caper_est: The Liberty Bell strikes! (liberty)
Because I'm in the preliminary stages of revising my fantasy novel, I've found myself dwelling on the ways in which its chief hero's methods do and don't work. This, not from the point of view of learning to be a better politician than she is - I almost certainly never shall be, either morally or pragmatically - but from the perspective that some of the things we each want to achieve aren't obviously compatible with some of the others.

Today's episode of Things People Inside My Head Told Me:

Good lordship is helping persons weaker than oneself, and acquiring a cut of power and status from every such deal. The good side of this path is that one becomes powerful in direct proportion to one's beneficence. The bad side of it is that after one has acquired a certain amount of power, one isn't so dependent upon the good opinion of the sort of people one is mostly helping, and has an obvious incentive to ...help... in ways which don't eliminate the need for one's lordship and assistance. This approach is also pretty much designed, by definition, to concentrate agency in oneself and leech it from humbler folk - indeed, to humble them further with every interaction. In a kindly way, to be sure, but not necessarily a less poisonous way for that.

There again, one thing a relatively good lord can be very good at, is the concentrated effort of fighting a worse one.

Good comradeship is also helping persons weaker than oneself, but sharing any net gain of power and status as far as possible. The good side of this path is that one deliberately diffuses power and agency amongst peers, eliminating the temptation to become a boss who can dole out good or ill with equal facility. The bad side of it is that strength won by good and frank action is thus diffused away from those most likely to repeat it, whereas well-meaning or downright malicious lords who do want to become bosses concentrate the power they win much more rapidly, and may therefore end up becoming the boss of the would-be good comrades in pretty short order. The personally egalitarian approach fosters independence and respect, but can't compel - and certainly may not receive - either.

One thing about a good comrade is that you don't necessarily notice one until you need them.

Another way to look at this is in terms of heroism.  A hero is a sort of good lord, at least in reputation; a villain is a sort of bad one.  A good comrade is just a mate, a good neighbour, the sort you want beside you in a pinch.  A bad comrade is, I suppose, a lowlife, a mook, a no-count bum.  They'll do you a bad turn as soon as look at you, but they haven't the mind to make any real gain from their dirty tricks in the long run.  That would mean taking on responsibility, if only to themselves, which they would enjoy about as much as a shit sundae.

Three Katherines of Allingdale is partly about the desperate need for, and desperate vulnerabilities of, the 'comradeship' mode of doing good stuff.  As a left-libertarian, that appeals to me both intellectually and by instinct - or perhaps I ought to say that this dual appeal is why my politics are like that in the first place.  But the lordly/heroic/villainous approach is strong in places where comradeship is weak, and sometimes it defends places where weakness can't be afforded.  Then the problem is how to get off the @$&!ing tiger afterwards!

I don't have much more of an answer to that, than I did before I thought of the story, or imagined this dichotomy explicitly.  Better questions, though.

Interested to know how far this makes sense to anybody else, or what other takes people have on it, and on how to handle it fictionally or in reality.  The heroic narrative is mighty dominant in fantastic literature especially, where its intuitive opposite seems to be not so much the comradely as the - well, anti-heroic! - mook-o-rama.  But an anti-hero doesn't look to me like the other positive pole from the Exceptional Levelling-Up Hero, at all, at all...

Fireguard!

Jun. 9th, 2011 08:30 am
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 360 words. What a half-trained and severely traumatized apprentice witch can do, the Big Bad can have already done harder, smarter, and more devastatingly. Who'd have thunk it?

- Oh, Kate, dauntless in the mouth of hell! This was your great moment under the Grey Wolf's banner, all along. And this is why this tale can never hold the shape of any plot outline I make beforehand: you are more brilliant in your hour of inspiration, than all the clever ideas I can reason out in a month of not standing in your battered old boots.

I did not know. I could not see.
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
The BBC's carrying a story today about the Somali poet Abdirashid Omar, who is in hiding from the al-Shabaab militias after scourging them in his widely-circulated work Fatwo, or the Decree.  They would like him to recant it: he would like them to shove it. 

"A person who contradicts his own poem will never be taken [seriously] again in Somali society - something they knew because they are Somalis."

Read, read, read the full story here

My own thoughts at larger length, on my main blog here.

The author's musical recitation of the whole piece (in Somali) on YouTube is linked to from both, or you can find it directly here.  Though wholly ignorant of the language, I found it well worth the listen.

And his making and his upholding of it, well worth an honourable toast, and a few minutes' humble contemplation.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Chapter 14 is flowing in such turbulence that I can't even wait to sort out the complex manoeuvring of the Langdale insurgency. It's write in any order - the things I know I'll have to kick myself in the head if I leave them to stagnate and start smelling. Throw away or rework the ones that turn out not to have happened, afterwards.

I finally got into Fiery Younger Sister's head at a point that was actually important. Oh dear!

In the original plan, she was a precociously and preternaturally good fighter, adolescently bloodthirsty in any cause she thought good, and champing at the bit for her Great Just War. Since she is a hero at heart rather than the soldier she tries to be, I thought - along with the person who arranged to send her to the front where the nastiness is apt to be concentrated - that she would be pretty well cured of the war-fever after tasting the truth of it.

Turns out, under stress-testing, that she is a rather different hero at heart than the one of my too-sentimental imaginings.

Top o' the morning to you now, Miss Cúchullain!

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
A few words here, a few deletions here, a lot of lying awake between dreams trying to imagine myself into the head of a very young man brought up to hate his mother's memory for his father's murder.  Just beginning to get a feel for the lad as he is, and not only what the plot needs him to be.

Another bit of history uncovered: Roger Rock Candy, and how helpless you are to control what the songs about you do in the world, when you have long stepped out of them.
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

This morning's writing was much better, catching fire again and bringing me to the end of the scene.  I may well keep it yet.

When I was but a nipper, I suffered from an excessive sense of myself as the Hero of the Story - a delusion not to be confused with actual magnanimity and heroism, with which in my observation it shares certain roots, but which it is all too apt to hamper and spoil. I got better, honest!  But this has no little to do with how I ended up writing, in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, the tale of two genuinely heroic personalities emerging from long delusion-fuelled villainhood.  I have, how shall one say, a certain natural sympathy for them, and a desire to see them get it right.

Their methods of getting better are turning out more sharply distinct the longer I write them.  Luke has tended to the more obvious course, which is also my own and I suspect most people's: getting used to being a plain man among plain folks, and seeing more value in that.  But Kate can't think in terms of equality at all, or at least not at all as a good thing.

So this morning, as I finished her scene, she was seeing heroes out of legend in an unpretentious farmer and his wife, even as she no longer sees them in herself.  More interestingly, I know those particular heroes and have written half their story.  I don't think she was wrong at all.

That's... quite a way to go.

560 words: hospitality, Stew, enchantments older than magic.

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