Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Fairy Stories

Working out:  Saturday I had a full session at the gym.  200 cal on the elliptical, 50 on the rowing machine.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and chin-ups.  I tried to do an unassisted chin-up and I can almost-but-not-quite do one.  3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12X35lbs barbell curls.  I think the elliptical session turned on endorphins, because this was a fairly hilarious workout.

Writing:  The other night at a critique session, someone asked me why I had written a piece as a fairy tale, or, more precisely, what function telling the story as a fairy tale was bringing to the story.  I'm still sort of trying to wrap my head around their question, because it feels like they asked "Why do you speak in English?" and I'm sure that's not what they were trying to get at.

I started to say that I wanted to tell a transformative story in the way that Tolkien talks about in his essay "On Fairy Stories."  When I first started writing the story, I'd read "Fairy Tale Queens: Representations of Early Modern Queenship" by Jo Eldridge Carney, a book comparing fairy tale queens with Queen Elizabeth I, and which explored the queen as forge of dynasties, the queen's fertility, and the role of the court and of gardens vis the queen's fertility.  That and Tolkien's essay about prohibitions and taboos, made me want to try my hand at writing something like George McDonald's "The Golden Key," or William Morris' "The Story of the Glittering Plain," or Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant."  Only with a steampunk style (it wasn't steam-powered so much as wind-up plus some magic).

The mix of vaguely English 18th Century fairy tale with techno-wind-up tech threw some people for a loop.  I think the difficulties were with the prohibition, which is part of the fairy tale formula, and the unbelievable way the princess had broken it; and courtly dialog.

I took the question a little further, and I wondered, why is it that I write urban fantasy, or science fiction, instead of mainstream literary fiction, or magical realism, or memoir.  And I guess the answer is, "I write what I'd like to read more of."

 I'll confess I went in thinking "this manuscript is going to blow everyone away" because it had done more-or-less that with The Wordos. The coolest thing about writing is when and idea in my head manages to jump into another person's head, but it became clear that that hadn't happened with this particular reader and this particular fairy tale manuscript.

 When my writing doesn't work, there are times that I feel like it's because I'm defective, or an unactuated adult, or the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time.  We used to have someone at the Wordos who wrote cool, lyrical poetry--but who couldn't write a linear plot to save his life and his stories were labyrinthine tomes that were frustrating to critique; I don't want to be that person.

 Had a stuck in Arcosanti dream.  I had to walk out of Arcosanti--which had a suburban development around it--to the junction, which was on a curving mountain-side (think Mary's Peak) and wait for either a bus or Mark to pick me up.

Working out:  Monday I managed to get to the gym.  190 cal on the elliptical in 20 minutes, 100 on the rowing machine in 10.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and 3X10 on chin-ups.   3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.
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