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Last Days of Summer

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.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 4th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)

You won't want to know my view of the Twilight saga then!

I'm not so sure that the equality you talk about does exist in the pagan community. In Wicca in particularly the hierarchy is borderline misogynist. Which is why I'm not a Wiccan, frankly.

I believe the intention is there (& it is certainly promulgated in the various blurbs) but the reality doesn't always live up to the aspiration.

All that apart, I'm genuinely delighted for you. I'm coming to the end of what I hope will be the final revision of my second novel. And the next one is driving me nuts. (Write us - we are your new characters! Write me - I am your new story! You know you want to!)

Oct. 4th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, you're so wrong. I absolutely would LOVE to hear your views of the Twiglet saga!

I tend to keep out of organised groups for this very reason... the philosophy and the reality rarely gel. People's egos always seem to get in the way.

The ideal is still worth striving for, though.
Oct. 5th, 2011 08:33 am (UTC)
Twilight (You did ask!)
Over the years I have almost written myself into a coma about Stephanie Meyers. I consider her an apologist for misogyny.

I confess I only read the first book in the series & only then as an experiment, & so I could argue from a point of knowledge. It was a gift BTW - I didn't pay for it! (The films are irrelevant - they are crap, frankly - soft porn crap. I saw some of the first one - wanted to smash TV so turned it off!)

The insidious & most worrying aspect of the Twilight saga is the sexist abstinence porn agenda. Abstinence porn is abuse by another name – Twilight glorifies abusive relationships & sends out subversive & terribly negative messages to girls.

Bella is a victim – a passive, moping creature to whom things happen, who has men making decisions for her. She falls for mystery & good looks. Let's face it, there is little else to fall for in such a one-dimensional character!

There is no relationship beyond Edward telling Bella he is dangerous so she should stay away from him. Cue clichéd, formulaic ‘Oh but I love danger!’ moments. Etcetera… If Edward is so old & so wise [sic] what is doing with a 17 year-old virgin?

I care as passionately as I do because Twilight is written by a woman, for girls, & it advocates an anti-feminist, deeply damaging view of gender relations.

All writers want to make money - who wouldn’t? But if I became rich on the back of an overt & deliberate anti-feminist agenda, I would be ashamed. (Ms Meyers is a disgrace but she isn’t stupid.)

To any woman with half a brain who who says she reads the books as entertainment, & who doesn't bother herself with agendas, I say, shame on you! As a feminist I do look for agendas.

Writer’s have a responsibility. And adult women, particularly those who claim feminism (Meyers does, apparently, although I am at a loss to work out how she justifies herself) & are targeting an audience of young women, have an even bigger one.

Fiction reflects real issues – even when it’s shaped as fantasy or fable.

So no - NO!

Oct. 5th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Twilight (You did ask!)
Thank you! Very well said. Yes, I have read and heard similar criticisms of Twiglet quite widely, though I've never heard the term 'abstinence porn' before - now you've really whetted my appetite to read up more about this concept.

Maybe I should rephrase what I said about 'defending' Edward as a character. As I said, I haven't read the books (not sure I could stomach them!) - but I was just throwing out a theory, an explanation rather than an excuse, for his popularity. I was speculating that maybe he operates as a fantasy antidote to real-life disappointments - as does much romance - which isn't to condone the anti-feminist issues of the books in the slightest.

Have you written about this on your LJ blog or elsewhere? I'd love to read more!
Oct. 5th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Twilight (You did ask!)
*Twiglet*! Lol!

I understand where you're coming from & that you weren't 'making excuses.' Can't say, however, I feel we ought to be encouraging young women to consider the likes of pathetic Edward as an antidote to anything! There are so many more worthwhile alternatives. (Knitting? Sleeping?) Lol! ;)

I'm not au fait with the genre & it isn't my cup of tea, but I bet there are some terrific YA/Fantasy/Goth/et al novels out there well able to distract girls & young women from the pressures of living under the patriarchal yoke!

Abstinence porn is a by-product of abstinence-only education. Which is so insulting to women (& men) it beggars belief. Twilight convinces young women that self-denial is a turn on & 'sexy.' The message is, when it comes to a girl/woman’s virtue & her identity it’s all in the hands of the man. He has the power & they ought to be grateful/thrilled. In abstinence porn, to be the object of sexual desire is, frankly, a short step from being the object of desire in actual porn. 

Any writing about Meyers/Twiglet has been on other people's sites, as part of discussions. It's all much of muchness.
Oct. 10th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Twilight (You did ask!)
Thank you for explaining, Carol, I'll do some further research! Fascinating, truly. And disturbing.

I've certainly written 'girl meets vampire' fic of my own - A Taste of Blood Wine - so I hope I didn't fall into the same trap because what I intended was the complete opposite; to show the shy heroine Charlotte moving from a position of potential 'victim-hood' to one of equality where she became strong and made her own choices. And this was mirrored in the 1920s setting, where women's position in society was undergoing big changes.

I went even further with the second two books (A Dance in Blood Velvet, The Dark Blood of Poppies) where my character Violette (a ballerina oppressed by her male mentor) becomes an avatar of the goddess Lilith and goes through a massive struggle to understand who Lilith truly is. Absolutely the opposite of the unfortunate directions Meyer (or indeed Anne Rice) seemed to end up going in.

Wow, did I enjoy writing those books! If only they'd hit the market at the right time!
Oct. 11th, 2011 09:11 am (UTC)
Re: Twilight (You did ask!)

If only they'd hit the market at the right time!

Imagine out-Meyers-ing, Meyers!!!

Years ago, a friend of mine wrote a fabulous story about a boarding school for witches & wizards. (You already know where I'm going...)

She did nothing with it, imaging no-one would be interested.
Mar. 10th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Hi Freda,

I do apologize for responding to an older blog post with an unrelated question, but I'd love to know if any of your back catalog will ever make it into e-book form?

I was actually lucky enough to discover your work back in the late 90s, when a couple of wonderful bookstores in Sydney, Australia, where I was living at the time, had your novels in print, and so I do have my prized copies of your vampire trilogy, and the Dark Cathedral and Pagan Moon books and such, but I admit to wishing they were available for the Kindle as well. That way all the friends I've told about your books over the years could get a hold of them too!

- Marieke
Mar. 20th, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Hi Marieke, no don't apologize! In answer to your question, yes, I've started working on bringing some of my back-list out in e-book form. The first one will be A Taste of Blood Wine, but I've had to pause working on it while I edit Grail of the Summer Stars.

I'm just planning to do the vampire books to start with, as they're the ones I get the most enquiries about. Other books may follow, I'll see how it goes!

Are you on Facebook?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )