Hertasi, was Idealism/sexism in HPIV

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at ic.ac.uk
Tue Oct 10 12:13:13 EDT 2000


Mary Ann wrote
>  I have to say, I'm
> always quite uncomfortable when a non-human fictional groups is
> characterized almost entirely by species rather than having individuals
> differ as much as we would expect human individuals to differ. And to make
a
> non-human race dote on subservience seems particularly problematic--
> enslaved humans have so often been described that way by their masters
(male
> and female).
I've felt this way about Mercedes Lackey's hertasi in her telepathic 
horsey books (Valdemar series). They are a small shy lizard like 
people who seem to just love to serve. They scuttle about preparing 
exquisite delicascies to be eaten in hot baths by exhausted mages 
(frequently gay). Then while the bath is being enjoyed they spirit 
away people's clothes and return them not only washed and 
mended but improved upon with embroidery and such like. 
Basically they all need to get a life. I found them icky in a way that 
made me wonder whether ML has a certain kind of Southern 
forbear.............              Ven.

As servant races go I found the hertasi all right- there are a couple of
short stories that do show what they get out of the relationship (protection
from big bad beasties and the cold, so they can spread farther than they
could alone, and a source of amusement!) and show them as individuals, and
as working *together with* people, not just for them- (as do several of the
books from the Hawkbrother point of view, now I think of it- the Gryphon
ones, and one where Darkwind has hertasi friends and goes to their village)
and the k'Leshya adopt them as full clan members. 

I think Lackey wrote herself a problem by having this idealistic race, who
all have magic but use it for Healing the earth, and yet have an idyllic
life- *someone* has to cook, etc, and you couldn't have the nice
Hawkbrothers having slaves, or "wasting" their magic on it, so creating a
species that enjoyed doing all the work was a get-out.  

It's slightly "because I say so" writing, - all gryphons are vain, all
Companions are noble, all hertasi just happen to enjoy skivvying- but she
does then tend to go back and expand on characters from those species, and a
bunch of lizards that clean is not as disturbing (to me, anyway) as- oh,
heck, examples are on the tip of my tongue- but authors that treat *humans*
(usually women, of course) as living to serve. 

Enough long sentences. I think what I basically mean is that hertasi didn't
push my particular "ick" buttons, which is not that fascinating a
conclusion!
Jennifer
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