Discussion:
<Princess Holy Aura> by Ryk Spoor
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Joe Bernstein
2018-10-05 23:57:01 UTC
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This is much more discussed here than the last recent book I reviewed,
but I don't find the sort of discussion I was looking for. So here's
my try.

This book tells the story of someone who begins as a man in his 30s,
running a bagel shop by day, a role-playing game by night. He seems
to live a fairly stressful and ordinary life. But then, through an
act of heroism, he comes to the attention of a wizard recruiting for
what the book itself calls a "mahou shoujo" - magical girl - team.

My first reaction was - "Holy cow! Ryk Spoor is bidding for the
Tiptree Award?" If he was, he failed:
<https://tiptree.org/award/2017-james-tiptree-jr-award> [1]
But after reading the book twice, I don't think he was.

I've read and seen very little from the magical girl subgenre. Some
stories from the category were much advocated at The Stars Our
Destination when I worked there; as usual, I reacted against such
advocacy, a reaction this time considerably strengthened by the
manifest impossibility of ever assembling <Sailor Moon> to read or
view, in those days before Wikipedia, Google, or much of anything
Web. My log tells me I watched both seasons of <Magic Knight
Rayearth> within the past decade, but I remember nothing at all of it.

So one reason I'm posting this is that I want to find out from people
more experienced with the genre, perhaps from the author himself,
whether I'm completely off base in saying:

<Princess Holy Aura> is primarily a tribute to the magical girl
subgenre.

Because if this is true, it affects everything else I noticed.

1. Its propulsive plot and appealing characters. Duh.

2. Its weak characterisations. (I don't mean all its characters are
weakly portrayed, but it does have some weak characterisations in
characters who'd better have been stronger - but I'm guessing
characters like Tierra MacKintor and Cordelia Ingemar, the main
two I'm talking about, normally *aren't* strongly characterised in
magical girl manga / anime.)

3. Its care in avoiding the obvious depths possible to the core idea.

It doesn't avoid *all* of them. The book takes care to keep the
possibility that its protagonist could be seen as a pervert in heaven
front and centre, even though it keeps refuting the idea. But a
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?

I think this dissonance invites a couple of misreadings:

a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.

b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.

But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.

So here we are. Much of what I wanted to see in this book - better
characterisation of all the girls, but especially the two I named;
substantially more attention to the psychic costs of the
transformation - amounts to saying I wanted to read a different book
from the one I picked up, and can reasonably be discounted. But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]

Which doesn't even come close to overcoming the enjoyment the
previous hundreds of pages had brought me. If this were really a
review, trying to inform readers about the book, the above would
be wholly disproportionate; the review should be nine-tenths positive.
But if there are any readers here who do need to be informed about it,
it's news to me; and the above is meant instead to provoke a
discussion.

Joe Bernstein

[1] In fact,
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_James_Tiptree_Jr._Award_winners>
- which also lists the honour books, and names publishers for all -
lists not *one* Baen book. This just shouts "Bias" but I'm not sure
whose.

[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
with friends, with a budding romance, with the wizard posing as her
father - than in her old life, which apparently involved plenty of
TV. The two aren't explicitly linked, but remarks about friendship
among the girls often show up near remarks about the male self. But
we haven't actually seen the male self watching TV, which the girls
seemingly do too - they certainly talk about TV shows - we've seen
him running a game (really well, with much knowledge of his players,
and a strong bond with one of them), and interacting with his
neighbours. If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
x***@gmail.com
2018-10-06 06:53:23 UTC
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I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F (male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Cryptoengineer
2018-10-06 14:42:40 UTC
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Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?

pt
Dimensional Traveler
2018-10-06 16:38:23 UTC
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Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?
Ozma was female-to-male-to-female and without memory of the first change.
--
Inquiring minds want to know while minds with a self-preservation
instinct are running screaming.
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-06 19:28:34 UTC
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Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?
Ozma was female-to-male-to-female and without memory of the first change.
If I understand correctly, all human embryos are female
for a while, and some turn male. But, as you say,
before you're aware.
Dimensional Traveler
2018-10-06 20:43:12 UTC
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Post by Robert Carnegie
Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?
Ozma was female-to-male-to-female and without memory of the first change.
If I understand correctly, all human embryos are female
for a while, and some turn male. But, as you say,
before you're aware.
Ozma was born female, magically turned male to hide her and then found
and returned to female. Its been a while since I read the Oz series but
as I recall she was a somewhat "feminine" boy too.
--
Inquiring minds want to know while minds with a self-preservation
instinct are running screaming.
David Johnston
2018-10-06 17:46:35 UTC
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Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?
Yes. The "You were always really female" just reduced the level of
tragedy or creepiness.
x***@gmail.com
2018-10-07 13:09:28 UTC
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Post by Cryptoengineer
Post by x***@gmail.com
I suspect that the MC's decision to stay female was informed more by
the "99 laws of TG fiction" than anything else. Transgender fiction is
pretty much a genre unto itself, and a fairly rigidly stylized one, at
that. To a first approximation, *all* TG fiction is M2F
(male-to-female)—the few existing instances of F2M TG fiction are
pretty much a rounding error—and, also to a first approximation, the
ex-males who get feminized *always* stay female, end of discussion.
Does Ozma of Oz count?
As one of the rare exceptions to the general rule(s)? Yes. Of course, Baum was writing several decades before most current authors of TG fiction were even born, so it's not surprising that he didn't go along with the tropes which are associated with contemporary TG fiction.
-dsr-
2018-10-07 12:34:30 UTC
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Post by Joe Bernstein
So one reason I'm posting this is that I want to find out from people
more experienced with the genre, perhaps from the author himself,
<Princess Holy Aura> is primarily a tribute to the magical girl
subgenre.
Because if this is true, it affects everything else I noticed.
Ryk said so explicitly in his blog; he'll probably answer for
himself here, though.
Post by Joe Bernstein
2. Its weak characterisations. (I don't mean all its characters are
weakly portrayed, but it does have some weak characterisations in
characters who'd better have been stronger - but I'm guessing
characters like Tierra MacKintor and Cordelia Ingemar, the main
two I'm talking about, normally *aren't* strongly characterised in
magical girl manga / anime.)
It depends, but basically: if a series goes on long enough, more than
one of the other super-girls will get their own viewpoint work.
Post by Joe Bernstein
3. Its care in avoiding the obvious depths possible to the core idea.
It doesn't avoid *all* of them. The book takes care to keep the
possibility that its protagonist could be seen as a pervert in heaven
front and centre, even though it keeps refuting the idea. But a
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.
b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.
But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.
I offer you (c): Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".

But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
with friends, with a budding romance, with the wizard posing as her
father - than in her old life, which apparently involved plenty of
TV. The two aren't explicitly linked, but remarks about friendship
among the girls often show up near remarks about the male self. But
we haven't actually seen the male self watching TV, which the girls
seemingly do too - they certainly talk about TV shows - we've seen
him running a game (really well, with much knowledge of his players,
and a strong bond with one of them), and interacting with his
neighbours. If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.

-dsr-
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-07 22:13:09 UTC
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Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
2. Its weak characterisations. (I don't mean all its characters are
weakly portrayed, but it does have some weak characterisations in
characters who'd better have been stronger - but I'm guessing
characters like Tierra MacKintor and Cordelia Ingemar, the main
two I'm talking about, normally *aren't* strongly characterised in
magical girl manga / anime.)
It depends, but basically: if a series goes on long enough, more than
one of the other super-girls will get their own viewpoint work.
Well, this supports my thesis, then. This doesn't have room for
their viewpoints, and he doesn't intend any more of this story, so
we'd expect them not to get that. Of the other two, Seika Cooper is
pretty well characterised; Devika Weatherill more as a type than as
an individual, but still, she gets enough pages. In a genre in which
allies don't necessarily get lots of attention, that could well be
enough.

(Compare Legolas and Gimli, especially vs. the dwarves in <The Hobbit>.)

[Steve Russ as a tiny dissenter in the protagonist's head versus no
doubt in the protagonist about staying female]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.
b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.
But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.
Um, that would make this a third misreading. Are you sure that's
what you want?
Post by -dsr-
Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".
But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
This is a good idea. I'm not sure how much textual evidence there is
for it, though.

In particular, there's a couple of pieces of textual evidence
*against* it, seems to me. Stephen Russ defeats magical bad guys
right at the book's start through brawn and brains. Later, the
protagonist pulls him out to deal with a would-be rapist. (Note that
Tierra had, at that point, earlier been chastised for using magic
against common criminals.) So he has both magical and physical
agency, and we're shown that.

I don't think there's much good textual evidence either for what I'm
calling the protagonist's "decision". She says she prefers to be a
girl. She flings herself into a combat which essentially destroys
the alternative, but it's not even slightly clear that she knows
she's doing so. However, another reading of that action is that
she's more willing to sacrifice her life, as she then sees it,
because she *is* invested in staying female, and that isn't on offer.
So hmmm. If someone decides "I want X", and X then happens without
that person specifically trying to make it happen, is that a
"decision" ?
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
[snip]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.
This walks you right into the horn of the dilemma that I called
problematic. There are lots of thirtyish losers around. I used to
be one myself, in happier times. So *I'm* kind of invested in our
not learning that the solution is for us to all become teenaged girls,
magical or not.

(This also suggests that you're OK with the class issue that I called
a misreading. Let's follow this through. We do know that the plot
as planned is supposed to give him a "prospect of doing better". So
to that extent, anyway, money is a motivator. We also see the
protagonist wax eloquent on poverty. But the book goes no further
into the class differences between the male and female selves. So if
part of the agency difference *is* the class difference, then we're
in effect getting this advice to thirtyish losers: "Be rich instead."
Which is not helpful. So I'd prefer that seeing class as a
significant part of the protagonist's motivation be a misreading, and
I think the book, in the negative sense, supports that preference.)

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
-dsr-
2018-10-08 14:02:29 UTC
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Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.
b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.
But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.
Um, that would make this a third misreading. Are you sure that's
what you want?
Heh. No, I misread "misreadings".
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".
But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
This is a good idea. I'm not sure how much textual evidence there is
for it, though.
In particular, there's a couple of pieces of textual evidence
*against* it, seems to me. Stephen Russ defeats magical bad guys
right at the book's start through brawn and brains. Later, the
protagonist pulls him out to deal with a would-be rapist. (Note that
Tierra had, at that point, earlier been chastised for using magic
against common criminals.) So he has both magical and physical
agency, and we're shown that.
But he doesn't *feel* like he has agency, and in another book, perhaps
he would discover that the magic was inside him all along.

Silvertail is looking for:

He drew himself to his full height—which, standing, was probably
all of eight or nine inches—and bowed. “I must formally greet
you, who have passed a test that few in your world would have
passed—a test of empathy, a test of attention, a test of reaction,
a test of courage, a test of endurance, all compressed into this
single battle. You are the one, the Heart I have been Seeking."

With all that, why is Stephen not successful? To me it looks like bad
luck, and more willingness to take risks on behalf of others than on
behalf of himself.
Post by Joe Bernstein
I don't think there's much good textual evidence either for what I'm
calling the protagonist's "decision". She says she prefers to be a
girl. She flings herself into a combat which essentially destroys
the alternative, but it's not even slightly clear that she knows
she's doing so. However, another reading of that action is that
she's more willing to sacrifice her life, as she then sees it,
because she *is* invested in staying female, and that isn't on offer.
So hmmm. If someone decides "I want X", and X then happens without
that person specifically trying to make it happen, is that a
"decision" ?
When someone is offered a major life change, says that they like it better
than the old way, and then they get to keep it without consciously making
a choice to lock it in -- sure, they made a choice. They didn't get to
back out of it.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
[snip]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.
This walks you right into the horn of the dilemma that I called
problematic. There are lots of thirtyish losers around. I used to
be one myself, in happier times. So *I'm* kind of invested in our
not learning that the solution is for us to all become teenaged girls,
magical or not.
Understandable. But asking Ryk to tell us the completely realistic
path for solving Stephen's life issues without invoking a stock transformation
sequence would be a different novel.
Post by Joe Bernstein
(This also suggests that you're OK with the class issue that I called
a misreading. Let's follow this through. We do know that the plot
as planned is supposed to give him a "prospect of doing better". So
to that extent, anyway, money is a motivator. We also see the
protagonist wax eloquent on poverty. But the book goes no further
into the class differences between the male and female selves. So if
part of the agency difference *is* the class difference, then we're
in effect getting this advice to thirtyish losers: "Be rich instead."
Which is not helpful. So I'd prefer that seeing class as a
significant part of the protagonist's motivation be a misreading, and
I think the book, in the negative sense, supports that preference.)
The book definitely says that life is easier when you're wealthy, and
that being a teenaged girl drops your social respectability level, too.
Early mall scene? Though some of that is attributable to the size
reduction.

But if it were all money-related, this book wouldn't be different from
the one in which Stephen discovers a long-lost bachelor uncle who is a
multi-millionaire.

I guess I'm taking an intersectional approach: there are class issues,
there are gender issues, there are age issues, and I like that the story
looks at all of them while also being a totally amusing tale of a
Magical Princess Warrior.

-dsr-
m***@sky.com
2018-10-08 18:28:23 UTC
Reply
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Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.
b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.
But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.
Um, that would make this a third misreading. Are you sure that's
what you want?
Heh. No, I misread "misreadings".
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".
But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
This is a good idea. I'm not sure how much textual evidence there is
for it, though.
In particular, there's a couple of pieces of textual evidence
*against* it, seems to me. Stephen Russ defeats magical bad guys
right at the book's start through brawn and brains. Later, the
protagonist pulls him out to deal with a would-be rapist. (Note that
Tierra had, at that point, earlier been chastised for using magic
against common criminals.) So he has both magical and physical
agency, and we're shown that.
But he doesn't *feel* like he has agency, and in another book, perhaps
he would discover that the magic was inside him all along.
He drew himself to his full height—which, standing, was probably
all of eight or nine inches—and bowed. “I must formally greet
you, who have passed a test that few in your world would have
passed—a test of empathy, a test of attention, a test of reaction,
a test of courage, a test of endurance, all compressed into this
single battle. You are the one, the Heart I have been Seeking."
With all that, why is Stephen not successful? To me it looks like bad
luck, and more willingness to take risks on behalf of others than on
behalf of himself.
Post by Joe Bernstein
I don't think there's much good textual evidence either for what I'm
calling the protagonist's "decision". She says she prefers to be a
girl. She flings herself into a combat which essentially destroys
the alternative, but it's not even slightly clear that she knows
she's doing so. However, another reading of that action is that
she's more willing to sacrifice her life, as she then sees it,
because she *is* invested in staying female, and that isn't on offer.
So hmmm. If someone decides "I want X", and X then happens without
that person specifically trying to make it happen, is that a
"decision" ?
When someone is offered a major life change, says that they like it better
than the old way, and then they get to keep it without consciously making
a choice to lock it in -- sure, they made a choice. They didn't get to
back out of it.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
[snip]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.
This walks you right into the horn of the dilemma that I called
problematic. There are lots of thirtyish losers around. I used to
be one myself, in happier times. So *I'm* kind of invested in our
not learning that the solution is for us to all become teenaged girls,
magical or not.
Understandable. But asking Ryk to tell us the completely realistic
path for solving Stephen's life issues without invoking a stock transformation
sequence would be a different novel.
Post by Joe Bernstein
(This also suggests that you're OK with the class issue that I called
a misreading. Let's follow this through. We do know that the plot
as planned is supposed to give him a "prospect of doing better". So
to that extent, anyway, money is a motivator. We also see the
protagonist wax eloquent on poverty. But the book goes no further
into the class differences between the male and female selves. So if
part of the agency difference *is* the class difference, then we're
in effect getting this advice to thirtyish losers: "Be rich instead."
Which is not helpful. So I'd prefer that seeing class as a
significant part of the protagonist's motivation be a misreading, and
I think the book, in the negative sense, supports that preference.)
The book definitely says that life is easier when you're wealthy, and
that being a teenaged girl drops your social respectability level, too.
Early mall scene? Though some of that is attributable to the size
reduction.
(trimmed)
I was very interested in this book because I enjoyed the Grand Central Arena books greatly. I read the mall scene as a free excerpt, did not find it plausible, and decided that I didn't want to pay for a sermon on gender politics. As I recall, the mall scene was based on a very physically robust male colliding more often with others when changed to a slight teenage girl, on the basis that others no longer stepped out of their way. I try and keep out of everybody's way, and the social penalty for me knocking over a teenage girl is far more of a worry to me than the physical penalty of bouncing off a large size male.
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-08 18:31:11 UTC
Reply
Permalink
(but this isn't me)
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".
But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
This is a good idea. I'm not sure how much textual evidence there is
for it, though.
In particular, there's a couple of pieces of textual evidence
*against* it, seems to me. Stephen Russ defeats magical bad guys
right at the book's start through brawn and brains. Later, the
protagonist pulls him out to deal with a would-be rapist. (Note that
Tierra had, at that point, earlier been chastised for using magic
against common criminals.) So he has both magical and physical
agency, and we're shown that.
But he doesn't *feel* like he has agency, and in another book, perhaps
he would discover that the magic was inside him all along.
Um, actually, he has magic inside him (though not all along) in *this*
book. I forgot to note that his first change into Princess Holy Aura
is exactly that - *his* change. It's not much of a spoiler that
Holly Owen is a *later* phenomenon.

This is important. There's no reason in principle that Princess Holy
Aura's secret identity can't be Stephen Russ. Only social reasons,
which are temporary, though long-term. And, well, as it turns out,
body dysphoria issues (a phrase that *is* in the book).
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
[snip]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.
This walks you right into the horn of the dilemma that I called
problematic. There are lots of thirtyish losers around. I used to
be one myself, in happier times. So *I'm* kind of invested in our
not learning that the solution is for us to all become teenaged girls,
magical or not.
Understandable. But asking Ryk to tell us the completely realistic
path for solving Stephen's life issues without invoking a stock transformation
sequence would be a different novel.
What I'm looking for is a way for the arguable "decision" Holly makes
*not* to say "Be a rich girl instead" to thirtyish losers, because
it's saying something unrelated to thirtyish loserdom.

I'm saying that this decision is inadequately motivated as I read the
book. That isn't about a different novel. I'm adding that looking
for that motivation turns out to involve a path between Scylla and
Charybdis.

Candidates so far:

a) It's saying Stephen was hopelessly lonely (one horn of the above
"dilemma"). Since this is false, it's a bad answer, because it
makes the book out to be a liar.

b) It's saying wealth is better than poverty ("be rich instead").
This is just useless advice to thirtyish losers, so I want
something better (this is both a horn of the above "dilemma" and
my misreading b), and as I read the book, so does the author; he
doesn't provide much support for it in-book.
"Be a girl instead" is essentially an even more problematic
variant of this, and one that I'm not sure the author avoids as
clearly as he avoids the first. He certainly has Holly think a
lot of things consistent with this.

c) It's saying agency is better than ineffectuality, your answer.
This is problematic in terms of avoiding the previous answers, and
not well supported in-book, but promising; I think it's my
personal favourite so far.

d) It's saying it's a transgender story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read transgender stories much, this doesn't work for
me; also, while it's sort of supported in-book, I don't think it's
enough so ("body dysphoria" is in the text, but strongly linked to
the magic, not to Stephen's personality).

e) It's saying possession is nine-tenths of the law. This works with
some of the text and flies completely counter to some, and turns
the ending into a boring issue of how magic works, rather than
something about people, so I want this to be a misreading; it's
my misreading a).

f) It's saying it's a magical girl story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read magical girl stories much, this doesn't work
for me, and I'm not sure it's supported enough in-book. But I
suspect this is actually the author's intent.

g) It's saying that Holly has a bunch of relationships that for
various reasons Stephen *can't* have, so of course the decision.
This is strongly supported in-book, and I suspect it's the
author's back-up answer. I'm not sure what I think of it; it is,
like c), vulnerable to turning into "Be a rich girl instead".
Post by -dsr-
I guess I'm taking an intersectional approach: there are class issues,
there are gender issues, there are age issues, and I like that the story
looks at all of them while also being a totally amusing tale of a
Magical Princess Warrior.
Seems to me that's a glass half-full version of my glass half-empty
approach. "See, it's neat that it touches on all these things." "No,
it doesn't touch on them enough."

Have I made it clearer why I think this is a real problem? I did
react to the novel in a bunch of ways that amount to saying "I want a
different novel", starting even before I read it with the Tiptree
expectation, and I said so in my first post. But as I also said in
my first post, I don't think *this* issue is one of those ways.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-08 21:23:11 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I suppose that "When the hero returns home, things are
not as they were", and, "If the hero gives up being a
Magical Girl, what can you pitch as a sequel?" are not
satisfactory answers when you're concerned about
psychological realism. A character and a hero are
not necessarily the same thing.

On the other hand, inasmuch as this is a fantasia
of magical-girl culture in and out of battle dress,
is realism the point?
-dsr-
2018-10-08 23:40:31 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
(but this isn't me)
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Stephen Russ's self-concept is not rooted in 'male',
but has that as an attribute which he never questioned in any way, and
had no disssatisfaction with. When he is transformed into Holly Owens,
her self-concept can slowly shift to 'female' because her core identity
does not change from "mensch", or if you prefer, "good person".
But now, instead of being a powerless good person, she is a powerful
good person. As several folks have noted at various times, science fiction
and fantasy are usually rooted in the theme of agency, being able to
personally make change happen in the world.
This is a good idea. I'm not sure how much textual evidence there is
for it, though.
In particular, there's a couple of pieces of textual evidence
*against* it, seems to me. Stephen Russ defeats magical bad guys
right at the book's start through brawn and brains. Later, the
protagonist pulls him out to deal with a would-be rapist. (Note that
Tierra had, at that point, earlier been chastised for using magic
against common criminals.) So he has both magical and physical
agency, and we're shown that.
But he doesn't *feel* like he has agency, and in another book, perhaps
he would discover that the magic was inside him all along.
Um, actually, he has magic inside him (though not all along) in *this*
book. I forgot to note that his first change into Princess Holy Aura
is exactly that - *his* change. It's not much of a spoiler that
Holly Owen is a *later* phenomenon.
I'm certain that Stephen didn't have the ability to transform into
Holy Aura before Silvertail came along and asked him if he was willing
to take up that burden.

You are correct that Silvertail could offer him the ability to change from
PHA back into Stephen Russ, and does enable that change several times:

Silvertail nodded. “I see no alternative. You, Stephen Russ, will have
to enter the high school in the only acceptable guise—that of a
fourteen-year-old girl—to locate, befriend, and ultimately activate
the other four Apocalypse Maidens.”

but none of that is Stephen's personal magic; he doesn't have any that
isn't gifted to him by Silvertail.
Post by Joe Bernstein
This is important. There's no reason in principle that Princess Holy
Aura's secret identity can't be Stephen Russ. Only social reasons,
which are temporary, though long-term. And, well, as it turns out,
body dysphoria issues (a phrase that *is* in the book).
Which he deals with, yes.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
[2] If the book offers *any* motivation for the protagonist's
decision, it's got to be that as a girl she has closer relationships -
[snip]
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
If the point is that well-off teenagers can have richer
social lives than badly-off thirtyish bachelors, um, duh - but that
suggests something really problematic about the decision. If the
point is that the male self really had been pathetically lonely, um,
no.
Stephen isn't pathetically lonely; he's pathetically unsuccessful in
material terms. At the beginning, he has friends whom he sees regularly,
a minimum-wage job that just keeps his head above water, and no particular
prospects of doing better. He's ready for the plot to happen to him.
This walks you right into the horn of the dilemma that I called
problematic. There are lots of thirtyish losers around. I used to
be one myself, in happier times. So *I'm* kind of invested in our
not learning that the solution is for us to all become teenaged girls,
magical or not.
Understandable. But asking Ryk to tell us the completely realistic
path for solving Stephen's life issues without invoking a stock transformation
sequence would be a different novel.
What I'm looking for is a way for the arguable "decision" Holly makes
*not* to say "Be a rich girl instead" to thirtyish losers, because
it's saying something unrelated to thirtyish loserdom.
I'm saying that this decision is inadequately motivated as I read the
book. That isn't about a different novel. I'm adding that looking
for that motivation turns out to involve a path between Scylla and
Charybdis.
Specifically, the decision to stay Holly Owens/PHA, rather than going
back to being Stephen Russ?
Post by Joe Bernstein
a) It's saying Stephen was hopelessly lonely (one horn of the above
"dilemma"). Since this is false, it's a bad answer, because it
makes the book out to be a liar.
Yes, we can drop that one.
Post by Joe Bernstein
b) It's saying wealth is better than poverty ("be rich instead").
This is just useless advice to thirtyish losers, so I want
something better (this is both a horn of the above "dilemma" and
my misreading b), and as I read the book, so does the author; he
doesn't provide much support for it in-book.
"Be a girl instead" is essentially an even more problematic
variant of this, and one that I'm not sure the author avoids as
clearly as he avoids the first. He certainly has Holly think a
lot of things consistent with this.
You say "better", I say "more comfortable" and "makes life easier". When
I read "better", I think of a moral judgement which I disagree with.

If I could bestow general prosperity on the world, I would do so, not
because I view wealth as superior to poverty in a moral sense, but because
wealth is a powerful enabler of choices.

Differently, I don't think of male and female as being *necessarily*
essential to someone's identity, but I do recognize that it is usually
a major part of their identity. Some people are more attached to it than
others, and some people really hate what they got. (E.g. April Daniels'
excellent trilogy-in-progress Nemesis, currently out: Dreadnought and
Sovereign.)
Post by Joe Bernstein
c) It's saying agency is better than ineffectuality, your answer.
This is problematic in terms of avoiding the previous answers, and
not well supported in-book, but promising; I think it's my
personal favourite so far.
When Steve is transformed into Holly, she becomes aware of a different set
of possible choices for her to make, some of which derive from gender,
some from age, some from life experience, some from wealth, and some
from magic. This is *not* his old life, and both active choices and defaults
are being rechosen.
Post by Joe Bernstein
d) It's saying it's a transgender story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read transgender stories much, this doesn't work for
me; also, while it's sort of supported in-book, I don't think it's
enough so ("body dysphoria" is in the text, but strongly linked to
the magic, not to Stephen's personality).
Yup. Again see April Daniels' books.
Post by Joe Bernstein
e) It's saying possession is nine-tenths of the law. This works with
some of the text and flies completely counter to some, and turns
the ending into a boring issue of how magic works, rather than
something about people, so I want this to be a misreading; it's
my misreading a).
There's the question of what the author intended, what the author wrote,
what you read, what I read, and what we each thought about what we read.
All of these can be different without being wrong. I think that I would
be interested in spending a year as a superpowered woman via magical
transformation, and very unhappy if it were permanent or without my
consent. I would apply my superpowers to finding a magic to
undo the change. I can also see how at least two transgender friends
of mine would jump at the chance to get a perfect magical change to their
correct bodies. And I can think of people who would be put off by the
whole notion because their self-images are so strongly rooted in their
gender.
Post by Joe Bernstein
f) It's saying it's a magical girl story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read magical girl stories much, this doesn't work
for me, and I'm not sure it's supported enough in-book. But I
suspect this is actually the author's intent.
Not so much, because Ryk clearly set out to explore a transformation which
*doesn't* routinely happen in magical girl stories. The standard magical
girl transformation is from teenager or even pre-teen to adult, giving
a fast-forward to what people expect to happen over the course of their
lives and then jazzing it up with superpowers and allies and enemies.
This isn't that.
Post by Joe Bernstein
g) It's saying that Holly has a bunch of relationships that for
various reasons Stephen *can't* have, so of course the decision.
This is strongly supported in-book, and I suspect it's the
author's back-up answer. I'm not sure what I think of it; it is,
like c), vulnerable to turning into "Be a rich girl instead".
Transformative experiences change you, or else what are they for?

If this was the story of 16 year old shy nerdy Stephen going to summer
camp, being bullied by snobs and finding friends with similar interests
and getting a first romantic kiss -- that's a conventional story
about a transformative experience, and it's one that could have happened
any number of ways. At the end of the story, he's a different version of
himself, but a more or less predictable version.

If Stephen goes off to camp where he is bitten by a werewolf and is
"saved" by being transformed into a vampire, now there are a different
set of choices and available relationships that, again, he hadn't had
open to him at the beginning of the story.

I think the story here is closer to "You can't go home again" or "You
can't step into the same river twice".
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by -dsr-
I guess I'm taking an intersectional approach: there are class issues,
there are gender issues, there are age issues, and I like that the story
looks at all of them while also being a totally amusing tale of a
Magical Princess Warrior.
Seems to me that's a glass half-full version of my glass half-empty
approach. "See, it's neat that it touches on all these things." "No,
it doesn't touch on them enough."
Have I made it clearer why I think this is a real problem? I did
react to the novel in a bunch of ways that amount to saying "I want a
different novel", starting even before I read it with the Tiptree
expectation, and I said so in my first post. But as I also said in
my first post, I don't think *this* issue is one of those ways.
I think that there's a case to be made that if these issues had been
examined more deeply, it would be closer to a Tiptree Award contender.
But I don't know how the author would have fit them in while keeping
the book fast-paced, and I don't know that he has a deeper message to
convey than what we've talked about.

-dsr-
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-09 16:33:42 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I think this is winding down.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
What I'm looking for is a way for the arguable "decision" Holly makes
*not* to say "Be a rich girl instead" to thirtyish losers, because
it's saying something unrelated to thirtyish loserdom.
I'm saying that this decision is inadequately motivated as I read the
book. That isn't about a different novel. I'm adding that looking
for that motivation turns out to involve a path between Scylla and
Charybdis.
Specifically, the decision to stay Holly Owens/PHA, rather than going
back to being Stephen Russ?
Um, yeah. I seem not to have been clear enough about that, since we
now have the author reading me as referring to a different decision
(one that unequivocally *is* a decision, unlike the one I'm talking
about).
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
b) It's saying wealth is better than poverty ("be rich instead").
This is just useless advice to thirtyish losers, so I want
something better (this is both a horn of the above "dilemma" and
my misreading b), and as I read the book, so does the author; he
doesn't provide much support for it in-book.
"Be a girl instead" is essentially an even more problematic
variant of this, and one that I'm not sure the author avoids as
clearly as he avoids the first. He certainly has Holly think a
lot of things consistent with this.
You say "better", I say "more comfortable" and "makes life easier". When
I read "better", I think of a moral judgement which I disagree with.
If I could bestow general prosperity on the world, I would do so, not
because I view wealth as superior to poverty in a moral sense, but because
wealth is a powerful enabler of choices.
I'm interested to find that I'm not so sure about this. This is
partly from my attention to things Korean - a blogger I read has
repeatedly emphasised that many aspects of South Korean society can
be explained by the country's extremely rapid transformation from
poverty to wealth, and the fact that people now living, and more or
less in charge, experienced that entire transformation personally.
It's made me think about what might be called unintended consequences
of wealth.

(Of course, Americans have also had reason to think about such for
over a decade now because of a dissident Saudi nouveau riche.)
Post by -dsr-
Differently, I don't think of male and female as being *necessarily*
essential to someone's identity, but I do recognize that it is usually
a major part of their identity. Some people are more attached to it than
others, and some people really hate what they got. (E.g. April Daniels'
excellent trilogy-in-progress Nemesis, currently out: Dreadnought and
Sovereign.)
Yeah.

I have a kind of complicated take on this which I think I'd rather go
into in response to the author than here.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
c) It's saying agency is better than ineffectuality, your answer.
This is problematic in terms of avoiding the previous answers, and
not well supported in-book, but promising; I think it's my
personal favourite so far.
When Steve is transformed into Holly, she becomes aware of a different set
of possible choices for her to make, some of which derive from gender,
some from age, some from life experience, some from wealth, and some
from magic. This is *not* his old life, and both active choices and defaults
are being rechosen.
In one direction, as I've repeatedly said, this can become "be a rich
girl instead". In the other direction, though, it can become what
you said later, "you can't go home again". Which is sort of a
reductio ad absurdum of fiction. "The story happened, so everything
in the story can be explained by its happening. The character is
motivated by everything that went before, because that's how all
fiction characters work."

I think this is an impoverished take on fiction. But even if I
accept it, it doesn't refute my concern, because my concern is partly
non-aesthetic. Even if the story is a black box, and we don't get to
evaluate its workings, we can ask whether the story says something,
and I'm asking whether the story here says something troubling.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
d) It's saying it's a transgender story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read transgender stories much, this doesn't work for
me; also, while it's sort of supported in-book, I don't think it's
enough so ("body dysphoria" is in the text, but strongly linked to
the magic, not to Stephen's personality).
Yup. Again see April Daniels' books.
Um, could you unpack?
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
f) It's saying it's a magical girl story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read magical girl stories much, this doesn't work
for me, and I'm not sure it's supported enough in-book. But I
suspect this is actually the author's intent.
Not so much, because Ryk clearly set out to explore a transformation which
*doesn't* routinely happen in magical girl stories. The standard magical
girl transformation is from teenager or even pre-teen to adult, giving
a fast-forward to what people expect to happen over the course of their
lives and then jazzing it up with superpowers and allies and enemies.
This isn't that.
OK, one of my purposes in the first post was to assess the book's
relationship with that genre, so thanks.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
g) It's saying that Holly has a bunch of relationships that for
various reasons Stephen *can't* have, so of course the decision.
This is strongly supported in-book, and I suspect it's the
author's back-up answer. I'm not sure what I think of it; it is,
like c), vulnerable to turning into "Be a rich girl instead".
Transformative experiences change you, or else what are they for?
If this was the story of 16 year old shy nerdy Stephen going to summer
camp, being bullied by snobs and finding friends with similar interests
and getting a first romantic kiss -- that's a conventional story
about a transformative experience, and it's one that could have happened
any number of ways. At the end of the story, he's a different version of
himself, but a more or less predictable version.
So I'm saying it's also predictable that thirtyish losers have poorer
social lives than rich teenaged girls. (The "poor little rich girl"
trope notwithstanding.) Which is why I'm unhappy with the idea that
the protagonist's decision (the one I've been talking about) is
rooted in this predictable difference, because that is *very* hard to
distinguish from "be a [rich?] girl instead".

I'll go more into this in response to the author, though.
Post by -dsr-
I think the story here is closer to "You can't go home again" or "You
can't step into the same river twice".
Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
-dsr-
2018-10-09 17:55:49 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
I think this is winding down.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
d) It's saying it's a transgender story, so of course the decision.
Since I don't read transgender stories much, this doesn't work for
me; also, while it's sort of supported in-book, I don't think it's
enough so ("body dysphoria" is in the text, but strongly linked to
the magic, not to Stephen's personality).
Yup. Again see April Daniels' books.
Um, could you unpack?
Sure. Spoilers for the first chapter of Dreadnought: the protagonist
is a biological teenaged male who is very unhappy with their body. The
Superman-like Dreadnought dies, and the alien symbiote powering Dreadnought
hops over to the kid's body.

In the process of rebuilding that body to withstand supertraumas, the
symbiote reads the protagonist's mind and sculpts the body to become the
perfection of self-concept. Which is to say, the new Dreadnought is a
young adult woman. This makes her very happy.

Everyone else does *not* have the same reaction. Story ensues.

-dsr-
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-09 22:56:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
I think this is winding down.
Post by -dsr-
Post by Joe Bernstein
What I'm looking for is a way for the arguable "decision" Holly makes
*not* to say "Be a rich girl instead" to thirtyish losers, because
it's saying something unrelated to thirtyish loserdom.
I'm saying that this decision is inadequately motivated as I read the
book. That isn't about a different novel. I'm adding that looking
for that motivation turns out to involve a path between Scylla and
Charybdis.
Specifically, the decision to stay Holly Owens/PHA, rather than going
back to being Stephen Russ?
Um, yeah. I seem not to have been clear enough about that, since we
now have the author reading me as referring to a different decision
(one that unequivocally *is* a decision, unlike the one I'm talking
about).
I look forward to the reply, since the only other candidate I can think
of for that choice has a pretty explicit in-book explanation for why.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-09 12:47:47 UTC
Reply
Permalink
(Spoilers below, naturally)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So one reason I'm posting this is that I want to find out from people
more experienced with the genre, perhaps from the author himself,
<Princess Holy Aura> is primarily a tribute to the magical girl
subgenre.
It is unmistakably a Mahou Shoujo novel. Not only have I said that many
times, the book itself references it multiple times in-universe. The
girl in the front cover illustration (and all the illustrations on my
site for the characters) was drawn by an actual Japanese mangaka.

It's also inspired/shaped by/examination of memes and such (thus the
expy of the SCP foundation, Slender Man, etc.)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Because if this is true, it affects everything else I noticed.
1. Its propulsive plot and appealing characters. Duh.
I think "appealing characters" is a general mark of most fun fiction.
Post by Joe Bernstein
2. Its weak characterisations. (I don't mean all its characters are
weakly portrayed, but it does have some weak characterisations in
characters who'd better have been stronger - but I'm guessing
characters like Tierra MacKintor and Cordelia Ingemar, the main
two I'm talking about, normally *aren't* strongly characterised in
magical girl manga / anime.)
Not room enough in this book. If I'd done it completely according to
tropes, there would have been at least one or two battles in between
each girl arriving, with time for us to learn more about each of the new
girls before I threw in another one. However, one novel doesn't give me
the room to do a 26-episode series.
Post by Joe Bernstein
3. Its care in avoiding the obvious depths possible to the core idea.
It doesn't avoid *all* of them.
I described writing this book as tapdancing on landmines while juggling
containers of gasoline. There were some Very Very Very bad directions
this could go (maybe beyond mere "Oh John Ringo No" and straight to "Oh
No Piers Anthony No"). So exploring various ideas had to be done ...
carefully.

The book takes care to keep the
Post by Joe Bernstein
possibility that its protagonist could be seen as a pervert in heaven
front and centre, even though it keeps refuting the idea. But a
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
Steve/Holly changed during their tenure. To a small extent, this is
because there was, as Silvertail mentions, a "template" of the Magical
Girl that gives the nascent Holly Owen/Holy Aura an actual foundation of
... well, "essence of teenage girl", that Steve-Before-Book didn't have.

The book leaves open whether Steve had any hidden TG elements; it
wasn't necessary to delve into that one way or the other.

Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.

Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Post by Joe Bernstein
a) There really are female and male parts of the protagonist's
personality, they struggle, and the female part wins because the
personality is spending most of its time in a female body.
b) The man had been on the edge of poverty. The girl is actually
quite well off. The book is a parable of class.
One could use either one. I don't do "parables" or anything like that.
If you read my books looking for deep complex meanings, most of the time
all you're doing is looking for a Rorschach blot and projecting a
meaning onto it. Or you're going to have to assume that the complexity
comes unconsciously into the work, but then you have to assume I can't
speak to what the truth is.
Post by Joe Bernstein
But if we interpret the book through the shojo manga lens, there's a
simpler explanation. *Of course* girlhood is the right state for a
shojo manga heroine, whether or not it's the state she was born to.
So here we are. Much of what I wanted to see in this book - better
characterisation of all the girls, but especially the two I named;
substantially more attention to the psychic costs of the
transformation - amounts to saying I wanted to read a different book
from the one I picked up, and can reasonably be discounted. But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
If you mean Holy Aura's final decision to choose to attempt the
impossible, I'm rather surprised and disappointed that you miss the
motivation that I THOUGHT I had made clear through multiple repetitions,
and encapsulated by some of Holly's final words:

"I know," she said aloud, and looked up, at the towering figure that
was now nearly full-formed. "But I'm okay with that, completely…" and
her voice rose, echoing through the darkling gloom, "as long as children
NEVER have to pay this price again!"

Steve's motivation FROM THE BEGINNING was the protection of other
people. He HATES seeing people hurt -- physically, financially,
emotionally -- and in his old life he could do very little to help other
people except by giving them a few hours of escape into a game.

This is the REASON he accepts the power and becomes Princess Holy Aura
in the first place: because if he does not, people are going to die.

As Holy Aura, she HAS that power, and at the end point in the novel she
has -- she believes -- an opportunity to stop a cycle that has been
CONSTANTLY requiring children (by Steve's point of view) to shoulder the
burden of facing down monstrous adversaries, being injured, terrified,
traumatized -- to merely give a BREATHING SPACE until the NEXT set of
children gets dragged into this.

For Steve/Holly, this is a decision that is the very CULMINATION of
their lives -- the ability to say STOP! to destiny, to break the monster
that threatens her friends and their world, and leave the world ACTUALLY
a better place, at least in potential, than it would have been, with no
more cycles of children-warriors.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which doesn't even come close to overcoming the enjoyment the
previous hundreds of pages had brought me. If this were really a
review, trying to inform readers about the book, the above would
be wholly disproportionate; the review should be nine-tenths positive.
But if there are any readers here who do need to be informed about it,
it's news to me; and the above is meant instead to provoke a
discussion.
Thanks for that last bit, since I wasn't clear whether you'd liked the
book or not until now.


Later on you also make a statement... lemme see if I can find the
post... here: "...This doesn't have room for
their viewpoints, and he doesn't intend any more of this story,"

Not at all. I intend, whenever I can, to continue the story. I set it
up that way, after all. If I'd KNOWN for a fact that I'd have sequels,
yes, I might have left Holly's resurrection until the next one, but I
see a lot of potential for more stories. Part of this is implied in the
short story that accompanied the release of _Princess Holy Aura_,
"On-Site for the Apocalypse". There's lots to come in that universe.
Hopefully I get to write i.

And definitely no I didn't try writing for an award.

To my surprise, this one actually WON an award.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-10 19:19:03 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
[<Princess Holy Aura>'s status as a magical girl novel helps explain]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
3. Its care in avoiding the obvious depths possible to the core idea.
It doesn't avoid *all* of them.
I described writing this book as tapdancing on landmines while juggling
containers of gasoline. There were some Very Very Very bad directions
this could go (maybe beyond mere "Oh John Ringo No" and straight to "Oh
No Piers Anthony No"). So exploring various ideas had to be done ...
carefully.
Fair enough.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book takes care to keep the
Post by Joe Bernstein
possibility that its protagonist could be seen as a pervert in heaven
front and centre, even though it keeps refuting the idea. But a
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
Steve/Holly changed during their tenure. To a small extent, this is
because there was, as Silvertail mentions, a "template" of the Magical
Girl that gives the nascent Holly Owen/Holy Aura an actual foundation of
... well, "essence of teenage girl", that Steve-Before-Book didn't have.
OK, small extent. So - as I give you credit for making *usual* in
the book - the magic doesn't dictate the personal here.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book leaves open whether Steve had any hidden TG elements; it
wasn't necessary to delve into that one way or the other.
I remember that on first reading I felt something mildly strange
about his interaction with Dex before and after the game, FWIW.
No idea whether you wanted that vibe. This didn't recur, as best I
remember, on second reading.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Is a spouse a peer? Seems to me that depends on the couple's views
on gender relations, and we're given plenty of evidence that Stephen
Russ would say yes to that question.

This is the core of my concern - this is essentially auctorial
confirmation of what I listed as possibility g) in a previous post,
there described as Holly having relationships Stephen couldn't have.

I'm going to tackle this in two ways in this post. First, abstractly,
so that'll be here.

We're told that Stephen is manager of a bagel place. We aren't told
whether he has co-workers, but that isn't actually relevant to what
you say here, because even at that level, subordinates aren't peers.
(He does seem to be his group's only DM, which means his players
aren't peers either. Not all groups work that way; the fact that the
teen group in the book doesn't, is sort of a thumb on the scales I'll
get to.) We also aren't told what sorts of shops surround the bagel
place - whether it's the only shop for a mile each way, whether it's
in a mall (though evidently not the one that gets trashed), a strip
mall, a commercial block, a mostly non-commercial skyscraper, what.
This has significant consequences for his human contact; neighbouring
shopkeepers *are* his peers, though his interests and theirs may well
not overlap.

I think in America generally, people in their thirties are more
isolated than in their twenties or teens. The intense sociality of
high school has pretty much faded. Jobs tend to offer fewer peers -
for example here, he isn't just a regular worker at the bagel place,
but the manager. Quite a lot of people that age have pretty much
retreated into family life, their social lives built around their
kids' lives. This is pretty much the first decade in which the
negative consequences of remaining unmarried come front and centre.
So is a spouse a peer? That's the single likeliest place to look for
one, for many Americans in their thirties; and for people like
Stephen, the next likeliest is enabled by the spouse, being the
parents of the kids his kids would play with. There's a reason David
Shields defines "never married at 40" as "loser".
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Or you're going to have to assume that the complexity
comes unconsciously into the work, but then you have to assume I can't
speak to what the truth is.
I neither abjure nor prefer the sort of "author's intent doesn't
matter" thing usually called New Criticism. In this particular case,
I think I can reasonably argue that the book does things you may not
have intended it to do; that makes it quite like many other human
activities that have unintended consequences, after all.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
If you mean Holy Aura's final decision to choose to attempt the
impossible, I'm rather surprised and disappointed that you miss the
motivation that I THOUGHT I had made clear through multiple repetitions,
Nope, didn't miss that at all. That isn't the decision I meant.

In the post you're quoting, I waffled by putting it in plural:
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.

Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.

I don't see much alternative to doing what I did above again, this
time less abstractly. I'm not comfortable doing this, which is why
I put this post off overnight.

So OK. In the book, I'm not sure of Holly's age. She's a freshman
in high school in an area that has junior highs. I thought junior
high went to 9th grade; so is Holly in 10th? But let's pretend she
really is a freshman, and fourteen (the back cover's "twelve" can be
ignored). As a freshman I was in the same school building, though
notionally a different school, as eighth grade, so I knew people,
including the guy who arranged to film me allegedly kissing a fellow
geek during that year. (We were all terrified of homosexuality. I
heard that wasn't true, a few years later at that school, but it was
when I was there.) Also the fellow geeks; I didn't like them all,
but they were the people I was able to socialise with at school. But
I still knew people from childhood. I got into gaming that year, and
people from childhood, people I met at the university near my house,
and people from high school were all in my first games. I was often
miserably lonely, but this was a rich social life compared to much
that lay ahead. If we go on to when I was fourteen (I was two grades
ahead), it was even richer, because by then girls who interested me
were talking to me (though not dating me).

When I turned thirty I lived in Chicago; when I turned forty I lived
in Seattle; but most of the decade in between, I lived in Wisconsin,
in Milwaukee except for about 18 months in Madison.

That year in Chicago represented the collapse of the social pattern
of my 20s. I'd worked for several years in a bank department that
offered rich social possibilities, lots and lots of my near- or full
contemporaries. But even while I was flaming out of there, quite a
few of my friends were moving on, travelling, getting promoted ...
(My nominal supervisor at the time of the flame-out had been a peer.)
I'd also worked for several years at The Stars Our Destination, and
when I left I had friends from there, and feeble hopes to date a co-
worker. The friends I'd made writing, earlier in the decade, had
already dispersed, for the most part, as had my college friends.

I haven't lived comfortably in Milwaukee as an adult, and the two
stints in my thirties were no exception. During the first I only
slowly let go of Chicago, and most of the friends from there. I had
no sustained jobs in Milwaukee as I'd had in my late 20s, and the few
people I retained *any* contact with weren't peers but references.
Madison was even more isolating. The second stint in Milwaukee was
dominated by my mother's death, and later by my planning for Seattle,
although it included my closest association with gaming since my
teens. (A game run by a friend who'd married, but not had kids.)
There's a line in <A Civil Campaign> that I first read during those
years - "Once past his school days, Tien had never made a new good
friend." It isn't actually true of me, but it worried me a lot,
around then. In particular, even though my work kept me moving
around, I met very few women who interested me, and none for whom I
could sustain that interest.

Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face. In men, not
so much, and of course my *height*, never over 5'3" (160 cm) didn't
help. What I'm getting at is that as I reached higher and more
embarrassing ages at which to retain one's virginity, it became ever
more obvious that if I'd been born a woman (or even, for that matter,
gay), in this one increasingly important respect I'd have been a lot
better off.

The first year in Seattle was, well, the first year in a city where I
didn't know anyone. The patterns of my early 40s got established,
but it wasn't much fun.

This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't. His may have included the military; mine certainly
didn't. I sought all sorts of social hobbies; he focused on one. He
seems to have stayed in one place; I moved around a lot, although for
much of my thirties I was actually in my hometown.

But I think I'd need a lot of evidence to refute this before I'd stop
believing it: that unmarried men in their 30s who live near
minimum wage, all other things equal, have worse social lives than
well-off teenaged girls. In general, across the board. My life, the
lives I've observed, my reading, all say so. Hell, my life says even
a poor teenaged boy has a richer social life than a poor thirtyish
unmarried man.

In other words, I think the comparison the character makes is rigged.
So the book's advice to people like the earlier me boils down to "be
a rich girl instead". This is why I'd rather the protagonist had
decided on pretty much *any* other grounds.

Or to put it another way: if that comparison underlies Holly's
aversion to Stephen, then it represents a teenaged misjudgement.
People in their thirties are *supposed* to be uncomfortable if
unmarried. So the book's endorsing an alternative is, um, weird
at best.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Later on you also make a statement... lemme see if I can find the
post... here: "...This doesn't have room for
their viewpoints, and he doesn't intend any more of this story,"
Not at all. I intend, whenever I can, to continue the story. I set it
up that way, after all. If I'd KNOWN for a fact that I'd have sequels,
yes, I might have left Holly's resurrection until the next one, but I
see a lot of potential for more stories. Part of this is implied in the
short story that accompanied the release of _Princess Holy Aura_,
"On-Site for the Apocalypse". There's lots to come in that universe.
Hopefully I get to write i.
I misunderstood. I read <Princess Holy Aura>, then decided I needed
to know more about your writing (I'd previously read only <Boundary>,
<Threshold> and <Portal>). So I read <Digital Knight>, <Grand
Central Arena>, <Spheres of Influence>, and <Challenges of the Deep>.
Only in <Challenges> and <Princess> did the book end "FIN", so I took
that in each case as a declaration of closure. Glad it's not so.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-10 23:42:14 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
[<Princess Holy Aura>'s status as a magical girl novel helps explain]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
3. Its care in avoiding the obvious depths possible to the core idea.
It doesn't avoid *all* of them.
I described writing this book as tapdancing on landmines while juggling
containers of gasoline. There were some Very Very Very bad directions
this could go (maybe beyond mere "Oh John Ringo No" and straight to "Oh
No Piers Anthony No"). So exploring various ideas had to be done ...
carefully.
Fair enough.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book takes care to keep the
Post by Joe Bernstein
possibility that its protagonist could be seen as a pervert in heaven
front and centre, even though it keeps refuting the idea. But a
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
Steve/Holly changed during their tenure. To a small extent, this is
because there was, as Silvertail mentions, a "template" of the Magical
Girl that gives the nascent Holly Owen/Holy Aura an actual foundation of
... well, "essence of teenage girl", that Steve-Before-Book didn't have.
OK, small extent. So - as I give you credit for making *usual* in
the book - the magic doesn't dictate the personal here.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book leaves open whether Steve had any hidden TG elements; it
wasn't necessary to delve into that one way or the other.
I remember that on first reading I felt something mildly strange
about his interaction with Dex before and after the game, FWIW.
No idea whether you wanted that vibe. This didn't recur, as best I
remember, on second reading.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Is a spouse a peer? Seems to me that depends on the couple's views
on gender relations, and we're given plenty of evidence that Stephen
Russ would say yes to that question.
A spouse would be a peer. He has no spouse, though, so there's no
connection there.
Post by Joe Bernstein
This is the core of my concern - this is essentially auctorial
confirmation of what I listed as possibility g) in a previous post,
there described as Holly having relationships Stephen couldn't have.
I'm going to tackle this in two ways in this post. First, abstractly,
so that'll be here.
We're told that Stephen is manager of a bagel place.
No, we're not. We're told he WORKS at a bagel place. He was not a manager.

This bears upon your discussion below. His only peers would be the
other workers in the place, and they're not, really, peers, as he's
older than most of them, or younger than most of them.
Post by Joe Bernstein
We aren't told
whether he has co-workers, but that isn't actually relevant to what
you say here, because even at that level, subordinates aren't peers.
(He does seem to be his group's only DM, which means his players
aren't peers either. Not all groups work that way; the fact that the
teen group in the book doesn't, is sort of a thumb on the scales I'll
get to.)
There is no particular difference in the mechanics of how Steve's old
group and new group work, at least in terms of the GM position. Until
Dex and Holly start working on alternative games, Holly's the only GM,
and that's for most of the book.
Post by Joe Bernstein
We also aren't told what sorts of shops surround the bagel
place - whether it's the only shop for a mile each way, whether it's
in a mall (though evidently not the one that gets trashed), a strip
mall, a commercial block, a mostly non-commercial skyscraper, what.
This has significant consequences for his human contact; neighbouring
shopkeepers *are* his peers, though his interests and theirs may well
not overlap.
As per my prior bit, they aren't peers, as he's not a manager (and a
MANAGER is not an OWNER, so if the other shops around are mostly
local-owned and managed (they are, it's Little Italy in Troy, basically)
and he's working in a chain store, there's even less connection, even if
he was a manager).
Post by Joe Bernstein
I think in America generally, people in their thirties are more
isolated than in their twenties or teens. The intense sociality of
high school has pretty much faded. Jobs tend to offer fewer peers -
for example here, he isn't just a regular worker at the bagel place,
but the manager. Quite a lot of people that age have pretty much
retreated into family life, their social lives built around their
kids' lives. This is pretty much the first decade in which the
negative consequences of remaining unmarried come front and centre.
So is a spouse a peer?
A spouse would be, but he doesn't have one. I didn't have one until I
was well over 30. The original Steve had one, but that would have added
complications to the story I didn't want to touch in this book (that's
more for my planned series _The Door Reopened_ if I get to it).
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Or you're going to have to assume that the complexity
comes unconsciously into the work, but then you have to assume I can't
speak to what the truth is.
I neither abjure nor prefer the sort of "author's intent doesn't
matter" thing usually called New Criticism. In this particular case,
I think I can reasonably argue that the book does things you may not
have intended it to do; that makes it quite like many other human
activities that have unintended consequences, after all.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
If you mean Holy Aura's final decision to choose to attempt the
impossible, I'm rather surprised and disappointed that you miss the
motivation that I THOUGHT I had made clear through multiple repetitions,
Nope, didn't miss that at all. That isn't the decision I meant.
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.
Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.
I don't see it as dark but more conflicting. Holly's found a really
pretty wonderful life that she did not expect, especially with the
initial strain of becoming Holy Aura and abandoning Steve for very
practical reasons. After all the time -- very, VERY intense time with
strong emotional components -- with her new friends, she's developed
extremely strong bonds with them-- stronger and more emotionally
powerful than likely any bonds he's ever had with anyone outside his
parents.

This is a HUGE motivation for Holly to want to remain that way. The
"rosy future" that Silvertail promises may be quite real -- Steve has no
reason to doubt Silvertail's word -- but it's ABSTRACT. It hasn't a
thousandth the emotional lure that "keep these friends and this life
that I've really come to enjoy" has.

It's only DARK if you think that it's BAD that a person can change
their goals and self-image.
Post by Joe Bernstein
I don't see much alternative to doing what I did above again, this
time less abstractly. I'm not comfortable doing this, which is why
I put this post off overnight.
So OK. In the book, I'm not sure of Holly's age. She's a freshman
in high school in an area that has junior highs. I thought junior
high went to 9th grade; so is Holly in 10th? But let's pretend she
really is a freshman, and fourteen (the back cover's "twelve" can be
ignored). As a freshman I was in the same school building, though
notionally a different school, as eighth grade, so I knew people,
including the guy who arranged to film me allegedly kissing a fellow
geek during that year. (We were all terrified of homosexuality. I
heard that wasn't true, a few years later at that school, but it was
when I was there.) Also the fellow geeks; I didn't like them all,
but they were the people I was able to socialise with at school. But
I still knew people from childhood. I got into gaming that year, and
people from childhood, people I met at the university near my house,
and people from high school were all in my first games. I was often
miserably lonely, but this was a rich social life compared to much
that lay ahead. If we go on to when I was fourteen (I was two grades
ahead), it was even richer, because by then girls who interested me
were talking to me (though not dating me).
This is not my experience of high school, nor that of most of the
people I knew. I had very, very few friends. I did not socialize with
anyone who did not share a number of interests with me. My richest
social life lay much farther ahead. (I DID use the terror of
homosexuality on occasion; threatening to kiss guys bothering me would
get them to flee)

Part of the irony of Holy Aura for me is that she finds her high school
life ATTRACTIVE, when it was a period of life I wouldn't have gone back
to if you paid me. OTOH, compared with Steve's life... that's a
different choice.
Post by Joe Bernstein
When I turned thirty I lived in Chicago; when I turned forty I lived
in Seattle; but most of the decade in between, I lived in Wisconsin,
in Milwaukee except for about 18 months in Madison.
That year in Chicago represented the collapse of the social pattern
of my 20s. I'd worked for several years in a bank department that
offered rich social possibilities, lots and lots of my near- or full
contemporaries. But even while I was flaming out of there, quite a
few of my friends were moving on, travelling, getting promoted ...
(My nominal supervisor at the time of the flame-out had been a peer.)
I'd also worked for several years at The Stars Our Destination, and
when I left I had friends from there, and feeble hopes to date a co-
worker. The friends I'd made writing, earlier in the decade, had
already dispersed, for the most part, as had my college friends.
I haven't lived comfortably in Milwaukee as an adult, and the two
stints in my thirties were no exception. During the first I only
slowly let go of Chicago, and most of the friends from there. I had
no sustained jobs in Milwaukee as I'd had in my late 20s, and the few
people I retained *any* contact with weren't peers but references.
Madison was even more isolating. The second stint in Milwaukee was
dominated by my mother's death, and later by my planning for Seattle,
although it included my closest association with gaming since my
teens. (A game run by a friend who'd married, but not had kids.)
There's a line in <A Civil Campaign> that I first read during those
years - "Once past his school days, Tien had never made a new good
friend." It isn't actually true of me, but it worried me a lot,
around then. In particular, even though my work kept me moving
around, I met very few women who interested me, and none for whom I
could sustain that interest.
Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face. In men, not
so much, and of course my *height*, never over 5'3" (160 cm) didn't
help. What I'm getting at is that as I reached higher and more
embarrassing ages at which to retain one's virginity, it became ever
more obvious that if I'd been born a woman (or even, for that matter,
gay), in this one increasingly important respect I'd have been a lot
better off.
Except that it's not better off for women in our society (especially if
you go back decades), and it seems you accepted more of the cultural
norms of THAT period. Mine was much more "sex comes with marriage, not
before" and I was a virgin until I married.
Post by Joe Bernstein
This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't. His may have included the military; mine certainly
didn't. I sought all sorts of social hobbies; he focused on one. He
seems to have stayed in one place; I moved around a lot, although for
much of my thirties I was actually in my hometown.
But I think I'd need a lot of evidence to refute this before I'd stop
believing it: that unmarried men in their 30s who live near
minimum wage, all other things equal, have worse social lives than
well-off teenaged girls. In general, across the board. My life, the
lives I've observed, my reading, all say so. Hell, my life says even
a poor teenaged boy has a richer social life than a poor thirtyish
unmarried man.
In other words, I think the comparison the character makes is rigged.
So the book's advice to people like the earlier me boils down to "be
a rich girl instead". This is why I'd rather the protagonist had
decided on pretty much *any* other grounds.
There's no advice in the book at all.

The point of _Princess Holy Aura_ was to examine the typical Mahou
Shoujo setup from a slightly different point of view, and examine the
CHOICES made *with respect to that particular setup* -- for instance,
the moral/ethical issues involved with selecting fourteen year old girls
as your shocktroops in the war against Ultimate Evil.

The original title of _Princess Holy Aura_ (and still the title of the
series if/when I continue it) is The Ethical Magical Girl. ("Moral"
might or might not be a better term, but "Ethical" flows much better).
The entire FOCUS of the novel is "Do the Right Thing".

If you take anything in the book as being relevant to real life, it's
fairly overt -- the position and treatment of young women in society,
the difficulties of people in lower-class situations, etc.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Or to put it another way: if that comparison underlies Holly's
aversion to Stephen, then it represents a teenaged misjudgement.
People in their thirties are *supposed* to be uncomfortable if
unmarried. So the book's endorsing an alternative is, um, weird
at best.
Why are they supposed to be uncomfortable? Why should ANYONE be
uncomfortable as long as they're not hurting other people? For a long
time I, and others I knew, was perfectly comfortable not being married.
Marriage is a big step in responsibility and commitment. If you're not
up for that, you'll be a LOT more comfortable NOT being married.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Later on you also make a statement... lemme see if I can find the
post... here: "...This doesn't have room for
their viewpoints, and he doesn't intend any more of this story,"
Not at all. I intend, whenever I can, to continue the story. I set it
up that way, after all. If I'd KNOWN for a fact that I'd have sequels,
yes, I might have left Holly's resurrection until the next one, but I
see a lot of potential for more stories. Part of this is implied in the
short story that accompanied the release of _Princess Holy Aura_,
"On-Site for the Apocalypse". There's lots to come in that universe.
Hopefully I get to write it.
I misunderstood. I read <Princess Holy Aura>, then decided I needed
to know more about your writing (I'd previously read only <Boundary>,
<Threshold> and <Portal>). So I read <Digital Knight>, <Grand
Central Arena>, <Spheres of Influence>, and <Challenges of the Deep>.
Only in <Challenges> and <Princess> did the book end "FIN", so I took
that in each case as a declaration of closure. Glad it's not so.
Challenges is also only "FIN" in the sense that I'll have to
Kickstarter it, like sequels to PHA, since Baen isn't paying for more of
them.

(the Arenaverse is even more open than the PHA-verse, and that one's
pretty open)

Phoenix Ascendant also ends, I think, with FIN, but it's only FIN for
that trilogy; there's other adventures in that world, and even others
potentially for Kyri, Tobimar, and Poplock.

For PHA, did you read the accompanying short story "On-Site for the
Apocalypse"? Because the main characters in that story will undoubtedly
be significant characters in the sequel(s) of PHA. "On-Site" also gives
you a different perspective on some of the events in the novel.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-11 07:13:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I considered mentioning that "manager" in, for instance,
a bagel joint may be not a position that receives great
respect from co-workers or neighbours. Relatedly,
some "managers" in <https://notalwaysright.com/working/>
stories achieve that status awfully quickly; also,
many are, practically speaking, mad, bad, or dangerous
to know.

To folks who are managers, uh, sorry, but... the mystique
is overestimated.

So, your guy isn't a manager, anyway...
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-11 10:55:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Robert Carnegie
I considered mentioning that "manager" in, for instance,
a bagel joint may be not a position that receives great
respect from co-workers or neighbours. Relatedly,
some "managers" in <https://notalwaysright.com/working/>
stories achieve that status awfully quickly; also,
many are, practically speaking, mad, bad, or dangerous
to know.
To folks who are managers, uh, sorry, but... the mystique
is overestimated.
So, your guy isn't a manager, anyway...
Yeah, I was going to mention that as well. Even if he WAS a manager,
it's not a job with big respect in a chain. Wasn't even decades back
when I was working retail. Yeah, more respect than being one of the
clerks or backroom workers, but not like owning your own store.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-12 04:25:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
"Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)" <***@sgeinc.invalid.com> wrote in news:ppm2oo$mdd$***@dont-email.me an article to which I do intend to
reply (and not entirely abjectly), but have found a re-reading
(*again*) necessary, and it isn't done yet as my computer access is
about to go away for the night. On the other hand, the reason for
abjectness is, of course, that this re-reading has unveiled many
mistakes of mine, so aside from explaining my uncharacteristic
slowness in replying, this post is to get some of the mistakes out
of the way and thus, perhaps, slim down tomorrow's post.

I speculated that Stephen Russ might have military experience I don't.
If I'd remembered the beginning of chapter 8, I needn't have
speculated. He tells his gaming group that his new job is with a
friend "from my Air Force days". Now, I know we're supposed to
believe that he has no friends, and so we can't necessarily trust
him when he's lying to his gamers *anyway*, but seems to me pretty
unlikely that they'd know so little about him that they'd accept this
if he hadn't actually been *in* the Air Force.

Maybe there'll be something in the remainder of the book, but I don't
expect that. I think the source of my claim that he managed the
bagel shop he worked at is probably this from the first page of text:
"Most days he walked home from Barron's Bagels after cleaning up and
making sure the shop was set up for the morning crew". Now, of
course this *doesn't* actually say he was the manager; but I'm pretty
sure it's what fueled that conclusion in my mind. In any event, it's
been copiously demonstrated that whether or not he was the manager
he'd be mildly unlikely to find much human contact via work; I don't
think that needs revisiting.

The book several times relies on his having acting experience, and
once refers to his having taken care of younger people, which *might*
just refer to the two teenagers in his gaming group and their
predecessors, or might, as the acting certainly does, help fill
the gap between the Air Force and the present.

OK, and the big one. Chapter 52 very clearly does indeed strongly
link the protagonist's "decision" to remain a girl to the friendships
she's built as one. Her motivation is not at all unclear. I still
have problems with it, so I will indeed be posting tomorrow, but the
series of posts arguing over what drove that "decision" represented
failure of both memory and reference by everyone involved, except the
author, and especially by me.

All for now.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-12 12:23:20 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
reply (and not entirely abjectly), but have found a re-reading
(*again*) necessary, and it isn't done yet as my computer access is
about to go away for the night. On the other hand, the reason for
abjectness is, of course, that this re-reading has unveiled many
mistakes of mine, so aside from explaining my uncharacteristic
slowness in replying, this post is to get some of the mistakes out
of the way and thus, perhaps, slim down tomorrow's post.
I speculated that Stephen Russ might have military experience I don't.
If I'd remembered the beginning of chapter 8, I needn't have
speculated. He tells his gaming group that his new job is with a
friend "from my Air Force days".
Yes. He was in the USAF for a tour of duty (is that 4 years?).

He has a very few adult friends left, but they are all no longer
anywhere near where Steve lives. Like my friend Carl Edlund, they're
across the country. They occasionally exchange phone calls or emails or
whatever.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Maybe there'll be something in the remainder of the book, but I don't
expect that. I think the source of my claim that he managed the
"Most days he walked home from Barron's Bagels after cleaning up and
making sure the shop was set up for the morning crew". Now, of
course this *doesn't* actually say he was the manager; but I'm pretty
sure it's what fueled that conclusion in my mind.
This came from my experience working in food retail: the night crew
makes sure things are set up for the morning crew. The manager may be
ultimately responsible, but in practice there was That One Guy who
actually made sure the workers did the work and that the manager relied
on to check that it was done.
Post by Joe Bernstein
The book several times relies on his having acting experience, and
once refers to his having taken care of younger people, which *might*
just refer to the two teenagers in his gaming group and their
predecessors, or might, as the acting certainly does, help fill
the gap between the Air Force and the present.
It actually refers to children of relatives and such. Acting was
amateur work in local groups, but that also did not translate to deep
friendships.
Post by Joe Bernstein
OK, and the big one. Chapter 52 very clearly does indeed strongly
link the protagonist's "decision" to remain a girl to the friendships
she's built as one. Her motivation is not at all unclear. I still
have problems with it, so I will indeed be posting tomorrow, but the
series of posts arguing over what drove that "decision" represented
failure of both memory and reference by everyone involved, except the
author, and especially by me.
Well, one would HOPE that an author would have a good grasp of what
they wrote relatively recently. :)
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-12 12:59:07 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.

In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.

Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
J. Clarke
2018-10-13 00:17:09 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Fri, 12 Oct 2018 08:59:07 -0400, "Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)"
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
FWIW, I'm finding that the Pulitzers go to stories about rotten people
being rotten, professional victims being victimized, and idiots being
idiotic.

Maybe the adventurer doesn't _have_ to be good, decent people.
David Johnston
2018-10-13 01:20:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by J. Clarke
On Fri, 12 Oct 2018 08:59:07 -0400, "Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)"
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
FWIW, I'm finding that the Pulitzers go to stories about rotten people
being rotten, professional victims being victimized, and idiots being
idiotic.
And that is why "Pulitzer Prize Winning" is a label to avoid.
D B Davis
2018-10-13 02:50:14 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
Raising kids is hard work. It's a full time job. The only adventure
available to good parents is providing care to their kids each day.
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
_Hollywood, Interrupted_ (Breitbart) reveals that some adventurous
Hollywood celebrities ditch their kids with a full-time governess. (The
kids bond with their governess, who eventually subsumes the role of
parent.)
Some fiction works the same manner. _The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.



Thank you,
--
Don
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-13 12:46:40 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by D B Davis
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
Raising kids is hard work. It's a full time job. The only adventure
available to good parents is providing care to their kids each day.
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
_Hollywood, Interrupted_ (Breitbart) reveals that some adventurous
Hollywood celebrities ditch their kids with a full-time governess. (The
kids bond with their governess, who eventually subsumes the role of
parent.)
Some fiction works the same manner. _The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.
Of course one partner can stay with the kids. I heard a radio
interview with a guy who goes on Scott-of-the-Antarctic type
expeditions (but usually makes it back), and his wife.
I don't say there wasn't tension.

And there's soldiers, cops, TV weather reporters - several
dangerous professions.
D B Davis
2018-10-13 14:55:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Robert Carnegie
Post by D B Davis
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
Raising kids is hard work. It's a full time job. The only adventure
available to good parents is providing care to their kids each day.
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
_Hollywood, Interrupted_ (Breitbart) reveals that some adventurous
Hollywood celebrities ditch their kids with a full-time governess. (The
kids bond with their governess, who eventually subsumes the role of
parent.)
Some fiction works the same manner. _The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.
Of course one partner can stay with the kids. I heard a radio
interview with a guy who goes on Scott-of-the-Antarctic type
expeditions (but usually makes it back), and his wife.
I don't say there wasn't tension.
And there's soldiers, cops, TV weather reporters - several
dangerous professions.
The mom kid ditch may be the most the common, closely followed by the
grandparent kid ditch. Babies bring a lot of politics to this area
because babies are most adorable, which makes moms most possessive. One
of my "jokes" in reference to newborns is that if humans were born as
fully formed teenagers, humanity would end in a single generation.
The north face of mountains in the northern hemisphere are colder
and icier than the south face. (Hillary climbed the south face of
Everest in 1953.)
That's why Douglas Tompkins named his company The North Face.
Tompkins died a few years ago when his kayak capsized in Patagonia (a
name you see on athletic gear). Tompkins' wife divorced him years before
his demise; not because he used her as a kid ditch, but because he was a
crazy adventurous death defying dare-devil.



Thank you,
--
Don
David DeLaney
2018-10-13 14:29:55 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by D B Davis
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
And of course in all too many SF stories, kids who prioritize adventure must
ditch their parents first.

Dave, one way or another
--
\/David DeLaney posting thru EarthLink - "It's not the pot that grows the flower
It's not the clock that slows the hour The definition's plain for anyone to see
Love is all it takes to make a family" - R&P. VISUALIZE HAPPYNET VRbeable<BLINK>
my gatekeeper archives are no longer accessible :( / I WUV you in all CAPS! --K.
D B Davis
2018-10-13 15:21:16 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by David DeLaney
Post by D B Davis
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
And of course in all too many SF stories, kids who prioritize adventure must
ditch their parents first.
Dave, one way or another
Within limits, it's generally healthy for teenagers to prioritize
adventure and ditch their parents from time to time. That way, teenagers
become more independent and more prepared to leave the nest, so to
speak.
It seems to me with my limited knowledge of YA SF is that it tends
to take things to extremes for adventure's sake. In this way YA SF may
mentally prepare teenage readers to face the more mundane rigors of
their own life on their own.



Thank you,
--
Don
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-13 15:41:34 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by David DeLaney
Post by D B Davis
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
And of course in all too many SF stories, kids who prioritize adventure must
ditch their parents first.
True, but in many of those that's part of the ATTRACTION of the
adventure: independence, being one's own person and not under the
control of the parents who have been dominating your life (for good or
ill) for all your existence.

In the case of PHA and Polychrome, the issue is that the character is
supposed to be chosen at least partly because they meet some moral
standards, and "running off and ditching wife and kid for adventure" is
going to make that really hard to believe. (Even if you do the
stereotypical thing of making the spouse intolerably nasty, you can't
run off and leave a kid without looking pretty bad)
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-14 21:50:43 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
the issue is that the character is
supposed to be chosen at least partly because they meet some moral
standards, and "running off and ditching wife and kid for adventure"
is going to make that really hard to believe. (Even if you do the
stereotypical thing of making the spouse intolerably nasty, you
can't run off and leave a kid without looking pretty bad)
There are other possibilities (though not in the case of one of the
books you named [1], and perhaps not in the other).

I've repeatedly praised Patricia Wrede's <Caught in Crystal> here for
having its woman protagonist bring the kids along. Nancy Kress's
<The White Pipes> I have more mixed feelings about, and anyway its
protagonist doesn't go seeking adventure, thriller comes and finds
her - but her kid is present there too.

This raises the question what about fathers? Well, I'm just about
positive I've read father and son a few times, but am not coming up
with specific stories. Um. Somewhere in Darkover, no? Maybe <The
Winds of> ? Surely also in more traditional sf. At the other
extreme, does <The Road> count here? Not so much father and daughter,
that I recall, but we've already established that my memory is weak
here.

The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.

Separately, what if the kid is kidnapped? See Kirsten Imani Kasai's
<Icesong>, at least.

It's *very* possible that I'm remembering wrong, but I *think* the
protagonist of <Moonwise> has a kid whom she leaves with someone
before going on her quest. Is this OK for a mother to do where it
wouldn't be OK for a father?

What if the kids are all off at fostering or boarding school or
journeyman journeying or whatever? At one extreme this is late in
another of Kress's early books.

Joe Bernstein

[1] But what happens to, um, a book that certainly *isn't* <Princess
Holy Aura> if Stephen Russ has a wife, not in name only, *and* a
fourteen-year-old daughter?
It would be way too melodramatic to have his hitherto unmentioned
daughter show up in the second book and find out that her long-lost
father is now, um, her peer.
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
J. Clarke
2018-10-14 22:29:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Sun, 14 Oct 2018 21:50:43 -0000 (UTC), Joe Bernstein
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
the issue is that the character is
supposed to be chosen at least partly because they meet some moral
standards, and "running off and ditching wife and kid for adventure"
is going to make that really hard to believe. (Even if you do the
stereotypical thing of making the spouse intolerably nasty, you
can't run off and leave a kid without looking pretty bad)
There are other possibilities (though not in the case of one of the
books you named [1], and perhaps not in the other).
I've repeatedly praised Patricia Wrede's <Caught in Crystal> here for
having its woman protagonist bring the kids along. Nancy Kress's
<The White Pipes> I have more mixed feelings about, and anyway its
protagonist doesn't go seeking adventure, thriller comes and finds
her - but her kid is present there too.
This raises the question what about fathers? Well, I'm just about
positive I've read father and son a few times, but am not coming up
with specific stories. Um. Somewhere in Darkover, no? Maybe <The
Winds of> ? Surely also in more traditional sf. At the other
extreme, does <The Road> count here? Not so much father and daughter,
that I recall, but we've already established that my memory is weak
here.
"The Road" is father and son, but it's not "having an adventure" it is
post-apocalyptic survival written at the level of a fan-created
side-quest in Fallout, which, for some reason, the Pulitzer committee
beleived was actually a good story. They seem to be traveling from
somewhere to somewhere without any reason that is made clear in the
story but one has the impression that they have been forced to it by
circumstances beyond their control.
Post by Joe Bernstein
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Separately, what if the kid is kidnapped? See Kirsten Imani Kasai's
<Icesong>, at least.
It's *very* possible that I'm remembering wrong, but I *think* the
protagonist of <Moonwise> has a kid whom she leaves with someone
before going on her quest. Is this OK for a mother to do where it
wouldn't be OK for a father?
What if the kids are all off at fostering or boarding school or
journeyman journeying or whatever? At one extreme this is late in
another of Kress's early books.
Joe Bernstein
[1] But what happens to, um, a book that certainly *isn't* <Princess
Holy Aura> if Stephen Russ has a wife, not in name only, *and* a
fourteen-year-old daughter?
It would be way too melodramatic to have his hitherto unmentioned
daughter show up in the second book and find out that her long-lost
father is now, um, her peer.
D B Davis
2018-10-14 23:24:17 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
the issue is that the character is
supposed to be chosen at least partly because they meet some moral
standards, and "running off and ditching wife and kid for adventure"
is going to make that really hard to believe. (Even if you do the
stereotypical thing of making the spouse intolerably nasty, you
can't run off and leave a kid without looking pretty bad)
There are other possibilities (though not in the case of one of the
books you named [1], and perhaps not in the other).
I've repeatedly praised Patricia Wrede's <Caught in Crystal> here for
having its woman protagonist bring the kids along. Nancy Kress's
<The White Pipes> I have more mixed feelings about, and anyway its
protagonist doesn't go seeking adventure, thriller comes and finds
her - but her kid is present there too.
This raises the question what about fathers? Well, I'm just about
positive I've read father and son a few times, but am not coming up
with specific stories. Um. Somewhere in Darkover, no? Maybe <The
Winds of> ? Surely also in more traditional sf. At the other
extreme, does <The Road> count here? Not so much father and daughter,
that I recall, but we've already established that my memory is weak
here.
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Separately, what if the kid is kidnapped? See Kirsten Imani Kasai's
<Icesong>, at least.
It's *very* possible that I'm remembering wrong, but I *think* the
protagonist of <Moonwise> has a kid whom she leaves with someone
before going on her quest. Is this OK for a mother to do where it
wouldn't be OK for a father?
What if the kids are all off at fostering or boarding school or
journeyman journeying or whatever? At one extreme this is late in
another of Kress's early books.
Kids eventually join their father on an adventure in _Wrinkle in Time_
(L'Engle). A mother and her daughter /start/ an adventure at the /end/
of "The Women Men Don't See" (Tiptree).



Thank you,
--
Don
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-15 03:01:41 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Officially, _Lone Wolf and Cub_ (with human characters) isn't
speculative fiction, except that the hero is basically Wolverine.
(Who came later, though, so, y'know.)
Greg Goss
2018-10-15 08:05:43 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
This raises the question what about fathers? Well, I'm just about
positive I've read father and son a few times, but am not coming up
with specific stories. Um. Somewhere in Darkover, no? Maybe <The
Winds of> ? Surely also in more traditional sf.
Well, we have Anton Zilwicky. We're introduced to him as a bit player
as his wife saves the day while dying heroically.

In his second story, his daughter gets kidnapped. In resolving that,
he ends up adopting two more kids.

But that doesn't end his trasformation from embassy spy to
deep-penetration "adventuring" spy (presumed dead in one of several
nuclear blasts, for example.)

The kids seem to be raised by his billionaire not-quite-wife while
he's away.
--
We are geeks. Resistance is voltage over current.
lal_truckee
2018-10-15 16:18:42 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Heinlein's juveniles are rife with intact families, although several
failed families are also featured.
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-15 16:45:14 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by lal_truckee
Post by Joe Bernstein
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Heinlein's juveniles are rife with intact families, although several
failed families are also featured.
The way I remember those I've read, though, usually the kids are the
main focus. To be fair, in <Lifelode> the adults are, but we do get
a fair amount of kids' POVs, and anyway the original issue was
stories about parents, not stories about both. So here my main point
was intact family, albeit not of a kind common in contemporary North
America; I'd instanced or asked about various kinds of one-parent
family and noticed that <Lifelode> was different because it had a,
um, four-parent family.

I don't remember <The Rolling Stones> (already mentioned) at all well,
but doesn't that focus more on parents than most of them?

Of course, several characters in <The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress> are
parents. That's like <The White Pipes>, though - thriller comes to
them; or, arguably, they seek adventure without actually questing.
Also, the kids don't get much airtime; and parenthood is mostly
spread among even more people than in <Lifelode>.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-15 23:32:47 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
[1] But what happens to, um, a book that certainly *isn't* <Princess
Holy Aura> if Stephen Russ has a wife, not in name only, *and* a
fourteen-year-old daughter?
It would be way too melodramatic to have his hitherto unmentioned
daughter show up in the second book and find out that her long-lost
father is now, um, her peer.
That would indeed be... AWKWARD.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
David Goldfarb
2018-10-16 07:13:21 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Several by Diana Wynne Jones come to mind: _The Ogre Downstairs_,
_Dark Lord of Derkholm_, and _Year of the Griffin_. Maybe more.

In visual media, there's the superhero movie _The Incredibles_,
and its sequel. Also an old and deservedly obscure cartoon series
called _Bionic 6_.
--
David Goldfarb |"Now you're living in your own fantasy world.
***@gmail.com | We're into a whole weird area here."
***@ocf.berkeley.edu | -- MST3K, "Mr. B Natural"
Magewolf
2018-10-16 18:13:09 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by David Goldfarb
Post by Joe Bernstein
The only spec-fic book I can think of that focuses on both parents
and kids in a more or less intact family is <Lifelode> by Jo Walton.
Several by Diana Wynne Jones come to mind: _The Ogre Downstairs_,
_Dark Lord of Derkholm_, and _Year of the Griffin_. Maybe more.
In visual media, there's the superhero movie _The Incredibles_,
and its sequel. Also an old and deservedly obscure cartoon series
called _Bionic 6_.
Bionic 6 is worth remembering for the opening alone. Now most of the
rest of it was rather pointless. They had super bionics that could run
for like five minutes a day so they were mostly useless.

p***@hotmail.com
2018-10-13 20:21:29 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by D B Davis
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
Raising kids is hard work. It's a full time job. The only adventure
available to good parents is providing care to their kids each day.
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
_Hollywood, Interrupted_ (Breitbart) reveals that some adventurous
Hollywood celebrities ditch their kids with a full-time governess. (The
kids bond with their governess, who eventually subsumes the role of
parent.)
Some fiction works the same manner. _The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.
It can be possible to take the kids along on some kinds of adventures.
In real life many families make extended ocean voyages on sailboats.
Children are home schooled en route. Heinlein used this in his novel
_The Rolling Stones_.

In _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ many of Star Fleet's ships carry
the crew's families on board, including children.

In science fiction there are many cultures that live on space ships,
for example the free traders in Heinlein's _Citizen of the Galaxy_.
The entire family shares the risk of death or enslavement if they
encounter pirates.

In Donald Wollheim's YA novel _The Secret of the Martian Moons_
the Martians go on periodic voyages of exploration and discovery
for the specific purpose of finding adventure. Since they travel
hundreds or thousands of light years at high relativistic speeds
the entire culture travels together in an immense fleet of ships
so that none of them become temporal castaways.

Peter Wezeman
anti-social Darwinist
D B Davis
2018-10-13 21:48:03 UTC
Reply
Permalink
<snip>
Post by p***@hotmail.com
Post by D B Davis
_The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.
It can be possible to take the kids along on some kinds of adventures.
In real life many families make extended ocean voyages on sailboats.
Children are home schooled en route. Heinlein used this in his novel
_The Rolling Stones_.
In _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ many of Star Fleet's ships carry
the crew's families on board, including children.
In science fiction there are many cultures that live on space ships,
for example the free traders in Heinlein's _Citizen of the Galaxy_.
The entire family shares the risk of death or enslavement if they
encounter pirates.
In Donald Wollheim's YA novel _The Secret of the Martian Moons_
the Martians go on periodic voyages of exploration and discovery
for the specific purpose of finding adventure. Since they travel
hundreds or thousands of light years at high relativistic speeds
the entire culture travels together in an immense fleet of ships
so that none of them become temporal castaways.
Except for vicious Cathedral cubs, _Logan's Run_ (Nolan & Johnson) keeps
most of its kids out of sight (and out of mind). Bradbury has
"The Veldt"'s vicious vindictive kids permanently ditch their parents
into an adventure. The first generation of kids in "Frost and Fire"
(Bradbury) were stranded in a rocket trip gone bad.



Thank you,
--
Don
David Johnston
2018-10-13 22:01:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by p***@hotmail.com
Post by D B Davis
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I'll also note that I have indeed "loaded the dice" or "weighted the
scales" in the book. To an extent, that's true of EVERY adventure novel.
There are potentially infinite versions of "The Lord of the Rings" where
Frodo dies or otherwise fails completely, Sauron gets the Ring, and
Middle-Earth is plunged into darkness for however long it takes for
Illuvatar's next savior to show up. This is basically the case for all
stories: we have chosen to show the universe in which THIS happens and
not all the infinite THATs which COULD have been.
In the case of _Princess Holy Aura_, the thumb on the scales is similar
to that on the scales for _Polychrome_. In both cases the real-life
analogue of the protagonist had a family -- a wife and at least one
child. In both cases, that would make the decision to follow the Call of
Adventure virtually impossible; if they're the good, decent people that
they MUST be for their adventures, they can't very well run off and
abandon their lifelong commitments. They have to be free to accept, and
that comes with a lot of other implications for the story.
Yes, the call to Adventure conflicting with family obligations can make
a good story, and one I'm working on, but that wasn't the focus of
either PHA or Polychrome, so I wasn't going to add that to all the other
mess.
Raising kids is hard work. It's a full time job. The only adventure
available to good parents is providing care to their kids each day.
Parents who prioritize adventure must ditch their kids first.
_Hollywood, Interrupted_ (Breitbart) reveals that some adventurous
Hollywood celebrities ditch their kids with a full-time governess. (The
kids bond with their governess, who eventually subsumes the role of
parent.)
Some fiction works the same manner. _The Last Command_ (Zahn) has
Councilor "Leia" Organa Solo ditch her twins with Winter, a governess in
fact, if not in name.
Although an governess provides a prestigious kid ditch, an author
can also go down-market. _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)_ (RAH) uses
crèches as a kid ditch.
It can be possible to take the kids along on some kinds of adventures.
In real life many families make extended ocean voyages on sailboats.
Children are home schooled en route. Heinlein used this in his novel
_The Rolling Stones_.
In _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ many of Star Fleet's ships carry
the crew's families on board, including children.
Really only that one class of ship. It was not something that Picard
had previous experience with and none of the subsequent classes we were
shown continued that experiment. Probably because of all the resulting
dead kids.
Post by p***@hotmail.com
In science fiction there are many cultures that live on space ships,
for example the free traders in Heinlein's _Citizen of the Galaxy_.
The entire family shares the risk of death or enslavement if they
encounter pirates.
Yeah I found that one more plausible as a continuing thing.
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-12 21:42:03 UTC
Reply
Permalink
"Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)" <***@sgeinc.invalid.com> wrote in news:ppm2oo$mdd$***@dont-email.me a post to which I've already replied
once, which he's answered in turn. I try to integrate answers to
both his posts in this reply.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
Now in abundance. Really, don't read on if you haven't read the book.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
[<Princess Holy Aura>'s status as a magical girl novel helps explain]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
But a
Post by Joe Bernstein
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
This was careless reading and writing on my part. The opposition I
highlight here is real, but not as clearcut as this phrasing at all.
Specifically, "discrete bit" is how the author writes casually, but
when he focuses on it it's always to deny that bit's reality. And
"no desire whatsoever" is a little too strong.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Steve/Holly changed during their tenure. To a small extent, this is
because there was, as Silvertail mentions, a "template" of the Magical
Girl that gives the nascent Holly Owen/Holy Aura an actual foundation of
... well, "essence of teenage girl", that Steve-Before-Book didn't have.
OK, small extent. So - as I give you credit for making *usual* in
the book - the magic doesn't dictate the personal here.
Chapter 65, Silvertail: "Holly is just as much Steve's creation as
she was mine, or that of her predecessors. More so". Not really a
small extent, but not decisive.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book leaves open whether Steve had any hidden TG elements; it
wasn't necessary to delve into that one way or the other.
Um. Silvertail says in chapter 22: "If Steve had possessed a desire
to be a woman, it would be less of a sacrifice." To what extent is
Silvertail an unreliable Speaker of Truth?
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I remember that on first reading I felt something mildly strange
about his interaction with Dex before and after the game, FWIW.
No idea whether you wanted that vibe. This didn't recur, as best I
remember, on second reading.
Nor third. Beats me what I was thinking.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Is a spouse a peer? Seems to me that depends on the couple's views
on gender relations, and we're given plenty of evidence that Stephen
Russ would say yes to that question.
A spouse would be a peer. He has no spouse, though, so there's no
connection there.
Well, you say elsewhere (snipped below, actually) that you *decided*
he shouldn't have a spouse. Granted, you didn't have room for one.
But it's not as though the question were irrelevant just because it
doesn't apply to the character in front of us.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This is the core of my concern - this is essentially auctorial
confirmation of what I listed as possibility g) in a previous post,
there described as Holly having relationships Stephen couldn't have.
Which I said, in that post and subsequently, I found problematic.
So even though I was completely wrong in saying this was just a
"possibility", when in fact chapter 52 is entirely about it, I get to
keep at this.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I'm going to tackle this in two ways in this post. First, abstractly,
so that'll be here.
[Snipping my words "manager" and "thumb on the scales", among others.
Huh, OK, snipping all of this, including my additional words "the
negative consequences of remaining unmarried", and your bit about
Steve originally having been married.]

Oh, but one thing about "thumb on the scales". I infer from the post
you devoted to that, that you're at least somewhat OK with what I
described as explanation f) for the protagonist's "decision":

| It's saying it's a magical girl story, so of course the decision.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.
Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.
I don't see it as dark but more conflicting. Holly's found a really
pretty wonderful life that she did not expect, especially with the
initial strain of becoming Holy Aura and abandoning Steve for very
practical reasons. After all the time -- very, VERY intense time with
strong emotional components -- with her new friends,
This is, to a certain extent, careless phrasing on your part. Much
of the hostility I point to is already there after a relatively short
time being friends with Seika Cooper.

Chapter 22 again: "The voice he used to accept sounded completely
wrong in his ears. The way his body felt--slow, heavy, ponderous--
was actually repellent."

This is *before* the other three (though not before the new game) and
*before* Dex even joins the game, let alone becomes her boyfriend.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
she's developed
extremely strong bonds with them-- stronger and more emotionally
powerful than likely any bonds he's ever had with anyone outside his
parents.
I'll get back to this below.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
It's only DARK if you think that it's BAD that a person can change
their goals and self-image.
Well, um, how to put this?

Stephen Russ dies.

Or at least that's going to be the experience of a bunch of people
whose existence you seem determined to deny.

The book is the story of two lives competing, because only one can be
real, and that isn't even affected by the magical out at the end.
It's got tons of sugarcoating, but that is a fundamentally dark theme.

Granted, there's a lot else going on in the book, not all of which is
dark, but this aspect of it is.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I don't see much alternative to doing what I did above again
[the stuff I snipped this time]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So OK. In the book, I'm not sure of Holly's age. She's a freshman
in high school in an area that has junior highs. I thought junior
high went to 9th grade; so is Holly in 10th? But let's pretend she
really is a freshman, and fourteen (the back cover's "twelve" can be
ignored).
The book actually shouts "fourteen" early on, especially in chapter 2.
I thought I'd come up with that on my own, but no, it was there.

[me as a freshman]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
but this was a rich social life compared to much
that lay ahead. If we go on to when I was fourteen (I was two grades
ahead), it was even richer, because by then girls who interested me
were talking to me (though not dating me).
This is not my experience of high school, nor that of most of the
people I knew. I had very, very few friends. I did not socialize with
anyone who did not share a number of interests with me. My richest
social life lay much farther ahead. (I DID use the terror of
homosexuality on occasion; threatening to kiss guys bothering me would
get them to flee)
Part of the irony of Holy Aura for me is that she finds her high school
life ATTRACTIVE, when it was a period of life I wouldn't have gone back
to if you paid me. OTOH, compared with Steve's life... that's a
different choice.
Yeah, well.

When I was thirty-five I lived in Madison, *where I had no friends*.

I wouldn't have gone back to high school if you'd paid me then, nor
would I now - when, by the way, I'm not sure I have any friends in
Seattle. But I had significantly richer social lives in my freshman
and junior years than I had in Madison, or have here now.

Which of us is more like Stephen Russ?

I don't believe his emotional history is as drab as you think it is.

[me in my thirties]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
There's a line in <A Civil Campaign> that I first read during those
years - "Once past his school days, Tien had never made a new good
friend." It isn't actually true of me, but it worried me a lot,
around then.
Possibly out of courtesy, nobody has noticed a pretty obvious subtext
to this story, which is that I'm much better at losing friends than I
am at making them, and this has been true for decades. I actually
have made one good friend even since becoming homeless six years ago -
but have lost him, too.

From my point of view, except perhaps for the "decades" part, Stephen
Russ can only be convincing if he shares this talent for alienating
people. But he loses it as soon as he becomes Holly Owen, and in any
event he's much more effectively concerned about other people than
I've ever been, so I don't think he ever had it. So the more I think
about it, the less convincing he becomes.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face. In men, not
so much, and of course my *height*, never over 5'3" (160 cm) didn't
help. What I'm getting at is that as I reached higher and more
embarrassing ages at which to retain one's virginity, it became ever
more obvious that if I'd been born a woman (or even, for that matter,
gay), in this one increasingly important respect I'd have been a lot
better off.
Except that it's not better off for women in our society (especially if
you go back decades),
What part of "in this one respect" was unclear? I'm describing
something that much preoccupied me at that time; I assure you I
thought about the disadvantages of womanhood too.

That said, we're talking about the period from 1997 to 2007. Why
didn't you also point to the difficulties of being a gay man at that
time? One thing I'm saying here is that I thought I'd find more
people interested in me among roughly 1% of men than among roughly
99% of women. This necessarily involved thinking about what it'd be
like, having one's field of possibilities shrunk by well over 90%.
That's a difficulty of being gay that hasn't changed.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
and it seems you accepted more of the cultural
norms of THAT period. Mine was much more "sex comes with marriage, not
before" and I was a virgin until I married.
It would never have occurred to me that one could answer a paragraph
in which the writer confesses to having been a forty-year-old virgin
with, of all things, slut-shaming. I'm impressed by your creativity
and audacity.

(Though not your clarity. Just which period is "THAT period" ?)
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't.
This now seems pretty clear. It's also reasonably clear that Holly
Owen's could include college, unless she's too busy as Holy Aura.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
His may have included the military; mine certainly
didn't.
As previously noted, his *did*. So let's go into that.

The book appears, in chapter 7, to begin in June of a year fourteen
years after 2001, so either 2015 or perhaps 2016. It explicitly ends
soon after March 15, 2017, much of a single school year having passed
in between; that obviously argues for 2016 as the start.

Holly had been Steve for thirty-five years, so he was born in 1980 or
1981. Assuming he enlisted right out of school, that'd be 1998 or
1999. If you're correct that his tour of duty would be four years,
that gets us past September 11. Did the Air Force do stop-loss at
that time?
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I sought all sorts of social hobbies; he focused on one.
Two - he also acted in amateur theatre.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
He
seems to have stayed in one place; I moved around a lot, although for
much of my thirties I was actually in my hometown.
And you say this in chapter 7: "Helping kids deal with their issues,
well, I've done that before." - refers to his associations with
relatives' kids.

It hasn't been my experience that I could associate with relatives'
kids much without also associating with the relatives too. In
particular, nobody sends their kids to spend summers with people like
Steve or me.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I think I'd need a lot of evidence to refute this before I'd stop
believing it: that unmarried men in their 30s who live near
minimum wage, all other things equal, have worse social lives than
well-off teenaged girls. In general, across the board. My life, the
lives I've observed, my reading, all say so. Hell, my life says even
a poor teenaged boy has a richer social life than a poor thirtyish
unmarried man.
In other words, I think the comparison the character makes is rigged.
It turns out it's rigged both ways.

Steve Russ is not the complete non-entity the first page suggests,
after all. He probably has Air Force buddies, though as usual these
are scattered around the land. He knows people from work and the
theatre, though you tell us none have become friends. He has
relatives with whom he's spent enough time that he could help their
"kids deal with their issues". Hell, what if the Ochoas knock on his
door to invite him to dinner?

Are none of those people going to try to contact him? Ever?

Does he just disappear from the point of view of his high school
reunion committee? Of the VA? (He's had enough injuries that he
probably knows people at the VA Hospital by name.)

If the book had ended the way its characters expected, he could have
been among those who died in the battle, and maybe there'd even be a
body; or it could've ended according to plan, and Holly vanishing
instead.

But as things are, you've created a can of worms for yourself, which
you seem to think doesn't exist.

Also, because none of his previous life is foregrounded, let alone
depicted, except the game, the book's power is weakened. We don't
see much of what Stephen sacrifices by becoming Holy and Holly.
Granted, to offer more of his previous life would cost some of
the new life's pages, and would make the can of worms bigger, but
there you are.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So the book's advice to people like the earlier me boils down to "be
a rich girl instead". This is why I'd rather the protagonist had
decided on pretty much *any* other grounds.
There's no advice in the book at all.
We'll just have to agree to disagree on that.

[snip something I may address even later, but my reply to which
doesn't belong in *this* post]

OK, all for now.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-12 22:16:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
once, which he's answered in turn. I try to integrate answers to
both his posts in this reply.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
Now in abundance. Really, don't read on if you haven't read the book.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
[<Princess Holy Aura>'s status as a magical girl novel helps explain]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
But a
Post by Joe Bernstein
whole lot of other stuff is weakly developed if at all. We're told
that somewhere inside the transformed protagonist's mind there's a
discrete bit representing her former male self, reacting in fairly
predictable ways to milestones in her female life. But we're also
told that this character ultimately has no desire whatsoever to do
as the book's setup demands, and go back to male life when the
apocalypse is averted. Huh?
This was careless reading and writing on my part. The opposition I
highlight here is real, but not as clearcut as this phrasing at all.
Specifically, "discrete bit" is how the author writes casually, but
when he focuses on it it's always to deny that bit's reality. And
"no desire whatsoever" is a little too strong.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Steve/Holly changed during their tenure. To a small extent, this is
because there was, as Silvertail mentions, a "template" of the Magical
Girl that gives the nascent Holly Owen/Holy Aura an actual foundation of
... well, "essence of teenage girl", that Steve-Before-Book didn't have.
OK, small extent. So - as I give you credit for making *usual* in
the book - the magic doesn't dictate the personal here.
Chapter 65, Silvertail: "Holly is just as much Steve's creation as
she was mine, or that of her predecessors. More so". Not really a
small extent, but not decisive.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
The book leaves open whether Steve had any hidden TG elements; it
wasn't necessary to delve into that one way or the other.
Um. Silvertail says in chapter 22: "If Steve had possessed a desire
to be a woman, it would be less of a sacrifice." To what extent is
Silvertail an unreliable Speaker of Truth?
Silvertail can't read hidden desires, only expressed ones. As I said,
if Steve had any HIDDEN TG elements that's not explored. Yes,
technically it might weaken the spell a bit, but breaking repression and
such is itself a stress, so it probably balances out.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I remember that on first reading I felt something mildly strange
about his interaction with Dex before and after the game, FWIW.
No idea whether you wanted that vibe. This didn't recur, as best I
remember, on second reading.
Nor third. Beats me what I was thinking.
It's possible there's a tiny amount of unintended subtext in their
interaction due to the fact that I as author knew where that would
eventually go.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Is a spouse a peer? Seems to me that depends on the couple's views
on gender relations, and we're given plenty of evidence that Stephen
Russ would say yes to that question.
A spouse would be a peer. He has no spouse, though, so there's no
connection there.
Well, you say elsewhere (snipped below, actually) that you *decided*
he shouldn't have a spouse. Granted, you didn't have room for one.
But it's not as though the question were irrelevant just because it
doesn't apply to the character in front of us.
I consider questions of "here's another character he could have been"
irrelevant, because that includes ones where he's potentially ANYTHING.
There are infinite numbers of things that he isn't; you can only read
the book about what he is.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This is the core of my concern - this is essentially auctorial
confirmation of what I listed as possibility g) in a previous post,
there described as Holly having relationships Stephen couldn't have.
Which I said, in that post and subsequently, I found problematic.
So even though I was completely wrong in saying this was just a
"possibility", when in fact chapter 52 is entirely about it, I get to
keep at this.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I'm going to tackle this in two ways in this post. First, abstractly,
so that'll be here.
[Snipping my words "manager" and "thumb on the scales", among others.
Huh, OK, snipping all of this, including my additional words "the
negative consequences of remaining unmarried", and your bit about
Steve originally having been married.]
Oh, but one thing about "thumb on the scales". I infer from the post
you devoted to that, that you're at least somewhat OK with what I
| It's saying it's a magical girl story, so of course the decision.
To an extent, certainly true.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.
Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.
I don't see it as dark but more conflicting. Holly's found a really
pretty wonderful life that she did not expect, especially with the
initial strain of becoming Holy Aura and abandoning Steve for very
practical reasons. After all the time -- very, VERY intense time with
strong emotional components -- with her new friends,
This is, to a certain extent, careless phrasing on your part. Much
of the hostility I point to is already there after a relatively short
time being friends with Seika Cooper.
Chapter 22 again: "The voice he used to accept sounded completely
wrong in his ears. The way his body felt--slow, heavy, ponderous--
was actually repellent."
This is *before* the other three (though not before the new game) and
*before* Dex even joins the game, let alone becomes her boyfriend.
Ahh, but *AFTER* she has spent MONTHS in the body of Holly Owen. The
body dysphoria is separate from his/her emotional connection to the
friends he/she meets.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
she's developed
extremely strong bonds with them-- stronger and more emotionally
powerful than likely any bonds he's ever had with anyone outside his
parents.
I'll get back to this below.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
It's only DARK if you think that it's BAD that a person can change
their goals and self-image.
Well, um, how to put this?
Stephen Russ dies.
Or at least that's going to be the experience of a bunch of people
whose existence you seem determined to deny.
What people?
Oh, those people -- I see you describe the people in question later.
See later for that discussion.

For those close to her, that isn't a problem. Even Holly accepts that
she IS Steve. It's rather like saying that my friend Dan died because he
transitioned to be a woman named Tori. They have the same memory thread
and basic identity. All the other people in the book either (A) never
really knew Steve, so while the loss of her ability to take on his form
is sad, they see Holly as the original, or (B) understand fully that
she's really Steve, just a new version.
Post by Joe Bernstein
The book is the story of two lives competing, because only one can be
real, and that isn't even affected by the magical out at the end.
It's got tons of sugarcoating, but that is a fundamentally dark theme.
?? No, the book is the story of a conflict between good and evil, and
the attempt to make the best, most moral choices in that conflict.

In the end, Steve and Holly ARE NOT COMPETING. They are 100% in tune
with what needs to be done and they're both just fine with it. Both of
them expect to be obliterated -- and "both of them" is a miswriting,
because it's really just two ... *personas*, two masks that they use to
face the world. The SELF is still there, untouched, just changed by
experience to see things differently.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Granted, there's a lot else going on in the book, not all of which is
dark, but this aspect of it is.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I don't see much alternative to doing what I did above again
[the stuff I snipped this time]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So OK. In the book, I'm not sure of Holly's age. She's a freshman
in high school in an area that has junior highs. I thought junior
high went to 9th grade; so is Holly in 10th? But let's pretend she
really is a freshman, and fourteen (the back cover's "twelve" can be
ignored).
The book actually shouts "fourteen" early on, especially in chapter 2.
I thought I'd come up with that on my own, but no, it was there.
[me as a freshman]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
but this was a rich social life compared to much
that lay ahead. If we go on to when I was fourteen (I was two grades
ahead), it was even richer, because by then girls who interested me
were talking to me (though not dating me).
This is not my experience of high school, nor that of most of the
people I knew. I had very, very few friends. I did not socialize with
anyone who did not share a number of interests with me. My richest
social life lay much farther ahead. (I DID use the terror of
homosexuality on occasion; threatening to kiss guys bothering me would
get them to flee)
Part of the irony of Holy Aura for me is that she finds her high school
life ATTRACTIVE, when it was a period of life I wouldn't have gone back
to if you paid me. OTOH, compared with Steve's life... that's a
different choice.
Yeah, well.
When I was thirty-five I lived in Madison, *where I had no friends*.
I wouldn't have gone back to high school if you'd paid me then, nor
would I now - when, by the way, I'm not sure I have any friends in
Seattle. But I had significantly richer social lives in my freshman
and junior years than I had in Madison, or have here now.
Which of us is more like Stephen Russ?
I don't believe his emotional history is as drab as you think it is.
Steve's situation was constrained by his resources, his setting, and
time. Gaming was his one contact with other people that he knew HOW to
find other people. He was kind and personable once you got to know him,
but his connection to "people at work" wasn't the same. He was the nice
guy in the neighborhood who everyone LIKED, but he wasn't quite in the
social circle for various reasons that would be something of an essay
itself since the reasons will be different for different groups

Out-of-universe, of course, it's important not to put him in the
position of having to have a dozen close friends and/or lovers because
that's not the conflict the book is about.
Post by Joe Bernstein
[me in my thirties]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
There's a line in <A Civil Campaign> that I first read during those
years - "Once past his school days, Tien had never made a new good
friend." It isn't actually true of me, but it worried me a lot,
around then.
Possibly out of courtesy, nobody has noticed a pretty obvious subtext
to this story, which is that I'm much better at losing friends than I
am at making them, and this has been true for decades. I actually
have made one good friend even since becoming homeless six years ago -
but have lost him, too.
From my point of view, except perhaps for the "decades" part, Stephen
Russ can only be convincing if he shares this talent for alienating
people. But he loses it as soon as he becomes Holly Owen, and in any
event he's much more effectively concerned about other people than
I've ever been, so I don't think he ever had it. So the more I think
about it, the less convincing he becomes.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face. In men, not
so much, and of course my *height*, never over 5'3" (160 cm) didn't
help. What I'm getting at is that as I reached higher and more
embarrassing ages at which to retain one's virginity, it became ever
more obvious that if I'd been born a woman (or even, for that matter,
gay), in this one increasingly important respect I'd have been a lot
better off.
Except that it's not better off for women in our society (especially if
you go back decades),
What part of "in this one respect" was unclear? I'm describing
something that much preoccupied me at that time; I assure you I
thought about the disadvantages of womanhood too.
That said, we're talking about the period from 1997 to 2007. Why
didn't you also point to the difficulties of being a gay man at that
time? One thing I'm saying here is that I thought I'd find more
people interested in me among roughly 1% of men than among roughly
99% of women. This necessarily involved thinking about what it'd be
like, having one's field of possibilities shrunk by well over 90%.
That's a difficulty of being gay that hasn't changed.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
and it seems you accepted more of the cultural
norms of THAT period. Mine was much more "sex comes with marriage, not
before" and I was a virgin until I married.
It would never have occurred to me that one could answer a paragraph
in which the writer confesses to having been a forty-year-old virgin
with, of all things, slut-shaming. I'm impressed by your creativity
and audacity.
(Though not your clarity. Just which period is "THAT period" ?)
I have NO idea where you get "slut-shaming" from. I said, in effect, "I
never saw that there was a problem with being a virgin", not "if you
aren't a virgin you must suck". I never absorbed the idea that I OUGHT
to have sex. Did I WANT to have sex, sure, thought about it a lot. But
it wasn't, as you seemed to be saying, a Bad Thing that I was a virgin.
I was somewhat envious of those who HAD lots of sex, but it wasn't
something that then made me feel that there was either something wrong
with THEM, OR something wrong with ME.

Given your description, I guess you're probably at least as old as I
am, so "That Period" would be well before "now". My impression is that
the issue is less of an issue today.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't.
This now seems pretty clear. It's also reasonably clear that Holly
Owen's could include college, unless she's too busy as Holy Aura.
Yes, there's no reason she couldn't eventually go to college. Assuming
she ages. That would kinda suck, if it turns out the magic locks you
into being a teenage girl for all time. That would make it a challenge
to try to go forward with your life.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
His may have included the military; mine certainly
didn't.
As previously noted, his *did*. So let's go into that.
The book appears, in chapter 7, to begin in June of a year fourteen
years after 2001, so either 2015 or perhaps 2016. It explicitly ends
soon after March 15, 2017, much of a single school year having passed
in between; that obviously argues for 2016 as the start.
Holly had been Steve for thirty-five years, so he was born in 1980 or
1981. Assuming he enlisted right out of school, that'd be 1998 or
1999. If you're correct that his tour of duty would be four years,
that gets us past September 11. Did the Air Force do stop-loss at
that time?
Interesting point. Don't know. Too late to change it if so. The real
Steve, of course, had this as his background but that was a couple
decades earlier.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
I sought all sorts of social hobbies; he focused on one.
Two - he also acted in amateur theatre.
Though that was when he was younger. He didn't have time or energy for
much other stuff as he was always on the edge of poverty.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I think I'd need a lot of evidence to refute this before I'd stop
believing it: that unmarried men in their 30s who live near
minimum wage, all other things equal, have worse social lives than
well-off teenaged girls. In general, across the board. My life, the
lives I've observed, my reading, all say so. Hell, my life says even
a poor teenaged boy has a richer social life than a poor thirtyish
unmarried man.
In other words, I think the comparison the character makes is rigged.
It turns out it's rigged both ways.
Steve Russ is not the complete non-entity the first page suggests,
after all. He probably has Air Force buddies, though as usual these
are scattered around the land. He knows people from work and the
theatre, though you tell us none have become friends. He has
relatives with whom he's spent enough time that he could help their
"kids deal with their issues". Hell, what if the Ochoas knock on his
door to invite him to dinner?
Are none of those people going to try to contact him? Ever?
Does he just disappear from the point of view of his high school
reunion committee? Of the VA? (He's had enough injuries that he
probably knows people at the VA Hospital by name.)
If the book had ended the way its characters expected, he could have
been among those who died in the battle, and maybe there'd even be a
body; or it could've ended according to plan, and Holly vanishing
instead.
But as things are, you've created a can of worms for yourself, which
you seem to think doesn't exist.
Oh. That's something that exists, but I don't have to WORRY about it.
Until I write the next book.

That's obviously a major issue for Steve/Holly to decide how to deal
with. But I don't have to deal with it in THAT book, only in any sequels.

Until the very end, of course, it WAS NOT AN ISSUE... because once the
mission was over, everything was going to re-set. Steve would be back in
his apartment but things would start going right for him, he'd go on
with his better life, and so on.

NOW Steve's permanently (??) gone (physically) and Holly has not yet
(since it was only a week or so by the end of the book) started to
really grasp the MASSIVE set of problems that their assumption of "don't
worry, it's going to reset" is handing them.

Another obvious problem: Their identities aren't going to hold up
forever. They assumed they only had to evade investigators for a year or
less. Now they're stuck, and the OSC is ALREADY THERE. If they haven't
found out their IDs, they almost certainly will soon.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So the book's advice to people like the earlier me boils down to "be
a rich girl instead". This is why I'd rather the protagonist had
decided on pretty much *any* other grounds.
There's no advice in the book at all.
We'll just have to agree to disagree on that.
I guess. To me advice is if I say to you "you should do this" in a
realistic context. So if I write a self-help book, I'm giving you
advice. If I write a story set in a world clearly with little relation
to this one, not so much, because the conditions in that world just
don't apply to this one. The only advice PHA offers is "try to do the
right thing".
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-12 23:48:00 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
once, which he's answered in turn. I try to integrate answers to
both his posts in this reply.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
Now in abundance. Really, don't read on if you haven't read the book.
Also massive snippage again.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.
Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.
I don't see it as dark but more conflicting. Holly's found a really
pretty wonderful life that she did not expect, especially with the
initial strain of becoming Holy Aura and abandoning Steve for very
practical reasons. After all the time -- very, VERY intense time with
strong emotional components -- with her new friends,
This is, to a certain extent, careless phrasing on your part. Much
of the hostility I point to is already there after a relatively short
time being friends with Seika Cooper.
Chapter 22 again: "The voice he used to accept sounded completely
wrong in his ears. The way his body felt--slow, heavy, ponderous--
was actually repellent."
This is *before* the other three (though not before the new game) and
*before* Dex even joins the game, let alone becomes her boyfriend.
Ahh, but *AFTER* she has spent MONTHS in the body of Holly Owen. The
body dysphoria is separate from his/her emotional connection to the
friends he/she meets.
Yes, but for once I didn't write carelessly. The body dysphoria is
*exactly* what I called dark. I'm not saying "Love wins" is a dark
theme, I'm saying "Trash your own past" is a dark theme.

I've thrown away the long list of quotes I typed out, but there's a
point later in the book where you have Holly think of it as an
"alien aversion". You also call it "self-hatred" a few times.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
she's developed
extremely strong bonds with them-- stronger and more emotionally
powerful than likely any bonds he's ever had with anyone outside his
parents.
It's only DARK if you think that it's BAD that a person can change
their goals and self-image.
Well, um, how to put this?
Stephen Russ dies.
The book is the story of two lives competing, because only one can be
real, and that isn't even affected by the magical out at the end.
It's got tons of sugarcoating, but that is a fundamentally dark theme.
In the end, Steve and Holly ARE NOT COMPETING. They are 100% in tune
with what needs to be done and they're both just fine with it. Both of
them expect to be obliterated -- and "both of them" is a miswriting,
because it's really just two ... *personas*, two masks that they use to
face the world. The SELF is still there, untouched, just changed by
experience to see things differently.
I say "lives", you say "personas". This is partly because I'm
looking partly from the outside, I think; to the Ochoas, what's gone
is Stephen Russ's life.

Anyway, I probably should have said something like

|| This book tells the story of ...

[High school and its futures, different versions of]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which of us is more like Stephen Russ?
I don't believe his emotional history is as drab as you think it is.
Steve's situation was constrained by his resources, his setting, and
time. Gaming was his one contact with other people that he knew HOW to
find other people. He was kind and personable once you got to know him,
but his connection to "people at work" wasn't the same. He was the nice
guy in the neighborhood who everyone LIKED, but he wasn't quite in the
social circle for various reasons that would be something of an essay
itself since the reasons will be different for different groups
This isn't an exact description of me, but it's more than close
enough for government work. So I'm saying I don't believe that guy
was so isolated in high school, in particular, or in the Air Force,
that a close friendship is an utter novelty to him.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
From my point of view [...] Stephen
Russ can only be convincing if he shares this talent for alienating
people. But he loses it as soon as he becomes Holly Owen, and in any
event he's much more effectively concerned about other people than
I've ever been, so I don't think he ever had it. So the more I think
about it, the less convincing he becomes.
[A morass. I can't read your previous paragraph as *not* insulting,
but OK, let's try to go on.]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I said, in effect, "I
never saw that there was a problem with being a virgin", not "if you
aren't a virgin you must suck". I never absorbed the idea that I OUGHT
to have sex. Did I WANT to have sex, sure, thought about it a lot. But
it wasn't, as you seemed to be saying, a Bad Thing that I was a virgin.
I was somewhat envious of those who HAD lots of sex, but it wasn't
something that then made me feel that there was either something wrong
with THEM, OR something wrong with ME.
The first girl I understood myself as loving - unrequitedly - went on
to an abusive relationship. The profoundly unflattering comparison
thus invited *certainly* left me worrying what was wrong with me, and
that may have spilled over into my ideas about sex.

But also, saving oneself for marriage wasn't something I can remember
anyone really talking about in my youth, which was largely spent
among the upper middle class, the emerging technocratic elite I
suppose, in an academic family, a high school for "the college bound",
and then the University of Chicago.

I haven't always been poor. If I'd had the kind of morality you seem
to infer, I'd have hired a prostitute decades ago. But I don't have
your morality either.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Given your description, I guess you're probably at least as old as I
am, so "That Period" would be well before "now". My impression is that
the issue is less of an issue today.
Nope. My post earlier today identified my birth year as 1967; many
web pages identify yours as earlier.

Still no idea which period you're referring to, but I guess I know
which moral ideas then current you meant.

I imagine there are still kids who intend to save themselves for
marriage, just as there still seem to be kids doing hookups. I doubt
any of this changes all that fast without external influences.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't.
This now seems pretty clear. It's also reasonably clear that Holly
Owen's could include college, unless she's too busy as Holy Aura.
Yes, there's no reason she couldn't eventually go to college. Assuming
she ages. That would kinda suck, if it turns out the magic locks you
into being a teenage girl for all time. That would make it a challenge
to try to go forward with your life.
One thing I'm wondering about is whether the magic actually cares
about maidenhood. More generally, as they get older, do they weaken
because the dissonance between their real life and power is less? Do
they have to find a way to recruit new magical girls as they graduate?
(Which is sooner for Devika Weatherill and Cordelia Ingemar than for
the other three.)
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But as things are, you've created a can of worms for yourself, which
you seem to think doesn't exist.
Oh. That's something that exists, but I don't have to WORRY about it.
Until I write the next book.
Fair enough.

Joe Bernstein
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-13 00:00:53 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
once, which he's answered in turn. I try to integrate answers to
both his posts in this reply.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
(Spoilers below, naturally)
Now in abundance. Really, don't read on if you haven't read the book.
Also massive snippage again.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Another major factor is that while Steve had gaming friends, he had
very few PEERS. He was essentially alone in his life, his parents gone,
all his friends from childhood dead or dispersed, and his gaming group
the only outside contact he had. He was a nice guy, and he knew as
nodding acquaintances a lot of people around him, but he was in an
isolated, dead-end existence. The promise of "well, the magic will make
your life better if this ends well" is nice, but that's a vague future
promise even if you believe it.
Her existence as Holly, OTOH, was very real, immediate, and more
diverse and colorful than his existence as Steve.
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I
think the book *does* have a genuine flaw, at the end, when the
darkness proper to the protagonist's decisions is undermined by their
lack of clear motivation. [2]
"decisions". Later I said the evidence that I was talking about a
"decision" at all was weak, but my interlocutor said it was a
reasonable word choice.
Anyway, what I mean is Holly's expressed preference for staying a
girl after the apocalypse is averted, followed by her action that
(almost certainly unintentionally) makes that preference
unavoidable, followed, of course, by the magical loose end that
enables the preference to happen (once again, in this book, neatly
subordinating the magical to the personal). Her strong hostility
toward her (original) male form *is* dark, and should have dark
underpinnings; it doesn't.
I don't see it as dark but more conflicting. Holly's found a really
pretty wonderful life that she did not expect, especially with the
initial strain of becoming Holy Aura and abandoning Steve for very
practical reasons. After all the time -- very, VERY intense time with
strong emotional components -- with her new friends,
This is, to a certain extent, careless phrasing on your part. Much
of the hostility I point to is already there after a relatively short
time being friends with Seika Cooper.
Chapter 22 again: "The voice he used to accept sounded completely
wrong in his ears. The way his body felt--slow, heavy, ponderous--
was actually repellent."
This is *before* the other three (though not before the new game) and
*before* Dex even joins the game, let alone becomes her boyfriend.
Ahh, but *AFTER* she has spent MONTHS in the body of Holly Owen. The
body dysphoria is separate from his/her emotional connection to the
friends he/she meets.
Yes, but for once I didn't write carelessly. The body dysphoria is
*exactly* what I called dark. I'm not saying "Love wins" is a dark
theme, I'm saying "Trash your own past" is a dark theme.
I've thrown away the long list of quotes I typed out, but there's a
point later in the book where you have Holly think of it as an
"alien aversion". You also call it "self-hatred" a few times.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
she's developed
extremely strong bonds with them-- stronger and more emotionally
powerful than likely any bonds he's ever had with anyone outside his
parents.
It's only DARK if you think that it's BAD that a person can change
their goals and self-image.
Well, um, how to put this?
Stephen Russ dies.
The book is the story of two lives competing, because only one can be
real, and that isn't even affected by the magical out at the end.
It's got tons of sugarcoating, but that is a fundamentally dark theme.
In the end, Steve and Holly ARE NOT COMPETING. They are 100% in tune
with what needs to be done and they're both just fine with it. Both of
them expect to be obliterated -- and "both of them" is a miswriting,
because it's really just two ... *personas*, two masks that they use to
face the world. The SELF is still there, untouched, just changed by
experience to see things differently.
I say "lives", you say "personas". This is partly because I'm
looking partly from the outside, I think; to the Ochoas, what's gone
is Stephen Russ's life.
Anyway, I probably should have said something like
|| This book tells the story of ...
[High school and its futures, different versions of]
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which of us is more like Stephen Russ?
I don't believe his emotional history is as drab as you think it is.
Steve's situation was constrained by his resources, his setting, and
time. Gaming was his one contact with other people that he knew HOW to
find other people. He was kind and personable once you got to know him,
but his connection to "people at work" wasn't the same. He was the nice
guy in the neighborhood who everyone LIKED, but he wasn't quite in the
social circle for various reasons that would be something of an essay
itself since the reasons will be different for different groups
This isn't an exact description of me, but it's more than close
enough for government work. So I'm saying I don't believe that guy
was so isolated in high school, in particular, or in the Air Force,
that a close friendship is an utter novelty to him.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
From my point of view [...] Stephen
Russ can only be convincing if he shares this talent for alienating
people. But he loses it as soon as he becomes Holly Owen, and in any
event he's much more effectively concerned about other people than
I've ever been, so I don't think he ever had it. So the more I think
about it, the less convincing he becomes.
[A morass. I can't read your previous paragraph as *not* insulting,
but OK, let's try to go on.]
While I can't see it as being insulting.

Which may be an example of why *I* didn't have any friends when I was
young. I insulted people not only without knowing it, but I couldn't
figure out how AFTERWARD, either.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I said, in effect, "I
never saw that there was a problem with being a virgin", not "if you
aren't a virgin you must suck". I never absorbed the idea that I OUGHT
to have sex. Did I WANT to have sex, sure, thought about it a lot. But
it wasn't, as you seemed to be saying, a Bad Thing that I was a virgin.
I was somewhat envious of those who HAD lots of sex, but it wasn't
something that then made me feel that there was either something wrong
with THEM, OR something wrong with ME.
The first girl I understood myself as loving - unrequitedly - went on
to an abusive relationship. The profoundly unflattering comparison
thus invited *certainly* left me worrying what was wrong with me, and
that may have spilled over into my ideas about sex.
But also, saving oneself for marriage wasn't something I can remember
anyone really talking about in my youth, which was largely spent
among the upper middle class, the emerging technocratic elite I
suppose, in an academic family, a high school for "the college bound",
and then the University of Chicago.
I haven't always been poor. If I'd had the kind of morality you seem
to infer, I'd have hired a prostitute decades ago. But I don't have
your morality either.
I don't see it as "morality". You're imputing something to it that I
don't. I associated sex as something for marriage, because that's what
my parents said it was. It had nothing to do with right or wrong,
really, just the way they saw things. Not that the way they did things
was the only way to do so (they had friends who clearly didn't follow
that path).

(Understand, for me "right and wrong" were entirely about "did you hurt
people". There was no religious context, and because of the way I didn't
fit in society, no real societal one except in really broad terms)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Given your description, I guess you're probably at least as old as I
am, so "That Period" would be well before "now". My impression is that
the issue is less of an issue today.
Nope. My post earlier today identified my birth year as 1967; many
web pages identify yours as earlier.
Okay, you are a bit younger than me. But still, we both grew up within
5 years of each other.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Still no idea which period you're referring to, but I guess I know
which moral ideas then current you meant.
I imagine there are still kids who intend to save themselves for
marriage, just as there still seem to be kids doing hookups. I doubt
any of this changes all that fast without external influences.
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
This isn't much like Stephen Russ's story. Mine included college;
his ?didn't.
This now seems pretty clear. It's also reasonably clear that Holly
Owen's could include college, unless she's too busy as Holy Aura.
Yes, there's no reason she couldn't eventually go to college. Assuming
she ages. That would kinda suck, if it turns out the magic locks you
into being a teenage girl for all time. That would make it a challenge
to try to go forward with your life.
One thing I'm wondering about is whether the magic actually cares
about maidenhood. More generally, as they get older, do they weaken
because the dissonance between their real life and power is less? Do
they have to find a way to recruit new magical girls as they graduate?
(Which is sooner for Devika Weatherill and Cordelia Ingemar than for
the other three.)
That's obviously something to explore in the other books. The ORIGINAL
spell certainly does; that's why, as Silvertail describes, all of them
ARE teenage girls.

Do they have to remain that way with the Cycle broken? A very
interesting question. Which opens the way to several possible answers,
ranging from "yes, and thus the spell KEEPS them that way", which sucks
in one way, to "Yes, and that means that their powers will weaken as
time goes on" to "No, but things will change as they get older".
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
Post by Joe Bernstein
But as things are, you've created a can of worms for yourself, which
you seem to think doesn't exist.
Oh. That's something that exists, but I don't have to WORRY about it.
Until I write the next book.
Fair enough.
Said book partly set up by "On-Site for the Apocalypse"; Dana Kisaragi
will be a major player in the second volume.

Though I will probably not get to that one until I do another
Arenaverse novel.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-13 00:36:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I don't see it as "morality". You're imputing something to it that I
don't. I associated sex as something for marriage, because that's what
my parents said it was. It had nothing to do with right or wrong,
really, just the way they saw things. Not that the way they did things
was the only way to do so (they had friends who clearly didn't follow
that path).
OK. You actually wrote "cultural norms". But considering that this
came just before talk about virginity until marriage, I don't think
it was much of a misreading to interpret that as "morality".

Anyway, I think we're just about done.

-- JLB
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-13 02:04:26 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
I don't see it as "morality". You're imputing something to it that I
don't. I associated sex as something for marriage, because that's what
my parents said it was. It had nothing to do with right or wrong,
really, just the way they saw things. Not that the way they did things
was the only way to do so (they had friends who clearly didn't follow
that path).
OK. You actually wrote "cultural norms". But considering that this
came just before talk about virginity until marriage, I don't think
it was much of a misreading to interpret that as "morality".
The point was that it seemed you had absorbed the cultural norm of "if
a guy hasn't had sex before X, they're (negative thing)", and so it
bothered you. And I hadn't absorbed that, so it didn't bother me.

If there's a "morality" in there I'm not sure where it was.
Post by Joe Bernstein
Anyway, I think we're just about done.
Seems so, since you didn't comment on any of my other comments, so I
presume whatever I said on the main topic either answered any questions
you might have had, or reached a point where there was nothing to say.
Thanks for the discussion!
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-15 00:21:33 UTC
Reply
Permalink
"Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)" <***@sgeinc.invalid.com> wrote in news:ppm2oo$mdd$***@dont-email.me a post to which I've already
voluminously replied, *twice* yet, but I reserved one thing to yet
another reply.

The context here is that he was answering a post in which I made a
sustained argument that the thirties are, for Americans of my
generation and probably somewhat earlier and later (so yeah, OK,
*were*), different from the twenties in socially significant ways, at
least for unmarried men if not for others.
On 10/10/18 3:19 PM, Joe Bernstein wrote [in reply to Sea Wasp, but
Post by Joe Bernstein
I think in America generally, people in their thirties are more
isolated than in their twenties or teens. The intense sociality of
high school has pretty much faded. Jobs tend to offer fewer peers -
for example here, [snip] Quite a lot of people that age have pretty
much retreated into family life, their social lives built around
their kids' lives. This is pretty much the first decade in which the
negative consequences of remaining unmarried come front and centre.
So is a spouse a peer?
A spouse would be, but he doesn't have one. I didn't have one until I
was well over 30. The original Steve had one, but that would have added
complications to the story I didn't want to touch in this book (that's
more for my planned series _The Door Reopened_ if I get to it).
Post by Joe Bernstein
But I think I'd need a lot of evidence to refute this before I'd stop
believing it: that unmarried men in their 30s who live near
minimum wage, all other things equal, have worse social lives than
well-off teenaged girls. In general, across the board. My life, the
lives I've observed, my reading, all say so. Hell, my life says even
a poor teenaged boy has a richer social life than a poor thirtyish
unmarried man.
In other words, I think the comparison the character makes is rigged.
[snip]
Post by Joe Bernstein
Or to put it another way: if that comparison underlies Holly's
aversion to Stephen, then it represents a teenaged misjudgement.
People in their thirties are *supposed* to be uncomfortable if
unmarried. So the book's endorsing an alternative is, um, weird
at best.
Why are they supposed to be uncomfortable? Why should ANYONE be
uncomfortable as long as they're not hurting other people? For a long
time I, and others I knew, was perfectly comfortable not being married.
I think human beings in societies like ours work better in some ways
than in others, and I think in general those ways should be advocated.
That's central to what I was trying to say here.

Not all human beings work alike, obviously, but I don't think that's
especially significant in this regard. I routinely consider myself
one of this group's thinner-skinned regular posters, but even I have
had to get used to society not operating as I demand of it, and I
don't have a lot of patience with complaints about that. Mind, I'm
not advocating discrimination against people who operate differently
(and that means I'm not entirely endorsing how our societies now work),
but I also don't think undue weight should be given to those people's
feelings in deciding what to advocate.

So specifically. There's quite a lot of evidence that marriage is
good for people. There's considerably less evidence than people say
there is - one issue is telling the difference between marriage being
good for people, and people with good lives being more likely to
marry - but what's left is impressive. The main arguments are four:

1) Marriage improves people's physical health. This seems to be
where most of the research has been done. There are exceptions -
for example, married people apparently tend to be more sedentary and
unsurprisingly gain a few pounds - and there are areas where the
necessary distinguishing between causation and correlation hasn't
been done, but still, there's lots of evidence.

2) Marriage improves people's economic status. This seems to be less
documented, and is especially hard to study because in countries with
income taxes, governments often try to create inducements to marry,
while the structure of the taxes creates other issues (usually
labelled "marriage penalty"). There's also the question of whether
the effects on men and women are similar - which in turn leads to
which generation you're studying. Concretely, I haven't found much
in the limited research I wanted to put into this post; by next week
I should have been able to consult a book that may enable me to say
more.

3) Marriage improves people's mental health and happiness. I should
think these things would be closely connected, but they seem to pull
in different directions, Marriage has been shown to reduce
depressive symptoms in both men and women. (Also, divorce to
increase them, but I mean, duh.) On the other hand, I'm pretty sure
I remember lots of studies showing that men get much more happiness
out of marriage than women do - some, at least, comparing married
women's happiness to that of unmarried people.

4) Marriage makes the children's lives better. I'm not sure of the
scope of this argument; as regards health, I'm not sure how well-
documented it is. But to the extent that it *is* well-documented,
it's a reasonable concern; yes, "for the children" is overvalued in
American politics, but that doesn't mean it has *no* value.

Used to be there was a lot of pressure on women from around 18 and on
men from around 35 to get married - social pressure, that is. Maybe
there's really less of that now, or maybe my thinking so is just part
of the blue bubble I live in. But I think life itself, specifically
the social atmosphere created in large part by others pairing off,
can make life uncomfortable for people in their 30s who aren't
married, and I think that discomfort is a *good* thing, in that it
provides an incentive to do something about it.
Marriage is a big step in responsibility and commitment. If you're not
up for that, you'll be a LOT more comfortable NOT being married.
Most people in our society demonstrate that they can be responsible
by holding a steady job. I would seem to be a negative example here,
and that's probably a significant part of why I haven't yet married,
but anyhow there it is. Additional evidence of responsibility can
come, most obviously, from caring for something - a dog, a family
member (but not, usually preferably, one's own child).

(There also, I guess I'm a failure. I had eleven pets die in one
year - granted, ten were mice, but still.)

Capacity for commitment, to the extent that that differs from
responsibility, is much harder to test. It usually isn't wise to
set one's heart on someone who's already married and wait for them
to prove their lifelong devotion until their existing spouse dies,
before one consents to marry them. My parents married on my father's
rebound, and remained married 21 years until he died; AFAIK, she
never considered remarrying. A teacher important to me when I was
young had been "the other woman" as she put it herself, which would
seem to be proof positive of *lack* of capacity for commitment on her
husband's part, but the first result when I put his name and
occupation into Google was a newsletter profile that mentioned they'd
been married for 32 years. (That was six years ago; I don't have
proof they're together *now*, but I'd bet that way.) I think prior
proof of commitment is probably overrated.

Stephen Russ demonstrates his capacity for responsibility by keeping
his job, and then demonstrates his capacity for commitment by not
only becoming Princess Holy Aura but actively involving himself, with
dedication, in making that work.

I would've become, by now, a very different person from the one I am
now if, in my 20s when I thought I was more or less ready to marry,
I'd met a woman who thought the same. Perhaps my life has shown that
it's a good thing I didn't meet her, but I'm not so sure; I think the
person I'd have become would have been both more responsible and more
committed than the person I did become.

There are bad marriages. Half of the English Wikipedia entry on
"Marriage and health" is about them; they have, in particular,
gendered health effects, are worse for women than for men, or so says
that entry. I thought I'd heard that half of American marriages
ended in divorce at some point in the past, but English Wikipedia sv
both "Divorce" and "Divorce in the United States" gives much lower
numbers. Of course, not all bad marriages end in divorce.

If marriage were more common, there would pretty certainly be more
bad marriages, and perhaps more divorces.

I'd have to see that argued more strongly, however, before I'd stop
advocating marriage on those grounds.

So what I'm saying is to a certain extent this. Stephen Russ should
have been in the marriage market; I don't know why he wasn't. Holly
Owen essentially buys him another two decades to avoid it. In that
respect, at least, the book goes against what I think should be some
pretty strong cultural norms, and I called that "weird", which isn't
an unreasonable word for that.

Joe Bernstein

So far consulted:

<The Effects of Marriage on Health: A Synthesis of Recent Research
Evidence> by Robert G. Wood, Sarah Avellar and Brian Goesling (all of
whom are now at Mathematica Policy Research). New York: Nova
Science Publishers, Inc., c 2009.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_and_health>

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce>

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_in_the_United_States>

Not yet seen:

<Women, Marriage, and Wealth: The Impact of Marital Status on the
Economic Well-Being of Women through the Life Course> by Joyce A.
Joyce. New York: Gordian Knot Books, c 2007.
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-15 23:31:28 UTC
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On 10/14/18 8:21 PM, Joe Bernstein wrote:
(Snip detailed discussion)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So what I'm saying is to a certain extent this. Stephen Russ should
have been in the marriage market; I don't know why he wasn't. Holly
Owen essentially buys him another two decades to avoid it. In that
respect, at least, the book goes against what I think should be some
pretty strong cultural norms, and I called that "weird", which isn't
an unreasonable word for that.
Okay, I can see where you're coming from.

But to me -- and the group of people I knew, which included the
original of Steve -- the "Marriage Market" was actually pretty limited.
Not only were we geeks of the sort that didn't know that much about
approaching members of the opposite sex, but we were mostly averse to
doing activities that drew in many of them to operate with. The real
Steve DID get married at a little less than 30, but I could replace his
dating history with mine and add in more economic hardship than I went
through, and it's not even a challenge to imagine remaining unmarried
for all my life.

Where would he encounter and interact with women of appropriate age and
interests? He wasn't interested in going to bars or other similar places
(assuming he could afford it, which he couldn't), doing the backroom
baking work doesn't give you much interaction, and gaming has always had
a very high ratio of men-to-women, meaning that women who showed up
either were already paired with someone, or had their choice of pretty
much anyone -- if they were interested at all. (as in Steve's group,
where there was Anne who was already hooked up with Mike).

If I wasn't married, I don't know where or how I'd ever end up dating
again. All the women of appropriate age that I know are already married.
By the age of 30+, that's the norm.

So Steve just reflects what I've known about the social lives of geeks.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-10 23:47:42 UTC
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Post by Joe Bernstein
I misunderstood. I read <Princess Holy Aura>, then decided I needed
to know more about your writing (I'd previously read only <Boundary>,
<Threshold> and <Portal>).
Which were me with someone else, yes. (although technically once you
get past Boundary the vast majority of the writing is mine)
Post by Joe Bernstein
So I read <Digital Knight>,
Re-issued in a much-expanded form as _Paradigms Lost_, BTW. I.e.,
there's 60k more words and two more of Jason's adventures in that reissue.
Post by Joe Bernstein
<Grand
Central Arena>, <Spheres of Influence>, and <Challenges of the Deep>.
Only in <Challenges> and <Princess> did the book end "FIN", so I took
that in each case as a declaration of closure. Glad it's not so.
BTW, thanks for reading!

"Closure" is an interesting challenge when writing. For all three of
_Grand Central Arena_, _Phoenix Rising_, and _Princess Holy Aura_, there
was no certainty that there WOULD be any follow-on books by Baen. Thus,
it was necessary that the individual books themselves provide some sort
of closure... even if I had every intention of continuing. This was
especially challenging for _Phoenix Rising_ since THAT one I knew for a
fact was just Part 1 of a trilogy, and that uncertainty meant that
somehow I had to make a book that really, really wasn't meant to be
standalone somehow BE standalone enough that it wouldn't hurt the reader
TOO much if there was no followup.

The Arenaverse won't have what I as AUTHOR consider closure unless and
until I have written the books that answer the BIG questions (Who or
what are the Voidbuilders, and why did they build the Arena, and what's
Humanity's deal anyway?). Princess Holy Aura... it's somewhat more
open-ended, but I think I'd at least have to have gotten to the point
that the world has adjusted to the changes that have hit it.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
D B Davis
2018-10-11 14:57:46 UTC
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Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com> wrote:

<snip>
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face.
My face is also relatively pretty, at least according to my wife and my
sisters. Females generally don't show revulsion when they look me in the
eye.
But they're female, so God only knows what they really think.
Submitted for your consideration, a female pathologist's sticky note
quote: "My face hurts from pretending to like you."



Thank you,
--
Don
Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
2018-10-11 22:15:20 UTC
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Post by D B Davis
<snip>
Post by Joe Bernstein
Which brings me to ... Already in my 20s, I'm pretty sure I'd
noticed that my next older brother, my elder sister and I all have
essentially the same face. Probably if my twin sister had lived,
she'd have had it too. In women, it's a pretty face.
My face is also relatively pretty, at least according to my wife and my
sisters. Females generally don't show revulsion when they look me in the
eye.
But they're female, so God only knows what they really think.
Submitted for your consideration, a female pathologist's sticky note
quote: "My face hurts from pretending to like you."
I was a certified grade-A _bishonen_ when I was young (up to my
early-mid 20s). Not any more, of course.
--
Sea Wasp
/^\
;;;
Website: http://www.grandcentralarena.com Blog:
http://seawasp.dreamwidth.org
Lynn McGuire
2018-10-16 00:17:57 UTC
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Post by Joe Bernstein
This is much more discussed here than the last recent book I reviewed,
but I don't find the sort of discussion I was looking for. So here's
my try.
This book tells the story of someone who begins as a man in his 30s,
running a bagel shop by day, a role-playing game by night. He seems
to live a fairly stressful and ordinary life. But then, through an
act of heroism, he comes to the attention of a wizard recruiting for
what the book itself calls a "mahou shoujo" - magical girl - team.
...

Hey Ryk, is there going to be a MMPB version anytime soon ? I am trying
not to buy as many trade paperbacks nowadays. Cost and storage space.
https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Holy-Aura-Ryk-Spoor/dp/1481482823/

Thanks,
Lynn
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