YIPPEE! I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my Aetherial Tales series, THE GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS. When I say finished, I mean in a fit state for my editor to read. Of course there’ll be editorial work to do yet. I’ve reached that stage that I guess most authors reach – where you’re so close to the work, you just can’t see what’s wrong or right any more! I feel pretty happy with it, at least for now. Although it’s a standalone story again, there are connections with the first two, Elfland and Midsummer Night – including the conclusion of a story-arc that’s been simmering in the background of all three novels. That was a development I hadn’t planned or expected, so it came as a pleasant surprise!
Meanwhile, I’m basking in the relief of getting the ms finished. Now is the time to catch up on all those pesky chores like tax, updating my website, cleaning the house, brainstorming some new book ideas and so on.
Really enjoyed the Glastonbury Festival for the Fantastic in Literature on 3rd September. Some really interesting talks were given on esoteric subjects, and the event had a very intimate, friendly feel. As my GoH spot, I did a reading from Midsummer Night featuring my 60-something character Dame Juliana Flagg, which prompted an interesting discussion of ageism in fantasy and SF. Liz Williams interviewed me, and the audience were very chatty and interactive so we had a very enjoyable conversation.
As I’ve written vampire novels, the comments turned to the inevitable subject of ‘Twilight’ etc, a body of work that seems to come in for adulation and contempt in equal measure. Now I haven’t read the books, and in fact had only seen the first film the week before and found it not as bad as I was expecting. The character of Edward seemed to come in for particular flak (for being an over-idealised, vegetarian vampire I think!) and I found myself in the odd position of saying a few words in his defence. I think that the idea of a character who is unfeasibly good-looking, utterly devoted to his girl, beset with desire for her yet able to practise gentlemanly, iron self-restraint acts as an antidote to the sort of boy that teenage girls may meet in real life – spotty, immature, wanting to hump them like a dog one moment and ignoring them the next. I think that’s what Edward is, a much-needed antidote to reality.
And this thought brought me round to my own work again. I remarked that I loathe reading about sex and relationships in fiction where the genders aren’t equal, where the man has all the fun and the woman has a horrible time, or is left feeling used, abused, dishonoured. Yes, I know this sort of thing can and does occur in real life. But I have always tried to write a different vision, a better world in which the sexes are equal and there is mutual passion, mutual enjoyment. This state of affairs is increasingly achievable in the real world and I will always promote this in my writing (as opposed to the misogynistic/ porn version of the world that’s regrettably still so prevalent). Appropriately to Glastonbury, we discussed the pagan sensibility that views male and female as equal: equally sacred, equally sensual, equally valuable and so on. We desperately need to strike this wise middle path between the ‘holy virgin or whore’, absurd view of women that still refuses to die. And writers are in a good place to do that. I will always keep trying, anyway.
Thanks to Liz Williams for organising a wonderful conference.