Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Genre and the (Parenthetical) Laundry-Woman

Hideous day of laundry and cleaning here: reminds me of several things having to do with genre fiction--science fiction and fantasy in particular. You may find them interesting. Or not. But here goes the laundrywoman, emptying out the contents of her head into the blog pail.

1.  I saw on facebook the picture of the World Fantasy winners, and they were men men men plus two couples (for editing and press work.) I don't object to men; I like men. I just wondered. It was just an awful lot of male faces. All the writing awards. And art. It's nothing to do with the particular men (in fact, I sometimes correspond with several of the winners), but I'm still wondering. Is that how it always works?

2. While I fold laundry, I often read. And I started thinking about a science fiction and fantasy trope. You know how Luke Skywalker (I have three children, so I know these things) loses his hand in great pain and gets a fancy new robotic one? And how Wormtail in Harry Potter (I have three children, so I have read the entire series aloud) loses his hand (also with great pain) and gets a fancy magic one in its place from Lord Voldemort? (Oh, and isn't he just like Tolkien's Wormtongue? And there's an important arm injury for Frodo, too.) And you know how in Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy (I have three children, did I say?) Lirael loses her hand--her best friend, the Dog (who talks and is much more than a dog) bites it off to save her--and the close tells us that she will gain a beautiful golden hand in its place, made by Sameth, the prince and Wallmaker? No doubt you may add some lost hands and metal replacements of your own if you reach science fiction or fantasy; there are more. Take Eugenides, who is deprived of his clever hand by The Queen of Attolia... Well, you add what you like. Gene Porter's Freckles had no hand. Read that one as a child. And there's a precedent of dogs biting off a hand with Fenris.

Point being, thanks to my laundry-reading, I am wondering if all this comes most clearly from the famous tale of Gotz von Berchlingen (1480-1562, a nice long life for the times), who was known as Gotz of the Iron Hand (as, say, Lirael became known as Lirael Goldenhand.) A Franconian knight, he lost his hand in 1504 in Silesia, when a cannon shot broke his sword hilt (hey, there's another trope--the sword that is broken) and drove half of it, along with arm-plates, into his right arm. His arm was crushed and the hand ripped away entirely. Being a gallant knight, he rode to camp and found a surgeon. He was later given an iron hand and continued as knight till his death, or so the book claimed. What a formidable fellow. Still competent with only one proper hand.

Maybe everybody already knows this... If not, now I do, and you do.

3. I have completely forgotten the third genre-thought I had while folding the endless laundry. Oh, lucky you! And now I need to eat and go vote. You too!

4 comments:

  1. Talk about multi-tasking - how on earth can you read while folding laundry - or are you reading off a computer screen? I sometimes watch TV when I do it, or while ironing (the most boring job I know).

    Anyway... you have a fantastic memory of details in all you read. You write of gory stuff regarding hands, while my 'hands' work is pretty mild :-)

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  2. Marja-Leena,

    Laundry holds the book rather nicely--if not, you just squish the stacks into better shape!

    I do not iron. You have my admiration. Well, you already had it anyway! I might iron in a hotel room out of desperation and creases. But they would have to be excessive. Chasmal creases.

    I demur on that business of memory. My head is a sieve. I definitely lost some large quantity of brain cells each time a child of mine popped into the world...

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  3. Delightful storytelling as usual Miss Marly.

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  4. Hello, Robinka--

    Curling up for another nap, as B. gave me a cold... Thanks, though!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.