Brave — a review

Finally, a fairy tale for girls. And their mothers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fairy tales, partly because of the Snow White panel at ApolloCon and partly because fairy tales are such an archetypal form of storytelling that I’m always thinking about them just because. Some of the concepts we batted around on the panel come up over and over in literature and in literary criticism. After all, what is Snow White but the fairy tale concept of “fridging” told from the girl in the refrigerator’s point of view? (Not that fairy tale princesses really have a point of view.)

I’ve also been thinking a lot about mothers and daughters. The more I consider fairy stories, especially the princess stories,the more I see they are profoundly and deeply about mothers and daughters and passing the torch. In fairy tales, that passing is ugly and bitter.  I believe it is Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment that points out that the mother in fairytales is the same as the stepmother. The loving mother disappears and the witch, the enchantress, the crone, takes her place. The evil woman jealous of her daughter’s youth and beauty and vibrancy seeks to take it away, eat her heart, kill her rival.

But in Brave, the story doesn’t go there. The mother-daughter bond must be broken so Merida can grow up, but her mother, Elinor, is not jealous of Merida’s pending independence. She is trying to foster it. She knows her daughter is on the cusp of growing up and taking her place in the world, and she wants to guide her on that journey. Now, like many mothers (cough cough) she thinks Merida’s path is the same as hers, and it is only through the events in the movie that she comes to realize that Merida needs her own path. The scene where Elinor is signing to her daughter what she needs to say to the lairds is so sweet and heartfelt — she figuratively hands over to Merida her power.

And note what Elinor wants for Merida. She doesn’t want her to be a princess. She wants her to be a queen. She wants Merida to have her power. If we see this as controlling and imprisoning, we aren’t really seeing what her mother has accomplished. Elinor is powerful (and no wonder her name is Elinor; a nod to that greatest of Eleanors, of Aquitaine). In Catherynne Valente’s Deathless, this theme comes up too — the protagonist Marye is swept away by Koschei, the Tsar of the land of the ever-living, but she is always a princess, never a queen. Queens have power; princesses don’t.

Brave is such a hopeful, nurturing fairy tale and it’s a fairy tale for our time, for the women we are and the women we want our daughters to become. When the time is right, we want to do what mothers do now and forever — make our children ready for their lives as adults, even if it means they have to follow their own path and not ours.




ApolloCon wrap-up

Me, Cat Osborne, and Katy Pace

As always, I had a blast in Houston this past weekend. At this point I know the drill. After an uneventful drive down 290 to Houston — and it would have taken less time but for the state trooper who apparently decided to drive the entire way alongside me — I checked in and headed for the pool. It felt soooo good. I needed a dip after the long drive and I wanted some exercise to clear my head before my first panel that evening.

Which was — “I Don’t Think I Bend that Way,” a look at the current covers and the wonderful series of posts that Jim Hines (fine fantasy author and all around good guy) did on women on fantasy covers (see Striking a Pose). Katy Pace and Cat Osborne and I and a few early bird guests batted around cover concepts, cover trends, and cover poses, and talked about the role of the cover in selling books and picking up readers.

Meeting author guest Tanya Huff was also a wonderful experience. Tanya’s so nice and professional and funny and smart and thoughtful. We were on the Snow White panel, which was lively to say the least, and very enjoyable. Why fairy tales? Why Snow White? What is the role of fairy tales in the modern days? These are the best kinds of convention panels, the ones that ask the big questions.

Another thoughtful discussion was had on “If I were a rich fan.” If money were no object, what would you fund? Answers ranged all over the place, from genius grants for writers, to workshops for writers to understand the workings of the world, to waste recycling to health care and education. Allocating resources is a huge issue.

Astronaut Stan Love gave a fascinating presentation on going to Mars, and the implacability of the laws of the universe. As he so eloquently illustrated, Nature is a harsh grader. Get 99/100, and you still fail. Miss the transit point and you die a very sad and lonely death in a useless elliptical orbit. You might get a high school named after you, if you are lucky.

After the convention, I stayed around to meet some friends from the city. If you’ve read Gordath Wood, you know that it’s dedicated to my friend Valerie Bullitt, who passed away far too young on a grand adventure. Seeing her family was a wonderful opportunity to catch up. She’s never far from my thoughts, and being with her family was a bittersweet moment.

ApolloCon programming schedule

Quick drive-by post. Here’s my schedule for this weekend at ApolloCon. I’m looking forward to the convention. If you are planning to be there, don’t forget to drop by and say hi.

Friday 6PM Scottsdale I Don’t Think I Bend That Way

Speculative Fiction art, including comic books and book covers, often
portrays our heroes and heroines in battle poses that emphasize their
sex appeal instead of any practical battle use. Panelists discuss and
demonstrate the impractical and impossible poses we put our characters
through. Osborne, Sarath, Pace

Friday 8PM Seattle I Of Blood Spatters and Fingerprints

No one wants to guess the end of the story after the first few pages.
A satisfying mystery gives you clues that are insightful but not
overly obvious. Logical, but still fantastical enough to thrill the
reader. Our panelists discuss how to walk the fine line between
believability and predictability. Sarath (M), Wells, Crider, Ramirez

Saturday 10am Seattle I Fairest of Them All: The Enduring Allure of Snow White

Lips as red as blood, hair as black as coal, skin as white as snow.
She has graced movie and television screens for decades, and is as
popular as ever, with a television show and not one but two movies
this year alone. Our panelists discuss the draw of Snow White, and
why her legacy has stayed so popular.
Huff(M), Sheridan-Rose, Sarath, Jones

Saturday 2pm Autograph Patrice Sarath, Rosemary Clement-Moore

Saturday 4pm Rm 720 Reading: Patrice Sarath, Rosemary Clement-Moore

Saturday 5pm Seattle I If I Were a Rich Fan

There are thousands of ideas out there, ideas that would revolutionize
our world, which only lack funding. If you were one of the Warren
Buffets, Elon Musks, or Tony Starks of the world, with access to vast
resources, how would you prioritize your funding: helping humanity or
finally getting that flying car? Sarath (M) Dyson, Hale, Simpson

Sunday 10am Seattle II Someone Else’s Sandbox

Panelists discuss the draw of fanfiction as both a desire to explore
more of their favorite fandoms and as a place to hone their writing
skills. Sarath (M), Sheridan-Rose, Eudaly

Sunday noon Scottsdale Best YA You Aren’t Reading
The YA world is full of books and series that at times seem to be
nothing more than clones of one another. But there are also tons of
gems that may not be as easy to find in that sea of sameness. Our
panelists discuss the YA novels that stand out in the crowd, both in
quality and in uniqueness.
Sarath, Hale, Clement-Moore (M)