[DWJ] Family (was Doctor Who and DWJ's non-family books)

Ika Willis blake at gaudaprime.co.uk
Sat Apr 21 04:28:02 EDT 2007

Deborah wrote:

>I tend to be a sucker for "family of
> choice" stories in my fiction anyway (which is maybe my excuse
> for being addicted to Grey's Anatomy?),

Hee. It's probably something to do with me being addicted to *Scrubs*,

> so a world like Deep
> Secret's or even A Sudden Wild Magic's with this chaotic horde of
> people who just have to function together does give me a lot of
> satisfaction.  Dark Lord might do it for me, too, partly because
> Derk's family almost is a family of choice, as he brings the
> non-human kids into it.  Though certainly Chrestomanci Castle
> falls within those boundaries as well, so I don't think we're
> experiencing quite the same reaction.

Ooh, yes, I agree with you about Derk's family, I think. And
Chrestomanci Castle is maybe the archetypal family-of-choice, which
might even explain why I like the early Chresto books (where the
characters go to the Castle and work through varying degrees of Stuff
with their birth families) better than the later ones, where the
family-of-choice has been constituted already and feels more like a
'real' family. (I realize that *Conrad's Fate* just doesn't work with
this theory, though - I'll have to reread it and I don't have it here,
it's one of the only two that we don't have multiple-country-copies

Oh, damn, though, I really like *Magicians of Caprona* and that's a
highly family-embedded book.  Back to the drawing board....

Kyla wrote:

> Hm. Like Deborah, I love families of choice (see: Angel, end of season
> 1). But my top two are Hexwood and Deep Secret, and while they're not
> family-based, the way, say, Time of the Ghost is, I love the family
> dynamics and connections there.

Can you say more about that? I'm interested, because Hexwood and Deep
Secret don't feel very family-dynamic-y to me (apart from Hume and his
family-of-choice), so I don't immediately see what you mean.

But I totally agree with you about DWJ getting it *right*. What I'm
starting to figure out is that I think I like her writing about bad
family relationships better than her writing about good ones - Polly's
relationships with her parents are the best thing about *F&H*, to me,
for example.

I was thinking about this in part because I just read a YA novel
called *Skinny*, by Ibi Kaslik, which I didn't like because I felt
like it ended up taking it for granted that the family relationships
would always remain close and enmeshed, and that any solution to the
sisters' problems would have to take place within that framework.
Whereas in DWJ's books, family relationships are (almost) never taken
for granted (there are a few mothers who remain a bit unquestioned -
Mig's mum in *Black Maria*, Sally in *The Ogre Downstairs*, the mum in
*Tale of Time City*)  - the characters always have to think through
their place in the family and made decisions about it. *Archer's Goon*
is an interesting one there because there are two competing (models
of) families - and the question is how to remodel the family in a
livable way, given the state of the relationships between *all* the
family members. So in some ways it's just a slightly less extreme (or
more complicated) version of *Eight Days Of Luke*, in terms of the
family being a problem that needs solving, and part of that solution
being the destruction or reconfiguration of the family.

My gf J points out to me that *The Ogre Downstairs* is an example of a
DWJ novel where the problems are sorted out by remaining within the
family. But it's also a very anomalous DWJ book in terms of the place
of magic, which shows up just long enough to solve the central
emotional/psychological problem, then leaves the fictional universe,
rather than being embedded in it. (J: 'It's not a DWJ book, it's an E
Nesbit book. It's a great book - it's better than all the other E
Nesbit books - it's just not DWJ.')

> Also, if someone says to me, "how do you
> feel about your sister?" I would point them to the bit in Year of the
> Griffin when Lydda shows up, and say, "I'm Elda and my sister is Lydda."

<g> Whereas I'd point them to *Charmed Life* and say - without being
conscious of any hyperbole - "I'm Cat, and my sister is Gwendolen".
Which might in itself go some way towards accounting for my

Love, Ika

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