Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Our blog tour this month goes out to Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, not to be confused with Spy Hunter, by R. J. Anderson. You can read Anderson's web site, or even her blog, or even (shudder) her Twitter.*
Sometimes I deeply regret not having read the book for the Blog Tour, and this is one of those times. Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter is the story of a fairy named Knife, who lives in a slowly dying fairy society that has lost its magic, where everyone has been reduced to an every-fairy-for-himself mentality, and where many are coming down with a strange plague called the Silence. Sent on a mission by the queen, Knife encounters a human named Paul and they forge some kind of close friendship or other. That's more-or-less all the info I can get; too many reviewers are being too good about not giving away spoilers.
I regret not having read this partly because all the reviews I've located indicate it's a competently written fantasy with some good plot twists, and partly because I'm a fan of human-nonhuman romances in sf and fantasy. When I say that in the wrong context, people usually look at me funny, scoot their chairs away from me, or recommend therapists, but all I'm really saying is that I enjoy folkloric motifs F300 through F305 in Stith Thompson's Index, with some of the B600s thrown in for good measure.
Besides, stories where a human gets a supernatural companion seem always to be to the advantage of guys, and since I'm a guy, I like those kinds of stories. Male humans in such tales get to hang out with fairies, elf princesses, girl robots, jungle princesses, mermaids, Saracen princesses, swan maidens, space princesses, Norse goddesses, furry jungle space princesses, and so forth. Female humans, on the other hand, generally get stuck with goats, hairy beasts, armored mecha, giant gorillas, half-demons, abusive vampire boyfriends, or Ron Perlman.
While I happened to be reading Maral Agnerian's review of the anime series Brigadoon (not to be confused with the musical of the same name), I came upon this quote: "Why do guys always get half-dressed babes for robot protectors, while girls get weird-looking mecha?" An interesting question. It may be partly because guys merely want eye candy while girls want someone who can actually get the job done.
On the other hand, some time ago, I temporarily had in my possession Archetypes And Motifs In Folklore And Literature: A Handbook, which contains an essay in which Carole G. Silver suggests that stories like "Beauty and the Beast," where a female protagonist gets a hairy and uncouth monster for a roommate, are analogies for real life, where women have to marry--and subsequently learn to live with--men, who are foul and hairy monstrosities in their own right. As I read them, all those fairy princesses, likewise, are simply exaggerated depictions of real women, who are beautiful, numinous, and otherwordly creatures surrounded by taboos and rituals as bizarre and seemingly arbitrary as the laws of Faerie, and who can cause mysterious metamorphoses--like the way they can make those bull horns mounted on the wall magically transform into a set of lacy curtains. Lacy, waving curtains.
(Once upon a time, men like John Milton could fool themselves into believing men and women were roughly equal, with men having all the reason and women having all the beauty. Now it's known that women are quite capable of reason, but they still have all the beauty. There is truth in the adage that men were created equal but women were created superior.)
The general impression I get (correct me if I'm wrong, ladies) is that women don't much mind being paired with fictional monsters. Back when I was writing my Bone fan fiction and posting it on-line chapter by chapter, my most enthusiastic reviews came from a girl with a habit of writing Phantom of the Opera Mary Sues. Some time later, I was in a conversation with a man and a woman wherein the subject of fangirls' attraction to the Phantom of the Opera came up. The man shook his head in bewilderment and said he couldn't understand why girls would fantasize about a deformed psychopath, and I said, "Don't you get it? They want to save him." The woman in the conversation confirmed my analysis.
I daresay it would be difficult for women to ever love men if they could never love monsters, because these stories of lovable monsters are merely exaggerations of the way things actually work; men are unruly and filthy, but they're also the ones best equipped to do all the protecting and fighting and so forth, yet they need women to civilize them and make them presentable. For that reason, I can't get as bent out of shape over Twilight as some Christian reviewers can. While Spes Unica is running a sustained attack on Stephanie Meyer's series and Michael O'Brien is going so far as to accuse Meyer of receiving communiques from Satan, I can barely get up enough energy for a yawn. Schoolgirls' hearts are fluttering over a dangerous monster-man? Tell me something else new.
Actually, I find the fangirls' silly infatuations with dangerous characters to be one of the more charming and harmless absurdities in fandom, and I daresay that if the time comes when girls no longer swoon over beast-men and boys no longer daydream about elf princesses, romance will be really and truly dead. The main reason I'm annoyed by Twilight is because today's teen lit is apparently so lacking in either charming monsters or even basic good manners that a whiny, emo, bishie control-freak such as Edward Cullen looks like the paragon of chivalry.
Problems arise, of course, when anyone takes these things too literally or too seriously, or moves into the fiction that is genuinely unhealthy. When we take any kind of fantasy too seriously, we become either lost in daydreams and miss out on reality, or we become superstitious. Both those who delve into the occult after reading fantasy and a lot of the Christian critics of fantasy appear to be guilty of superstition (news flash: there's really no such thing as witches, vampires, or Harry Potter). And any young woman enamored of charming monster stories who seeks out a really bestial man, like the controlling, abusive kind, may find herself disappointed when he doesn't transform into a handsome prince. This is why the appetites must be subjected to the reason: not everything we want is good for us.
Um, so what I'm really trying to say, when you get right down to it, is simply this: Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter sounds like a good book.
CSF&F Rebel: Blog Tour Hunter:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
*Twitter is the Mark of the Beast described in the Book of Revelation and The Sci Fi Catholic cannot be held personally responsible for any inconvenient or unexpected damnation resultant from the use thereof.