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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Narcissus in Chains Chapter Thirteen

Dottie's break down here 

Anita and J.C. are in the car, and Anita confesses she had "sex with" Micah. I won't crack on about how it was rape too much, because the evidence for said same is all there clear as day in LKH's own writing. I shouldn't need to convince anyone that the scene between her and Micah was non-consensual. J.C. tells her that she can't control her powers yet, and that only the help of a master vampire would have helped her stave off the need to feed.

A couple of things:

1). In no way did LKH ever truly portray Anita as the aggressor, or as the one manipulating Micah. From start to finish Micah lured her in to a trap. Over and over, he came up with a way to draw her back in to a scenario she clearly wanted no part of. Did Georgann Hawkins deserve to die because she helped Ted Bundy carry his school books? Was it just buyer's remorse when she begged him not to kill her? Because the way Micah behaved during that whole thing was so textbook, it defies argument.

2). Rape victims are often made to feel as if they are the ones who committed a crime.They enjoyed it, they asked for it, they're damaged goods and rapists can smell that. You get the idea. So the fact that Anita thinks that she is the monster in this situation convinces me of nothing.

3). J.C. IS A MASTER VAMPIRE AND SHE WAS SCREAMING AT HIM TO HELP HER, but he refused because Word of God in that scene was that he couldn't. So from one chapter to the next, LKH has already forgotten her own story and its rules.

It's an easy thing to mix up and forget details of your own worlds. I went through my current ms yesterday and it's a mess. I tend to do projects out of order, and then it's a tedious trial to make sure all the scenes match up as far as who told what when. But that's why you need an editor. I edit my own books, too. Not as professionally as I would do someone else's work--you really can't effectively edit your own stuff past a certain point--but there's certainly more than a single pass. I don't believe LKH does more than skim when she's done, maybe.

There are tons of indie authors out there working harder at editing and polishing than LKH, except LKH is fucking rich, and got rich off of doing the bare minimum.

Anyway, so J.C. is just so wonderful and enlightened because he doesn't blame her for being raped.

J.C. touches her face. Anita's face must be a greasy road map by now, the kind you have jammed in the glove box when you're on a joyless trip with people you hate, the kind that smells like Cheetoh dust and dreams deferred.

J.C. is also glad that Anita isn't pissed over acquiring the ardeur, "the fire, the burning hunger."

This idea is so cool, you guys. No, really, I love it. But there's no reason in the world to make it in to a rape justification. I don't mean to keep bringing up my stuff as if I am just so awesome and my words are teh pure goldz, but I do think I have a better grasp of these things than LKH so here we go: there's sex magic in the Twisted Tree world, but the kind the main characters acquire can't make you do things against your will. It will take away your inhibitions and bring your latent desires to the fore, but it won't make you do something you truly don't want to do.

The other day someone on Goodreads suggested that people who do sporkings must be jealous and well, that's simply not the case. It would be nice to make money like LKH, but otherwise I don't envy her in the slightest. This is one of the reasons why; I wouldn't trade my ability to empathize or think critically for any amount of cash or fame.

I only bring up my own work because that's how easy it is to make something like the ardeur orders of magnitude less problematic. Just add one little extra rule: it can't make anyone fuck you if they're dead set against doing so. Bam. The whole book just improved. 

Anita asks why J.C. didn't warn her about any of this.

J.C. basically says he thought Anita could handle it, considering how special she is. This is also manipulative victim blaming. Again the responsibility is being put on Anita, because she's so badass, and it's hardly J.C.'s fault if she couldn't live up to her potential.

A friend and I have had many conversations about how "you're so smart" often becomes the bane of non neurotypical/mentally ill people everywhere, as if being a quick study ought to enable you to reason your way right out of autism or schizophrenia or the ravages of an abusive home life. This is how the passage between Anita and J.C. reads to me. But you're so tough! Even tough people need a soft place to fall, and J.C., as Anita's main love, should be providing that place.

J.C. explains the ardeur, and how it will make Anita go out of control with lust around those she desires. Anita confesses that she is scared and J.C. promises to help. I doubt that given how he reacted during the rape, but that is so obviously forgotten already I don't know what to do. You can't critique the work as a whole, since no one is consistent and everything shifts before your very eyes. It's like wandering for too long in the desert, except the desert is bad fiction and the mirages are character development.

Nathaniel drives everyone back to the Circus of the Damned, which I assume is another one of J.C.'s bondage clubs. J.C. decides he has to shower so bad, it would be an excellent idea to sprint with vampire speed through the club. Jason turns up and Anita says she, Jason, and Nathaniel can walk down the stairs "three abreast" because none of [them] "were small people." Jason is supposed to be built, right? Not that it matters because I can't think of a single staircase outside of a shopping mall big enough to allow three people to walk side by side. I KNOW I am too focused on these details, but things that don't make sense add up until they start undermining the story.

Does anyone else notice how sometimes, Anita's speech gets all weirdly formal and stilted? Like how she described Meng Die a few chapters ago as "smaller of bone" or something to that end. Why? She sounds like a neckbeard cosplaying steampunk, at a shitty con held in someone's basement.

Jason says Anita "looks shook." Speaking of weird ways of articulating yourself, what the fuck is this? A story is like a symphony. If even a few notes are missed, the entire composition falls flat. This sort of stuff about the staircase and the weird dialogue are the missed notes in LKH's particular symphony. They seem small but in reality they take away from what she's trying to do, especially if you know what to look for.

Jason says something startlingly insightful about how he's decided that "I just don't want to be with someone who just wants me so she can brag to her friends that she slept with a shapeshifter, or got to sleep where the vampires sleep. No matter how good it feels for a few minutes, it still makes me feel like they've just come to look at one of the freaks."

Now that right there is the real meat of this world, though I also don't understand why it's not a Masquerade world if she is going to play the discrimination angle. Which brings to mind, what is the history of this world really? If shapeshifters and humans were two distinct evolutionary groups then I could see this sort of lingering bias. Or maybe humans enslaved the first shifters in order to harness their power, and once the shifters broke free there was a bloody riot. Something like that, something to justify why shapeshifters are discriminated against in a world where the bare fact that they can change shape shouldn't cause a stir.

Still, being someone's fetish doll is a very real thing. Every trans person who is out has probably experienced this. Trans women, trans men, genderqueer people. I used to explain my fledgling identity to people in support groups only to have people tell me to my face how hot that was. When I was younger I didn't realize that being seen through that lens wasn't a compliment, no matter how kindly or sincerely it was meant. I can still to this day remember when a trans guy turned up on Regretsy, only to have so many people there comment on his fuckability that he left. Another friend had his space invaded repeatedly at a con, because the guy was looking to fuck a trans guy. And we all know about how trans women often get trolled because people want to fulfill their tr**ny porn fantasies. (and these are the milder examples)

It's as if all these people see is ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED instead of hey, this person seems cool let's get to know them. Hell, anyone with anything that differs from the mainstream is going to get this sometimes. So basically, if nothing else, this bit is something I can empathize with. Anita even empathizes and tries to reassure him, which is nice, saying "you're not a freak."

Inexplicably Jason says, "look who's talking." 

Well that was shitty, Jason. Anita badgers him to explain it and he points out that all Anita does is objectify and shit on all of her supernatural friends by constantly referring to them as monsters, that she hates being different and is in general a repressed asshole.

Anita admits that she hates being different.

"Anita Blake admitting she may be wrong? Gasp!"

Even Jason, one of the most unlikeable wastes of space in these books, knows Anita is an asshole. I think they all just hang out with her and accept her because they've internalized the idea that it's the best they can do. After all, she only hurts them sometimes. This is another thing that happens in abuse, where you keep pushing the lever even though sometimes it dispenses delicious food pellets, and other times it dispenses electric shocks or even worse still, nothing. The unpredictable nature of risk and reward does something to our monkey brains and we'll push that fucking lever until we're dead.

They argue over whether Anita has a case of fatalism or whether she's just practical. Again what is with this practical shit? A practical person cares about results and action instead of abstract ideas and concepts. You might argue that Anita is the queen of the means justify the ends, but I posit that Anita would have to actually seek out and interact with the plot in order to be considered practical. Too many times, events simply happen to her.

Another interesting thing happens! I am remembering why I couldn't put this down the first time. This whole book is one big cock tease. It's as if a jeweler showed up at your house for a private showing and did the whole nine yards. He lays down an immaculate square of black velvet and brings out every precious stone with a pair of ivory handled tweezers, placing each glittering delight in front of you. He has the classics, like white diamond studs, but unusual and rare things too, like orange sapphires. You're awed, and you're itching to pull out your wallet and pay for everything. But wait! No, I'm sorry. These are only the display jewels. Then he takes out an old cigar case that still reeks of stale smoke, filled with cubic zarconia, and expects you to be as excited as you were over the precious stones.

The interesting thing is that Nathaniel and Jason argue over whether Nathaniel is excited about Anita possibly being a wereleopard. This resonates with me because I think it's natural for us to want our loved ones to participate in the things most inherent to us. I adore my fiance. We've been together for six years and he's one of the only people in this world I trust nigh completely. But sometimes, I do wish he wasn't an atheist. That's a part of myself (my polytheism) that he respects and even supports, but can't relate to. And it's a very big part. So essentially, both Nathaniel and Jason want Anita to share a huge part of their identity by becoming either a leopard or a wolf. Jason is upset because he's worried about the distance it will put between him and Anita if she shifts in to a different animal from him. Now that is some good shit.

Jason wants to know what the situation with Gregory is, which is just an excuse to recap all the crap the reader already learned. Richard is teh ebul badz because he wants to run his pack like a democracy. Except J.C. can't win either because Anita doesn't like his ruthlessness. Anita has no real politics or morals of her own because she's not a fleshed out character, so instead she just tells other people they're wrong all the time.

Jason expresses unhappiness about all of this. Anita says "don't you ever, ever question me again." 

Anita feels a lot of rage. Jason stands up to her and says that Richard is doing right by the pack. Okay Jason, I like you again. Now I know you'll fuck it up any minute, so I'm just going to savor this. Mmm.

He describes Richard thusly: "Richard may be a bleeding-heart, flag-waving, right-winger, but he's also fair..."

Wut. How do those first two things lead to the third? If anything, Richard is on the liberal side of the political spectrum in U.S. politics. He believes in voting, fair treatment for all, equal relationships. That sounds like a liberal to me.

There's a bunch of bullshit about whether Anita is the lupa and whether Jason should submit to her and will she kill Jacob and so on. I think books need talking scenes, and they need some what might be termed rest scenes. For example, eating breakfast with a friend or taking a bubble bath, whatever. Scenes that give the reader and the character a little time to breathe. Without that the tension starts to lose its power and meaning. But this? This is too much. This could all be taking place at the lupanar instead. These arguments need more tension, not less.

I need to start counting the amount of times Anita says "what's that supposed to mean?" Maybe I should set up a donation button and ask for a dollar every time. I'd be rich pretty fast, I think. Apparently once Anita declares someone her friend, "you take care of them, even if they don't want you to." 

Ignoring someone's wishes makes you a bad friend and a terrible human. Sometimes you have to push your friends in order to help them, but that's like comparing a gentle nudge to an avalanche, since it's implied that Anita usually accomplishes this so called protection through the use of high powered weaponry.

Anita doesn't want to do the pack's dirty work, i.e. killing Jacob before he can challenge and possibly eat Richard to death. Jason says that no is better at dirty work than her.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Woohoo, if I were charging I'd be knee deep in latte money by now. Also, IT MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS. He's not being cryptic.

Anita is tres depressed because omg sociopath. Shut up.


  1. “So from one chapter to the next, LKH has already forgotten her own story and its rules.”

    That happens a lot and gets worse as the series goes on. Anne Rice’s work (and fanbase) also suffered when she decided she was too good for editors; are there any other authors we know of who did that? I feel like there are and the only reason the only two I know of are vamp authors is because, well, that’s what I read.

    There are some aspects in which I’m jealous of LKH, I grant, but it’s not what that person probably meant. Mainly, I’m mad she had the idea for this world first and then ruined it. If she’d actually brought it anywhere near it’s potential, I’d not be jealous. As it is though, I just want to rescue her own ideas from her so I can at least TRY with them. My reasons for sporking, though, are out of more a jilted love---the same love that makes me want to “rescue” the Anitaverse, something that showed me so much promise and then took it all way. No other series ever did that, so that’s why it’s unique to me in how much thought I put into it.

    The Circus steps are super duper huge, I recall.

    …I can see Anita/LKH frighteningly well as a neckbeard, actually.

    1. I can't think of anyone else having such a public freakout. I remember Meyer freaking out over one of her books (Midnight Sun) being leaked and then refusing to publish it, but that's a bit different I suppose.

      Hey just keep in mind no one owns ideas. You can totally take the basic stuff and work it in to something unique to you.

    2. I don't know of any other authors refusing to work with editors, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were more. Rice and LKH are the only ones I'm aware of because I tend to read mostly SF/F.

      I feel the same way about the stuff I have (and will) spork. I'm not jealous of Cassandra Clare - I'm angry and disappointed. She created a potentially interesting world, and on occasion writes pretty well, but most of the time she wastes all that and focuses on her self-insert Mary Sue and her Jerkass Stu love interest.