This is the third book in a series about con artists in fantasyland. In the first two books, the hero, Locke Lamora, was carrying a torch for his unseen lost love, Sabetha. All we knew about Sabetha was that she had red hair, they'd known each other since they were kids, and she was the only female member of his gang of thieves. In Republic of Thieves, we finally meet Sabetha.

On the one hand, it's hard for any character to live up to two fat books of build-up. On the other hand, Lynch is generally good at creating female characters, though he has mixed results in terms of what he does with them. They have a tendency to meet horrifying ends. (There's a particularly egregious example in the first book. To be fair, it's not typical of the series in general. But it made such a bad impression that I nearly didn't finish the book.) But they are also often vivid, interesting, and not defined by their relationships with men. I am especially fond of Zamira Drakasha, pirate captain and doting mom.

So I had hopes for Sabetha. Unfortunately, I did not like her, her relationship with Locke, or Locke when he was interacting with her. Cut for spoilers and crankiness. Read more... )

It made me realize that something I look for in fictional romance is for the couple to bring out each other's best sides, not their worst. I don't necessarily mean in a moral sense. I have a particular soft spot for amoral assassin couples. But the relationship should make the characters more interesting, more themselves, not less.

I initially liked Miles and Ekaterin as a couple in Komarr, because I thought the relationship was doing exactly that. But in the post-Civil Campaign books, it seemed like Ekaterin had met exactly the fate she didn't want: she had become swallowed up by Miles' life. Not that being a mother isn't important, but she was a mother in Komarr, too. But that wasn't all she was.

Gaudy Night, of course, is not only an example of a couple being more interesting and true to themselves together than they are separately, but is explicitly about that phenomenon, and its opposite.

What are some stories with couples who brought out the best or most true aspects of each other? What are stories where they brought out the worst, or where their individuality became subsumed into couple-ness?
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jan. 1st, 2014 02:57 pm)
I wrote three stories this year, in Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series, C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith, and Stephen King’s The Stand.

My assignment was in the fandom I had most hoped to be matched on, Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards,” which I’d recently re-read. It’s about con men in fantasyland, full of lovely worldbuilding details and dialogue straight out of The Sopranos. The gang consists of Locke Lamora, the brains of the outfit with a penchant for over-complicated melodrama; Jean Tannen, previously a soft merchant’s son, who discovers a gift for fighting; and Calo and Galdo Sanza, sidekick twins.

My recipient, Labellementeuse, requested the time period where they’re all teenagers under the mostly-benevolent mentorship of Father Chains, a real priest masquerading as a fake one. She also requested Jean’s POV, a focus on the Locke-Jean relationship, and to see what Jean sees in Locke. I thought that was a great prompt: not too detailed, not too vague.

I wrote The Goddess of Suffering Scam. No canon knowledge needed beyond what I just told you, and it’s not spoilery for the books. The self-flagellating apparatus was Sherwood Smith’s suggestion, and in my opinion it completely makes the story.

Northwest Smith is lush, vivid space opera from the 1930s, featuring Northwest Smith, a tall Earthman with colorless eyes whose stoic exterior conceals some interesting psychological vulnerabilities, and his partner, Yarol the Venusian, a cheerfully amoral young man who looks like an angel and is constantly rescuing Smith from soul-sucking space vampires.

Last year I requested it, and got an amazing story, Ithaka, or, the Moons of Jupiter from Quillori. This year she requested it herself. Her letter was so charming that it ought to be read in full. (One note here about slash - I know Smith/Yarol is a popular reading, if anything can be said to be popular in such a tiny, almost non-existent fandom. And it's not as though I have any objection in theory - Smith does spend an awful lot of time noticing how gorgeous Venusians are in general and Yarol in particular - but I have a hard time reading Smith as anything other than straight, or perhaps not straight exactly - I can imagine him having friendly, casual sex with Yarol on a regular basis - but we spend enough time in his viewpoint that it really does seem to me his type, or what he genuinely believes is his type, is women (women, or possibly eldritch abominations and dark gods - with whom, frankly, he appears to have more success). )

Quillori wanted a story starring Yarol and focusing on worldbuilding, saying that often her favorite part of the story was when they were wandering around alien worlds and the plot hadn’t actually started yet. I thought that was a wonderful prompt, and wrote Strangler’s Veil. No canon knowledge needed beyond what I just told you.

Finally, [personal profile] kore and I co-wrote West, for Stephen King’s The Stand.

The novel is post-apocalyptic, a huge, sprawling, vivid narrative with a memorable ensemble cast. Toward the end, four of the characters— all men— go on a quest to save the world. Maidenjedi’s prompt was, “What if the women went instead?”

Cut for length and spoilers for both our story and The Stand. If you’re thinking of reading our story, please do so before reading the author notes. If you haven’t read The Stand, I don’t think our story will be comprehensible.

Read more... )
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