Q&A with Mary Robinette Kowal discussion

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About Shades of Milk and Honey

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message 1: by Mary Robinette (new)

Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinette) | 12 comments Mod
Have a question about anything from the writing process to glamour? Ask away.


message 2: by Mary Robinette (new)

Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinette) | 12 comments Mod
One of the questions that I've been getting asked at events is "How does glamour work?" Here's the science behind the glamour.

The word science is being used in the context of the way the laws of physics work in the Shades of Milk and Honey universe. But, um, there's still some hand-waving going on.

Most of this never hits the page in Shades of Milk and Honey but I needed to know how it works because Mr. Vincent, the professional glamourist, experiments with techniques in the same the way painters have always done. This means that I had to know the science of his world well enough to be able to extrapolate new developments.

In the deep story, or the change point in history, Faerie and the mortal world never separated so everyone just interbred. That means that everyone has the second sight to varying degree, just like some people have better eyesight or are better painters. What the second sight allows them to do is manipulate the spectrum so they can literally paint with light.

However, much like a trompe d'oeil painting, creating a glamour of a sunbeam creates the impression of a brighter room without actually brightening it much at all. Think of it like a film of the sun which is nowhere near as bright as even daylight. When the glamourist manipulates the light, much of the vibrancy is lost.

Glamour also needs to be tied off or manipulated constantly in order to remain active, otherwise it unravels back into the ether. Over time, threads fray and the glamour will degrade in much the same way that fabric will fade and disintegrate.

Since glamourists can manipulate the full spectrum, that means they can manipulate invisible light too, like microwaves and UV. The farther out to the ends of the spectrum the more difficult it is to manipulate and the faster it degrades.

What this means is that it's possible to manipulate heat as well via microwaves. The trouble is that microwaves are incredibly difficult and fairly deadly to work for long periods. They take more energy than just building a fire. Cold on the other hand, well, there's no real way to get that except from a coldmonger.

Of course this whole theory breaks down when you realize that I also let glamourist manipulate scent. La! It's magic.


message 3: by John (new)

John Burridge | 2 comments When reading about glamourists in Shades of Milk and Honey I found myself thinking in terms of painting, sculpture, and writing (I see from an earlier posting that painting is the closest art form).

To more closely compare writing with glamour, how do your attitudes toward

A) a viewer's access to the craft behind the art,

B) the spectrum of proper form versus impassioned inspiration and

C) the necessity of a Muse


contrast and compare with those of Jane and Mr. Vincent?


message 4: by Mary Robinette (new)

Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinette) | 12 comments Mod
John wrote: "When reading about glamourists in Shades of Milk and Honey I found myself thinking in terms of painting, sculpture, and writing (I see from an earlier posting that painting is the cl..."

You wrote essay tests for college students, didn't you? :)

A) I lean towards Jane's side of the spectrum in that I feel that an educated audience is able to enjoy a show on more levels than an uniformed one. At the same time, I prefer seeing a show "blind." In other, I want an audience which understands the mechanics enough to know if something they are watching is well-crafted but at the same time I want the story to unfold as though it were a new thing.

Writing Mr. Vincent's perspective was an interesting challenge because, while I know performers who feel this way, I'd never stopped to think about what really motivated their feelings on the matter. Digging through the layers so that I understood rather than merely parroting took some doing.

B) There are times when art or a story "flows" more easily but that is usually related to a clarity of vision. Sometimes that clarity is obtained by planning and sometimes by inspiration. It is telling that any hesitations I might have disappear in the absence of a deadline.

C) As for muses, I've always been of the belief that the Muse works for me. As I mentioned before, when I have a deadline the Muse shows up very promptly. Now I do think that Muse can be a code word for "clear vision" but I believe that is something that an artist/writer/performer can create for themselves as readily as receiving it from an outside source.


message 5: by John (new)

John Burridge | 2 comments Mr. Vincent's brook glamour incorporated sound, and Jane created a rondo in one of her drawing room glamours. You've spoken how light is used in glamour, but what was the theory behind weaving sound into the art?

(As an aside, I had the curious memory of watching a mirrored praxinoscope for specially labeled vinyl records as I was reading those passages...)


message 6: by Mary Robinette (new)

Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinette) | 12 comments Mod
It's all about waveforms, really. In latest theories that MIGHT also encompass scent.

Plus an awful lot of handwaving. It is magic after all.


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