Stephanie Burgis
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country house murders and octopi
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The bad news: still sick, on my second round of double-dose antibiotics and signed off one more week of work. Bleagh.

The good news: I just read an absolutely fascinating essay by Peter Dickinson, Murder in the Manor, about the country house murder mystery phenomenon--written from the perspective of someone who actually spent large portions of his life in traditional English country houses. He strips apart the layers of social inequity, class warfare, built-in resentment and sheer strangeness in a way that's not only clear but also incredibly entertaining.

And, needless to say, I'm now tempted to write a story in just that setting, with characters in all the social orders, all in simmering warfare... Although I suppose that Masks & Shadows is just that, only in a different time period and geographic setting. Obviously, this is something I'm interested in! In a similar vein, I loved this paragraph from an article by Walter Mosley on The Writing Life (via Gwenda):

It comes down to this: Writing novels requires an obsession with our truths. Those truths are not put into novels for witnesses but for co-conspirators. The good novelist knows that Truth is always accompanied by its silent partner: Guilt. She knows that our humanity makes us responsible for events that transpire in this world. She knows, too, that we're not willing to accept the blame. We don't see our culpability even though it's our dollars being spent, our God we prefer above all others, our own image in that silvered mirror that becomes our standard for beauty and innocence. The novelist has the potential to shine light on these blind sides. But she must do it deftly, with a sharp beam. Blindside a reader, and you forfeit everything.

It's an interesting point, because although I've never, ever set out to write a political story or novel, when I look at the ones I've written, they're all deeply embedded with my political and social beliefs, because, when it comes down to it, those are what put together the lens through which I see the world. The social/political perspective forms the background, not the foreground, to my stories--I'm not (at least not consciously) out to convert anybody else to my own beliefs--but I couldn't wipe it away without losing my voice. So, my stories will inherently be from a liberal, feminist perspective that is often deeply skeptical of (or downright horrified by) the motivations of the powerful.

But in a less inflated tone...also this morning I saw the Fortean Bureau's newest swag-for-sale, and I totally fell in love with it: a Fortean Bureau Octopus Coffee Mug. I mean could you possibly resist? Look at those cute little tentacles! :)

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