Jul. 5th, 2017

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I’ve now read the last Raksura book one and a half times, crammed into everything I’m also doing, and I have to admit I still don’t understand the final action sequence, but it’s sort of only because it’s like, three books’ worth of action all happening simultaneously, and I tore through it because I was terrified she’d kill off one of the principal characters or other, and I was desperate to find out which.

So I’ll have a reaction to all that later, I just thought I should check in. I spent yesterday on the road too, and then I have houseguests coming today, so I’m frantically cleaning– not like, to impress anybody, but because the guestroom is so physically full of junk that there’s literally no room to put anyone in to sleep, so I have to take care of that. 

I am consumed with a desire, however, to make a tapestry wall-hanging of the Raksura stories, and while my attempts to teach myself tambour embroidery have been slow and unrewarding, I remain confident I’ll get the hang of it, and then just you watch, I totally will.
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I!!! ALSO!!! HAVE!! SO!!! MANY !!! FEELS!!!

and I’m sort of with you on warrior genders– like, I’m definitely feeling like since “female” and “male” already clearly do not mean anything like the same things they do to humans, it would almost be better to just use entirely other words?? But I know she already was having trouble selling this story, I think doing yet another invented language concept would push it over the line. So it’s probably just easier to use The Gender Binary and then hammer it at every turn to remind the reader that it’s Inverted. In basically every other species you run into in the stories, either there’s no difference, the gender system is complicated enough that it’s just shrugged at, or the males are subservient. 

So it’s probably just easier that she uses “male” and “female” and then reminds the reader pretty much constantly that “female” indicates larger, stronger, and more respected– and what’s more, often shows in character interactions that this is true [watch the character arcs of Song, a subordinate young female warrior, and Root, a subordinate young male warrior, through the entire series].

I have a lot of feels about Stone in this book.  

And we get so much more of a mature picture of Moon, it’s really rewarding. I’m going to at some point reread the whole series because it’s so amazing to get to watch Moon unfold, and see him develop and mature as a person with a place in a society, and his past trauma is a thing he can draw on instead of a thing that still hurts him. It’s so goddamn rewarding. I’m so glad she got to write this second duology and wrap him up. It’s so amazing to get to have a chance to see what the traumatized beat-up character from the first trilogy gets to really unfold into once he’s gotten over the question of whether or not anyone could ever love him or not, etc. Like, that’s what these two books are: Moon has a family, now what? Well, he gets to find out what that means, and gets to have adventures that don’t hinge around his self-worth. He can just save the world, knowing that he has a place in it when he’s done doing that.

ALSO I don’t know if you’re there yet but the relationship between Malachite and Pearl is so fucking amazing. Two incredibly terrifying and not particularly sympathetic but unambiguously heroic older female characters whose relationship is entirely founded on their mutual terrifyingness? Just– bitches getting shit done!! It’s amazing!!! I won’t go on if you’re not to that part yet!! 

I just keep thinking about how Wells said once in an interview or something, that a huge part of fan response to the first book was people telling her she should just kill Pearl off or something, and she was totally shocked by it– but they all seemed to think that Pearl was superfluous, now that Jade was married the mom wasn’t important anymore, and she was like… but… you can… have more than one female character… and if there’s ever been a character who was clearly not just The Mom, it’s Pearl??? 

You’re not supposed to like her, but it was so clear through that whole first trilogy that Pearl is such a grief-scarred creature, explicitly suffering from depression, isolated by power– of course you’re not reading her from a perspective where you’re going to sympathize with her, and there’s not really any perspective where you’re going to be sympathetic to a creature that powerful and bitter– well, it’s not like we get a more sympathetic look in this series either, but we do get a look at all, and it’s so fascinating and rewarding. Terrifying Zero-Bullshit I-Defeated-Crippling-Depression-By-Murdering-It-With-My-Fearsome-Teeth Death Mom with her beautiful new princess-husband who gets to save the day by having good social graces. It’s definitely something to roll around in.

I also love how Moon’s sister Celadon is like, this bizarrely anomalous Extremely Sensible And Polite Person. Like, where the fuck did she come from? She’s the Normalest Normie Normal Person to ever Normal, and it’s goddamn brilliant because she’s surrounded by psychopaths and just sort of inured to it. She’s so important, because otherwise you might not realize just how batshit terrifying Malachite in particular is. And like, you can see that Jade has clearly been struggling her whole life toward the Celadon-like normal ideal, and you also can clearly see that she has never and will never attain it. And it’s not like Celadon’s a jerk about it, she’s just really sensible and normal, and doesn’t hold it against anybody. It doesn’t keep her from doing what needs to be done, she just always reacts with horror to things that should be horrifying but given how fucking insane most of the events in these books are, have become kind of commonplace. It’s a very important perspective. 

I badly wanted Kethel to have a name. I was so fascinated by him, and by First and Consolation, and I want their stories, all of them. Consolation was such a fucking phenomenal 180 from the first book’s Ranea, and on the one hand I wish there were more consistency, but on the other hand, I get that clearly, making hybrids is such a complicated and unpredictable thing– but now it makes me wonder, the mentor-dakti from the first book, and even Ranea, could they have been sympathetic from another perspective? I love how bad at being good Consolation is, and how she doesn’t know how to express emotions or feel things properly, but she’s trying and she’s so goddamn sincere and she want so badly to be good. And making Kethel not be a crossbreed at all, it just puts it right out there that there’s nothing biologically good or evil about Fell, it’s all cultural or lack-of-cultural. He’s just like Consolation, he’s so bad at being good but so goddamn earnest about it. I really like that whole overarching theme of good and evil not actually being biologically determined. 

Like, the biological determinism aspect in this whole thing has always been something I’m a liiiiittle bit uncomfortable with; your whole societal role being determined by how you’re born, including apparently how smart you are and how seriously people take you and so on– she’s made gestures toward softening it, and having Bramble explain how Arbora do actually choose their jobs and can switch them around, and in a previous book she made a nod toward homosexual tendencies among the fertile Aeriat being a thing that was understood and sort of dealt with, sex for fun and sex for breeding being functionally different things– but going beyond that and making explicit that on a deeper level, races are not inherently good or evil was a welcome point for the series to finally clearly make. 



Also, a minor detail I’m enamored with in this last book is that people get their faces bitten off a lot more than in previous books, and I sort of knew that Raksura had large jaws before but literally in this one Moon sort of unfolds his jaw to bite an enemy’s face off, and Malachite does the same at a different spot in the book, and that’s a detail that has not previously occurred and I am absolutely in love with?
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Participatory democracy begins at home. If you are planning to implement your politics, there are certain things to remember.

1. He is feeling it more than you. He’s losing some leisure and you’re gaining it. The measure of your oppression is his resistance.

2. A great many American men are not accustomed to doing monotonous, repetitive work which never issues in any lasting, let alone important, achievement. This is why they would rather repair a cabinet than wash dishes. If human endeavors are like a pyramid with man’s highest achievements at the top, then keeping oneself alive is at the bottom. Men have always had servants (us) to take care of this bottom stratum of life while they have confined their efforts to the rarefied upper regions. It is thus ironic when they ask of women-Where are your great painters, statesmen, etc.? Mme. Matisse ran a military shop so he could paint. Mrs. Martin Luther King kept his house and raised his babies.

3. It is a traumatizing experience for someone who has always thought of himself as being against any oppression or exploitation of one human being by another to realize that in his daily life he has been accepting and implementing (and benefiting from) this exploitation; that his rationalization is little different from that of the racist who says, “Black people don’ t feel pain’ (women don’t mind doing the shitwork); and that the oldest form of oppression in history has been the oppression of 50 percent of the population by the other 50 percent.

4. Arm yourself with some knowledge of the psychology of oppressed peoples everywhere, and a few facts about the animal kingdom. I admit playing top wolf or who runs the gorillas is silly but as a last resort men bring it up all the time. Talk about bees. If you feel really hostile bring up the sex life of spiders. They have sex. She bites off his head. The psychology of oppressed peoples is not silly. Jews, immigrants, black men and all women have employed the same psychological mechanisms to survive’ admiring the oppressor, glorifying the oppressor, wanting to be like the oppressor, wanting the oppressor to like them, mostly because the oppressor held all the power.

5. In a sense, all men everywhere are slightly schizoid-divorced from the reality of maintaining life. This makes it easier for them to play games with it. It is almost a cliché that women feel greater grief at sending a son off to a war or losing him to that war because they bore him, suckled him, and raised him. The men who foment those wars did none of those things and have a more superficial estimate of the worth of human life. One hour a day is a low estimate of the amount of time one has to spend “keeping” oneself. By foisting this off on others, man has seven hours a week-one working day more to play with his mind and not his human needs. Over the course of generations it is easy to see whence evolved the horrifying abstractions of modern life.

6. With the death of each form of oppression, life changes and new forms evolve. English aristocrats at the turn of the century were horrified at the idea of enfranchising working men-were sure that it signaled the death of civilization and a return to barbarism. Some working men were even deceived by this line. Similarly with the minimum wage, abolition of slavery, and female suffrage. Life changes but it goes on. Don’t fall for any line about the death of everything if men take a turn at the dishes. They will imply that you are holding back the revolution (their revolution). But you are advancing it (your revolution).

7. Keep checking up. Periodically consider who’s actually doing the jobs. These things have a way of backsliding so that a year later once again the woman is doing everything. After a year make a list of jobs the man has rarely if ever done. You will find cleaning pots, toilets, refrigerators and ovens high on the list. Use time sheets if necessary. He will accuse you of being petty. He is above that sort of thing (housework). Bear in mind what the worst jobs are, namely the ones that have to be done every day or several times a day. Also the ones that are dirty-it’s more pleasant to pick up books, newspapers, etc., than to wash dishes. Alternate the bad jobs. It’s the daily grind that gets you down. Also make sure that you don’ t have the responsibility for the housework with occasional help from him. “I’ll cook dinner for you tonight” implies it’s really your job and isn’t he a nice guy to do some of it for you.

8. Most men had a rich and rewarding bachelor life during which they did not starve or become encrusted with crud or buried under the liner. There is a taboo that says women mustn’ t strain themselves in the presence of men-we haul around 50 pounds of groceries if we have to but aren’t allowed to open a jar if there is someone around to do it for us. The reverse side of the coin is that men aren’t supposed to be able to take care of themselves without a woman. Both are excuses for making women do the housework.

9. Beware of the double whammy. He won’t do the little things he always did because you’re now a “Liberated Woman,” right? Of course he won’t do anything else either….

I was just finishing this when my husband came in and asked what I was doing. Writing a paper on housework. Housework? he said. Housework? Oh my god how trivial can you get? A paper on housework.


- The Politics of Housework, Pat Mainardi, Redstockings, 1970
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