We are all products of our time
Everyone here at MGC is thrilled to welcome Rowena Cory Daniells back for this guest post!
No matter how much we try to avoid it, we see the world through the lens of our upbringing and current events.
As writers of speculative fiction we make a point of being able to conduct the mental gymnastics that allows us to step into the shoes (or tentacles) of an alien species. But you only have to look at SF written in the 50s and 60s to see how much the attitudes of the characters have dated. After re-watching Bladerunner, I bought a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, only to find that the story felt quaint.
Then I came across a site called The Art of Manliness. Kay and Brett McKay were going through old photos to illustrate their site and put this collection together. What I find interesting is that these photos were considered perfectly normal. Two men could be friends and they could love their male friends. To our modern sensibilities we find these photographs unusual.
When I was a child women were paid less than men for the same work. I grew up on the Gold Coast, where young women wore gold bikinis and put coins in meters so that the tourists didn’t receive parking tickets. TV game shows had a male host who read the questions to the contestants and one or more female hostesses whose job it was to wear nice clothes and point to the prizes while smiling.
This looks quaint and dated to us now. So we can take it that the books we are currently reading like Joe Abercrombie’s gritty fantasies, will look ‘quaint’ to us in fifty years.
When I set out to write The Outcast Chronicles, I tried to put myself in the position of characters who lived in a stratified society, where their lives were constricted by birth and gender. I wanted to immerse the reader in a world that felt rich and evocative, alien and different yet was still accessible through the characters.
To do this I created the characters of Sorne and Imoshen. I call this the 13th Warrior device. (For anyone who knows the movie it is about a southerner going off on a quest with twelve northmen. We come to understand their culture through him). Sorne is the half-blood son of the king. His father disowns him and sends him away to be reared as a spy. We see how the ordinary people live through his eyes and why they resent the gifted. Imoshen is the secret daughter of a brotherhood leader. We see how the gifted people live and why the males and females lead separate lives.
I was trying to do a lot of things with this trilogy. It was challenging technically and a bit of gamble. So it was with great relief that I’ve read the reviews so far. (Disclaimer here, I am sure there will be bad reviews). Elloise Hopkins at the British Fantasy Society web site says: ‘Once the intricacies of the relationships between the different races and genders have been explained sufficiently, however, we are left with a book that becomes addictive and really ups the ante towards the end, building to a conclusion that has set this up to be an expansive and fulfilling trilogy. If you like epic fantasy it does not disappoint.’
Maybe in fifty years, if my books are still being read, they will appear quaint and dated. Who knows?
Rowena has a copy of Besieged to give away to one lucky commenter (open world-wide).
Give-away question: I was watching the first season of the West Wing recently and it made me realise how much the world has changed in the last ten years. What have you read or seen recently that made you do mental gymnastics?
Follow Rowena on Twitter: @rcdaniells
Rowena’s Blog: http://rowena-cory-daniells.com/ You can find a trailer for Rowena's latest here.