Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Califia's Daughters
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Archived VBC Selections > April 2012 - Califia's Daughters and the Post-Apocalyptic Genre

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message 1: by Vicki (last edited Apr 01, 2012 03:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
This month, in honor of the new Hunger Games movie and the rise of post-apocalyptic literature in the popular imagination, we're discussing LRK's novel (written under the pseudonym Leigh Richards) in which humanity tries to rebuild after a biological disaster kills most males of the species. Bonus points for post-apocalyptic book recommendations that tie into the discussion, so join in and bring some favorite titles with you.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments So quick question while I'm waiting to start reading the book. I've always wondered why some authors write under different names. Does this have to do with writing for different genres?


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
I think I asked Laurie about this a few years ago, actually. It apparently comes down to reader expectations of an author's name and publisher's and booksellers' expectations of an author's sales. Apparently readers can be turned off of an author if the most recent book is kind of...out of line with what they're used to. And the publishers and booksellers plan on a certain amount of sales for a particular established author. So when an author wants to put out something that's different from their usual genre or whatever, it'll sometimes get published under a pseudonym instead. To kind of mess with the expectations.

I think there are probably several reasons for doing a pseudonym.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Califia's Daughters is one of my favorites from Laurie. I've read it a few times at least. I've got my fingers crossed that she'll be able to come back and finish off that trilogy she mentioned for these characters...now that the book world is in a distopian groove thanks to The Hunger Games.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Thanks for the information Farmwife and Erin. I agree, there are probably several reasons for using a pseudonym.

That's kind of a sad point about a reader's expectation of an author and being turned off to the next book, because in my case, I'm usually not aware that my favorite author writes under a different name. I tend to grab any book with their name on it.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
It is rather a sad point. Especially in the case of our book this month! Which I absolutely loved and I most assuredly would not have found had I not discovered that LRK had penned it. It leaves me wondering how many people have missed out on this great read because it just kind of got swept up with the gads of other mass market sci-fi books that come out every year.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
So I made a comment over on our "What are you reading" thread about how sci-fi tends to be commentary on current events (social criticism in a more neutral space!) and thought that would probably be a great topic to discuss here on our book discussion thread as we're talking about sci-fi books this month.

Anyone seeing any social commentary coming to mind with either Califia's Daughters or The Hunger Games?

I know that Suzanne Collins had mentioned making several statements through The Hunger Games. The overarching theme for that trilogy being very anti-war. A rather mixed message in the books, I think, in that there's definitely a fight-the-oppression kind of vibe going on, but at the same time there's very clearly no glory in victory. And I think there was pretty strong commentary on our current social obsessions with reality television and more and more extreme dress/makeup/appearance.

I have a much harder time picking out any kind of overt commentary in Califia's Daughters. Perhaps the "we're destroying ourselves" message that seems to go along with all post-apocalyptic stories. And there's the tables turned thing with the men having to be protected and the women being the heavy lifters, which definitely leans toward a feminist message.


Lenore | 371 comments While I'm not disagreeing with you, necessarily (not 100% sure I'm agreeing, either), concerning the "message(s)" in Califia's Daughters, I reject the notion that that science fiction (or "speculative fiction," as I think it is more properly called when the plot does not necessarily involve science) necessarily or even generally has a "message." I think that often authors use the "what-if" to give us a fresh look at the "human condition," which we sometimes will examine with new eyes if it takes place in another universe. (Just off the top of my head, for examples, are the Robot and the Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov, or Connie Willis's Blackout and All Clear. Or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.)


Steve Lenore wrote: "While I'm not disagreeing with you, necessarily (not 100% sure I'm agreeing, either), concerning the "message(s)" in Califia's Daughters, I reject the notion that that science fiction (or "speculat..."

HG Wells' classic The War of the Worlds was written as a rather brilliant social commentary on the ethics of European colonialism. The Martians treated humans exactly as some European powers had treated the native peoples of Africa and Asia.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments I think I agree with both Erin and Lenore. Different books seem to take a different approach. I was thinking that these post-apocalyptic/Sci-fi books tend to take an event in history, or a trait of current human nature and run with it.

I've only just begun Califia's Daughters, but so far it reminded me of the 'surplus women' after WW1, where there was such a massive shortage of men, only Califia's Daughters is on a world-wide scale.

A Clockwork Orange dealt with the subject of free will and choice, which was a huge thing in the 60's when it was written and still is.

Fahrenheit 451 is almost like some foretelling of the future. I remember reading it in my teens and thinking, Wow, what a scary idea, a room with a wall of T.Vs, and a society where people were basically hypnotized by social media, and books were eventually outlawed. Every time I walk into someone's house and see a massive T.V with no book in sight, I think of that book and think that it's not far off, lol.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Oh, I meant to comment on Hunger Games too. I thought the whole setting, back-story, and everything was a great idea, but half way through the book it seemed to turn into some love-triangle story and that whole scene with her and Peeta in the cave had me rolling my eyes. They're fighting for their lives and suddenly she's worried about what boy she likes, or if she likes him, and what people back home are thinking of her. I think it had a lot of potential, but the weird Peeta/Gale relationship overshadowed some serious subject matter that could have been explored.

I also didn't like the comment in the book about how killing a person is just like killing an animal. The subject matter disturbed me since t's a YA book, and the target audience is 12 and up, but it seemed to have a message that it's harder to figure out who you love then to kill someone.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments farmwifetwo wrote: "Never read Fahrenheit 451 - we had to read The Martian Chronicles instead.

I'm not a post-apocolype fan... for whatever reason it just really bothers me... like horror films do."


Fahrenheit 451 isn't scary at all, at least from what I remember, just thought provoking. On the other hand, A Clockwork Orange is very disturbing.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
I think the more frightening aspect of Fahrenheit 451 is the fact that looking at it now, however many years since it was written, his speculative future sounds creepily plausible. I remember there's that bit where he's talking about everyone walking around with these sound shells in their ears, completely oblivious of everyone around them, living in their own heads...and then I think about my commute to work or wandering into a coffee house these days, and all the people plugged in to ipods and phones. Creepy. And reading things like that really make me re-evaluate what I'm doing.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "While I'm not disagreeing with you, necessarily (not 100% sure I'm agreeing, either), concerning the "message(s)" in Califia's Daughters, I reject the notion that that science fiction (or "speculat..."

That's basically what I was meaning, Lenore. Not that the author is necessarily trying to push us into a particular conclusion per se. Just that they may have some subject that they may be speaking against which has colored their writing and is evident in the themes of the book. I feel like this happens a lot more frequently in speculative fiction than in many other genres. Or maybe it's often just easier to figure out what they're inspiration was. There seems to be quite a bit of underlying satire in sci-fi...especially the classic stuff.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I've only just begun Califia's Daughters, but so far it reminded me of the 'surplus women' after WW1, where there was such a massive shortage of men, only Califia's Daughters is on a world-wide scale."

Oooo...excellent thought, Sabrina. I hadn't thought of that, but it fits really well. With that twist that instead of stepping back to let the returning men take their places back, the woman just retained a greater degree of work responsibilities and took control of society.


KarenB | 131 comments Several thoughts here - I think speculative fiction can take a bit of current reality and say "what if" about it. It allows an author to explore or criticize aspects of society without taking those aspects on directly. Bujold's Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls explore what it means to be holy or sainted, what spirituality means without using a religious tradition we already have. Several of her other books explore genetic manipulation, artificial wombs and how those things might impact society.

The Hunger Games is a real indictment of reality television. The whole time Katniss was in the Games, she was aware that her every move was being scrutinized by both the Capitol, from whom she needed parachutes, and by her home district who might have very strong reactions to her involvement with Peeta. The cave scene was contrived by her to court Haymiss and her sponsors. If it were up to Katniss herself, it seems to me, she wouldn't get romantically involved with anyone, ever. For her, that only makes more hostages to fortune.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Erin wrote: talking about everyone walking around with these sound shells in their ears, completely oblivious of everyone around them, living in their own heads...and then I think about my commute to work or wandering into a coffee house these days, and all the people plugged in to ipods and phones.

Hah! Yes, I forgot about the shell things. I have the same issue every time I drive around town, but I keep thinking there's a bunch of crazy people standing on the corners yelling at themselves, then I realize they have an ear piece in and are talking on the phone. I love those Youtube video's of people walking straight into fountains in malls because they're talking their cell phones.

There was a BBC news blurb about new kind of tattoo that they are developing. They put some kind of magnetic thingy in it that will sinc with your phone, so every time your phone rings, your tattoo will vibrate on your skin.

And so far I'm enjoying Califia's Daughters. Very interested to see where it goes.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Karen wrote: The Hunger Games is a real indictment of reality television. The whole time Katniss was in the Games, she was aware that her every move was being scrutinized by both the Capitol, from whom she needed parachutes, and by her home district who might have very strong reactions to her involvement with Peeta. The cave scene was contrived by her to court Haymiss and her sponsors. If it were up to Katniss herself, it seems to me, she wouldn't get romantically involved with anyone, ever. For her, that only makes more hostages to fortune.


Karen, I got the Reality T.V feeling from Hunger Games too. It kind of had a Survivor vibe, but elimination was literal. But instead of showing the gritty reality of it, I felt that the book glamorized the whole situation, which is along the same lines as war movies that end up glorifying war.

I probably wouldn't feel so strongly about the book if it wasn't a YA book. But my opinion was kind of soured after seeing the hordes of tweenies giddily holding up their signs for Team Peeta or Team Gale. I think any message was lost on the vast majority of readers. I was going to read the other two books, but I read a bunch of reviews that mentioned a lot of relationship angst between Peeta/Gale/Kantiss. Is that the case?

I'm probably to sensitive to the subject matter though, my father is a Vietnam vet with severe PSTD, and I grew up hearing his stories and asking him uncomfortable questions, such as the very one Katniss asked Gale.


Steve I didn't like angst even when I was an angsty teen. I like it even less now. ;)


Amy Perry (Amy_Perry) | 201 comments I think angst written well can be very emotional and, in some ways. uplifting to read, but written badly and you just want to throw the book out of the nearest high storey building and shoot it...


KarenB | 131 comments
But instead of showing the gritty reality of it, I felt that the book glamorized the whole situation, which is along the same lines as war movies that end up glorifying war.
I think that the author was trying to juxtapose the horror of the games for the participants and the outlying districts with the enjoyment of the spectacle that the capitol had for it. It was designed as entertainment for the capitol and a way of controlling the districts. Yes, the horror could have been emphasized more, but this was a YA book so too much and it wouldn't have been able to be published.

The first book, imo, was the best, although I did find myself compulsively reading the second and third. The second was interesting as there was quite a bit going on that Katniss didn't know about. The third, at least the first third to half of it, was fairly angsty - not so much about her love relationships, but about her involvement with the resistance. Looking back at it, in some ways the difference between Peeta and Gayle really illustrates the choices that Katniss has to make about where her own convictions lie. It's more what each embodies than a choice of a relationship. The books don't really play up the love triangle too much. I think the whole Team Peeta/Team Gayle thing is carried over from the two teams of the (gag) Twilight books for the young fans.


KarenB | 131 comments That first paragraph was supposed to be a block quote from Sabrina. I obviously don't have the hang of the html yet. Sad face.


Lenore | 371 comments While not exactly a deep thought, as a former California resident, I keep asking myself where the events of the story are taking place. Early in the book, Dian says she could have ridden to the sea on her "camp-out," so her home valley is clearly not too far from the coast. Meijing is clearly north of the valley, because she passes through Meijing on the way to Oregon. Could the valley be, say, to the west of Santa Cruz, and Meijing be San Francisco or Oakland? Where is Ashtown, Oregon? Is it Ashland (south of Medford)? (If the book has a map, as some of the Russells helpfully do, I can't see it, because I'm an audiobook "reader.")


Steve farmwifetwo wrote: "Steve wrote: "I didn't like angst even when I was an angsty teen. I like it even less now. ;)"

It's a big plot device in romance/romantic suspense and if it's done well (as Amy says) you can by in..."


Oh, I don't deny angst is a real emotion, but it seems to me it often comes across as whining (both IRL and especially in young adults fiction) and we seem to be way too tolerant of whining these days. Most of the time it just comes across as annoying.

Life is almost never fair or wonderful, kids, so get over it. Harry Potter occasionally resented the increasing pressure he came under during his years at Hogwarts, but he still eventually kicked Voldemort's butt and moved on with his life.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Looking back at it, in some ways the difference between Peeta and Gayle really illustrates the choices that Katniss has to make about where her own convictions lie. It's more what each embodies than a choice of a relationship. The books don't really play up the love triangle too much. I think the whole Team Peeta/Team Gayle thing is carried over from the two teams of the (gag) Twilight books for the young fans. "


That's a good point about each guy representing a life direction/personal philosophy kind of choice. I hadn't managed to think about them past just being characters and each one being in love with Katniss. I think it's the in love part that bugs me (as it bugs everyone here, apparently!). Had Collins left Gale as more of an older brother kind of figure (as I felt he was at the beginning of this first book), I think you still could have achieved that dichotomy of decision because Gale and Peeta are so much at odds philosophically.

And totally agree: the Team X vs. Team Y was a parallel of the annoying fangirling going on with Twilight. Probably because the target audience from the publisher was basically the same group of tween girls.

And tangent warning: the whole subject of YA books needing to be somehow different from adult books is kind of funny to me. On the one hand, it feels like we've almost become more censorious when it comes to what is "appropriate" or acceptable reading for young adults, even to the point of what is a good "reading level." And then on the other hand, any time a book features a young lead character, it automatically gets shelved as YA no matter what the content.

I guess I have a hard time understanding what makes a book better or worse or more or less "appropriate" if it's YA or not. And it seems like so many people (not anyone here, just people I've spoken to IRL) tend to write off YA books as being somehow of lower quality writing with less thoughtful themes just because they feature younger heroes and have been shelved in the YA section. Looking back to suggested reading for young people over the decades, it's all ranged from books like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Hobbit and To Kill a Mockingbird. All books that are now considered just classic literature. I wonder if making this kind of YA distinction will mean that the modern great books that I've read that happen to be YA won't make the grade as "good literature" a few generations from now.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "That first paragraph was supposed to be a block quote from Sabrina. I obviously don't have the hang of the html yet. Sad face."

Your blockquote worked fine, actually, Karen! It's just a little difficult to discern without the italics too (if you look, your quoted section is the tiniest bit indented on either side). I've been opting for the italics that pop up automatically when you hit "reply" to a comment.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Looking back to suggested reading for young people over the decades, it's all ranged from books like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Hobbit and To Kill a Mockingbird. "

And commenting on myself. Interestingly, supposedly publishers back in the day just selected for high quality writing and authors generally just wrote books without trying to write to a particular audience. And then books that might be potentially more appealing to younger readers (ie. action books or books with kids in them) were suggested to those young readers. How novel is that concept?! ;-)


MaryL (MaryL1) | 91 comments Erin wrote: "Karen wrote: "Looking back at it, in some ways the difference between Peeta and Gayle really illustrates the choices that Katniss has to make about where her own convictions lie. It's more what eac..."

Steve wrote: "farmwifetwo wrote: "Steve wrote: "I didn't like angst even when I was an angsty teen. I like it even less now. ;)"

It's a big plot device in romance/romantic suspense and if it's done well (as Amy..."


The same thing was/is said about the Mystery genre-not "serious", not "Good". It made ACD despise Holmes-he wanted to be remembered for "real" literature. Same with Dickens.. So I think YA lit-the well written ones, will survive.


Kerry | 4 comments Re: themes - remember that Laurie herself has said that she wrote this book, at least in part, as an answer to The Handmaid's Tale. I find the book rich in themes and ideas - which is one reason it's my favorite of her books :)

The most obvious themes have to do with gender roles and rights. Laurie presents us with a whole bunch of amazing women, some wonderful and some, well, not so much :) This always gets me thinking about what it means to be a strong woman and a leader - what qualities does it take, and how is leadership best used? And, of course, are women really any different from men in terms of their desire for power, capacity for cruelty, etc.?

Self-determination is another big one. The men of The Valley live good lives in many respects, but their lives are also heavily circumscribed. They're not kept in harems, but they're also not free. In that respect, is The Valley a utopia, or a dystopia? Of course, let's not forget the whole Robin thing :)

The city and culture of Meijing, to me, offer interesting explorations about technology (its use, abuse, regulation, etc.) and environmental stewardship. The people who rule Meijing seem to be on "humanity's side", but they're people, too; does the fact that they control much of the technology in the region leave open the possibility for future abuse of power?

I would have liked a map, also :) I assume The Valley is in/near Santa Cruz, and I think Meijing is pretty clearly San Francisco. Is The Road highway 280?


Steve Kerry wrote: "Re: themes - remember that Laurie herself has said that she wrote this book, at least in part, as an answer to The Handmaid's Tale. I find the book rich in themes and ideas - which is one reason it..."

Maps almost always help. Heck, I'd be thrilled if we could just get an official floorplan of Holmes' & Russell's cottage. :)


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Erin wrote: And tangent warning: the whole subject of YA books needing to be somehow different from adult books is kind of funny to me. On the one hand, it feels like we've almost become more censorious when it comes to what is "appropriate" or acceptable reading for young adults, even to the point of what is a good "reading level." And then on the other hand, any time a book features a young lead character, it automatically gets shelved as YA no matter what the content.

Erin, I was wondering what the criteria for YA was too, or if there is any. I don't remember a YA section in the libraries or book store when I was growing up. There was a kids section, but once kids reached a certain reading level they just read whatever. I noticed in B&N that everything has an age range over sections of shelving now, for kids to teenagers.

I find the whole idea of YA books odd. It seems like they contain adult subject matter, but gloss over the meat of a matter to make it more appealing to teenagers. I wonder if the author of Hunger Games set out to write a YA book or if her publishers forced it into that genre.

On a side note: I thought the Harry Potter books did a great job of portraying kids who were forced to grow up quickly.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Amy wrote: "I think angst written well can be very emotional and, in some ways. uplifting to read, but written badly and you just want to throw the book out of the nearest high storey building and shoot it..."

Good point, Amy. I don't think I even notice well-written angst, it just adds to the story.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Karen wrote: I think that the author was trying to juxtapose the horror of the games for the participants and the outlying districts with the enjoyment of the spectacle that the capitol had for it. It was designed as entertainment for the capitol and a way of controlling the districts. Yes, the horror could have been emphasized more, but this was a YA book so too much and it wouldn't have been able to be published.


Warning: Hunger Games Rant. I apologize. :D
I agree that the YA label limited the content of HG, which leads me to wonder how it received the label in the first place. The entire plot/subject is brutal. And it's not the same kind of violence as say, a Fantasy warrior fighting against evil monsters.

It's about kids being forced to kill kids for entertainment, and it detailed plenty of violence in the book, added a cutesy fake love interest so Katniss could have her first kiss with a dying boy burning up with fever in a cozy cave, and made her seem really cool the entire time she was fighting for her life, but didn't bother to add any psychological depth, or internal struggle with what she was doing or even did in the story. It's telling that they had to make major cuts to the movie to avoid an 'R' rating for a kids book.

Some of Katniss' internal dialogue contributed to the glamor, ie: her being giddy over how good she looked in the dress for the opening ceremonies. I thought her internal dialogue should have shown more rebelliousness towards the people making her kill. The whole book felt like a popularity contest.

Personally, if the government dressed me up nice and pretty so I could be slaughtered... I don't think looking good, or the boy I was standing next to, and how awesome we looked together would be entering my mind.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Kerry wrote: I would have liked a map, also :) I assume The Valley is in/near Santa Cruz, and I think Meijing is pretty clearly San Francisco. Is The Road highway 280?

I was thinking Santa Cruz too, since it mentioned Redwoods in the beginning of the story, and it seems to hot to be further up north, ie: Muir woods.


Caryn (cstardancer) | 19 comments I have just gotten started on Califia's Daughters. Before I started, having just read the description, I immediately thought of Atwood's Handmaids Tale and P.D. James' Children of Men. Now, however, the books that come to mind are The Holdfast Chronicles (though I didn't read all 4), especially Motherlines. Also, Herland by Charlotte Gilman. It has been at least 20 years since I read them, though, and even longer for Herland.
Anyone else?


message 36: by Sabrina (last edited Apr 09, 2012 07:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments So, I just finished Califia's Daughters and loved it. I don't even know where to begin. It was a deep, well thought out world and culture to the 'what if' scenario that was presented in the book.

I loved the complete role reversal in this devastated society, and chuckled every time they said that the menfolk needed to get to safety. There were so many little details and consequences of women being in control: like the idle men in the carpet shop who were intelligent and capable but were forced to live a fairly useless life, except to function as breeding stock, and so they lingered, wasting the carpet sellers time. Which reminded me of all these books and movies about the Victorian age, and all the intelligent women with nothing to do except gossip, get pregnant, and buy dresses.

I was worried this was going to be a hardcore feminist novel or something, but I thought it was a very realistic portrayal. The world was still a cruel, nasty place, even with women running it and thought it demonstrated perfectly that inequality of any kind, towards any race, sex, or education level, is just wrong. I felt myself getting indignant over the way the men were treated as much as I do over how women have been and are often treated. So was happy when there was a... what would it be called...Masculiist Movement?

Dian was a very cool character. I could probably write another page of all that I liked about her. But one thing I loved is that she was forced to make hard decisions, and she made them with little fuss. I appreciate that in a lead character.

The only complaint I had was the ending, but I understood that it had to be wrapped up quickly, or there'd be another two hundred pages with six endings like Lord of the Rings. Though the last page was heart wrenching. :(


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "The only complaint I had was the ending, but I understood that it had to be wrapped up quickly, or there'd be another two hundred pages with six endings like Lord of the Rings. Though the last page was heart wrenching. :( "

Laurie has mentioned in the past that she meant this to be the first in a trilogy, which I think accounts for the rather abrupt/unfinished ending. Man, I really wish she could actually get to working on those sequels! Now that everyone seems to be really into the post-apocalyptic genre, I think it'd go over really well.


KarenB | 131 comments Only slightly off topic is an interesting analysis of the rise of the female hero in popular fiction, primarily focussing on Lisbeth Salandar from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Katniss Everdean from the Hunger Games, here: http://www.alternet.org/story/154784/...


Margaret | 61 comments In Lois Bujold's SHARDS OF HONOR and in BARRAYAR, Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan share the heroe's place, with Cordelia having the edge. In Bujold's KOMAR, Ekaterin saves the space station and about 5000 lives near the end of the story.


Erin (Tangential1) | 664 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Only slightly off topic is an interesting analysis of the rise of the female hero in popular fiction, primarily focussing on Lisbeth Salandar from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Katniss Everdean f..."

Thanks for that link, Karen! Really good essay. I particularly liked this bit about Katniss in the Hunger Games; totally verbalizes what I was wanting to reply to some of the comments upthread here, actually:

Only when Katniss pantomimes compliance before the television camera does she conform to conventional expectations of feminine eroticism. For her, the femininity of curls and frilly dresses is pure artifice -- a mask of survival. Her romantic entanglements are equally ambiguous: her life depends on enacting a love affair with Peeta, but while she cares for the hapless boy, she is no lovestruck teenage girl. When she is released into the woods, Katniss is outfitted as Artemis, the hunter-- as likely to slay men as to love them.


I like that emphasis that while she is appearing to buy in to all the over-the-top glamour of the tv world and getting wrapped up in the whole love triangle, it's really all artificial junk factoring into her survival.

But on a broader/more serious discussion point: the comments about women in leadership positions after the recession was really interesting; I hadn't thought much about that before. I'm curious about the statistics for unemployment by gender, now, though. Especially by comparison to the comment about post WWII stats. There's got to be some other factors going on there too, since women didn't gain nearly as much socio-political power after the Great Depression as we are seeing now. Perhaps it's just one of those catalysts for change, though.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Karen wrote: "Only slightly off topic is an interesting analysis of the rise of the female hero in popular fiction, primarily focussing on Lisbeth Salandar from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Katniss Everdean f..."

That was a really interesting article Karen, Thanks for sharing. The Fantasy genre seems to have a lot of strong female roles, but maybe it's not so common with other genres?

Who can forget Eowyn in Return of the King, when she says, "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman." and then she slays the Witch King. So memorable.

Those were good points about HG and Katniss, and I did see how she was trying to be portrayed, but agh... something about it just rubbed me the wrong way.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Erin wrote: Laurie has mentioned in the past that she meant this to be the first in a trilogy, which I think accounts for the rather abrupt/unfinished ending. Man, I really wish she could actually get to working on those sequels! Now that everyone seems to be really into the post-apocalyptic genre, I think it'd go over really well.

Erin, that makes sense. The whole pace and development shouted for a sequel. I would have liked to see what happened to Breaker and Queen Bess and the men of Ashtown. Ah well, still a satisfying read.


Steve Karen wrote: "Only slightly off topic is an interesting analysis of the rise of the female hero in popular fiction, primarily focussing on Lisbeth Salandar from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Katniss Everdean f..."

Kind of interesting to consider how Mary Russell might fit into that whole "She Who Waits" meme. After all, Holmes is "endowed with riches, power, connections, and moral authority, and it is in the best interests of the girl to become his apprentice or love interest." Who'da thunk? ;)

I open the floor for discussion.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Steve wrote: Kind of interesting to consider how Mary Russell might fit into that whole "She Who Waits" meme. After all, Holmes is "endowed with riches, power, connections, and moral authority, and it is in the best interests of the girl to become his apprentice or love interest." Who'da thunk? ;)"

I wouldn't say Mary Russell was a 'she who waits' meme. She was stomping determinedly on her way when Holmes had the audacity to get in the way. :D

I think the real question for Mary Russell would be, what kind of person would she have been without Holmes?


Lenore | 371 comments I've been thinking about Steve's very provocative question for a few hours. While it's true that Russell was "stomping determinedly" when she encountered Holmes, it's also true that she was a teenager in a vulnerable position (orphaned, feeling guilty over her family's deaths, and in the clutches of an unsympathetic relative who held the purse strings), and despite her unusual intellect and powers of observation, might well have become "apprentice or love interest" to any powerful mentor (male or female) who showed her appreciation and interest. Luckily for her, for Holmes, and for us, she fell under the spell of someone who was not only moral, but also whose aims for her were congruent with the best aims she had for herself -- education, skills acquisition, independence, eventual equality with her mentor.


message 46: by Steve (last edited Apr 12, 2012 08:22AM) (new)

Steve Sabrina wrote: "Steve wrote: Kind of interesting to consider how Mary Russell might fit into that whole "She Who Waits" meme. After all, Holmes is "endowed with riches, power, connections, and moral authority, and..."

While I'm not maintaining Russell is a fully "She Who Waits" I do think there's a touch of it evident in The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

As to her "stomping determinedly" I beg to disagree. By her own admission after the death of her family she was on a downward spiral; IIRC the phrase she used was "saved each other." Holmes was every bit as critical to her survival (emotional at the very least if perhaps not physical) as she was to him. Had they not encountered each other she at least have become a petty creature like the aunt she was saddled with. Some lesser man would have "acquired" her at university and she would never have achieved her true potential but probably have become an embittered heiress.

One can, of course, also stomp determinedly right off a cliff... ;)


message 47: by Lenore (last edited Apr 12, 2012 08:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lenore | 371 comments Not to mention: What if she had been "acquired" by Patricia Donleavy? She might well have become an apprentice Moriarty rather than an apprentice Holmes.


Steve Lenore wrote: "Not to mention: What if she had been "acquired" by Patricia Donleavy? She might well have become an apprentice Moriarty rather than an apprentice Holmes."

That would be an awesome "What if...?" story for one of our more gifted fanfic writers to tackle. What if instead of "Holmes & Russell" we had "Holmes vs Russell"?


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments I took the 'she who waits' reference more as a personality type than a plot device. The character, Maisie Dobbs comes to mind as an example of a personality type. She would have likely stayed in Service her entire life without her wealthy benefactors and mentor.

As a plot device it's definitely there, but I think Russell was focused and determined to reach the goals she set out for herself and would have succeeded in anything she put her mind to with or without Holmes. She was living her life as a means to make up for the imagined guilt of killing her family.

I do agree that Holmes was crucial to her emotional survival, because without him she would have developed into a social outcast; incapable of loving, cold, bitter, distrustful, and possibly vengeful. Kind of like Lisbeth Salander, she would have succeeded but been severely damaged.


Sabrina Flynn | 482 comments Steve wrote: That would be an awesome "What if...?" story for one of our more gifted fanfic writers to tackle. What if instead of "Holmes & Russell" we had "Holmes vs Russell"?

That would be such a dark and depressing story line. :( I can totally see a scenario though.


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