Friday, July 10, 2015

The Rough Dreams

I've decided to start doing the Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge, which this week involves a random title generator (thank you so much for the generator!). As this is flash fiction, it is only 670 words. Enjoy, and watch this space weekly!

The Rough Dreams
Morlynn loved her job. She loved being a Rougher, taking the raw Dream-Stuff her Harvester friends gathered, and shaping it into a general form, a school or work building, the sensation of flight or of drowning. She loved watching the Refiners take her sketched-in form, and turn it into a fully-realized dream, full of color and sound and heightened emotions. Most of all, she loved the thought that she was part of the process of making people's lives and minds more interesting, of showing to each of them some hidden part of themselves.
But sometimes, before she could pass a dream on, it would escape, lumbering off through the Curtain, to the waking world. They were often the hardest to work even before they went rogue, twisting and turning and straining under her hands, and each time it happened, her curiosity grew as to where they went, and why they tried so hard to get there. One day, Morlynn made the snap decision to follow one, to finally learn the answers to her questions.
The Curtain was strange, almost sticky, and she had to force her way through, where the dream had slipped through lightly. The waking world on the other side was bright, the colors sharper than anything Morlynn had ever seen, and it was loud, and smelly... Morlynn was regretting her choice, but she'd taken the biggest step, and now she felt she had to follow through. As she adjusted to the assault on her senses, she figured out that she was in a park, in the midst of a crowd, many of whom were waving signs or chanting something angry.
The people around her didn't seem to be able to see or feel her, which was eerie, but it did make everything a little easier. The dream, too, seemed invisible to them, but they still turned toward it, seeking for it. To Morlynn it glowed so bright its light shone through the people, and she found it simple to trail it through the crowd, that restless, churning mass of humanity, to a young woman standing near the edge of a stage.
The dream gathered itself and leapt into the young woman, the glow spreading out to fill her skin, to shine out of her eyes. She jumped up onto the stage and grabbed a microphone. She began to speak, passionately, gesturing and pacing, and with each word, a puff of glowing Dream-Stuff popped out of her mouth and drifted into the audience, who had turned toward her at her first word. The puffs landed on one person or another's face or hair, their shoulder or hand, then sank in and spread out under their skin.
Morlynn was transfixed. All around her, the waking people were starting to glow. Each glow was faint, but there were more and more of them with every passing moment, and the crowd looked to her eyes like moonlight on water. The people were now moving restlessly, turning to each other to share ideas and glow, waving their signs more energetically, throwing their fists up to agree with some point or other the woman on the stage was making. Her speech finished with a feeling like a silent thunderclap, and the crowd scattered, leaving in every direction with intense purpose.
Morlynn wanted badly to follow them, or the woman, but she felt herself being dragged back. A painful moment later, she was standing in The Boss's office, his luminous eyes fixed on her, though, she was glad to see, not with ire. He rose, came around the desk, and led her over to a sofa, where they sat. She looked down at her hands, then up at him, nervously.
He smiled gently, giving her a sense of calm. “And so you see, my dear. For their ordinary lives, people need sleeping dreams, to let their minds explore. But sometimes, every so often, they need waking dreams too, to let their hearts expand.“ Morlynn smiled back. She really, truly, absolutely, loved her job.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Request for Rainbows

Game of Thrones is very nearly the only tv show (/movie) that I have watched without reading the associated book first. In general, I like to be able to picture the characters and settings for myself before seeing how someone else interpreted them. This, however, is not a post about the hits and misses of page-to-screen adaptations. This is a post about how authentic we should want our authenticity to be.
Something else I am not addressing with this post is the idea that rape was appallingly commonplace in feudal societies, and so we should have no problem not just talking about it but graphically showing it in a fantasy setting like Thrones. That idea seems to me to be disingenuous at best, and an excuse for gratuitous sexual violence at worst. Though, to be fair, that idea and this one are intertwined quite a bit. Because, for me, it's about agency, and femininity vs. masculinity, and how a created society treats those inferior in some way.
What I'm trying to say here, is that the treatment of and attitude toward Loras Tyrell bothers the hell out of me. I know the Dornish are much more comfortable with open sexuality, and many of them are openly bisexual, but we actively see very little of that on-screen. What we do see is Loras and Renly and "boy-lovers" who are mocked for being less manly than the warriors around them (though Renly was actually shaping up to be a good and decent king for a minute there). We see followers of The Seven- lay people, priests, and Faith Militant alike -being cruel or even violent to those who contradict their apparent view of the way the world works. But why should their world work that way?
Why make a fantasy world, and import these tired old tropes? If you're asking us to accept warging and fire magic, and *dragons*, if you're crafting a society with not just seven Gods, but Old Gods and New, why not have them be more accepting of "alternate" sexualities? You'll note also that all of the homosexual men we've seen have played into the effeminate stereotype to some degree, and even bisexual Oberyn was occasionally flamboyant; why not have queer men who are large and butch, or wily players of The Game? Why not have queer women who....
Ah, yes, the other half of this worn old coin. Where are the homo- or bi-sexual women? Aside from Oberyn's primary partner, Ellaria, and the extremely performative "whores kissing each other for the titillation of the customers," we see absolutely zero women who are sexually attracted to women. (We also see very, very little genuine affection between women, except a scattering of mother-daughter (type) interaction, but all that is a separate post.) Why erase even the possibility of those sorts of characters and stories from your world? Why, in fact, would any author recreate such stifling social mores in a fantasy work?
These are genuine questions to me. I genuinely do not understand why, when creating a world fantastical in so many other ways (even if molded on historical reality), one would confine oneself to historical attitudes. Why not have a society in which a small but significant percentage of the population prefers the romantic company of their own sex, and, here's the important part now, no one is bothered by it?!?! Why not have loving, committed same-sex couples, marrying in the same way as opposite-sex couples, raising children together, even ruling towns or countries together? Wouldn't that be an interesting boundary to push?
Now, this would of course have implications for the rest of society, but that just makes for better stories. Some possible things to explore: if noble couples cannot necessarily reproduce on their own, fosterage/adoption and inheritance become more complex (and interesting); naming schemes, separated from patrilinear conventions, could be quite convoluted; most basically, even words for spouses, parents, and noble hierarchy might be completely rethought. (OK, yes, one quick note about rape: this is another knock-on effect, that people who are comfortable with a range of sexualities and their expressions are also probably less likely to resort to sexual violence as casually as those of Westeros seem to.) Maybe I'm the only one, but it seems like the genre that used to be "sci-fi/fantasy" and is now "speculative fiction" is about exploring the ways the world could be different, and the implications of those differences.
Instead, in Thrones, we have another iteration of the (relatively modern) (Christian) idea that homosexuality is a sin and blasphemy, that its practitioners are dissolute and weak, and degenerates who deserve nothing but punishment in this life and the next. Frankly, it feels like a giant step backward, in this day and age, and it does a disservice to the show's viewers.
And so this is a call. To the established writers, the studio execs, the production companies seeking the next cultural phenomenon: Let it reflect our culture, and the positive direction we are heading. Let it be multicultural (which is something Thrones has had hits and misses with); let it be multi-gendered, and multi-sexual, without backlash; let it remind people that with or without magic and dragons, we can still change the world. Let people have agency, let women make choices without being punished for them, let that fantastical society evolve and improve by the works of its characters. In short, let us have hope again.