"Imagine -- Unsuitable for Children"

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jul 2 19:11:41 EDT 2004

Ika wrote:

>Minnow wrote (some days ago), about the "Imagine" programme:
>> If it's really about "Sex, drug-taking, racial murder, the death of God",
>> then it's quite hard to see what exactly of DWJ's they might have talked
>> about with her anyway.  Off-hand, I don't think she deals in any of these
>> themes particularly, does she?
>I was thinking about this, in my contrary way, and I think the thing is
>that she actually *does* deal with at least some of those themes: but she
>integrates them into her fictional universes in such a way that they don't
>jump up and down saying THIS IS AN ISSUE!!, but crop up more as they do
>(IMO) in people's/children's lives - just as bad things that are going on,
>and you deal with them along the way of doing whatever it was you were
>preoccupied with anyway.

Keyword in my sentence was "particularly", I suppose: as you say, they are
there, because her books are about the whole of life not just about
convenient bite-sized (or soundbite-sized?) slices of it.  What I suppose I
meant, in a muddled sort of way, was that if they were headlining things in
the way "Sex, drug-taking, racial murder, the death of God" suggested, then
her subtlety might go straight past the makers of the programme.  Something
like that, anyway.

>Racial murder shows up quite a lot, though: the mermaids in Lives of
>Christopher Chant; the centaurs in Deep Secret; the exploitation of the
>whole world in Dark Lord probably comes in here too.

I don't think that the murder of someone who happens to be of a different
race is necessarily racial murder, though, is it?  If it is not motivated
by their race, I mean, and I don't think that the race is the motive in any
of those cases, or not exactly so anyhow.  The mermaids aren't being killed
for *being mermaids* but because their flesh can be used for magic, and I
think there's some sort of difference there though I'm blowed if I can put
my finger on why I think that, precisely.  (Something like elephants being
killed not because they are elephants and therefore nasty and deserving of
death, but entirely because they have ivory tusks.)  The centaurs, and also
the human children in their charge, are killed not for being centaurs but
for being in charge of the children, who have to be killed for the power
not to be handed down to them.  And the exploitation of the world isn't
racial, because Chesney doesn't differentiate: he exploits every race and
species on it quite without prejudice of any kind!  (I get sidetracked here
into wondering whether, if a Welshman is killed by an Englishman, that is
racial murder.  Is it racial murder if it is *because he is Welsh*?  What
if the Welshman is a negro but it's the Welshness rather than the colour of
his skin that leads to his murder?  What if the killer is a Bristolian
negro?  I know two villages whose local lads are still fighting out the old
quarrel between the Saxons and the Normans, of a Friday and Saturday night
after the pubs close, and I strongly suspect that's a racial business even
though I don't suppose the tall blond lot from one village recognise the
"racial other" particularly in their dislike and mistrust of the
predominately shorter, dark chaps from three miles down the road, nor vice
versa.  It probably takes an outsider to notice it as the two lots face up
to each other in the street.  End of sidetrack, or at least suppression of

You added:
>Damn, I knew I had a better example for "racial murder" - Power of Three.
>I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that's a novel *about*
>racial murder.

Surely it is more about a territorial dispute between two (or three)
opposed countries, rather than racial murder?  Unless one is going to count
the wars in history between the French and the English, say, as racial
murder rather than territorial dispute, I don't think that one's a runner.
I think I prefer Katta's

>And "A Sudden Wild Magic" too, where the exploitation and murder of
>Earthlings are seen to be all right by the Arthlings because they don't
>think we're human.

That one I can go along with more readily, though as far as I remember
exploitation rather than deliberate premeditated one-on-one murder is
what's going on there.  The other example I thought of was the embroiderers
in *The Merlin Conspiracy*; are they being if not exactly murdered
certainly exposed to danger on account of being racially other?

My difficulty with all these is that I'm not sure where the borders are of
"racial murder", and my first thought is "premeditated unlawful killing of
an individual motivated entirely by the race or species of the victim and
no other consideration such as robbery or in order to exploit", and that I
don't think turns up anywhere.  The only specifically racist incident I can
think of is Buster ill-advisedly using a term of racist abuse about Vernon
Wilkins and getting clobbered for it, and that's just loss of a milk-tooth,
not exactly murder.

>And thinking about the death of God makes me think there's probably a
>whole thesis to be written on that topic. The displaced gods in Eight Days
>of Luke; the way *They* fill the place of god/s without being at all
>divine in Homeward Bounders (and the solution to the problem of their
>overthrow is thoroughly secular); the theme of the absent king/god
>(Koryfos in Deep Secret; Faber John in Tale of Time City; etc).

Mmmmm     the gods in her books tend to be alive and well and interacting
like nobody's business, if they are there at all, rather than having died.
Koryfos and Faber John both turn out not to have been dead, too (are they
gods?  I'm not sure.  They don't seem omniscient and omnipotent enough.
Superhumans?).  I don't think there's much to be found about the
disillusion or shakeup caused by the loss of faith, which I suspect is what
"the death of God" is shorthand for; more about the difficulty of dealing
with someone who can disconcertingly *do* the thing you murmured wistfully

I'll see your secular solution to the problem of *Them*, and raise you a
divine solution to the problem of Chesney, anyhow.

>Anyway. This isn't disagreeing with you as such, Minnow, just spinning off
>the programme write-up in a different direction & taking the opportunity
>to ramble about Why I Love DWJ (Part Umpteen And Odd): because she deals
>with all these things in a perfectly sensible manner, never letting them
>take over the whole scheme of the book, and often obliquely, which (IMO)
>allows surprising - and more interesting - insights or perspectives to
>come to light.

Nor amn't I disagreeing with you, as such, just spinning happily off what
you have said and turning it over to look underneath it.  :-))



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