If you want an idea of how fast my brain moves from IDEA to REALITY, I got the inspiration for this post from this one by the lovely Miss Lora, which was written two weeks ago, and I’m only just now sitting down to write my own version. First of all, read hers though. It’s very good. I’ll wait.
I wholly understand where she’s coming from. I daresay a ton of us women do. I was helping facilitate a “Find your Feminism” workshop last year, and was struggling to lead our groups discussion after we ran down the assigned questions. Finally, I asked them all, “How many of you have said before, ‘I prefer to be friends with guys, over girls, because it’s less drama’? All of them – including me – put their hands up. Then I asked them, “How many of you had those drama-free friendships end because the guy wanted to be more than friends, or put the moves on you, and made you feel really uncomfortable?” All of us put our hands up again, and we moved the discussion forward from there.
What’s wild is we all had the exact same experiences and, until someone wiser than us pointed it out, never made the connection between the two beliefs. What’s even wilder is that even after leading that workshop last year, and asking those two questions, and drawing a link between them, I didn’t draw the connection between those experiences and how Grace’s main relationships play out in Paucity (and later, in the unnamed sequel).
Paucity opens with Grace finding the dead body of one of her neighbourhood friends in the mines they both work in. She’s upset, but it seems mostly like she’s mad that they survived the system for so long, and having Rose die so close to
retirement freedom is just an extra kick to the gut. Grace’s acknowledged best friend is David, though. He’s the one who tries to follow the guards to Rose’s burial spot so they can leave flowers there, he’s the one who finds out they plan to execute Grace. He’s the one who’s with her when she finds the thin spot in the worlds that brings them both to Uberrime. He puts up with her obsession with old movies, and her close relationship with her parents, and her sarcasm.
He’s also the first one to put down any idea she has in this new world they find themselves in. He’s the one who gets mad when she has conversations with their captors. He’s the one who takes out his frustrations on Grace, rather than on the people he’s really mad at. He’s the one that makes jokes or overtures that are just slightly too sexual. And he’s the one that runs away when Grace chooses her own path over being with him.
In a post titled, “Describe your Novel in One Sentence”, I ended up writing, “After surviving a parallel universe, a deadly magical disease, enslavement and a bloody civil war, Grace realises her best friend, David, is kind of a dick.”
And that’s really what it’s about, in the end. Lora’s post made me realize that the driving force/internal conflict for Grace isn’t her desire to overthrow the work camps she slaved in, and Rose died in; it’s not to free herself from the enslavement she finds herself in; it’s not even really to help overthrow the government of Uberrime – it’s her attempt to outrun and redeem herself from the fact that her real best friend died alone, and it took all these above things for her to realize what she had in her friendship with Rose that she lost when Rose died.
I’m lucky in a lot of ways, most especially because I don’t live in a laissez-faire dystopian environmental wasteland, or have to cope with a destructive new magical talent. But I’m also lucky that all the women I’ve been friends with growing up are still around. I can still message them on Facebook and say, “Hey, being friends with you has been more valuable than I can say, so thanks.” I might be driven by my failure to acknowledge how important female friendships have been to me to say, write this blog post, or this novel, but it’s not a permanent, unfixable failure goading me.
Oh, and it’s a nice chance to reverse the whole “the best friend was the perfect guy ALL ALONG” storyline. (And yes, I know that both Dawson’s Creek & Hunger Games only avoid this by having some other guy be the perfect guy.) Having David slowly turn into a weird goose-man is only second in satisfying narrative revenge to Grace friendzoning him over and over again, until
Of course, I’m the first one to say that “authorial intent means very little in the end product” and that’s true. But a lot of Paucity was created as a result of my frustrations with certain stand-bys in genre storytelling – the awkward quest love triangle, the medieval stasis magical country, the subjugation of women as a requirement for “authentic” fantasy – that it was easy to forget that beneath all that are my real-life experiences and revelations, and not just my literary ones.
PS: I’m starting on Paucity’s sequel this Nano, so I’m willing to take suggestions for a title. The currently operating one is Plenty because I’m an uncreative dork.