Tropes: The Replacement Wife

[Content Note: Cancer, Death]

Dear Publishers,

I couldn't help but notice that you have this book as an advance review copy on NetGalley:

Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back -- and this time it’s terminal -- she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.

Now, I get that this is a romance novel, and that romance as a genre is not generally something that I, well, get. I also get that this is a short description that may not be even remotely accurate of the book's contents. In addition, I do not have small children, I am not married to someone who is ill-equipped to be a single parent, and I have never had terminal cancer.

So possibly this scenario is comforting in ways I do not immediately understand to people who are grappling with the guilt and fear of leaving their family behind due to an illness they cannot control. Indeed, now that I say all that, I think I read an erotic novel once that treated a similar subject from the perspective of a terminally ill Dom finding a replacement Dom for their sub, and while I thought the setup was similarly odd and not at all actually erotic because OMG SAD, I felt like the author handled the matter with sensitivity. So possibly there's a whole terminally-ill-replacement-romance sub-genre out there that I'm just not aware of, in which case you should take this letter with a grain of salt.

But having said all that, my initial visceral reaction to the the description of this book was one of profound sadness and anger. I literally felt my stomach turn on reading this. May I tell you why? I am going to do so now.

If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow, I'm not sure precisely how I will spend my last days, but I am sure that finding someone for my Husband to bone will be pretty low on the bucket list. He is a big boy and managed to do pretty well with me, so I'm reasonably confident that he can take care of that department when I'm gone. He may even decide that he likes being single again (something that I doubt he would foresee in advance) and doesn't need to be in a constant, uninterrupted state of marriage. I also think that -- were I to make it a priority for me to do so -- I would spend more time recording and teaching the lessons I want my children to learn and less time trying to find a replica of me to take care of that for me in the future.

The Replacement Goldfish scenario seems like a high-risk low-return-on-investment plan, if you ask me, and it also seems to buy into a number of hurtful stereotypes about mothers and wives being replaceable widgets in the family machine, and that it is a woman's duty to serve her family (and never herself) right up to her dying breath. Hence my visceral oh, heck no reaction. And if you can forgive me saying so, when I read your book description and my first thought is "wow, that makes Twilight looks really feminist in comparison because at least Bella Swan wasn't interviewing Forks students looking for Edward's next soul mate in case the vampire-turning thing didn't work out," then you may be doing something wrong.

Is there honestly any reason why Camille Hart, one of Manhattan's most sought-after matchmakers, (and presumably therefore pretty loaded on the cash front) can't interview a few decent live-in nannies rather than spend the last days of her life scrambling to find a replacement for herself?

Something that is probably explained in your book, but I'll honestly never know. (Sorry.) Yours,
~ Ana

55 comments:

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Oh FSM, that is creepy.

And I agree with you that the Dom/sub version somehow seems less creepy. But I'm really not sure I can find a logical reason *why*.

Nina said...

Maybe it has something to do with the people's roles in each story? Like, my understanding of Dom/sub relationships is that they are more equal than they appear on the surface. Whereas the "oh noes my husband can't take care of his own children (or himself?), I must find someone to take care of them when I can no longer serve" sounds pretty profoundly unequal. On the one hand, the woman seems to be in a lower position (in service to her family), but on the other hand, it paints the husband as being lower than his wife in his ability to survive alone.

To put it another way, I don't think the Dom/sub version implies that one or the other party is incapable in some way, but the implication of the husband/wife version is that the husband is a doofus who can't provide basic care for his family. Maybe I'm reading too much into this? I admit, I am a little sensitive to the "competent mother/wife, doofus father/husband" trope.

Ana Mardoll said...

I never finished the sub/Dom book because it was so sad, but I am 99% sure it was this book:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6088255-the-reluctant-dom

Asha said...

Wow- that's just... I can see something like that turning out to be a good story if the wife comes to realize that she CANNOT be replaced so easily, realizes that her rushing about was a mistake and instead goes out to live the last of her days with her family. But if she's successful? Hm. No.

Is it wrong of me to be wishing that she falls in love with her replacement and they have a poly relationship?

Ana Mardoll said...

I admit, I am a little sensitive to the "competent mother/wife, doofus father/husband" trope.

As am I, which is I think one of the reasons why I was very BUH, NO. I kind of trust Husband to figure out what kind of mate he wants when I'm gone, if he wants one at all.

And she's a matchmaker! Yeeeeech. Can you imagine THAT matchmaking interview?

Wife: "Honey, what qualities do you want in a wife?"
Husband: "I want someone just like you."
Wife: "No, honestly, hon. It's okay, I'm going to be dead and I want to do this RIGHT."
Husband: "........."

How do you even ANSWER that question? "Gee, honey, I never wanted to bring it up before, but since you ask, I don't like your cooking and I wish you played roller hockey. Just sayin'."

Rakka said...

Is it wrong of me to be wishing that she falls in love with her replacement and they have a poly relationship?
If you're wrong I don't want to be right. The more love to go around the better.

Dav said...

All kinds of potential for awkward, here. I mean, I'd want to make sure that Future!Wife and Spouse were sexually compatible before giving my Deathbed Blessing. "I'll be at chemo all day on Friday, so I booked you guys a room at the Hyatt. When you're done, fill out these surveys and give them back to me, and I'll tally the results from the wife candidates these weekend and make the next cut. Darling, don't forget to pick me up from the clinic by 4."

And then, of course, the couple runs into a mutual friend, who misunderstands, and Hijinks Ensue.

Also, fun for the kid! "Here's your trial mom. What do you think? No pressure, but I am down to only a month to live, and if you reject this one like the last twelve because of 'grieving', I may die without having my last wish fulfilled."

Ew. Ew, ew, ew.

Also, how horrible would it be if the arranged relationship ever ended? Would replacement wife (who was just divorcing the guy) feel pressure to find a new replacement in turn? Alternately, maybe she'd decide he should be single for awhile, and just drive away all his girlfriends. Oh, wait, that's totally creepy behavior, because controlling someone's life like that is *really* bad.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, please accept this shiny internet? :D

Dav said...

I will pet it and keep it and call it George.

Ana Mardoll said...

Just let me know if it gets ill so I can get you a replacement internet! Easy-peasy, no-muss no-fuss!!

Dav said...

I think it's the other way round - when I contract tuberculolsis, I will waft around, pressing a blood-spotted handkerchief to my lips while looking for the best person to have an internet. (AWKWARD.)

I shared this with a friend, who pointed out that she's had two relatives diagnosed with terminal illness. One of whom was misdiagnosed, and they didn't figure it out for six months, and the other of whom managed to beat the death prediction time by fourteen years.

I'm starting to think this would work as the darkest sit com in the world, with the grieving wife struggling to regain some sense of control by arranging the lives of her family We could call it . . . oh, I don't know, Family Date Night, maybe. The Once and Future Mom. The Replacement.

But "romance" is not the genre I would put it in.

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, you've got me making this laughing choking sound that is causing the cats to look at me funny.

Would it be better or worse if the subtext of the dark comedy was that there was really nothing wrong with the wife at all?

Will Wildman said...

Would it be better or worse if the subtext of the dark comedy was that there was really nothing wrong with the wife at all?

I was thinking the most feasible situation is one in which, say, the first episode ends with the doctor determining that there is nothing wrong with her, but his attempts to communicate this get confuzzled so that he thinks she understands she's okay, but some middle-person failure leads to her believing that there's nothing she can do and no reason to even go back for further testing/treatment.

It'd be unpleasant (..ier) if there was any way of reading the character as just being some kind of wacky hypochondriac who may actually be suffering from mental difficulties. Avoiding that requires some stretching, but a ridiculous premise like 'The Replacement Wife' is already stretching belief a long way regardless.

---

Directly addressing the novel, I have to admit I'm kind of grimly fascinated with the idea of 'I must find someone to replace ME', because I have all sorts of arrogant tendencies in the direction of my TOTAL IRREPLACEABILITY. But then I hit the bit about 'hooking up my spouse with a replacement' and I just can't parse that. Even just imagining a past girlfriend saying "I have six months to live, but I will find you a new girlfriend first" fries all my synapses.

Suggested new premise: the woman is a widow looking for someone to become her children's new parent (mother) when she dies from terminal thingy. On a practical level, this is not ridiculous if the children are young enough - say she has no living/able/willing relatives, but both they and she don't want to rely on the foster system or anything like that. So the first portion of the book is mostly the mother trying to negotiate her children into accepting the idea that they need to find an appropriate legal guardian. Middle portion is the search for a plausible candidate (with or without the children's agreement), and thus introduction of and bonding to the New Mom while totally inappropriate candidates provide either comic relief or sinister hazards, etc. The mother is terrified that she will accidentally leave her children to someone who is apparently all smiles but then turns abusive in the wrong circumstances. More etc.

I haven't got climactic events in mind, but ultimately New Mom wins over the kids and they accept her as a friend and guardian, and the mother finds that she is additionally saddened by the thought of not sharing in the future family with New Mom. Then comes the bit where she learns that she's actually going to make it because either Misdiagnosis or New Science. Then, romantic subtext becomes actual text, surprise bisexuality! And now the kids have two moms.

Basically, the only problem I see with the poly suggestion earlier is that it's got the husband in it; he really just gets in the way, overcomplicates the book, and has the unfortunate stereotype of fatherly incompetence.

Ana Mardoll said...

Basically, the only problem I see with the poly suggestion earlier is that it's got the husband in it; he really just gets in the way, overcomplicates the book, and has the unfortunate stereotype of fatherly incompetence.

That's kind of where I am, too. Plus, I just have such a hard time seeing how he can reasonably consent to all this what with the survivor guilt and all.

Dav said...

Will, that's awesome and positive and uplifting. Yay!

Ana Mardoll said...

Will, that's awesome and positive and uplifting. Yay!

Yeah, the more I read it, the more I like it. I don't see any immediate Fail and I see a lot of Awesome.

Will Wildman said...

Now comes the more difficult question: would I be capable of writing that story without setting it in a wuxia world where a majority of the population are gravity-defying martial artists?

Mental Magic 8 Ball says "Doesn't look likely".

Dav said...

Why would you even try to set it in a non-wuxia world?

That would be *awesome*. Although, uh, many of those worlds have sort of terrible awful political stuff happening, and I would like a real happy ending, so make it work somehow.

Ana Mardoll said...

Will the widow have gravity-defying powers?

Asha said...

I think the main problem I have is that you just can't replace a person, or recreate a relationship exactly like it was before. It takes time, effort, patience, physical chemistry and social sanction to make a relationship work. It's a disservice to the husband that he can't make the choice himself, as well as to the wife that she doesn't want to trust him with the task. It's ridiculous to think that this story could ever be romantic.

If I was going to write this as a poly relationship it would already be established. Seeing how the dynamics get thrown out of whack would be one of the reasons I would read such a story.

Dav said...

I'm looking at a couple of the excerpts of the author's other books, and can I put on my does-this-seem-bad-to-anyone-else-because-it-does-to-me-but-I've-got-white-privilege-like-whoa hat?

Description of Vietnamese nurse:
"Tiny, fragile-seeming, as exquisitely wrought as an ivory figurine … yet she had the stamina of a water buffalo."

Ana Mardoll said...

Bleh. Yeah, that seems Fail-y to me, too. (Are there more? Oh do please share.)

Did I mention that in the next book I'm writing, the Chinese-American high school girl is going to be fat? I remember someone -- Margaret Cho, maybe? -- saying that if you're fat and Asian, you just don't exist in most mainstream media.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Except for Sumo wrestlers...

Will Wildman said...

"Tiny, fragile-seeming, as exquisitely wrought as an ivory figurine … yet she had the stamina of a water buffalo."

"I'm not sure if she's an inanimate object for me to appreciate artistically, or an animal for doing heavy labour, but it's definitely one of the two. I've only ruled out sapient human so far."

---

Although, uh, many of those worlds have sort of terrible awful political stuff happening, and I would like a real happy ending, so make it work somehow.
/
Will the widow have gravity-defying powers?

I was imagining that the widow was originally a wandering hero (which is how she met her husband) and they were the great rebels who brought down the evil emperor and, although not personally interested in politics and reform, put someone more moderate in charge and then gave said person significant looks of the "I know where you live because I gave it to you, and I can punch through steel" before heading off onto the road again. Eventually they decided that they'd like kids, since the world was rather more peaceful, but final assassins tracked them down to seek vengeance for the defeated emperor, and managed to kill the husband and poison the hero. Her superhuman physical discipline allows her to resist the poison for a few months, which is where we begin our story proper.

I'm still contemplating the husband, though; there might be a better way of offing him.

Bayley G said...

There's a reason my main characters in my two novels are a chubby Native American with disabilities and an asexual male with clingy emotional issues *nodsnods*

Ana Mardoll said...

Will... can I have your brain? Or replicate it somehow? Because that is so many kinds of awesome. I would read a story like that so much! (Whatever that means. My brain is fried by your awesome.)

Dav said...

Oh, yes. Yes, there is an entire book written from the perspective of a Chinese person writing letters in a way that does not feel authentic *at all*. Americans, I think, will especially enjoy this paragraph:

"We hope much from America, that country which has so wonderful an influence upon us, which appeals to our imagination because it is great and strong and prosperous. The suave and humorous American, with his easy ways, is most popular with our people,although he cannot always be trusted nor is his word bond. He is different from the manof England, who is not fond of people not of his own color and will not try to disguise the fact. He is cold and shows no sympathy to those of an alien race, although we must admithe always acts with a certain amount of justice. America is contemptuous of China and her people, but it is a kindly contempt, not tinged with the bitterness of the other powers,and we hope, because of trade interest (the American is noted for finding and holding the place that yields him dollars), she will play the part of a kindly friend and save China from her enemies who are now watching each other with such jealous eyes. There is another reason why we like America: She does not seem to covet our land. I would that she and England might form a bond of brotherhood for our protection; because all the world knows that where Germany, Russia, or Japan has power, all the people from other lands are barred by close-shut doors."

It was the "she does not covet our land" line that really made me laugh.

Ana Mardoll said...

Welp, now Husband is surely wondering why I am yelling incoherently at my monitor.

Ana Mardoll said...

OK, more coherent now. So that passage makes me think of something I've been thinking about Twilight for a long while but haven't found just the right post to flesh it out, and it's this:

I think there's a very strong fantasy involved with being *observed*.

If you're observed by someone (in fantasy), you're essentially something important. The more closely they observe you, the more important you are. Maybe your importance lies in your beauty or your elegance or your power that represents a threat to them, but there's something heady in being observed and not ignored.

Edward observes Bella minutely while she sleeps because she's important to him. He observes her likes and dislikes because her happiness matters to him. Sexy!

The person in the paragraph above observes the reader (Americans) closely because they are important and powerful. Imagine! A whole country of people thinking about ME, when I never even bother to think about them! (Not really, but I mean, that's the fantasy, I think.) How important I am!

And the observers understand me and get me! They know that Americans are lovely people. It's Ender all over again, observed by the Buggers who feel SUPER BAD that he was tricked into exterminating them because it makes them sad when innocent Ender sheds a tear for them.

I'm sort of fascinated by this Fantasy of Being Observed, especially since in Real Life most of us probably prefer to scoot under the radar. I even remember it being used in my childhood church: the idea that if you got EXTRA tribulations it was because Satan was super-duper concerned about your Christian badass self. Hoo-rah.

Will Wildman said...

You may have noted, between this and Star Wars and various past conversations, that reconstructing terrible stories into a workable and interesting premise is kind of my schtick. Of course (and as you well know) it's the actual writing that's the hard part, so I'm not sure replicating me would actually get us far. (Plus you know I'd just end up making out with me.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I have kind of the opposite problem: the ideas are hard for me, but the writing comes "easy enough" once I get started. (It's never EASY, but it's easier than the coming up with the idea for me.)

(Plus you know I'd just end up making out with me.)

*dies laughing*

Will Wildman said...

I'm sort of fascinated by this Fantasy of Being Observed, especially since in Real Life most of us probably prefer to scoot under the radar.

I would hazard a guess that it's another expression of the same thing we've talked about that feeds certain types of sexual fantasies (the ones with varying lack of consent) - it's about getting what you want (in this case, pride and smugness and I'm-so-wonderful-ness) but knowing that it would be Bad for you to do/think that yourself, and so externalising it into a convenient avatar who will give you what you want without being asked (and even if you protest, as you are Morally Obligated to do).

Will Wildman said...

I have kind of the opposite problem: the ideas are hard for me, but the writing comes "easy enough" once I get started. (It's never EASY, but it's easier than the coming up with the idea for me.)

Really? Well, possibly we should exchange contact info, because if you're ever lacking for ideas, I Have Ideas. LOTS OF IDEAS. I had over a dozen distinct options just for NaNo, and those were ones for which I had even started developing a cast and plot threads. And more just kind of bubble up like this. What I lack is the self-discipline to work them into real books at any kind of effective rate.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's amazing. I've got a total of four ideas, which means I'm set for ~4 years and I'll probably come up with a 5th idea in those 4 years, but it's not guaranteed.

You would be very popular on writer forums, I think, as "coming up with ideas and/or plot complications" seems to me to be pretty sought after. (Just had that conversation on Wishful Writers today, actually -- someone with GREAT characters looking around and saying, "OK, now what do I do to them?")

Will Wildman said...

Ah, I spent a fair while on the NaNo Plot Doctoring forum, but it was not as fulfilling an experience as it would seem - different writing styles clash, and the most frequent thing I wanted to say was 'in order to find your answer, you have to be sure you're asking the right question'. There was one marvellous time when someone said her story was all weird and dark and she couldn't take it anymore, and I offered a comprehensive scheme on how to turn it all into a grand comedy involving Communist Pirates and a diverting ferret delivery - that was well-received, although I don't think she used it. Sadly.

I keep forgetting this blog is associated with writery forums, though. I must amend that.

Ana Mardoll said...

So are you a writing mentor of the Yoda discipline or of the Rafiki (Lion King) discipline? :D

Oh, yes, do come visit the forums! We're very lonely! ;)

http://www.wishfulwriters.com/forums/

Makabit said...

My mother always told my father that if anything happened to her, not to marry a Republican. I think that's as far as her directives ever went.

hapax said...

Getting back to the OP, I regret to inform you that yes, this is indeed a trope in romance novels -- not a huge one, but I can think of several off the top of my head.

It is slightly less Fail-y, though, when you realize it comes in two forms:

1. The "woman's fiction" form, which is all about the relationship between OldWife and NewWife, and sisterly bonding, and the husband is almost an incidental object to be handed over to seal the BFF Love between the female soulmates.

2. The "romance novel" form, in which OldWife is usually already on her deathbed or toes-cocked-up; she usually has a close relationship with NewWife (sister or beloved cousin or BFF), who is of course innocent and virginal and knows nothing about OldWife's matchmaking schemes.

And in both cases there are inevitably Plot Moppets.

I'm not saying it's *good*, mind you, but it really is more about the two women and the children forming a kind of family unit that just happens to include one dead-but-alive-in-our-hearts member, and the man is just a handy accessory.

What's weird is that a lot of the ones I'm thinking about were written by men. Is this the male counterpart of the female fantasy of The Guardian Romance? (You know, a man is suddenly saddled with the guardianship of his brother's / best friend at University's / comrade-in-arm's / drinking-and-whoring partner's young and beautiful wife / sister / nurse / retainer's daughter and Of Course they find TruWuv?)

Ana Mardoll said...

I wonder! And now you come to describe #1, I'm thinking wasn't there a Susan Sarandon / Julia Roberts movie along those lines? "Step-mom", or something? But that was less Fail because the husband and terminal wife had divorced before her illness, and Julia Roberts wasn't "hand-picked" by Susan Sarandon.

If I recall correctly, it was a decent enough movie, though not my thing. (Too sad.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Except now all I can wonder is which of the women the reader is 'supposed' to imprint on? Are we expected to identify with the terminal ill wife who is (a) dying and (b) giving away her entire life? That seems really distressing.

Makabit said...

Ana, I kind of suspect that part of the fantasy is being able to die without leaving everyone in your life damaged--your kids and husband will be cared for--but I think the key fantasy must be of being the replacement woman. The idea, if I get it right, is that there are women you envy for their handsome, successful husband, beautiful kids, lovely homes, lovely lives--and one of them gives you hers, and conveniently dies, so that's OK. It's a fantasy of a woman who doesn't have a husband, home, children supplanting one who does, but it's not bad because she WANTED you to have her stuff. She PICKED you.

It doesn't strike me as at all healthy, but I think that must be the idea. Or maybe it's something else entirely I simply don't get.

Dav said...

Yeah, I think the best way I can spin it would be the idea of stability, even in crisis: that if you just work hard enough, you can still keep things basically the same. Your death doesn't have to irretrievably change everything, at least not in the long term. The caregiving work you do will continue to be done, and while your death is sad, it's not going to change the rhythms of the household appreciably. (This is sort of how I feel about my job, incidentally, and I wonder if that's entirely coincidental.)

And from the other perspective, what you're offering is a kind of healing - both protection for the family, and a restful spirit for the woman who's ill. (And you're being recognized as a kindred spirit, which is always a nice feeling.)

I wonder if part of the appeal is residual childhood stuff: if Mommy dies, who will take care of me? This scenario seems like the sort of thing that my pseudoneice would propse: Mommy loves me, so she'll always take care of me. But if she can't take care of me, she'll want someone else to be Mommy, because she loves me and wants me to be taken care of. So, clearly, she'll go get another Mommy and install her before she leaves forever. And Mommy loves Daddy, so she'll want him to have someone who loves him, so the new Mommy will love him and everything will stay the same.

It's a little bit of a appealing fantasy from that standpoint of childhood when adults seem all-powerful. If you want to prevent your death from changing your family's lives forever, you *can*, if you want it bad enough.

That said, I still find it creepy like whoa, especially the part where your partner's impending death is supposed to make you feel all sexy-times about someone else. Most couples I've known who have dealt with terminal illness do not have any time, energy, pain-free days, or spoons to do much beyond deal with the illness and try to take care of basic survival needs.

Fluffy_goddess said...

"Most couples I've known who have dealt with terminal illness do not have any time, energy, pain-free days, or spoons to do much beyond deal with the illness and try to take care of basic survival needs. "

This. This book sounds like the only way it could work from a logistical standpoint is if the original wife suffered no actual effects of disease or treatment, which is just not probable within the real world. Also, where's the husband's freedom of will here? He's just going along with this? How can he be a good guy (even by romance-novel standards) if he feels he can *replace* his wife on her advice while she's dying?

The only way I can see the original plot description working is if it turns out she's not dying at all, and in the process of trying to matchmake for her husband has discovered that she's actually still totally perfect for him and he adores her, ending with a symbolic renewing of their vows instead of whatever. Or else she discovers that he's a louse, and they divorce. But I don't see much likelihood of either. The only way I can see the trope working is if the original wife is made into the villain, and accidentally chooses a heroine as her replacement.

Ana Mardoll said...

The only way I can see the original plot description working is if it turns out she's not dying at all, and in the process of trying to matchmake for her husband has discovered that she's actually still totally perfect for him and he adores her, ending with a symbolic renewing of their vows instead of whatever.

It is now going to be my personal head-canon that this is precisely what happens in the book and then everything is lovely forever. Thank you. :)

Fluffy_goddess said...

Welcome. I am constitutionally unable to read/watch/hear of anything without wanting to give it a happy ending. This interferes with the happy watching of serialized t.v. shows, but leads to more fanfic ideas than I could actually write it if I had an extra 365 hours every day to devote to it.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Am I the only one who is reminded strongly of the fairy tale trope of the dying queen exacting from her grief-stricken king the promise that he remarry but only to a woman as beautiful as she?

As anyone who's read Robin McKinley's Deerskin knows, that never goes well.

McKinley does do a fantastic job of investigating the personalities of the sort of king and queen -- and, incidentally, the sort of parents -- who would even have that conversation. It kind of makes me wonder how romance writers handle the replacement wife trope when there's kids involved. The portrait-painter search sequence in Deerskin I think fits neatly into the romance trope of Wife 1 selecting Wife 2, albeit from a slant; she's actually creating a visual yardstick to help the king find Wife 2.

Ana Mardoll said...

That is a good tie-in, I think. I've not read McKinley's version yet, but I've seen several fairy tales with that trope, and it is kind of similar. Nice call!

hapax said...

Omigosh, you must drop everything and read DEERSKIN. It is my absolute favorite McKinley book, even more than SUNSHINE (the perfect anti-TWILIGHT book, btw).

It is gorgeous and horrific and devastating and triumphant and TRIGGERY LIKE WHOA (Triggers ROT13 for plot spoilers: encr, vaprfg, puvyq nohfr, navzny nohfr, zvfpneevntr, cnerag qrngu, crg qrngu, naq hzzz, rkprffvir obqvyl syhvqf?) The supernatural element is subtle, but haunting and mysterious and awe-inspiring; the romance is very secondary, but still the sweetest I have ever read. Plus, PUPPIES!!!

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL, sure you say that NOW, but what will I say when there's no Twilight this week?!? LOL. :D

I love McKinley so much and that fairy tale in particular that I bought the book and shipped it off to be scanned for me several months ago. I have a lovely PDF version now but need to run it through ABBYY Fine Reader for a decent ePub cut. Shouldn't take me more than an hour, so I'll see if I can't do that this weekend.

I love fairy tale retellings. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Speaking of fairy tale retellings, last night Husband used a sash belt to jokingly divide the bed in two because apparently I've been migrating in my sleep to the warmer side (i.e., the side with him in it). And then, because (unlike me) he hasn't spent his youth reading every "Grimms" and "Arabian Nights" adaptation he could get his hands on, did not understand why I accused him of being Not!Husband but rather Husband's Identical Twin and I became more and more agitated when he wouldn't/couldn't tell me where Real!Husband was.

https://www.google.com/search?q=sword+in+the+bed+between+them&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_Brothers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair,_Brown_and_Trembling

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/tristan.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigur%C3%B0arkvi%C3%B0a_hin_skamma

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0303.html

Dav said...

I read Deerskin when I was totally unprepared for it. I think I was early middle school, and a big McKinley fan - after reading some of the lighter fairy tale retellings, like Beauty. It was the first in a weird string of unexpectedly dark books - right after that, I read not one, but two books that crossed fairy tales with Nazi concentration camps, and then a book that dived from cheerful action adventure into grimdark without any signposting, and killed off all the protagonists and their dog in a blaze of awful.

I think I would get a lot out of it now - at the time I was very much squicked (yrff ol gur encr guna gur zrafgehny oybbq. )

hapax said...

@Dav -- yeah, I agree with you. I found DEERSKIN a real shock when I first read it, too, but I was considerably older; and there were certainly hints that McKinley was capable of such dark themes as early as THE HERO AND THE CROWN.

(Also, I agree with your squick; there's a reason I included it in the trigger warnings.)

BaseDeltaZero said...

You may have noted, between this and Star Wars and various past conversations, that reconstructing terrible stories into a workable and interesting premise is kind of my schtick. Of course (and as you well know) it's the actual writing that's the hard part, so I'm not sure replicating me would actually get us far. (Plus you know I'd just end up making out with me.)


I love doing this, too. Although for me, it's usually just a poorly thought out snippet of an idea (sometimes inspired by... uh... pictures) that ends up being elaborated into an entire (hopefully) coherent world. I don't know how well I do it, though... and I certainly have a hell of a tough time getting things done. My main problem is that for me, designing is so much easier than building...



So are you a writing mentor of the Yoda discipline or of the Rafiki (Lion King) discipline? :D

Huh?


Oh, yes, do come visit the forums! We're very lonely! ;)


http://www.wishfulwriters.com/...

Oh my god, thank you thank you thank you thank you

I was wondering if anything ever happened with that. I shall, attend, and try to not to disturb you too massively with my fail and/or Fail.

JenL said...

Wife: "Honey, what qualities do you want in a wife?"
Husband: "I want someone just like you."

And suddenly, I am reminded of the story of the woman who suddenly started wondering about what would happen if she died, and started asking her husband.

(Warning, it's pretty tacky.)

"Honey, if I died, would you remarry?"
"Well, sweetie, the kids would need a mother, so I suppose I would."

"But would you live here in this house with her?"
"Well, sweetie, the kids really like their school, and they have friends in the neighborhood, and I wouldn't want them to lose their mother *and* have to deal with all that other disruption in their lives."

"But would you sleep with her in *this* bed?"
"Well, sweetie, it's fairly new, and we paid a lot for it."

"But would you let her drive my car?"
"Well, sweetie, it's a really good car, it doesn't have too many miles - and we bought it because of that great safety rating. You'd still want the kids to be safe, right?"

"But... But would you let her use my golf clubs?
"Oh, don't be silly. She's left-handed."

Dav said...

Worse, I think, but then I have a thing about the "delusional women and their psychosomatic illnesses" trope. But she could get better, or have something that appeared terminal but wasn't*. (And after months of matchmaking, she may not truly believe the good news - who could blame her?) I think to keep her sympathetic, I need to see this primarily as a coping mechanism, so the character and audience need to, at least at the beginning, take the scenario at face value. (Although I would totally be on board with Season 4 kicking off with the wedding of Dad and Newmom *and* the reveal that Illmom is one of the few people whose disease went into remission or was cured by trial drug, or something.**)

*I can make this my own personal nightmare fuel: not terminal illness, but early onset Alzheimer's. That becomes a matter not of dying physically, but losing a big piece of yourself anyway, of becoming helpless and dependent. That would be extra terrifying if your spouse is really, really not a caregiver, and might make the motivations muddier for looking for a new wife. But that's a bit *too* dark, even for me.

** It is possible that I watch too much television.

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