Fellow 2004 Clarionite Eric Joel Bresin has formed a new blog, Beyond Assumptions. Though we all give Eric a bunch of crap, it's really a form of tough love (grin), since Eric may dump a load of crap on us from time to time, but the kid is really quite well read, reveals some deep philosophical insights and writes a really tough crit. (double-grin)
Eric's new blog has only been open for business for a week or so, but as of right now he's outdone himself. First he reviewed a new Strange Horizons story, "The Women of Our Occupation" by Kameron Hurley, and then managed to interview Kameron. Big kudos for a first blog interview.
Haven't We Been Here Before?
Hurley's story is uncomfortable. I haven't felt quite this way since I read Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale", though an unpublished story writer Meljean Brook was kind enough to let me read a year or so ago comes close.
I think it is too easy to say that the discomfort comes solely from having "big women" come in with swagger and death to occupy a land, instead of just the traditional mean old men. There's good writing here and that is why I think it's important to look at this story.
Indeed, someone has regendered Kameron Hurley's story. As if merely making it big men coming in and taking over either makes the story more clear or points out how ordinary the story is. IMHO, the regendering does neither. If anything, it shows how well written the story is -- swapping gender roles doesn't change the tone very much, except in a couple of places where the swap isn't completely executed. (Interesting to note that the regenderers even faithfully reproduced Kameron Hurley's copyright notice, even as they ignored it and changed the author's gender, too.)
But what of it? Does that mean there is no point to the story as submitted to and published by Strange Horizons?
Other Textual Versions
Yesterday I first heard about "The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation" (I had a helluva time finding the correct title on Amazon, though it was listed in Amazon.uk and on bn.com -- wonder if they only just entered it?). Today the local WOOD-AM radio 9am talk show wanted to know if it was "appropriate". Thankfully, just about everyone thought yes.
So it is with this story. We have many stories of the Holocaust and war and occupation and oppression and fascism. We've even seen attempts to make it all more benign, until it is too late, as in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin". Lots of SF and fantasy deal with war and occupation and oppression -- indeed, I'm trying to write some of it.
But writing in an unknown land and time, just as with putting it in a SF or fantasy setting, doesn't cheapen the story or the ideas any more than putting the 9/11 Commission Report in a graphical "comic book" form diminishes the information or the seriousness of events from five years ago.
Likewise, though not shown in the film, the Scouring of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings is a terrible assault on a peaceful hobbit population -- and a necessary part of the story. You battle evil not just because it is evil, or to make a Name for yourself, but because the alternatives are all too horrible to contemplate. Making it accessible outside of the context of real human history is perhaps a way to deal with it, to process the horror, without falling into the trap of becoming evil to fight evil -- and not all our battles are large set pieces, when one is sitting in the middle of it all, not safe even at home.
Ultimately I'm jealous of the smoothness of the story telling.
Anyway, that's some of my thoughts today. Thanks, Eric!