Revenge of the Tedium

Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 11:00 AM

At the choke point just before finals, I am also looking at a trip to France at the end of next week, and that will be the break before life slows down rather considerably. It is amazing how time consuming wedding planning is, and how much it occupies your brain even when you aren't thinking about it. Combine this with two large, intensive school projects, and the creative brain finds itself with cramps.

Speaking of cramps, I finally dragged myself through 'The Harlequin', by Laurell K. Hamilton. I believe it will be the last book by that author I read unless someone offers me a remarkably positive review of another book. Part of my motivation in reading through this series was to mark the progression of a story which has proven to be tremendously popular to fans of the modern-supernatural genre. I wanted to read through it to see how situations and characters panned out, and in my own slightly vindictive way, mark what I feel I could have done better so I can go off and do better in some work of my own.

I'll say it again. The early Anita Blake books were not bad. They weren't awesome, in my opinion, but Hamilton examined lots of little tidbits about how the world would be different if the supernatural were real and everyone knew it. There was a lot of flavor there, and a potentially wonderful contrast between Blake and the 'monsters' she was hunting. The last book that I actually enjoyed reading was 'Blue Moon', largely for the presence of a well-written villain whose impact on the story is pervasive throughout the book. But the villain doesn't even make a personal appearance until the book is well underway, and in fact, even though his name comes up, he's just a random name for much of the story. I liked that.

My problem with the later books was that they are drowned in sexually driven melodrama, completely obscuring and later replacing investigative storylines peppered with curious alternate history facets. There is an attempt to make this melodrama supernatural by tying all sorts of metaphysics to sexual/emotional activity, but the melodrama remains mundane. As the books progress and the main characters become increasingly dysfunctional as well as powerful, the plots became random monster of the week issues. These plots are sometimes twined with the usual shopping list of difficulties regarding who is sleeping with whom and why, and let me assure you that this drama is not nearly as interesting as it could be.

I can understand the emphasis on sex. Sex sells, and everyone knows it. Everyone can readily see that human beings are voyeurs. We love to peer at the complications in other people's relationships and talk about them. It is appealing to watch extreme emotions get batted back and forth. So, in this regard, I can see why these later Anita Blake books are popular.
My problem with the story is that the characters have become caricatures, and I have therefore ceased to care about them. They are little paper cut outs with names and a select wardrobe of emotional issues and/or power sets. They really haven't changed much at all for several books, and if they do change it is usually to be decidedly for or against Anita, who gains some new special ability or power each book. Unfortunately, these new powers don't make Anita any more interesting to me.

My disgruntlements with the story aside, I'll call this good exercise. People in the future may not enjoy the books that I write. People may pick over them as I have just done with Hamilton's work. My purpose in reading and rereading here is to discover those pieces of writing I do not want to find in my own, and to learn more about why I like or dislike... and hopefully minimize any dislike for my general audience.

Of course, my love of surrealism is probably going to make certain that my chosen audience will never be general.


Dreams of Corant 3

Friday, June 12, 2009 - 9:04 AM

Apologies for such a delay. I was off getting married this past weekend, and that has a tendency to take up a lot of time. The wedding was about as perfect as a wedding can be, and I thought the Edward Gorey theme worked very well indeed. Pictures on the way later.

For now, we're finishing up the story of Corant.

When the party met Corant, they were sneaking around a distant village where the people had been slain and piled up like garbage. A few rather nervous armed men were going through some of the houses, taking anything useful as supplies. When the group did some covert investigating, they noticed the signs of some horrible damage done to a few of the bodies, as if they'd been tortured by someone with a very bad temper.

A bit of listening revealed that the men worked for someone named Lun, who they were more than a little spooked by. Further sneaking revealed one of the houses had been set up as living space; a pot of something pungent was bubbling over the fire, and inside a rail-thin woman hard at work bandaging another woman. The other woman looked unconscious, laying on a table, and her arms and legs were stumps, currently wrapped in fresh bandages.

Concluding that some heinous business was going on, the party bushwhacked the enemy. They steamrolled the mercenaries, and when the thin woman came running out, they put the hurt on her too. In fact, Lun gets taken down quickly.

That was when the sobbing, laughing swarms of black birds came boiling out of Lun's house. The door burst, and a limbless woman came floating out towards the party.

Corant by ~Galindorf on deviantART

They managed to put Corant down, but they were badly shaken by the experience. They thought she had been some innocent made into a floating battery for evil magic, and thought to purify and consecrate her body the following day, at dawn. But in the night, they discovered that it was not easy to kill Corant. She woke up and attacked them again, resulting in the death of one of the party.

Mearowyn was later resurrected by the priests of Dumuzi, who sacrificed one of their own to balance out the debt to the underworld, but she found that even after Corant's final death that there was a splinter of Corant left in her. The aftermath of Corant's 'sharing' slowly made Corant's story apparent.

By the time the group met Corant, Corant was fully immersed in the dark solipsisms of Shepherd philosophy. She was a library of collected secrets, which provided her the means to impose her view of the world on the world around her and inflict her emotions and experiences on others. Lun by that point was insane, but utterly loyal to her older sister, attempting to learn from Corant as best as she could.

The Credo that the Shepherd had given Corant still hung around her neck, encased in a small metal book, and the party took it with them. It was the subject of much speculation. I used an excerpt from the works of Aleister Crowley (Liber V vel Reguli) as a basis for this riddle, modifying the words to point the Credo further inward and making it more a vicious cycle than a tenet for exploration. Corant's Credo was thus:

I am Omniscient, for naught exists for me unless I Know it. I am Omnipotent, for naught occurs save by my Comprehension, my soul's expression through my Will to be, to do, to suffer the symbols of itself. I am Omnipresent, for naught exists where I am not, who fashioned Purity as a condition of my consciousness of myself, who am the center of all, and my circumference the frame of my own wisdom.
I am the All, for all that exists for me is a necessary expression in thought of some tendency of my nature, and all my thoughts are only the letters of my Name.
I am the One, for all that I am is not the absolute All, and all my all is mine and never another's; mine, knowing there are others like myself in expression and illusion, but unlike in essence and truth.
I am the None, for all that I am is the perfect image of the imperfect; each partial phantom must perish in the vision of itself, each form fulfill itself by devouring its equated sins, and satisfying its need to be the Absolute by attainment of annihilation.

One disturbing effect of all this was Corant's bottomless vitality. The party could not figure out why she kept reviving after taking tremendous physical punishment. Later, it was revealed that Corant had Lun cut off Corant's limbs, because Corant didn't want to touch anything (the world was filthy and corrupt, you see), and in fact, the process of keeping her limbs stumps was an ongoing process, as Corant's vindictive body kept trying to grow them back. The party found the steaming pot in the village hut to contain a poultice made of liblit flower, which if ingested puts the mind in a fugue state where one cannot lie.

It turned out that liblit flower was what could kill Corant, and a single knife coated in the juice of the little purple blossom put an end to Corant. As Mearowyn said afterwards, “She couldn't bear to face the truth.”

And that was true.

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