[LMB] Part 2 of 3: The Author's Gun v. The Reader's Squid (SP:)

Victoria L'Ecuyer vlecuyer at ksu.edu
Thu Dec 14 18:20:23 GMT 2006


(Part 2 of 3: The Author's Gun vs. The Reader's Squid)
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"Chekhov's Gun [2a]" bagged "The Squid on the Mantelpiece[2b]" is my way 
of saying there is adequate foreshadowing for an emotional showdown 
and/or a magical showdown while in the middle of a pitched battle. [2c] 
While the Gun and the Squid function in the same way, one is mechanical 
and the other is magical. The gun belongs to Doyle is all about creating 
and meeting readers' expectations. The squid hangs over Watson's 
fireplace and invokes Willing Suspension of Disbelief as though it were 
an ingredient in a love potion. As a result, "Chekhov's Gun bagged the 
Squid on the Mantelpiece" is my way of saying there was adequate 
foreshadowing for an emotional showdown combined with enough attendant, 
unexplained magic running around to warrant a new and interesting 
magical weapon ... or something... in TSK: Legacy. The things that 
really annoyed me in chapter three are a blend of Watsonian and 
Doylistic [2d] elements that work better in the long run than in the 
short term.  

Chekhov's Gun is literally the second sharing knife -- the one that got 
primed in chapter four when Fawn stabbed the Malice in the leg. In 
addition to being a gun-analog, that knife is the only reason Dag and 
Fawn weren't forcibly separated by subsequent events and various people. 
In essence, you, as Doyle, "fired the gun" when you placed it on the 
mantle in Chapters 3 and 4. I, as Watson's Squid, didn't feel the impact 
of the bullet until halfway through TSK: Beguilement.

The Squid on the Mantelpiece is gooey-eyed love at second sight (2e) 
followed by faulty choices in chapter three based on emotion and 
exhaustion rather than training and experience. [2f] Both are tied 
together in some way that is probably very, very important in TKS: 
Legacy.  I know you can't have a romance story without love and emotion 
affecting the plot. Unlike Hallowed Hunt, where romance and emotion came 
about as a result of the difficulties, the emotion and devotion are 
causing the characters' difficulties in TSK:Beguilement. That is why 
this book is more obviously romance than your previous novels. The 
emotions are driving the change not the other way around.

At the point I made my observation about "guns bagging squid", I was 
about halfway through the book. The first of several things happened 
that made me go "waitaminute...." First, Dag gathered and controlled 
enough fire flies to light up a whole tree. I asked myself "If only kids 
can do it, why can he do it now? If kids can only call a handful when 
they do, why did he get so many?" My inner score keeper of lists and 
expectations went "Look! It's another Squid! That makes two."  The fact 
that I was taking notes as I read allowed me to answer my own questions.

The obvious answers were: "Adults don't make the effort. Adults have a 
stronger ground and better control." However, experience also tells me 
you don't do obvious. If you do, there's something else underneath that 
goes of on unexpected tangents. At this point, you could say that one of 
my squid's emotional tentacles reached out and wrapped around the grip 
of your gun. Partly, it was because Dag was being more lively (as noted 
by Mari in the stable confrontation) and displaying more ground ability 
and control than before. Why? because of Fawn. Why Fawn? Because the 
knife tied them together where others would separate them. Why the 
knife? Because Fawn using Dag's knife to save herself is what caused the 
mystery of the stolen and re-taken ground. Why the mystery? Because that 
kind of killing and sharing shouldn't have happen. Unknown things in war 
is a very, very bad thing. Information in the form of intelligence about 
the enemy is vital when it comes to winning wars. Dag and the rest of 
the Lakewalkers are fighting a war.

My assumption about the non-obvious was confirmed a few chapters later. 
Dag remade the glass bowl using his ground sense and ground ability, 
something he hasn't been able to do before because he lacked the 
inclination to try (and probably the ability as well, but there is no 
text evidence on that). Another tentacle from the Readers Squid wraps 
around the Authorial Gun and lifts it from the mantle.

As a result of the mending/making, Dag discovered he had a ghost ground 
where his left hand was. Something he had never known about before. That 
was surprising. Why didn't Dag know about his ghost ground? Did he not 
try to use it? There are stories about amputees feeling ghost pain. 
Wouldn't he have noticed it? Did he just ignore the pain and presence 
both? Why now when not before? Is Fawn the cause? Is it something else? 
By now, my squid is waving the gun around in great agitation. I have 
magical questions left, right and center but not enough clues. I have no 
way to aim my suspicions except to keep reading.

The really telling thing, for me, was that Dag got his ground and Fawn's 
ground confused when he tried pinching Fawn's ground with his right 
hand's ground.  He initially couldn't tell his and hers apart. It was 
only when she was braiding the binding string that he felt the tug on 
his ground. The only way Dag could catch Fawn's ground to finish 
constructing the wedding cords was with his missing hand's "ghost" 
ground.  At that point, your authorial gun fired again. I, as the squid, 
went, "Crap. That's twice now," wincing the whole time. (Tentacle? Meet 
orifice. Orifice? Tentacle.)

Fawn was able to complete her half of the string binding during the 
wedding ceremony without the help of either Nattie or Dag. All she had 
to do was want it hard enough and resolve to work at it. Since Dag 
smiled and relaxed, I'm assuming her determination managed to complete 
the binding of their grounds as though she had a Lakewalker's ability 
with ground and ground sense. The only way I can explain how Fawn 
managed to complete the string binding when she had no ground sense and 
no ability to manipulate ground is that she and Dag were already bound 
part way. The only other thing that they had in common was Dag's sharing 
knife primed with Fawn's fetus' ground. Now, depending on how grounds 
work when it comes to pregnant women, there's a chance that part of Fawn 
may or may not be in that knife. [2g])

Regardless of my speculation, the fact that Fawn and Dag are 
successfully string bound by the end of Beguilement just cries out 
"There's a magical connection between the two!" That connection is the 
cause of the annoying love at second sight followed by Dag's ignoring 
protocols in chapter three is the effect. So is the fact that Fawn 
primed Dag's heart knife with her fetus's ground. And so ends The 
Sharing Knife: Beguilement. (*cue dramatic music* Tune in next year for 
the finish in The Sharing Knife: Legacy.)

Now, I'm left with a smoking gun [2h] and a squid with two 
self-inflicted wounds.   

Victoria

[2a] A very thorough discussion of Chekhov's Gun can be found here.  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov's_gun
A very concise and very accurate description of it geared, oddly enough, 
for my purpose, can be found here. 
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007996.html (I really 
didn't want to carry that Volkswagen up the hill.)

[2b] Squid on the Mantelpiece as defined by the Turkey City Lexicon: 
(http://www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html)
Chekhov said that if there are dueling pistols over the mantelpiece in 
the first act, they should be fired in the third. In other words, a plot 
element should be deployed in a timely fashion and with proper dramatic 
emphasis. However, in SF plotting the MacGuffins are often so 
overwhelming that they cause conventional plot structures to collapse. 
It's hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's bank 
overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is leveling the city. This 
mismatch between the conventional dramatic proprieties and SF's extreme, 
grotesque, or visionary thematic is known as the "squid on the 
mantelpiece."

[2c] Another option is an emotional showdown combined with some sort of 
new magical weapon making ability. Whatever shape the final conflict may 
be, it will definitely take place somewhere in TSK: Legacy.

[2d]  http://www.dendarii.com/bujold_lst.html#doylist


[2e]Chapter one is the real first meeting between Fawn and Dag. (which I 
forgot in my earlier outrage) There is no love at first sight. Fawn sees 
him as a necessary evil and annoyance by turn. Dag sees her as a reason 
to keep working even it she isn't a reason to keep living. Up front, 
without my knowing about any of Dag's passively suicidal baggage, that 
sounded very heroic, very knight in shining armor. At first, I thought 
his vow was part of Chekhov's Gun because it set up my expectations as a 
reader for what kind of person this character named Dag was. Their 
sudden, inexplicable emotional bonding in chapter three is actually love 
at second sight--and a neat twist to the romance trope.  By the end of 
TSK:Beguilement, Dag is a mysterious hero and Fawn's more or less his 
comrade in arms.

My biggest problem right now is that I only have half a story to work 
with. What those two have gotten themselves into with a meeting one day, 
an introduction the next day and all sorts of "getting to know you" 
encounters thereafter, remains to be seen. Since this is a romance and 
requiring certain romance tropes, that leads me to think that the 
strength of the string binding and ground binding started by the sharing 
knife mystery will have a very, very big impact in the second half of 
the story. That vow in chapter one looks more and more like a part of 
the SF/F's Squid's tentacle -- the part with the sucker on it.   

[2f] Yes, I know that Dag was exhausted and not thinking straight 
because of it, but that IS what rules and regulations are for. The 
Lakewalkers are a cross between nomadic tribes and a deployed army. They 
have rules of engagement like a deployed army does. If Dag is sensible 
enough to decide to leave the Malice lair in Chapter 4 to go get back 
up, he should have been sensible enough to take Fawn along with him in 
Chapter Three to get backup when he had a lead on where the Malice's 
lair was. Logically, and taking the Doylistic view, Dag's decision made 
convenient, if flawed, sense. Emotionally, and taking the Watsonian 
view, it's all messed up. If the culture clash is that deep between 
Farmers and Lakewalkers, why did the Lakewalkers accept help with the 
bandits if they thought the bandits would lead them back to a malice lair?

[2g] Because the fetus relies on the mother, one would think there would 
be some sharing of grounds until birth takes place. That's a logical 
extrapolation that makes emotional sense on a visceral level. If ground 
is food to the malice, ground can be food for the fetus until it 
develops its own. The baby was, essentially, feeding off Fawn's ground 
as well as creating it's own, and the malice's actions severed the 
placental ground. [2g.1] as well as the killing the baby by taking it's 
ground.

[2h] During the course of this essay/post, I realized that in this 
story, Chekhov's Gun is fitted with a silencer. The reader doesn't hear 
the "bang", but sure does feel the impact. As I see it, the priming of 
Dag's sharing knife was the first shot, and Dag repairing Trill's 
shattered glass bowl was the bullet's impact. (What was broken is now 
fixed.) The second shot is the successful string binding between Dag and 
Fawn. (What is created in good faith is....)  I have to wait and find 
out what the second impact is. That means I'm contemplating bribing 
Robert with belated donations to worthy causes.

 [2g.1]The glass bowl has a ground similar to, but different from sand, 
lime and whatever ever else goes into the making. Nattie's wedding 
fabric has a ground similar to, but different from the cotton, flax, and 
nettle that went into the spinning of the thread and the subsequent 
weaving. The baby has a ground of its own next to, but separate from 
Fawn's.  Placenta is an organ that doesn't exist without the fetus 
starting a whole slew of biochemical chain reactions that leads back to 
the mother/host. By that logic, placenta would have its own ground 
separate from the baby and Fawn because it was a created thing.  Yes, I 
am WAGing, but I've only got half a story and six months to go before I 
get the rest.

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