Daily Archives: August 14, 2008

Damn Those Archetypes

Here I thought I was getting farther along the road (knowing that road goes on forever) of perfecting my craft, that of writing, when I find out I’m way way behind the times with archetypes. I thought there were those Campbellian constructs of hero, child, mother, trickster, etc. But now the bottom has dropped out of my little world to find that new archetypes have supplanted the old.

Curse you, David Moles, curse you. If I hadn’t done a spin through his site http://www.chrononaut.org/~dm/ (because he made a comment and I met him recently in Kansas) I would still be living a relative life of bliss and ignorance. Ah, if only…

But now I know there is a huge world of new archetypes out there shoving aside the child, the mother, even the hero. I already knew about the Noble Savage but didn’t know about Magical Negroes and Manic Pixie Dream Girls. I have to admit to having read David’s blog, trickling through the comments and then shooting over to Strange Horizons to read part of the article on Magical Negroes http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20041025/kinga.shtml Okay, so I only skimmed parts, being that I’m supposed to be at work and all.

But I read enough to go, Eeek! I have a magical negro story, fitting all five of the commonest attributes. All of them. Geeze. But my story is different. Really it is. Well, maybe, kinda, sort of. Sigh. At least I can make the main character black too and then it will only match four points. It’s one of those borderline fantasy literary tales and I’ve never sold it because it’s not really wowzer different enough. But maybe I have another reason now. Hmm.

Briefly, about that insidious David Moles. I was in Kansas for the novel writing workshop and he came in for the Campbell Conference. His SF story “Finisterra” was nominated for the Sturgeon award. It tied for first place with Elizabeth Bear’s “Tidelines.” I had the opportunity to read Finisterra. It’s an amazing “world” both odd and majestic, yet sad with the brutal reality that afflicts our world too. He’s written a tale of a conflicted “world” and protagonist. I’m not sure I would want to live in that place or that time but there is a ray of hope at the end. There are interesting parallels to our world of course and the whaling and seal trade. But it’s obvious why it won the Sturgeon as well as was nominated for the Hugo.

Then I snooped David’s site some more and found that he co-edited Twenty Epics and All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories. Zeppelins, Finisterra…I see a correlation. But the little hind brain filing system whispered, remember you sent a story to one of those anthologies long ago. It wasn’t accepted but in the small world of publishing I now knew where I’d seen that insidious name before.

When I have time I’m curious to go back to David’s site and check out his research paper: “I know nothing about them, nor I don’t wish to”:The memsahib and the myth of the lost empire. How interesting is that, and it makes me wonder what David Moles does when he’s not an insidious Lemony Snicketty kinda guy. He seemed nice enough in Kansas.


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