Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Books of Yesterday, Messing With You. Still.

My desk is against some book cases, as if I can't have a window, a wall of books provides ample static life and colour. This time, I was looking at the spines of my olde Dragonlance books, omnibuses and anthologies, cracked from being reread more times than any other book I have ever owned.

And it just occurred to me, wondering if I related more to Kit or Laurana, that the reason these books caught me in the first place, more than the dragons or the fantastic and impossible landscapes, was Tanis Half-Elven. 

At first read, I had a significant crush on him. Because he was half-elven, and as a girl I wasn't immune to the glamour. He was also biracial, and bullied, discriminated against and ostracised for that, and I think that there is the first time I had seen my own story in fiction. 

I'm not twelve anymore, and Tanis is to me now one of the more irritating characters, suffering from an understandable overabundance of self-pity which never pays respect to the true complexity of an identity born of rejection and defined by what it is not. 

I could champion this as an example of how "inclusive" the speculative genres are, that I could find myself reflected in them as a child. But seriously, come on. As a twelve year old girl the only could-be-interpreted-as representation of myself I could find in all the books I devoured was a white older man of a made-up Uber-Aryan-Magic-Race, who wailed, found some dragons and then got intimate with eville gods. Then wailed some more. Seriously, Tanis is super annoying. 

Of course it wasn't a straight projection into Tanis, being as he was an older white man and as I was a hormone-struck straight child I was often torn between wanting to marry him and live happily ever after, and wanting to be him. Of course this meant that my relationship with his relationship with his "half-sister" and fully elven Laurana was equally as conflicted, being as I wasn't sure if I wanted to be her, in order to marry Tanis and live happily ever after, or loathe her utterly, for being fully elven, fully accepted and completely belonging to her elven culture and elven family and she was also a royal princess and she and Tanis weren't actually related by blood (much), and she was essentially everything I could never be as these were things that were set in motion at birth, and could not be altered. 

Conversely, my relationship with Kitiara, Tanis's eville human lover who was a bad influence and constantly led him astray and broke his heart, was fine. I admired her for being confident in herself, in what she wanted and how she was going to get it. She could do much better than Tanis, in my opinion, and did. (Dalamar is the subject for another post.) I was in awe of her, wanted to be her but knew that also wasn't ever going to be the case because dude, no one kicks that much arse unless they're fictional.

This rather binary dichotomy of the conflict between the two races in Tanis's blood being embodied by the conflict between his two rather polarised lovers is telling. There is never any suggestion of reconciliation and harmony; Tanis must chose one, and in doing so also align his morality. 

So Tanis gets his pure-blooded elven princess and Kitiara dies a horrible death and I wonder why sometimes my view of the world is a little off kilter.

I'm glad the biracial kids of today have the books of today. 

Represent and respect.