Marketing, Mentors, and Magic

I owe y’all so many posts about my recent adventures — Florida and NINC and school visits and so much other stuff…

But for now:

Best. Book. Trailer. Ever:

Carolyn Parkhurst, you rock.

And, an awesome article about creating kick-ass heroines, featuring none other than the incomparable Tamora Pierce. (You guys, you guys. I’m meeting Tammy next month and I’m already all jumpy about it.)

A great interview with the ever-classy Lauren Myracle about the whole NBA debacle.

A fun review of Ascendant. I’ve said it before, but there’s really nothing like a review where the reader nails and loves what you were trying to do with the book. The killing of an endangered species like unicorns is not just a gray area — it’s a downright charcoal black one, and it was important to me in Ascendant that it’s not just Phil whining about it and everyone patting her on the head (as so often is the case with people ignoring totally rational points made by conservationists), but also that the main character, Astrid, really starts to question the role she’s been handed and is expected to fill. I think teens are doing that all the time — the adults in her life are telling her this is what she’s supposed to do, but she looks at the evidence before her and goes, wait, this doesn’t add up.

I know with the killer unicorns series I’m working against the tide of most modern fantasy fiction. The magic in these books is an unfair magic, and in some cases, it’s even an evil magic — a magic that it would be totally rational and acceptable — even preferable — to reject. That is not the case in most fantasy fiction — in most cases, it’s “non-magical people don’t matter” or “non magical people aren’t as good.” Why would you be a Muggle if you could be a wizard, goes the trend. The Harry Potter example is especially illustrative here. Though much is made of how it’s okay to be “Muggle-born,” actual Muggles are shown as being clueless, ineffective, or easily discarded (one of the saddest parts of Book Seven is how Hermione “erases” herself from her parents lives). The takeaway is clear. Muggles < wizards.

The same is true in another mega-hit of the genre, Twilight. Author Stephenie Meyer is on record saying that she’s “anti-human” in the series, as it’s obvious from the way she’s constructed her world that vampires and werewolves outclass the human race on every possible level. Bella realizes it — she wants to be a vampire from day one. Who wouldn’t? There’s no downside. You live forever, young and ridiculously beautiful, and with a little willpower (i.e., the way the Cullens act) you don’t have to eat anything but venison and polar bear. The only possible downside is the predilection the Cullens have for eternally repeating high school. THAT doesn’t sound fun. The rest of vampire life is peachy, though. (In fact, one friend of mine is fond of pointing out that it’s the Cullens, and not Victoria, who have a moral imperative to spread vampirism around.)

So readers understandably come to a fantasy series going magic = good. Having magic is better than not having magic. I get emails every week from readers who wonder “what Phil will do now.” And I always think about Astrid, who would probably rather be in Phil’s position (she wouldn’t like to have had Phil’s experiences, but she would like to be freed from her hunter duties). Phil’s world is wide open, and she chooses to be part of the killer unicorn thing. She doesn’t on any level have to be, which, indeed, is the choice you see Marikka make in Ascendant.

However, most readers of fantasy are coming to fantasy because, you know, they LIKE magic. Thus it is very rare for a fantasy series to focus on how the acquisition of magical powers is something to be avoided — two prominent examples are Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness series and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (though even in that one, the character judiciously uses it). It’s an interesting paradigm, to be sure.

Posted in feminism, industry news, other writers, story, unicorns

5 Responses to Marketing, Mentors, and Magic

  1. JoLee says:

    Are you doing an event with Tamora Pierce in November? Any chance it’s in Baltimore? I really want to go see Tamora Pierce at one of her Baltimore events, and if you are going to be participating in one too, well, that will just make it that much easier for me to choose which one I attend.

  2. Alexa says:

    Interesting post. One of my favourite series, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, does a great job of presenting the dark side of magical powers. Also she has human characters who are equally as awesome and affect events as much as those who have magic.

    Characters having choices and an uncertain path always makes for a more interesting read.

    Although magic does rule and I do wish Hagrid would arrive and tell me I’m a witch 🙂

  3. Diana says:

    Hi, JoLee,

    No, I’m not doing any events, just attending them as an audience member. Sorry! I wold love to do an event with Tammy one day, though. She’s so remarkable!

  4. JoLee says:

    Diana, I’m sure you will get to participate in an event with Tamora Pierce someday. Your books share some similar themes. I also hope I get a chance to go to one of your events sometime soon.

  5. Amy says:

    that is a really awesome book trailer! It’s so funny…

    Also, I am totally jealous of the fact that you get to meet her! You must be so excited! Also I’m also sure that you will eventually end up doing an event with her, your books are too similar and too awesome to not be paired together at least ONCE…