September 21, 2010

Ask Robin. Sort of. Not. Yes. No. Maybe.


There’s a very positive and flattering review of PEGASUS here*: 

About two thirds of the way through she writes: 

Although the humans love the Pegasi, these creatures are so completely alien that, even after centuries of coexistence, the humans still experience a fair amount of xenophobia. . . . The amount of awkward formality directed towards the Pegasi highlights the humans’ continued discomfort. . . . As I read I couldn’t help but be reminded of modern day race relations or peace talks between peoples who are always at odds. Maybe I’m strange for drawing similarities between a fantasy novel and current events, but there is a small part of me that wonders if McKinley, on some subconscious level, has . . . written this novel as a larger social commentary.


Yes.  Except it’s not subconscious.  It’s also not done deliberately in a ‘okay, I am now going to highlight the trials and tribulations of cross-cultural life in the crowded global village of 2010.’  The story that comes is the story that comes—I don’t have a lot to say about it.  But who and what the author is—who and what  I  am—can’t help but inform my choices as I try to get the fabulous, but so fabulous as to be essentially untellable story in my head down on paper—on paper for other people to read, and retaining, I hope, some faint recognisable shadow of its original scintillating reality.  I also believe (or at least I want to believe) that the Story Council is not entirely populated by fools and knaves, and that they do try to send stories that will resonate for the particular author they go to.  I talk about this in my FAQ somewhere:  that if the Story Council ever sends me a story about a square-jawed brick-headed laser-rifle-totin’ he-man with a female sidekick who mostly screams and is so wasp-waisted she is in permanent danger of breaking in half, and never mind the things with tentacles that keep menacing her to give Brickie something to do, there will be trouble.  But a story about neighbours who want to get along but can’t for one reason or another, including that they don’t speak the same language, either literally or metaphorically—and how easy it is then for someone with a personal agenda to make the situation worse . . . yeah.  I can identify with and get stuck into that very easily.  I also respond to stories where doing your best isn’t enough—where the chasm between you and them, or your truth and their truth, or your history and their history is too great.**  Which in PEGASUS is what causes that cliffhanger ending, and will be the force driving PEG II. ***

And now, since that was pretty much an Ask Robin even if it wasn’t an Ask Robin, here’s another Ask Robin that isn’t an Ask Robin either.

            The standard email question du jour for most of the last, er, annee, is Does Aerin ever go back to Luthe?

            I’ve blogged about this at least a couple of times but maybe it doesn’t come up in the search very well.††  So let’s get it into the Ask Robin archive and see if that helps.

            The short answer is:  yes.  The very slightly longer answer is:  yes but.  Even pushing thirty years ago††† when I was writing HERO I knew that happy endings are rarely unmixed‡, and while I didn’t know any details, I knew that Aerin and Luthe would get back together but that it would not be for an easy shiny happily ever after.  Aerin genuinely loved Tor;  he was, if you like, her mortal side, the side of her that her father’s people would have been able to accept as their princess, their first sol, if that had been all of her there was.  But she was also her mother’s daughter—which is why she survived Maur and defeated Agsded, but it didn’t make her popular.  Irony alert, right?  But I think this is very often the way life is—the bits don’t fit together.‡‡  Aerin did finally become popular with her father’s people as Tor’s queen, but it was by then too late for her to settle down and relax and take every day as it came.  She still managed to have quite a lot of happy times as queen of Damar with Tor at her side.

            And she is devastated when he dies—even though they both know it is coming, and both know that Aerin will be left behind.  I don’t myself know how much she’s told Tor of her relationship with Luthe—not a lot, I guess, but he’s guessed more—but he knows about the not quite mortal part, and that Luthe called that out of her to save her life.  Yes, after Tor dies, Aerin goes back to Luthe—but she’s badly caught between worlds—she can’t be completely a part of Luthe’s any more than she was able to be completely a part of Tor’s.  She’s caught between worlds worse than Luthe is:  mages start their training young, and he didn’t spend many years pretending to be the (relatively) ordinary mortal husband of a (relatively) ordinary mortal wife.  Luthe is also a selfish brute, and lazy with it—he says so himself.  His falling in love with Aerin is a point in his favour:  it forces him to think about something other than his own comfort.         

           After Tor dies, Aerin does some extended wandering.  I hope I’ll be able to write about some of it.‡‡‡  I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to write the (cough cough cough) short story about her and Luthe’s meeting after many years, but I’m not sure how much of the rest of it I’m going to be let in on.  And—an awful lot of it is pretty sad.  That’s the big but part of the yes.  Those of you expecting another Technicolor sunset§—not gonna happen.

So let’s end tonight’s post somewhere else.  Here are two absolute made my day dance around and shriek emails that have come in recently.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  During stretches when sky diver (have I told you how much I hate heights?) or Arctic explorer (have I told you how much I hate cold?) seem like attractive career choices, and PEG II seems to be made up entirely of a malevolent jigsaw of sniggering gremlins, mail like these reconstruct the will to live (and write.  Now, where did I put that biscuit jointer?).           

* * *

While shopping for books to read on vacation this past summer, I spotted Sunshine… that yellow, sparkly cover caught my attention.  After reading the back, it seemed like a book that my daughter and my mother might also read.  Then I saw Neil Gaiman’s comment and knew that I should buy it.

 I read it in one day.  Then I passed it on to my daughter, and she read it in one day.  Two months later my mom picked it from her big stack of books and read it in two days.  Then two days later, she read it again.  We are now passing it on to my niece.  

I just want to say THANK YOU for creating an incredible world that we could all immerse ourselves in and, at the same time, let our imaginations play in for a while.  We all absolutely love your writing.

I am starting Beauty today.

I hope that the Story Council continues to favor you.

 * * *

I was rereading Hellhound before I went to sleep, and I noticed a simple offhand remark about off-lead dogs.  It made me smile.  It made me smile because I can imagine your glee as you use this medium to express your irritation.  I never would have noticed that phrase as something special without having read your blog. 

Another reason I love your blog is that I get daily tidbits from my favorite author.  Even when you talk about things in which I have no knowledge or experience, I still enjoy reading about them.  For example, before your blog I had never heard of method ringing, but I love hearing about your successes and your learning experiences. 

I particularly love the footnotes.  They make everything more fun!  

I have been a major fan of yours ever since I was young.  I can always count on your stories to make me smile.  Now, I get stories and a blog.  I am a lucky fan.  

Thank you for taking the time out of every day to post and giving me (and all your readers) a piece of yourself. 

You’re welcome!  YAAAAAAAAAAAAY  readers. 

* * *

* She does take some pains to emphasise that PEGASUS is only the first half of the story and furthermore ends on a cliffhanger.  Well . . . um . . . yes.  

** There is a famous quote, applicable to way too many situations, which I have long believed was originally about Northern Ireland and its ‘Troubles’, and which Peter is positive is by Herbert Asquith, and which is:  ‘There is not enough justice to go around.’  I am totally failing to find it, by Herbert Asquith or anyone else, on Google or anything else.  If someone with better web fu than mine can find it, I’d be very grateful. 

*** Okay, is driving PEG II.  Slowly.  I wish there was a pill or a spell or a homeopathic remedy or a whap up longside the head that would make me a faster writer.   Trust me.  No one out there wishes this more than I do.  

† The sequel to SUNSHINE is still ahead in the polls however.  Maybe I should just repost THERE IS NO SEQUEL TO SUNSHINE once a week.  It would give me a regular night off too.  And may I please remind regular readers of this blog that jokes about the sequel to SUNSHINE are not funny?  Thank you. 

†† As opposed to all those emails from people saying, I saw what you wrote about no sequel to SUNSHINE, but . . . 

††† My usual eeeep here.  How did I get this old?  I vary between thinking for pity’s sake why am I so crocked, and if my nice, disgracefully young osteopath makes reference to wear and tear one more time I’m going to whop him one, and thinking for pity’s sake this arm, leg, gall bladder or eyeball is over half a century old, what do you expect? 

‡ I did it in BEAUTY.  I’ve paid my dues.  And anyone who thought SPINDLE was going to have the standard ending wasn’t paying attention. 

‡‡ This is of course what I’m writing about again in PEGASUS.  Bits not fitting together. 

‡‡‡ Arguably I already have.  If Aerin stayed home more Harry wouldn’t have seen her so often.  Is she still alive then?  Not exactly.  A ghost?  No.  She’s a third thing. 

§ Like the one at the end of BEAUTY


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