One of my friends recently pointed out I write really well about fairies. I’m not sure I write really well about them, but I do write about them. And my fairies/elves are not exactly according to legend. Well, they sort of are. Before you tell me I stole my first book’s plot wholesale from Tam Lin, let me point out no I didn’t, I stole it wholesale from Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock which in turn harked back to Tam Lin. So. There. (And before anyone gets up in arms, what I stole was actually the legend-structure, not the story.)
But most of what I write about fairies and elves is based on the current world and the structure of glamor, of “cool” of “positional good.”
After all, the one thing I gleaned from fairy tales is that fairies have glamor. They’re dangerous, inscrutable, often evil, but humans keep jumping through their hoops, regardless of experience, because they want to be “beautiful” and “cool” like elves.
I don’t write to lecture. (I write blogs for that occasionally, but even that is too much effort just to lecture.) Writing for me is a process of identifying one thread of thoughts going on in my head and to isolate it and figure out what my beliefs/thoughts/conclusions are in isolation. In other words and simpler, I usually write to find out what I think. (That is, my subconscious is way smarter than I am and attached to an idiot.)
So I don’t write my novels/short stories to “reflect the situation today.” But it occurs to me that I do write to try to digest what I see in a form that I can think of more clearly or differently. Or in yet other words, this is sort of like lighting an object differently before you draw it.
I was wondering – because friend asked – from where I draw inspiration for my stories about elves. And it occurred to me that it comes from me: from life. And that I who grew up without fairy tales until I was 16 or so (when I made a conscious point of reading them) keep coming back to elves for a reason.
It occurred to me I’m trying to figure out something in the real world. And that maybe that thing in the real world is the same thing that originated the early stories and legends about fairies, which perhaps speak to something about the human condition. (Bear with me.)
In the stories fairies are glamorous. They can make humans see, hear, believe things that aren’t there. You need magic or some other supernatural force to see them as they really are. They can trick you – almost always do – and pay you with dirt and rocks that you think are gold. And they are incapable of doing some basic things humans do. Humans under their influence also become very odd.
If you substitute “cool kids” or “elite” or “went to the best colleges” or other social markers of the sort for elves, the story is entirely too familiar.
My friend Cedar, today, posted about one of those lies that “everybody knows” and that are absolutely not true. Not only not true, but risible on their face. The lie is that Heinlein was a misogynist, which is not only a lie but a whole construct, an artifact of lies. And one that humans, nonetheless seem to buy wholesale.
I’m not going to repeat the argument. Cedar made it. But I’m going to quote what she said:
When the woman who had first made the titular accusation was questioned by multiple voices in startlement, she finally admitted that she knew it to be so, because she had read it in Asimov’s biography. Wait a minute, was my reply, you mean that man that Eric Leif Davin in his recent book Partners in Wonder wrote this about? ” Isaac Asimov is on record for stating that male fans didn’t want females invading their space. According to the letter columns of the time, it seems that the only fan who held that opinion was… Isaac Asimov. A number of males fans welcomed their female counterparts. As did the editors, something Davin goes to great lengths to document.” (You can read more on the women that other women ignore here at Keith West’s blog) So this woman has taken a known misogynist’s claim that another man is a misogynist without questioning and swallowed it whole.
I run into this again and again. In a panel, once, questioning accusations of misogyny directed at Heinlein I got back “Well, obviously he was. His women wear aprons.” I then got really cold and explained that in Portugal, growing up, when clothes were expensive (how expensive. People stole the wash from the line. Imagine that happening here. People stealing clothes. Just clothes. Not designers, not leather, just clothes, including much-washed-and-mended pajamas.) we always wore aprons in the kitchen. And Heinlein was writing when clothes were way more expensive, relatively. (I buy my clothes at thrift stores. So unless it’s a favorite pair of jeans or something, I don’t wear aprons.) The difference is not “putting women in their place.” The difference is the cost of clothes.
And this is why I don’t get put on the “Heinlein, threat or menace” panels any more.
But 90% of the women who make the accusation that Heinlein hated women or couldn’t write women have never read him. They’ve just heard it repeated by people with “authority.” The cool kids. And so they can’t be reasoned out of this assumption, because it’s not an assumption. It’s glamor. (The other ten percent, usually, were primed to think he was a misogynist and read the beginning of a book and didn’t “get” some inside joke. Like, you know, the getting married after a tango. Which was pure fan fodder. They wouldn’t have thought anything of it if they hadn’t been primed. But they’d been primed. They were under a glamor to see what wasn’t there.)
We’ve seen the same effect over and over again with people who comment on blogs (clears throat) both cultural and political, and even historical and that, no matter how often they’re proven wrong, keep coming back and stating the same thing they said in different words, as though that would make it true. They seem incapable of processing challenges, doubts, or even factual disproof of their charges.
Glamor. They’re under an enchantment. Something has affected them so hard, they can’t think, but can only repeat what they were told.
It’s not true, of course. Or not quite.
The enchantment of the “cool kids” is the glamor of social approbation and of opinions as positional goods.
People who have bought into an hierarchy of opinions, with some of the opinions “politically correct” no matter how factually wrong, have agreed to put themselves under the arbitrary power of others, and to subsume their reason and thought to them.
In other words, they have agreed not to think or see for themselves, because if they do they will be cast out of the “cool kids” and treated as pariahs or the enemy. And they’ve seen what happens to those (us) the calumnies, the big lies, the personal character destruction.
They’re so scared of it, that they’ll do anything and say anything and believe anything. Including changing their opinions on a dime, as the opinions of the “in crowd” change.
It’s hard to break enchantments. Particularly enchantments as ambitious as this, which attempts to make an entire culture see what isn’t there and ignore what is.
To cast it, it required tight control of mass media and gate keeping of culture, both powers that are fast running out on the gatekeepers, as the internet replaces their magic.
Some magic remains. Those organs of mass media that still have whatever power like their sources to have credentials: “editor at—” or even better “won prestigious award.”
Those awards, those positions are things to conjure with. Which is why the fight over the awards matters to the establishment, the “cool kids”. No matter how debased in the real world, those awards help them cast glamor over the unwary.
Which is why the screaming and the moaning, the gnashing of teeth and the politics of personal destruction over an award that has no monetary benefit.
Because it’s an aid to a glamor that’s fast fading.
Those involved would do well to keep their minds clear on two things: the instruments of the glamor are fading. You can’t keep them from fading, short of the sort of cataclysm that plunges the world into a medieval reenactment. And that too will take their instruments away.
They’re fading because once the genii of tech is out of the bottle you can’t shove it back in, wish or legislate you ever so hard.
For those caught in their glamor, aware that they’re not seeing quite the truth but echoing the stories because they’re so afraid of falling from grace and being cast in the outer darkness where they become “non human” and can be attacked and reviled with impunity, I say “Remember the old fairytales.”
The elves never deal straight. A lot of you are hangers-on who will never, ever, ever be rewarded for your loyalty. You might not be attacked, but you also will never be taken into the seats of power.
This much is true: hangers on and lickspittles trade their birthright for nothing. In a highly hierarchical society (which theirs is) abasing yourself buys you nothing but more abasement.
And even the rewards they seem to give you are nothing but rocks and mud they disguise with glamor.
You’re fighting a war on the side of the establishment who has convinced you that they’re the underdog. Everything you think you know about the opponents is a lie. But you’re so afraid of falling from grace that you won’t think for yourself, because that might make you an unperson.
Only you can free yourself.
Only you can think, reason, and see for yourself, without glamour.
And all you need is courage.
Open your eyes.