Am I an Imposter or Just a Poser? — Amanda – 4/27/2016

Imposter syndrome is common affliction among the great, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has it is great. I wonder whether I’m just a poser..

One Year of Letters

Am I an Imposter or Just a Poser?

April 27, 2016

I’m launching a new book in September and as part of the audience building process, I’m trying to do a better job maintaining my own blog. Regular posts about interesting topics are supposed to build readership. With this in mind, I diligently wrote out a list of topics I’d like to cover in the coming months, figuring that if I had a topic list, I couldn’t use the “I have nothing to say/write about” excuse.

Today I opened a blank Word document with the intention of covering one of my planned blog topics, and I hit the wall of doubt:

No one will read it.

No one will find it interesting.

No one cares.

It’s not that I don’t have direct experience to refute these soul-crushing beliefs. My posts here on OYOL and elsewhere have generated decent traffic, likes…

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GOT Snow?

Snow

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow (source: Wikipedia)

I woke up this morning on a Caribbean island paradise to the chirp of birds and crash of surf, my heart pounding. Anticipation roused me far earlier than I’d normally awaken on a Sunday, particularly on a first day of vacation, but my thoughts as I lay abed dwelt not on sand, sun, and sea, but on Jon Snow.

Yes, I’m giddy that the day has finally come when fans of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series will finally learn what happens next. (For those who haven’t read or watched the series but have it in a queue somewhere, stop reading. There be nothing but spoilers here.) For five seasons I’ve watched the series, fascinated at how producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have taken us down paths different from those in Martin’s books, yet always bring us to the same keystone moments in the plot. Ned Stark’s death, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, Cersei’s penance, Daenerys’ dragon-borne flight from Meereen—we all knew these things were coming. The thrill is, for season 6 of the show, we mostly don’t know what’s going to happen next because Martin hasn’t yet finished the next book, The Winds of Winter. (There are a few characters whose storylines in the books have progressed past the point where the TV series left them.)

For now, let’s talk Jon Snow. Readers knew Jon would suffer Julius Caesar’s fate, suffering multiple stab wounds delivered by his own men. And despite Martin’s penchant for killing off beloved characters, everyone knows Jon would live to fight another day. The question is how. I’m throwing my speculations into today’s cacophony of theories, and we’ll see who’s right when HBO’s Game of Thrones premieres tonight.

  1. Melisandre resurrects him. The Red Priests and Priestesses were resurrecting dead people as early as the second book (A Clash of Kings) of A Song and Ice and Fire, and let’s face it, Ned Stark is the only point of view character to stay dead in the books. (I really miss Catelyn Stark’s vengeful undead freedom fighter in the TV series.) So the moment Jon Snow’s blood began staining the grounds of Castle Black in the books, I thought of Melisandre lurking nearby and thought, well, she’s going to pop out and give him the kiss of life.
  1. The Castle Black men burn Jon’s body, and the fire brings him back. All the dead north of the Wall in Westeros are burned, not buried, to keep them from waking up as white walkers. And although the TV series has been pretty stingy with the hints, it’s pretty clear to readers of the books that Jon is not Ned’s son, but his nephew. Jon is really the product of Lyanna Stark’s (probably consensual) affair with Rhaegar Targaryean. So Jon isn’t a Snow, but a Black (the surname carried by the illegitimate brood of the Targaryeans), and the members of that house aren’t consumed by fire, they thrive in it. The question here is whether Jon will be all the way dead when they burn him, or like Wesley in The Princess Bride, a little bit alive. To hold on to my suspended disbelief, I hope it’s the latter.
  1. Some combination of #1 and #2. The Red Priesthood’s power is based in fire, so there may be a doubling effect of Melisandre’s mojo and a corpse-burning conflagration.
  1. Jon comes back as a sentient, independent-minded White Walker–made zombie. There’s precedent for this in the books in the person of a mysterious stranger (probably Benjen Stark, Ned’s brother who went missing in Game of Thrones) who bears many White Walker zombie traits but who helps both Brandon Stark and Samwell Tarley in battles against the North’s undead. Somehow Benjen (or whoever the stranger is) was able to shake off the influence of the Others and operate under his own recognizance.

What’s your theory? I for one, can’t wait to watch tonight, even from paradise.

Heroes, Heroines, and Heroism

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Artwork by Tim Smith 3

“My work features a female hero.”

When I said this last year at a writers conference, a bearded individual corrected me: “You mean heroine.”

“No, she’s a hero,” I replied, “Heroines are passive and wait to be rescued; heroes do the rescuing. My protagonist is a hero who is female.”

The naysayer scowled and shook his head at the chorus of approval from other attendees. He turned out to be the conference’s vocal contrarian, the sort who questions panel members to show off how smart he is. In my case, I don’t know whether his argument was motivated by adherence to dictionary-assigned genders, or if he was disturbed by an idea that my work might contain not only a female hero, but a male heroine. If the latter, he had reason to worry.

Prince Ashel, the secondary protagonist of my upcoming novel A Wizard’s Forge, is heroic. Courageous and noble by birth and by temperament, he is book’s moral center. He is also its heroine.

dragon-34167_960_720.yinyangIt’s hard for me to say that. When I wrote this book, I wanted to flip traditional fantasy gender roles upside down, and I created a kickass female warrior who saves the prince from the villain. But while I proudly call Vic (short for Victoria) the book’s hero, I balk at labeling Ashel its heroine, even if he is the one who passively awaits rescue. To call a woman a hero is ennobling, but calling a man a heroine is emasculating.

A while back my daughter asked me, “If a girl who acts like a boy is called a tomboy, what do you call a boy who acts like a girl?” There’s one of those parenting moments where you pause, gulp, and make the discussion a teachable moment, because in English, only insults describe boys who act like girls.

Rebecca2

Rebecca, the heroine of Ivanhoe

Ashel is not a pussy. He is not a warrior either, but he is a compassionate man and gifted musician who resists his captors at great personal cost. Fantasy’s more peaceful, self-sacrificing heroes—Earthsea’s Ged, Morgan of Hed, and Frodo Baggins—provided inspiration for Ashel, but so did Rebecca from Ivanhoe. Rebecca is my favorite heroine, and I love how her courage, honor, and stalwart resistance turns Brian into the dark horse hero of Sir Walter Scott’s novel.

Rebecca’s plight inspired Vic’s story in A Wizard’s Forge as well. Vic endures captivity, escapes and finds refuge with Ashel’s family, then must rescue him from the same man who possessed her. Ashel’s and Vic’s mirrored ordeals bookend a story set in a world where gender equality is the norm. In Knownearth, men and women don’t play separate roles of active heroes and passive heroines, they face life’s catastrophes and triumphs on equal footing. It’s an idealized vision of society, but one that still leaves plenty of room for the spectrum of human behavior, from the virtuous to the villainous.

david moonchild demaret

“Confrontation” Eowyn vs Nazgul Challenge by David Demaret http://moonxels.blogspot.com/

There is no shame in being a heroine; Rebecca and the other great heroines of literature are admirable people. Some of them, like Eowyn, play the hero’s part as well as the heroine’s, and in both roles, she is heroic. The Eowyn of The Two Towers who dodges Wormtongue’s advances, worries over her beloved uncle King Theoden, and maintains the defenses at Edoras while Theoden fights orcs at Helm’s Deep is just as courageous as the one who rides with the Rohirrim to Gondor and slays the Lord of the Nazgul in The Return of the King.

The dictionary wielders will always protest female heroes and male heroines, and so will those who think a body’s plumbing should dictate one’s role. Yet if we can dissociate the terms from their genders and define them in terms of their characteristics (heroes actively fight; heroines passively resist), men like Jesus and Gandhi could rightly be called heroines. Looking at it that way, Ashel’s in pretty good company.