lavender shirt, royal purple brocaded waistcoat, purple, gold and lavender-patterned neckerchief, plus a nice watch and chain—probably the one he took from that dead Pinkerton after the stagecoach robbery—and some sort of double-strand necklace of silver and little jet beads that sort of looks like somebody's stolen rosary put to bad usage. Underneath it, the poster ( has written: “CHEEESSSS PAAARRRRGETERRRR.”

Which is hilarious on the face of it, and beautifully apt, and generally makes my heart soar with squee, just like the couple or so times I've run across Hexslinger series fan-art, or every time I Google my name and get somebody raving about how much they like the story/Chess in particular. That frilly little sociopath really seems to have connected with a lot of people, which makes me vey happy indeed. But it does open up an interesting line of inquiry, one which never really goes away.

When A Book of Tongues was first going to press, I had to make a quick tactical decision about whether or not I would publicly “own up” to A) having written fanfiction in the past, B) still writing it now and then and C) the fact that if I'd never become obsessed enough with 3:10 to Yuma to write fanfiction for it, the Hexslinger Series probably wouldn't exist. In fact, it goes even deeper than that, because when I first started work on the novel, I was integrating a bunch of magic-system notes I'd previously made for a series which would have taken place in 1870s New York, a la my then-obsession du jour, Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. So there would always have been a fanfiction-based influence on the series no matter what, because frankly, that's the way my magpie mind tends to operate: I find something I like, I fixate on it, figure out what the draw is, boil it down for parts and start over, effing with it until it's hopefully not that thing anymore, not really.

So the decision was easy, in a way. As I told Torontoist, in one of my first interviews on A Book...: “I’ve never made any attempt to conceal that the originating template for Chess Pargeter was definitely Ben Foster’s performance as Charlie Prince, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe)’s ambiguously gay sidekick. But as I went further, Chess started to change, along with the narrative—I mean, just making him aware of his own motivations makes him very much not Charlie…”

In other words, I've never seen much point in lying about this process, not least because I've always been quote-quote “stupid” enough to post my fanfiction under my own name rather than making up a pseud, like everybody else and their sister. I mean, the most rudimentary Internet search turns up an archive a friend constructed for me as...third on the list, I think. As secrets go, it's not exactly a closed one, though since my interests tend to be pretty non-mainstream—I think the most juggernaut fandom I've ever written for was X-Men: The Movie, and that was only twice—I tend to get a flattering mixture of small yet extremely positive response. In retrospect, I've been told that I was apparently a “BNF” of HBO's OZ fandom, for example, and while I don't quite remember it the same way, I certainly had a hell of a lot of fun while I was in it.

Possibly, it's the fact that I was already a published author—making my living from nonfiction, placing short fiction in various venues, seeing my stories adapted for TV by Telescene's The Hunger—when I first started posting fanfiction and interacting with Internet fandom which keeps me from completely coming down on either part of the amateur/professional divide that you constantly observe at work in articles like Rosenberg's. The notion that fanfiction is a phase you outgrown or a place to practice your craft until you're ready to “graduate” to the heady heights of paying work is one which some people believe devoutly, while other people find it reductionist and insulting. Why should somebody like Joss Whedon be more respected than I am, they ask, just because he played with the Powers That Be's toys under contract, in their sandbox, and made the exploitative hegemony which keeps information unfree $200 million dollars over a single weekend doing it? Aren't I doing exactly the same thing, in far less tethered ways, and then making the result available to anybody with an Internet connection?

And then there are the authors who believe that fanfiction is injuring them somehow—either personally, by violating the characters and worlds they consider their “children” (ick), or simply by devaluing their brand and/or opening them up to potential legal action. (Which works both ways, of course; fanartists everywhere still live in vague fear of a Cease and Desist order from any given iteration of “...the TV show I cannot name, for fear of legal action...”, as the writer-director of William Shatner Leant Me His Hairpiece puts it, and rightly so; copyright can be a harsh mistress, at least in theory. Though there are plenty of acafen and fen with genuine legal experience around who can spend literal hours demonstrating the many ways in which “transformative work” not only hearkens back to a long line of historical precedents—Shakespeare, mythology, satire, homage, etc., from The Wind Done Gone to March—but also falls into cracks which make it remarkably difficult to do anything about, even when money actually does start changing hands.)

My position is personal rather than philosophical, however; I don't believe moral force automatically rests with either side, generators or samplers, not least because the balance of who exactly qualifies as what tends to shift back and forth so erratically. We're all creators, after all. But I also grew up in a freelance culture (both my parents are actors whose ability to make a living “from their art” has ebbed and flowed with the currents of two extremely volatile forty-year periods), so the idea that wanting to get paid for what you produce makes you some sort of whore for The Man is one I will never be exactly down with. There has to be some way to reduce the polarization effect, if only so we can go five minutes without somehow damaging each other's ego-integrity.

What I do know is that without fanfiction as an outlet, a form of writing I didn't feel I needed to monetarize, I wouldn't have been able to explore some of the currents which lead me, eventually, to where I am now. I wouldn't have eventually become familiar and comfortable with the idea of writing a long-form narrative in chunks, of not constantly checking and re-tooling things until they were “perfect”, of simple having the confidence to write End Chapter Whatever/Begin Chapter Next, and move the eff on. So my involvement in fanfiction was utterly integral to my process, in terms of bringing the Hexslinger Series to birth—and in a lot of ways, it remains integral to my process: Obsession, inspiration, alchemical combination, numbers-filing, brave new content, ta dah! Something fresh, something alive. Something “mine”.

And as should probably go without saying, I look totally forward to the day I trip across evidence of someone playing in my sandbox, for a change. I may not be able to acknowledge it directly, but that's what Creative Commons is for, man—it's flattery, not damage. It means, essentially, that somebody fell in love—however indirectly—with “me”. How can that ever be bad?   

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.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Meme of Alphabet, Part 12

W is for—War

I'm no Harry Turtledove, so the minute I realized that pretty much the entirety of A Tree of Bones was going to take place during all full-on clash between Hex City and the forces surrounding it (hexacious, as well as non-), I knew I was at least partially boned. So I opted for both a flash-forward which would skip a fair amount of build-up and establishment—a bit of an HBO's Game of Thrones model which would jump my characters right into the battle (or string of battles), ensuring I could hit the ground running with my tools already assembled—and a certain timeline compaction which would force me to keep bulling on through, finishing things up with a spatter of plot twists and a multi-part climax. While A Book of Tongues takes place over roughly two years, folding back and forth through time throughout, A Rope of Thorns takes place sequentially over roughly a month, and A Tree's action is the shortest yet—four days at the most, barring an epilogue.

X is for—Xenogenesis

In case you haven't noticed, “X” words are pretty damn hard, both to find and to define. But since we've already established that hexation has a genetic component (which is how the Chinese maintain their breeding-for-hexation program, one assumes, as well as the main reason it's generally considered a bad idea for hexes to hook up with each other), and because this one means “the supposed generation of offspring completely and permanently different from the parent”, I'm going to use it as my opportunity to talk about the problem of hexacious kids, in general.

At the start of A Book of Tongues, Doc Asbury tells Ed Morrow and a bunch of other agents that most hexes “express” either at puberty (if female) or after suffering life-threatening injuries (if male). So you might think that there are very few hexes who express as children...except, of course, for the fact that our story is set during a time-perid when infant mortality was crazily high. One can't help but think that there must be a fair portion of people who express as children, or even as infants. Most of them probably don't make it to adulthood, because either they're killed by the non-hexacious around them once their power is recognized, or because other—older—hexes suck them dry, sometimes even their own parents, sometimes without even knowing they're doing it. Mrs Followell admits as much, in her brief back-story.

With these possibilities always looming, it makes sense that much more of A Tree than you might think is predicated on the idea that the Hex City Oath may make it possible for hexacious and non-hexacious parents of hex-babies alike to deal with their dangerously unpredctable offspring in a slightly more humane way—to bond together in a literal way, facing the future as a unit, nurturing, tutoring and supporting each other. And given that (as Asbury also observes) much of the general misery hexes have inflicted in the past springs from their sense of themselves as spiritual lepers feared and hated wherever they go, forever aloooone, this may bode well for human/hex relations in future...once this current war is put to bed, that is.

Tomorrow: Our alphabetized tour of the Hexslinger-'verse concludes, with Y and Z!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Meme of Alphabet, Part 11

U is for—Underworld(s)

Given how A Rope of Thorns finished up, it's no kind of spoiler at all to say that at least one subplot of A Tree of Bones takes place almost entirely in the Underworld. Not quite Mictlan-Xibalba, so much, as a larger, linked constellation of Afterlives, a Hell-spectrum whose individual parts mirror each other. Parts seem a bit more like Limbo, while other parts seem like Purgatory, and where you end up definitely depends not only on who you are while alive but what sort of business you leave unfinished when you die. At any rate, I had fun designing and referencing the various sections Chess and his Ma have to pass through on their upwards journey. Having a fairly good grasp on both myself and my druthers, though, I guess I always knew that one of them would end up “having” to be Valhalla.;)

V is for—Victory (Ambiguous)...a nebulous concept in most modern Westerns, since we all “know” that this is an era in flux, a moment which is already being overtaken by its own entropy. Also difficult in terms of the shake-down from Pinkerton's Skirmish is the fact that no matter who wins, the world has already been irretrievably altered: Mages now can meddle, just like it's been amply demonstrated that the non-hexacious can fight against hexes, with arcanistric help. Which is probably all just a roundabout way of saying don't expect anything quite as unequivocal as the end of your basic superhero movie, because I don't have much interest in that. This is horror, after all—or at least dark fantasy, depending on where it's shelved.

Tomorrow: W and X!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Meme of Alphabet, Part 10

S is for—Seven Dials

As the Five Points was to Gangs of New York-era Gotham, so Seven Dials was to 1800s London—the centre of the rats' maze, a place where the city's criminal underclass had congregated and bred since long before Transportation to Australia was enacted into the Criminal Code. It was, in other words, a truly superlative slum which gave rise to a culture and language of its own (Thieves' Cant, whose roots are still recognizable even today in Cockney rhyming slang, and indeed also made the jump over to Amerikay along with various immigrant groups, forming the base of the flash palaver Amsterdam and Bill the Butcher speak), and it's here that Chess's Ma Oona was born and raised. Which is why he ends up in a sort of half-memory, half-parody version of it at the end of A Rope of Thorns, his own personal Hell into the many-roomed prison of Hell Proper. I was particularly interested in how claustrophobic and gross Chess, who's spent his entire life in a series of non-industrialized places—many of the empty of almost everything except landscape—would find the fog and soot-saturated, black-and-grey heart of London's steam- and coal-driven machine. I guess it also stands in for the unrecognizable truths about our own backgrounds and histories we sometimes have to have our faces rubbed in in order to progress, literally or figuratively...but in a lot of ways, this was mainly for the lulz.

T is for—Two-Spirited

At the end of A Rope of Thorns, we were introduced to Yiska, aka The Night Has Passed, a “woman chief” with magic-worker genes who has deliberately chosen not to pursue that part of her heritage, mainly because she really enjoys kicking ass in a way her culture labels specifically “male”. This makes her effectively “Two-Spirited”, a category left open for people who don't respond well to gender norms—men who want to be wives, for example, as well as women who want their own. And while I'm not sure whether or not I'd categorize Yiska as FTM transgendered per se, what I found increasingly fun about her existence is that it offers an alternative to the automatically antagonistic way Chess has been living his life. As Grandma points out, they're pretty similar people, except for the fact that Yiska was raised with a certain sense of responsibility which comes out of having a community to call her own. And while it may well be too late for Chess to develop anything of the same sort, the hexes and hex-allied in and around New Aztectlan could do far worse than to copy her example.

(Then again, he is young, as even he probably forgets, most of the time. It's possible he may yet settle.)

Tomorrow: U and V!