Friday, 28 January 2011

The Black Swan

Yesterday, after going to see Black Swan - a feverishly intense depiction of obsession with process in art and the completeness of perfection - I went home, went to bed and completed another day in which I failed to do anything toward finishing any of my current set of projects. Some of those projects are getting pretty overdue now too, and I can't say I thought they were a load of rubbish when I started them, although at the moment they do look pretty dubious. Regardless, in honour of Black Swan I did briefly consider writing up a post about my own time as a ballet dancer, but swiftly rejected it on the grounds that it was too big a post to start right now and instead decided to talk about The Black Swan instead. the fact that this has turned into a really long post itself is neither here nor there, for this is a blog about failure.

The Black Swan is a book by Mercedes Lackey, an author who I usually have a lot of time for, although sometimes I'm not entirely sure why. I think that it's similar to the way that you might let someone who you spent a lot of intense time with as a child get away with a lot more bullshit than you might, say, someone you just met at a party. For me, it was reading The Oathbound when I was about 12. I'd just finished Lord of the Rings and this was an amazing change of pace and focus, from doomy epic where women were at best an irrelevance to a much less portentous journey where the female characters were not just rounded out, but actually in the lead roles. Revelation!

It may seem odd that I'm putting a book of which, obviously, I was not in any way involved in the creation into a list of projects which I have not finished; for a great many people I imagine that starting a book and then never finishing it is a frequent experience. I am not a great many people, however, and I am a very meticulous reader. For me, once I start reading something the urge to finish it is huge - I want to be able to put it down, to file it away as 'done'. I'll read, compulsively, all of the little blurbs and copyright notices, the frontispiece and the publication dates. (Once I started reading 'classics' I had to train myself not to read the foreword before starting the main text, because I didn't realise that they weren't supposed to be read in that order and often give away the main plot points and subtexts and sometimes even spoil the ending for you.)

With secondary world fantasy the link is more apparent, too, in that the work required to build a whole new world in your imagination is a project, and it is a huge investment of mental energy. It's one of the reasons that I don't read as much fantasy as I used to, and conversely it's one of the reasons that when I do get round to reading fantasy I'll keep going to the end of a trilogy even if I got bored halfway through the first book - once I've peopled a world (however generic it is) I want to at least see it out to the conclusion of it's sub-Wagnerian heldenzeit.

And so, I put up with Lackey, even when she seems incapable of not writing trilogies (no matter how little the books may hang together - her standard seems to be an epic struggle that concludes in the first book; a vaguely related sequel where the peace won in the first is threatened by a new foe; and a completely un-related final book, usually starring the children of the previous set of characters proving themselves against a set of problems that have nothing to do with anything.) Well, I suppose at least someone hasn't been reading their Joseph Campbell.

I even put up with her when she creates wilful slave races using the sort of subservience tropes not seen since Hollywood's racist heyday.

But, apparently I can't put up with her when she writes Tchaikovsky fan-fiction. So the book rests on my desk, along with Eragon (which I did finish, god help me), as part of a pile created to raise my monitor to the correct height, staring at me. It taunts my inability to cope with tedious descriptions of spoilt fantasy-land rich-kids and the terrible, but ultimately excused behaviours of their fathers.

And yes, it is part of a trilogy.

1 comment:

  1. And you wonder why we always let you play the girl in roleplaying games? Ballet dancing indeed...