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The Great Work.

The time my mother slapped me?

I was a junior in high school. Seventeen? Maybe. I don’t remember what it was I wasn’t to be allowed to have done, but I was complaining about it, bitterly, vociferously, rounding it out with the rising plaint of it just isn’t fair!

Life isn’t fair, she said, exasperated.

That’s no excuse! I snapped.


What underpins all of the above is the idea of moral expectation. Fantasy, unlike science fiction, relies on a moral universe: it is less an argument with the universe than a sermon on the way things should be, a belief that the universe should yield to moral precepts.

Farah Mendlesohn

Which isn’t what happened at all. —Oh, I was complaining about something; I was a teenager. And she’d told me more than once (but not that much more) that life just isn’t fair. And I wanted to say something in response, of course I did; I was a teenager. But if I ever managed to mutter anything at all I doubt it was so pithy. No, the time she slapped me I don’t even remember what she said, or I said. I just remember standing there, in the kitchen of the farmhouse outside of Chicago, the sting, the vague sick flutter in my belly and the half-swallowed grin of embarrassment, the acknowledgement that you know I’d probably deserved what I’d just got, but.

So I lied, just now. —But you know what they say about writers.

I’m not about to talk about it over there; over there, there’s whole words I can’t even spell out for fear of breaking—something. (Like the song says, as soon as you say it out loud they will leave you.) —But I have to talk about it somewhere. When I started to write it it was ten years ago and what we called the thing it was then was completely different than the thing we call by that name now. Used to be it was Eddi and the Fey concert T-shirts; now it’s tramp-stamped werewolves, and is that a bad thing? A good thing? A class thing? A get-off-my-lawn thing? Actually maybe not a different thing at all? —I don’t know, but I think maybe something got written out from under my feet, and it might be a good idea to figure out what it was before I land.

—And also there’s Mendlesohn, and Clute; Clute and Mendlesohn.

Which is not to say they’re wrong, my wanting to hash it all out like I want to. I mean, of course they’re wrong; they’re working with models. All models are wrong. But some are useful, and I haven’t yet figured out whether, or which.

Hence, the Great Work. Limned and primed.

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