Romancing the Stone

by  Christian A. Brown  |  October 16, 2016  |     No Comments

Do you remember that movie? I do, especially its husky-voiced heroine. We hadn’t seen too many actors like Kathleen Turner at the time. She was a powerhouse performer (playing mousey to start) and easily matched the charisma of Michael Douglas in his prime. There was something about that relationship that stuck with me from the first time I watched the movie and in subsequent viewings over the years (the sequel was an uneven train-wreck). The strong heroine, strong male lead, and dramatic relationship, were certainly influential when it came to creating my own world and characters. Which brings us to book three and four of my series, and to one of the storylines that I’m finally able to talk about in depth.

Spoilers from here on out; you have been warned!

Four Feasts till Darkness isn’t the kind of book where every person needs a romantic partnership. But there are quite a few relationships that evolve despite the terrible war, and of them, few pairings are normative. I wanted Morigan and the Wolf to be a lasting, epic love; the kind you don’t see in modern romances. So for them: no love triangles, no teenage confusion over whether or not they should be together–but still many trials to test that innate magnetism.

Aside from the bloodmates immutable bond, though, exist a host of relationships, romances, alliances and family dramas. Indeed, we have the rivalrous sparring of would-be lovers Rowena, who’d rather be treated/ seen as a man, and Galivad, who’s more comfortable singing the high notes and wearing the lace. Those two can never seem to sort their shit out enough to give romance a proper go. We have the casual, go-nowhere affair of Maggie and Alastair, hamstrung by the complications presented by Beatrice and the shadowbroker’s (former) lover’s spirit which lives within her. Meanwhile, Beatrice herself is faithfully married to Moreth of El: a dubious ally of Eod, with whom she shares predilections for rough, painful and bloody recreations of the flesh (kink). In Feasts, some of these relationships are those of convenience and chance. Others may well stand the test of time.

Last week I started writing many of the closing acts of the series. One really cool scene occurred between Morigan, the Wolf and Lila (and Erik, also present): persons who hadn’t seen each other since the start of the war and who’d changed so completely since last they’d met. It was a beautiful scene, where the women came to an accord with who they were now, while acknowledging who they’d been. Lila had also lost her misplaced rage for the Wolf. She’d lost a lot of her rage, really–most of what had sustained her after her sexual assault. After watching the women speak, I felt happy for Lila; she had completed the journey she’d begun after the shattering of her marriage. The timing of the scene felt universally curious, too, given a week particularly rife with topical events on women’s rights, bodies and freedoms.

You’re still a ways away from reading that scene between two of my favourite fictional ladies, but you can currently see the peak of Lila’s arc in book three. As you probably know, she had a brutal journey: from her entrapment in misogynist culture as a young woman, to entering a distanced marriage that ended in an atrocious act of abuse. (You can read about the whys and hows of that moment, here and here.) What Lila never did, though, was to stop moving forward. Perhaps that’s all that made her a hero: an impetus that didn’t let her stop until her heart had healed, and/or she’d simply made better choices. Morigan has been cut of that same tenacious cloth. She never gives up or loses faith that there’s something–however distant or ephemeral–toward which she must aspire and reach.

Next to these strong women are partners who represent the heroines’ new positive choices: Erik and the Wolf. While neither heroine needs a man to complete herself, and there are, likewise, many women and men in the cast who complete their journey through this tale alone, Lila and Morigan’s mates are a correction of past mistakes. Especially for Lila, who was, in retrospect, living in a thousand year loveless–if benign and at times pleasant–marriage. While writing these women’s penultimate stories, I realized that Lila’s journey was an introspection on divorce, abuse, and making something grand from absolute destitution. She’s certainly walked a different path than Morigan: the status and the fall, the depravity and the loathing. But that doesn’t matter in the end, and the symmetry of selves is seen and admired by the women. I loved that moment of gratitude and appreciation for the other’s achievements and choices–despite those choices being different, dark, or not the ones each woman would have made herself. Solidarity is what these women preach.

Solidarity is what we need to look toward when defining roles and behaviours, when tackling the issues of gender, equality and abuse. You can be a man and still a feminist without emasculating yourself. You can be a working woman, a CEO, and still a feminist without declaring war against women who stay home (and vice-versa, obviously). You can be Christian and love your gay neighbour: “love the sinner, not the sin”–whatever you need to tell yourself to commit to love and not hate. We must have safe spaces for sensitive and marginalized groups, until we’ve learned how to better filter our personal negativity. However, we must be wary of these sanctuaries becoming isolated echo-chambers that do not encourage desegregation. Not when the overall goal as a society should be development based on honouring (the best of) old and evolving culture–issues that are harder to confront when working from isolation.

Morigan and Lila’s reunion was so meaningful because it showed how all these ideas could coexist: at least for that moment, in that room, while under the looming shadow of annihilation. Unfortunately for Morigan and Lila’s world, that moment only came when society went to Hell-in-a-handbasket and everyone realized how much bullshit they’d been peddling and consuming. I really hope it doesn’t take an entropic force from beyond to help us reach that same solidarity.

All my love,

–C

P.S. Since you likely missed the full beauty of Leo’s absolutely stellar piece above, here you go (click to expand), “Scale & Stone”:

scale-and-stone

Leave a Comment