Curses and Dragons

Returning to a Review; Not a Spoiler Warning

February 6, 2013 · 8 Comments

I’ve returned from my time in the Pacific NW–Seattle and Portland and a little bit of the Olympic Peninsula, to be precise–but no, not Forks.  Yes, I wanted to go to Forks.  No, I don’t love the Twilight books.  But yes, I did read them, and I enjoyed them. But I have reservations about them.  But not enough reservations to pass on Forks, if the opportunity came.  However: it was 7 hours out of my way to get up to Forks, versus the 2 hours of toodling around the Olympic Peninsula that I did ultimately.

2013-02-01 14.31.00 HDR

 

A smidgen of Olympic Peninsula for you.

I love a peninsula.  I have lived in the lower peninsula of Michigan for the greater part of my life, had one mad, snowy year in the upper peninsula, and my husband’s family has property on a tiny peninsula where you can see the water on three sides.  Peninsulas: next best thing to islands!

Anyway, I came back just in time for my story, “Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love” to appear in Apex #45.  That’s it, that’s the last short fiction for a long while, or at least until I write some more.  It was the last untrunked piece in my inventory.  Fair warning, if you know me through my middle grade novels, you should know that ZVStASoL is a very adult story.  Or at least an older/mature teen story.  But it has Robot!Ophelia in it, in case that’s up your alley.

I also came back just in time for Jim C. Hines, he of the Goblins/Princesses/Libriomancer fame, to post a review of Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  This may be the first official review!

In light of Jim’s review, or rather, a commenter’s concern, I’m going to say it here. Tilda, my main character, was born with a clubfoot in the Middle Ages.  Treatments for her condition varied, and were not always helpful. Walking hurts her.  Often, so does not-walking.  A commenter raised the question and Jim answered–and this is NOT a spoiler to me, because frankly, this shouldn’t even be an expectation, as far as I’m concerned–that Tilda does not get magically cured at the end.

I wrote a character in this situation for two reasons. First, my father was born with a clubfoot, and this has always been a bit of a mystery to me (he has long since passed away, so I can’t talk to him about it); I work things like that out through writing.  Second, I have my own foot pains and mobility issues due to some wicked bad bone spurs, one of which pushes against my Achilles tendon, and one that pushes against a nerve AND a tendon in the top of my foot and makes my toes go numb.  In the early days of spur-pain, before I realized orthotics and regular massage and stretching and physical therapy and icing and anti-inflammatories are the way we keep the pain down around 2/3 instead of up in the 6/7/8 range now, I remember thinking, “Well, I really get that part in ‘The Little Mermaid’ where she feels like she’s walking on knives.”

pain-scale

 Third, my grandmother, who was in a horrible car accident when my mother was a child, spent the latter half of her life walking around with her femur shoved up through her pelvis (she wasn’t supposed to walk at all, actually; the doctors were coming to tell her that she was in a wheelchair for life when they found her walking–agonizingly, but walking–around her hospital room).  There’s a lot of chronic pain around walking in my family, to greater or lesser degrees.  I have gotten off lightly, compared to my grandmother.  I’m very aware of that, and always have been.  And I’ve always wanted to write about her, however obliquely.  Tilda is only the prelude in my ode to my super-tough grandmother.  There is a vignette in the book that is more or less taken directly from her life.  I won’t tell you which one.

So, for many, many, many reasons, I did not write a magical cure for Tilda, not the least of which is my own experience.  And while I don’t expect this to be the last time someone reads the book and has to brace themselves, at least I can assure those few of you who read this blog, whatever faults this book has, magical cures is not one of them.

Categories: Books! · Short Stories
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8 responses so far ↓

  • SorchaRei // February 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I applaud your choice. When I experienced the onset of a chronic, debilitating, and incurable disease, I started getting really angry at authors who did magically cure disability. It seems to minimize the reality that people with disabilities live full, fulfilling lives, even in the absence of magical cures.

    I don’t suppose I’d mind if it were a sometimes thing, but it’s so often offered up like a prize for the hero(ine).

    It’s an on-going journey for me to navigate the new normal of my life, and I cherish fictional heroes who are disabled and still live their lives. Miles Vorkosigan is a particular favorite of mine, both because Bujold is so clear about the pain, the frustration, the ways in which his longing to be “normal” inspires choices that are really bad for him, and because of the way in which he carves out for himself an appropriate life within the context his body offers him.

    In the end, I know that I have been forever altered by my experiences. And while I sometimes wish it were just a little easier to manage an airplane trip, I don’t know that I’d actually want to give up what I have learned.

    Magical cures beg the question of what happens next, as the cured person suddenly copes with her own new normal, a new normal that has to be just as disconcerting as one that falls on you when you suddenly get sick. That, I think, is an appropriate subject for a story of it’s own, not just a throw-away magic cure on the periphery of a story.

  • Mer // February 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment! I think you are absolutely right, that a magical cure can be a story in its own right, but throw-away magic usually feels cheap. And yes, magical cures could be a sometimes thing. Like Cookie Monster and cookies. They’d have to be well-earned in the narrative. But I can’t think of any examples I like, off the top of my head.

  • Maymunah // February 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Hi, I haven’t read your book, but I’m really glad you didn’t give Tilda a magical cure at the end, because it isn’t just a fictional trope, people (able and disabled people too) really do believe that if disabled people work hard enough, they won’t be disabled anymore.

    Sometimes they phrase it as overcoming disabilities, but it amounts to the same thing. Even when disabled people manage to do things that are very difficult, their disabilities don’t go away, and I don’t think many people understand that.

    It’s great to see realistic depictions of disabled people in fiction, and I hope to read your book one day, it sounds excellent.

  • Friday Bookshelf: February 8, 2013 « Plot Driven // February 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm

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  • SL Huang // February 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Hi there! Here via the inestimable Mr. Hines; I’m the commenter who talked about the concern in his comments. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this, for both writing the book the way you did, and for this blog post. Like I said to Jim, I don’t usually seek out MG, but I’ll be looking for your book when it comes out.

    Thank you again.

  • Sylvia // February 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Hi! I’m actually here through Jim Hines’s piece, and I want to tell you that I’m looking forward to your book.

    I used to walk two miles a day, until walking all the way from the couch to the fridge became a long trip needing rest stops for the pain.

    I’ve had a cane for over a decade, and the idea of Princess Tilda getting through the book WITH the difficulty walking AND the pain and succeeding anyhow is very happy-making.

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