December 31st, 2006


Companions, fantastic and otherwise

I've been reading "A Companion to Wolves", by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (that's matociquala and truepenny to you - but you knew that already, right?) and - oh, I do love circularity. It's an animal-companions fantasy (think Pern with wolves, and then transpose to the high north, with lots of trolls and mountains and all that they imply), so of course it's about relationships, spoken and otherwise, between creatures whose thought processes do not run in parallel - and throughout I was very aware that this was the product of two writers, two creative minds of whom much the same could be said. No two writers approach a book the same way; have two writers approach the same book, and - well, again no two approaches are the same, but this book at least yields two voices chiming together, such that the end result is almost seamless. Which fascinates me, however much it mixes metaphors. Oh, there are moments - a phrase here, half a line there - where a turn of mind is caught in a twist of language and you think "that's pure Bear" or "that's Monette, absolutely" - but even then I wouldn't swear to it, because I'm sure either one could pastiche the other at least as well as I can, and I'm equally sure they'd do it gleefully.

Also, these are two women writing about gay male sex (no, no, not m/m - we've established that already, haven't we? that slash fiction is reactive, it runs counter - by definition - to the original creative intent), and they do it a lot. And gleefully. And there are conversations there - some person to person, some page to page, some perhaps just mind to mind, two talents talking to each other without their meat getting much in the way - to which I would have loved to have been party.

Also, on that whole riff about no two writers approaching the same book from the same direction: a few days back, e-Bear said of a book of mine that she would have started it fifty pages from the end. And this not me kicking back, really truly - but this one book of theirs spans, oh, four years or so? It would never have occurred to me, to cover so much in one volume. I'd have needed one book just to treat with the first season; the whole thing would have been a trilogy, in my hands. Not saying it would have been better that way, or that they skimped here or dashed there; just that different writers work to a different tempo. I can myself be swift and ruthless, but in other genres; in this kind of story, I'm a lingerer, I like to look and point and watch the world at work. I'm a flâneur, I guess, in fiction as I am in life. Some people hate that, I know, but it floats my boat.

This book? Water-skis. Wild ride. Loved it.