Sunday, May 09, 2010

Racism and Romance, Speciesism And Subplot

Sometimes, the nastiest topics make for the best stories. Horror, Murder, forbidden love... almost every taboo.

Book Four of the Raine Benares Novels got me thinking about racism and speciesism. And Romance.

I feel I ought to say that Lisa Shearin has been an auto-buy for me since I read her first book in the series, Magic Lost, Trouble Found. I've enjoyed all four of Raine's adventures to date, and am pleased to hear that there will be two more books. I finished Bewitched and Betrayed in the small hours of Wednesday, and have not yet quite recovered.

Yes, it was a page-turner, and I was thoroughly self-indulgent/irresponsible to stay up half the night to finish it. I'm too old for that! Moreover, as I painted a ceiling yesterday, I found myself reciting the name of one of the fascinating male characters. Now, I'm really too old for that!!!!

Spoiler alert.

I'm going to try to avoid a spoiler.... but I suppose most of Lisa Shearin's avid readers and followers know that Lisa announced on her blog that there would be a decision made regarding Raine's love triangle.

Moreover, Lisa Shearin's world-building, characterization, and creativity is so enchanting that I cannot believe that the primary reason people read books two, three and four was because they wanted to know how the love triangle would be resolved.

Possibly, a menage would have been more interesting as a solution. Definitely, actually.

Which brings me back to speciesm.

To my way of reading this series, everything boils down to the simmering hatred that the goblins have for the elves and vice versa. It's like Iran and Israel. The insane and evil goblin King and his current administration would like to purge the world of elves. The elves would like to exist. If they are attacked, they will defend themselves vigorously.

Everyone wants the ultimate weapon, even the undead. (Which reminds me of Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone on steroids, because the only safe person to have the weapon --a stone-- is the one person who does not want to use it.)

Not every goblin is bent on world domination. There are broad-minded goblins. There are goblins who are sexually attracted to elves. Society disapproves of inter-species liaisons, but lust rules --or at least, it rules the loins of goblin dark mages-- so there are half-breeds, and the half-breeds tend to be badly treated by both high elves and old goblins.

There are also evil-minded elves who favor pre-emptive strikes and ethnic cleansing. One can be beheaded for having a mismatched pair of parents, or for marrying into the wrong race, provided more reasonable charges can be trumped up for a legal figleaf.

Pun intended, goblins come in all shades of grey. The elves run the entire moral gamut, from the darkest of elven dark mages to bright white avenging archangels.

Traditionally, do forbidden love stories have to either end badly? Could an elven Juliet ever expect to live happily ever after with a goblin Romeo? Would Shakespeare's play have been classed a successful comedy if the nice, virtuous Paris (Juliet's father's choice for her) had been a little more proactive?

Master Plot #15 in Ronald B Tobias's "20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them)."
Forbidden love stories never end well. Abelard was lucky. He only got castrated.

Much as I would like to read a forbidden love story with a happy ending, Raine's is not a forbidden love story at all. The racism and speciesism are background and motivation for the bad guys.

Pity! Then again, off the top of my head, I cannot think of any good examples of SFR where an alien hero's people seriously want to wipe out the human heroine's people.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Bewitched and Betrayed, and recommend it highly.


  1. Thank you, Rowena! I'm so glad you enjoyed B&B. And I loved your post!


  2. Lisa, I loved it. I staked out my local bricks-and-mortar store as of two weeks before the official release date, and got lucky.

    Your cover art is amazing, too. Is that the Vatican in the background?

    Although I'm no fan of all things brown, I think the cover of "The Trouble With Demons" is spectacular. I liked the clever double meaning of the title, too.

  3. I wouldn't be entirely sure that the love-triangle is really resolved in this one. As I remember the discussion that followed the revelation, it sounded more of a development than a conclusion. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. Oh, fantastic. Seriously. A scholarly excuse to read the ending again.

    Off I go.

  5. You're welcome. Happy re-reading. {BIG SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  6. However, Anne Elizabeth,

    As this is a teaching blog, perhaps we ought to discuss the advisability of reversing a HEA in a sequel.

    I wonder if a decision between two suitors is more or less set in stone if the story is in the first person.

    When we're in the head of a heroine who says "I think Guy A is perfect. I love him..." and Guy A's intentions are set up as honorable, that's probably irrevocable.

    Unless Guy A is killed, possessed, castrated or turns out to be abusive.

    In the first person, the viewpoint character *can* be deceived. You only know what is going on in the viewpoint character's head (unless she is a mind reader).

    Matters are even less easy to unravel if Guy B is set up with a consolation prize.

    I'm thinking of my own series, which is written in the third person. At the end of book one, Djinni chose to make a commitment to Tarrant-Arragon.

    JJ was ordered to marry Martia-Djulia, with whom he had "slept". It was to be career-destroying, royal shotgun wedding to a political liability wife.

    Since that was my ending, I consider it a contract with my reader. I don't think that in a later book I ought to revisit the love triangle, and have heroine Djinni change her mind.

    I've never seen mind-changing done successfully. Have you?

  7. {Sigh} Rowena, I understand that reversing a HEA ending is almost as awkward for an author as it is for the members of a couple that decides to split up in real life. I agree with you that it should happen quite rarely in books. {smile}

    However, we were talking about the characters in Lisa Shearin's books. You referred to an announcement on her blog. I read that blog regularly while she maintained it, and I haven't unsubscribed from my newsreader since she got too busy for it. The only announcement which I saw said nothing about happily ever after, perfect matches, undying love, or permanent decisions. Lisa merely said that two of the characters decided to have sex. {pause}

    Sex isn't the same as undying love. In this case, if the fellow who has sex with the gal first gets her, then she goes to the guy who she introduced as a sometime-lover as we meet him in the very first book. They'd had sex before we met either of them. {pause} I don't think things are that simple; not in Lisa's books. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  8. P.S. I suspect that my last comment came out much more bluntly than I meant it too. I'm truly sorry for that. {apologetic smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  9. Gosh, Anne Elizabeth,

    This is awkward. Are you sure that Guy B had sex with the heroine?

    I didn't think so, but now I have a welcome excuse to re-read Trouble Found...

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg's blog today is amazing. It started me wondering what would happen if fans started writing alternative outcomes.

  10. I thought I was sure, but my memory has played tricks on me in the past. {rueful smile}

    I'll have to re-read to double check, now that you've called me on it. Right now, I can't be sure what I remembe,r and what I mis-remember. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin