In defense of happy endings – a rambly thing

So, this is not a book review. I promise, I have some of them on the way. I have been busy and ill, and although I have a lot of things half-done I keep not quite being able to finish them. BUT I have some thoughts about stories and storytelling that I want to share, specifically about happy endings. I can’t figure out what in particular has set off this thought train either, and it’s not exactly a finished train of thought so yanno, feel free to comment and talk.

There seems to be a trend in fiction, especially in anything literary, to have stories about being miserable. This is fine: conflict makes for good stories, and well written conflict is interesting and enlightening. And stories about terrible circumstances can be very compelling, and there are definitely stories that need to be told (Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott being an example of this, and a book that I loved). There is nothing wrong with that. BUT I am tired, very tired, of stories where people, specifically women or non-white characters or queer characters, get to be beautifully miserable. There is a nuance here: I think we need more honest stories about characters with mental health issues, for example, but I also think that these are only any good if they are honest, and not just framed as “sad person is sad, sits sadly by window with rain dripping down it, sighs sadly, dies tragically, beautiful prose, oh no how sad”.

I guess what I am trying to say is, there is value in letting your characters be happy. The happy ending does not have to be traditional – there does not have to be a wedding or a birth. In fact, I am really interested in happy endings that wander away from what happy endings are “meant”to be. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER I loved the ending of The Bridge, in which Saga got an ending where she did not have to have a boyfriend, or learn how to be a normal person, but did get to finish an emotional arc which looked like it was leaving her in a better place END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER. But for certain characters, especially for queer characters and non-white characters and other marginalised persons, and really especially in fantasy settings where the whole point is that anything you can imagine can happen, I am frustrated when these people don’t get to be happy. Maybe it’s just a personal thing that I have going on at the moment, or I am missing something, but what I want, really really want, at the moment, are people getting to surmount the odds and be loved and be happy. I want queer fantasy people getting to ride off into the sunset on a dragon having fucking won, and without having to sacrifice everything. I want people to be allowed to rebuild their lives. I want stories where we let characters be themselves and don’t shit on them for it, especially in fantasy. One of the things that frustrates me most in fantasy is the inability to move away from social constructs that exist here. I am like: but there are dragons! And witches! And magical swords and, oh yes, patriarchy and everyone is straight and monogamous and white okay fine why are we doing this again?

Anyway, this is a rambly ramble but I think what I am trying to say is: there are a whole lot of people who do not get to see themselves in books very often if at all. And this is getting better all the time, but I dunno, I want happy endings. I wanna see awesome bi characters (as one example) who get to be happy. And I don’t think it’s fair to say that happy endings are old or outdated or overdone until everyone gets to see themselves reflected in fiction as having one.

And that’s my ramble.

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Wednesday Update

Hello all, here is a little Wednesday update.

Reading: Sandman, kindly lent to me by a friend. Lookit lookit lookit! I have read the first five volumes before, but now I am going through the whole thing.

Image shows Sandman series by neil gaiman, eleven volumes stacked on top of each other.

Just finished reading: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (I told you I wanted to read everything by her)(It was bloody great).

Writing: A little bit of this and that. Been trying to get ahead on Tantamount, as well as some other projects. Exciting to be diving back into things.

Pondering: the ocean. I keep thinking about it. Don’t know why. But there it is in my head.

Looking Forward To: the Sinners book launch event, which I will be reading at 🙂 Lots of fun to be had, and it is in a pub! Books and beer – what more do you need really?

Hopeless launch poster

Announcing: I start a new job next week, so if I go quiet for a bit you know why! It’s just temporary while I get used to new hours etcetera. Wish me luck!

Listening to: The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (we get the job done)

And that’s all for now! Take care, and you should hear from me again soon.

You can buy me a drink through the internet, which is pretty snazzy to be fair.

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It is Wednesday and I am still ill

So I am on the verge of getting better, but still coughing and spluttering and exhausted easily and VERY VERY BORED OF THIS! I would like a modicum of health and ability to think back now please.

But on the upside, look what arrived at the library yesterday!!!!! I am 170 pages in and it is SO GOOD!

Cover for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomii Adeyemi - image of black girl with white hair

And with that, I am off again to down cough syrup. Please be assured that there will be Tantamount and book reviews once I am back on my feet.

Enjoy my ramblings? You can buy me a coffee if you want!
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Wednesday update: very silly videos

Hello all! A quick update, as I am very busy at the moment and not sure when I’ll post next (tax returns urrrgghghhh)

Reading: I am currently reading Red Witch by Anna McKerrow, sequel to Crow Moon. It is fantastic so far, and I’m really interested to see where she goes with it.

Writing: Not a lot – this is due to the dreaded tax returns. Fingers crossed I can get the accounts out of the way this week and get back to writing!

Went to: Piranha Poetry night on Monday! Really fantastic evening, very high standard open mic. I read some things despite being absolutely terrified. I may make the poems that I read available on the blog at some point.

Reviews: I’m reading very slowly at the moment, but should have some reviews for you soon.  Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, Akata Witch (published as What Sunny saw in the Flames in the UK and Nigeria)(I ended up with the US edition, but have just found out that the author prefers the UK edition) and Binti: the Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Feeling grateful for: my local bookshop – one of the staff there has my taste completely pegged now, so whenever I go in she has something hidden under the counter to recommend to me. It’s terrible for my wallet but lovely for my bookshelves.

Listening to: PYNK by Janelle Monae. You should watch the video; it has vulva trousers!

Also watching this: I mean, how have I never come across it before? It is the most ridiculous thing to ever ridiculous and I love it.

That’s it for now – wish me luck with the tax returns, and hopefully I’ll emerge from beneath them next week. Take care!

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Welcome new followers

Hello there, and welcome! I’ve got rather a lot of new followers lately so thought I’d just say hi.

Meredith DebonnaireI update semi-frequently. At the moment, what’s on here is a mixture of Tales From Tantamount (a nearly-story that I am writing as I go along), book reviews (usually fantasy), occasional poetry and sometimes other bits. The picture is of me surrounded by birds. I also have an e-Book, The Life and Times of Angel Evans, which you can buy for less than the cost of a coffee; it’s about figuring out how to have a life after saving the multiverse.

I have another series which I hope to finish and upload here eventually – it’s about queers being happy in space. I do a lot of writing (though never as much as I want it feels like) and have several long term projects on the go which I hope to get to a submissionable point this year. If you enjoy my blog, consider pressing that “buy me a coffee” button that you’ll notice at the bottom of my posts – think of it like a tip jar: if you want to and you can that’s awesome. If you don’t want to or you can’t no worries.

Hope you all enjoy my blog – it’s lovely to have you here 🙂

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Wednesday Update: reading, writing and DnD

Hello all! A quick midweek update for you 🙂

Reading: I am slowly reading Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin. It’s very enjoyable, however one of the main characters is a Meredith and this has slowed me down a lot. Far more than I thought it would actually, which is interesting. I rarely have to deal with characters with my name, so it’s an odd one. But the book is very enjoyable, and interesting to read after White is for Witching

Writing: I’m working on a short story at the moment – no idea if I’m going to make the submission window that I want with it, but mad writing anyway.


Playing: An absolutely wonderful DnD campaign, in which I playing am a goat-faced tiefling barbarian with a criminal background. My character’s name is Pansy Hellspawn, and this is roughly what she looks like.Pansy Hellspawn

And that is all today folks – got some reviews coming up in the near-sh future. Take care, be well, survive the winter…

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The Tearling Trilogy: a rambly and disorganised discussion

So, I recently finished reviewing this series. And it made me think a lot about stuff, so I wanted to do a very rambly discussion post. It’s gonna have spoilers, and may be a little bit incoherent if you’ve not read the books (I’ll try to make it understandable).

This series does a lot of things that I found really interesting. It also had its flaws (among other things, most of the cast are white, and although there are a few non-straight characters they have pretty small parts).

One of the things it did that made me go “yeeeees!” was that it created a realistic, brutal fantasy world in which things are kinda shit for women (“noooooooo!”) but it absolutely refused to sideline its female characters. And this for me was important. I get super sick of people building fantasy worlds with magic and dragons and freaking goblins and then being like “yeah but sexism is still totally a thing”. Aside from everything else, I think it speaks of a lack of imagination. So although the culture is rather similar to some kind of medieval Europe, including the church being not great, the main character is a woman. The main baddie is a woman. Some of the other baddies are women, and a lot of the important side-characters are women. This means that the patriarchal norms of the world get questioned and poked and prodded and challenged. And as a reader, you start thinking ‘well this is ridiculous’ when the most powerful woman in the country has to sneak about to get her hands on contraception.

It also had a culture based in medieval/feudalistic type reality, and did not flinch away from how awful that system was for most people. Which I tip my hat to, because again I get sick of fantasy where it’s assumed that having a monarchic system is going to be great – you’ve only got to read some history to figure out that no, for most people, that meant working your whole life for someone else who might take your entire livelihood away from you at any moment and nobody cared. I liked seeing that trope challenged.

And then there’s the long running theme of utopia and dystopia. This one will take a bit of background info, so beware the SPOILERS. The Tearling was founded by William Tear, who used magic sapphires to Cross time with a group of idealists trying to leave what is heavily implied to be a version of our world. The people who Crossed wanted to build, effectively, a Utopia. In the books they call it the Better World. And they try really hard, but they fail. William Tear failed to take into account human nature, and also, very importantly, history. None of the adults who Crossed could bear to talk about their history, about exactly what they escaped and what the price was. So the next generation grow up with no history, with no knowledge of the world that their parents fought so hard to escape from. And when things get hard in the Tearling, none of them know the dangers of handing over responsibility in return for safety…

Which leads to the Tearling in the present day: feudalistic, illiterate, with a barely functioning economy, a pretty awful monarchy that rarely cares about its people, a church that cares even less, and a monthly tithe to Mortmesne of slaves taken from its own population by lottery. Effectively, a dystopia. One that, somehow, Kelsea Glynn has to reforge. And she knows her damn history, which is pretty awesome. I really liked the way that it was made clear how important that can be, and that she was trying so hard to create something good with the odds stacked against her.

The ending SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS is really interesting in that Kelsea basically travels in time (and this is going to sound pretty deus ex machina when I describe it, but I promise it was actually foreshadowed really well) to the point in history when Jonathan Tear, William Tear’s son (one of them ooooooh) is assassinated. She does not stop the assassination, but kills the ringleader of the assassins leaving Katie (Jonathan’s bodyguard and lover) in a position to rebuild; originally, Katie fled. It’s actually an intensely terrifying sequence; one of the bits where the imagery has stuck in my mind and won’t leave.

And then Kelsea wakes up, in a new timeline, in the new version of the Tearling that she has created. And it is, if not a proper utopia, at least utopian.

Now originally I sorta felt cheated by this: even though it made absolute sense within the logic of the world, and it was made clear how much this was hurting Kelsea. Here she was in this incredible world that she had sacrificed everything for, and not only did nobody know what she had done, nobody knew full stop. Her memories are confused, none of her friends recall her. And it hurts and hurts and hurts. And part of me was going: “hang on, isn’t this a bit of a cop out? Almost like it all being a dream?”

And then I really thought about it. Why would it be more satisfying to have a harsher ending? Why, exactly, did I think I’d prefer something else? And I thought about how we’re trained to believe that utopia is impossible whereas dystopia is only ever just under the surface, so that even in a fantasy trilogy there was part of me that was reluctant to believe this ending. That was interesting, I thought, because I knew when I was reading it that utopia/dystopia was a massive theme of the entire trilogy, and although I always wanted Kelsea to succeed, somehow in winning as completely as she did I instinctively felt a bit disbelieving. Like, it’s not the time-travelling sapphires that tripped me up, it’s the ending well…So it gave me a lot to think about. Dystopian fiction is pretty popular, whereas trying to find anything utopian is a bit of a challenge. It’s like we simply can’t imagine it. It’s like how people can believe that there are dragons but not that women can have a functional role, or will read a fantasy novel a quarter of which is in a made-up language but throw a hissy fit if there’s some Spanish in there. We can believe that things can get worse, and we can believe that things can get better, but the best is somewhere hazy and beyond. And that, well, that’s interesting because if we can’t imagine something better, nobody’s going to try to build it are they?

Anyway, I have a hell of a lot more thoughts so please do come chat 🙂

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