Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Female Archetypes in Greek Mythology

by Suz Thackston

Archetypes have a bad reputation. They’re two-dimensional. They’re limiting. They’re predictable. And when it comes to myths, especially myths as ubiquitous as Greek myths, they’re so deeply embedded into our collective consciousness that they have become cartoonish and stereotypical.

They can for sure be all of these things. Getting locked into a stereotype is a death knell for any character. As writers the last thing we want is to produce protagonists whose reliance on archetypal qualities turns them into stock characters.

But because we carry around these Jungian archetypes in our hive-mind, we know that our readers also recognize and relate to them. So why not use what has already been so conveniently deposited into our crania?

My name is Suz, and I am addicted to myth. That means archetypes are constantly swarming around me, hanging onto my sleeve, yammering at me, tripping me, and distracting me from things like work and writing and weeding the flowerbeds.

If they’re going to niggle away at me like hungry ghosts, I’m going to put them to work.

Since I don’t want to write dull stock characters any more than you do, I need these archetypes to inform and underlie my characters, make them familiar and relatable without being predictable.

The best way to get your archetypes off their lazy asses and put them to work is to fall down the seductive rabbit hole of research and get to know them. Once you’ve explored the nuances of your archetypes, you’re in a much better position to oversee them and make them start to pull their own weight.

If you can elude the siren song of research-instead-of-writing, your archetypes can become an invaluable writing tool. They are lazy and will try to reassert their stodgy outlines, but if you’re armed with a good solid background of their origins you can kick their conformist asses out of their comfort zone and turn them into recognizable but excitingly new beings with which to populate your next oeuvre.

So many of the most well-known and well-worn archetypes come from Greek myth. The Innocent Maiden. The Nurturing Mother. The Warrior. The Overbearing Father. The Creepy Uncle. The Besotted Swain.

They show up everywhere, of course, from the Eddas to Shakespeare to South Park, like the scuttling cockroaches they are. The Greeks didn’t own them. But since Greek myth is such a foundation for Western civilization, it provides an enormous pool of them — an endless source of archetypes for us to play with.

Women in Greek myth tend to be dismissed as victims of patriarchy. Modern feminists rightly eschew the cultural ‘lessons’ many of the myths seem to impart about women needing to be tamed and re-sexualized into their proper place of subservience. Since myth is a living entity, it is hugely positive that so many women are taking the archetypal Greek female characters and re-writing them into powerful, pro-active roles.

It’s only a problem if we then make the leap that because we have lifted ourselves out of the muck of chatteldom, that the myths are wrong and the archetypes skewed and women always behaved as we would want them to today, with the reactions, instincts and underlying morality we want to impart to our long-dead sisters.

We want to rewrite the female archetype, and in doing so we try to rewrite history.

The temptation is real.

What I propose to do in this series of blog posts on the subject of female archetypes in Greek history is to invite you to dive in more deeply with them. The Great Truths embedded within the old myths haven’t changed, although society has changed (yay!) beyond what any of our fore-sisters would have believed.

Women in the old myths were ancient Greek women. That means they lived and abided by the rules of their society, and when they broke those rules, they did so knowing the censure it would bring down upon their heads.

But they were also women, no less vibrant, intelligent, vicious, scheming, loving, resourceful, and nuanced as we, their distant daughters. And those traits are also in the archetypes.

Through exploring the archetypes in all their conflicts, dilemmas, and contradictions we can develop relationships with the characters from whom the archetypes sprang.

And that’s where our stock characters cast off their shrouds of dull conformity and begin to weave original stories.

Issue 032 interview: Katherine Inskip and “In this Life and the Next”

You’re still enjoying Issue 032, right? Steady yourselves, dear readers, because we have another fabulous author interview for your reading pleasure. Katherine Inskip, author of “In this Life and the Next,” answered our burning questions about her story, her writing, and her reading. Do go read it first, then come back and see what Katherine has to say.

LSQ: Where did the idea for this story come from? Medical implants, efforts to prevent having to say goodbye to loved ones (for a price) . . . were there current headlines that inspired this?

Katherine: Uploading someone’s consciousness isn’t a new idea, but what does it mean to quantify someone’s personality, or self? There’s a lot that’s still unsaid about how little we understand each other, even when we’re close family, lovers, or childhood friends. Would a technically-assisted replication or import of someone’s personality change any of that? And as soon as I’d tied that thought in with the purpose of uploaded consciousness — immortality, or at least a lengthening of life — it was impossible to ignore the way we seek genetic immortality through our offspring. (And, of course, how to abuse such technology for a different type of immortality.)

The relationships between parents and children are fraught with contradiction. You each have some level of responsibility to shape that young life well, whether as a parent or as the individual in question yourself, but also to let go of your own expectations, and those that others set for you, that you no longer want to meet. Becka’s parents will move heaven and earth for their child, but despite the intimacy of hosting her mind and thoughts, do they really have a clue who their daughter actually is?

LSQ: There’s an undercurrent hinted at in the story regarding the “soul” versus the more clinical “bundle of neurons” that make a person a person. Can you comment on this?

Katherine: There’s another story I never quite wrote about interstellar travel, uploaded consciousness, and the human soul — if there is such a thing — and what a soul might need in order to maintain a connection with a mind. Is there something quintessentially us, that fades away if we turn it off for too long? That’s kind of at the root of this for me. But in this story, there’s plenty of scope for a very different view. If mind is all there is to being human, and you can store a mind within a technical MacGuffin, there are still plenty of plausible social reasons for sticking it inside another human being while the original body gets fixed. What’s the legal status of a displaced mind? What kind of rules and ethical constraints might be put in place to prevent digital duplication? Or maybe the tech just isn’t good enough to sustain a mind without the biochemistry of a compatible organic vehicle to support it. I’ve dealt with chronic depression most of my life, so I’m pretty attuned to the vagaries of my own brain chemistry and its impact on how I think and feel. Is it a soul what makes me me, or the messy symbiosis of memory, chemistry, and neural architecture? You can only find out by breaking it.

LSQ: The complexity of interpersonal and strained family relationships weaved into this story give it a painful human connection that the reader can relate to. Did this seem like a natural place to take this story, or was it difficult to figure out the human interest side of things?

Katherine: Very natural. I love big concepts, I love flashy, complex world building, but the story doesn’t happen for me without human emotions and desires. I had several miscarriages before my sons were born and lost my father to MND [motor neuron disease] a year and a half ago. That gave me a certain amount of experience of letting go when you really don’t want to, but also of finding comfort in seeing how each generation reflects the next in some way.

LSQ: What are you reading currently? Does what you read influence whatever you are writing at the time? Who are some authors that inspire you?  

Katherine: I’m currently deep in the Cast of Wonders slush pile! I’ve been part of the team for nearly three years, and it’s been a massive influence on how and what I write. Seeing what works and what doesn’t, different ways of telling a story, and the importance of believing in it — and yourself — enough to finish it off and send it out has made such a difference to me. It’s given my resilience a real boost, knowing first-hand how many excellent stories don’t quite make it through.

My recent novel-length reads have been Delilah Dawson’s Phasma (great fun, and a good way of feeding my excitement for The Last Jedi), Anna Smith Spark’s Court of Broken Knives (beautiful prose and compelling, infuriating characters), Alex Acks’ Hunger Makes the Wolf (biker witches in spaaaaace!), and I’m mid-way through re-reads of Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit and my favorite childhood nostalgia read, Watership Down. I’m reading the latter with my nine year old son, and it’s really interesting to take the tale at his pace and see what he does or doesn’t pick up on.

Authors that inspire me? Too many to count! Emma Newman and Yoon Ha Lee are top of my ‘pre-order last year’ list, but I love the short fiction of writers like Rachael K. Jones, Amanda Helms, Natalia Theodoridou, and Aimee Ogden.

LSQ: What do you think are the biggest challenges for female-identifying authors in the speculative fiction genre right now? Where would you like to see this genre go in the future?

Katherine: I think the pressures and complexities of the world today aren’t helping anyone, and there’s plenty of challenge there just in getting from one day to the next. Within the genre? Confidence, probably. But crack that, and there’s nothing we can’t do!  I think we could still do better in terms of visibility for female-identifying authors, and also for people from other less traditionally dominant demographics, but it’s the breadth of character voices and experiences that matters most to me.

LSQ: Do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment and can you tell us a bit about them?

Katherine: Sure! I’m in the middle of revisions/second drafts of a number of short stories with the usual dozen or so incomplete works in progress fighting them for my attention. There’s the YA inner-city witch story, the one with the evil unicorn, the dysfunctional mother/daughter quantum mechanics story, and a rather nasty take on sorcerers fighting for their academic tenure . . . I’m also part-way through a novel (who isn’t?) featuring a sentient spaceship of questionable status who thinks she’s on her first tour of the galaxy, but instead ends up at the nexus of four separate but inter-related conspiracies, some dark family history, and a race against time to save a doomed planet. I’m having a whale of a time with it!

Heroism: A Discussion for Discovery

by Imelda Corazon

“Above all, be the heroine of your life.” – Nora Ephron

Throughout human history, heroes prevail among the great stories of legend, myth, and fairy tale. Stories about heroism speak to a desired past of noble deeds and virtuous character. However, I believe heroism can also be seen through people’s exposure to everyday life, even though everyday life is different for everyone. That’s why we continue to read and listen to stories of great heroes of the past and the continuing future. These stories resonate with us because we can see the universal truths and meaning behind important hero tales.

In this blog, my aim is to open up the conversation of heroism in stories and in life through the power of narrative. The goal is to interrogate how the hero’s journey prevails in many stories, especially myths, fairy tales, and legends, because stories from different cultures and time periods written or spoken are interrelated on the basis of human experiences.

My own journey with the concept of heroism began when I was a child, listening to stories my father read to me and then the books I would eventually read about the epic heroes of old. This love grew when I read the ancient Greek and Roman myths[1] followed by my venture into the Norse legends and eventually into the realm of world mythology. In college, I decided to major in English with a minor in Classical Studies so I could keep reading heroic stories. But even then, I was not satisfied. I knew there were so many stories out there, even modern stories, that portray heroism in a new light of discovery of who we are as human beings, rather than just a constant trope reappearing time and time again.

I then pursued a Master’s degree in English Literature, hoping to uncover more of the Hero’s Journey in regard to storytelling and in life. My thesis, “Displaced Heroism in 18th and 19th Century American Literature” was created by accident after taking a class on Gothic literature. I was reading Edgar Huntly: Memoirs of a SleepWalker[2] and I realized how the main character, Huntly, was anything but the ideal hero. He was destructive and unreliable, even though he claimed to be an epic hero in his own narrative. In analyzing his failure as a hero, I came up with the idea of displaced heroism due to Huntly’s displacement into the American wilderness whilst sleepwalking. “Displaced heroism” was the attempt to reconfigure the hero’s journey instigated by Joseph Campbell and his iconic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.[3] While the initial step for heroism is “The Call to Adventure,” I proposed that the first step is actually displacement, which extends the initial “call” because the hero/heroine must be “displaced” in order to be heroic, moving the hero from an original state that is comfortable, to an entirely new and unknown existence, which can usually pose danger. The research into the Hero’s Journey really opened my eyes to how displacement leads the hero to growth and discovery into who they are as great beings that have transformed into their best authentic selves because of what they had to overcome on their journey.

However, there is so much more to be discovered within the realm of heroism. With your help, I will review themes and stories from across all genres and also my own life experiences, to talk about the importance of heroism and how it allows us as readers to not only understand heroism within the story, but to also find the hero within our own being. With the hashtag #heromusings, feel free to tweet me @imelda_corazon with your questions and comments as we continue to discover heroism in all aspects of stories and in life. Essentially, the journey of the hero is the journey of what it means to be human. And to be our best selves in this lifetime, we must be the heroes (and heroines!) of our own lives.


[1] I started with the classic Bulfinch’s Mythology

[2] If you want to traverse into a trippy tale, read this-

[3] The quintessential book of heroism. Read it. Read it now-

Appreciate a Dragon Day

January 16th is “Appreciate a Dragon Day,” and what better day is there for fantasy lovers? The day was created by author Donita K. Paul in 2004 to celebrate the release of her book Dragon Spell. I’m not familiar with Paul’s works or dragons, but there are still plenty of awesome dragons to appreciate.

First off is Toothless, from How to Train Your Dragon. Although he’s a deadly Night Fury, he’s basically just a giant, scaly cat. Is there anyone who’s seen the movie and not wanted their own Toothless? Different from the other dragons on my list, Toothless doesn’t talk. Though he does have a distinct personality and is highly intelligent, he’s more animalistic. He isn’t magically bonded to Hiccup in any way; Hiccup has to work for his trust. But seriously, is there any bond greater than a kid and her dragon? That bond is tested in the sequel, when Toothless is made to do A Very Bad Thing, but then Hiccup saves his dragon from being brainwashed through sheer force of love. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I love that stuff. Gets me every time.

Next, we have Spyro the Dragon. He’s a spunky little purple dragon with his own game series, in which he must save an assortment of magical lands from various bad guys. Spyro gets major nostalgia points, especially since his games were some of the few I was actually good at. He’s mischievous and likes kicking butt, and doesn’t hesitate to sass his opponents. Think Bart Simpson in dragon form. There’s not much else I can think to say about Spyro, but I had to include him because he’s a childhood favorite. Spyro, on this day, I appreciate you!

And lastly, my all-time favorite dragon, is Saphira, from Christopher Paolini’s Inheritence Cycle. She, too, is a sassy dragon who loves her boy. Hm, I’m sensing a theme here. We’re first introduced to Saphira fresh out of her egg, when she mentally bonds with Eragon, her Dragon Rider. From there, an epic adventure ensues, and Saphira grows bigger, stronger, and sassier. I love Saphira’s personality. Naturally, she’s a fearsome dragon and fights many battles, but she’s also loving and kind towards Eragon and their friends. She calls Eragon her “Little One,” which is absolutely adorable. She is also capable of performing spontaneous magic that happens when she’s super feeling it, like in one poignant scene where she creates a beautiful crystal tomb for a slain character. I also appreciate that she doesn’t have all the answers; she’s growing into her role right alongside Eragon. Their journey is a very, very long one, but there are many silly and heartfelt moments interspersed between the battles and politics, and I just love that dragon/human bond.

There are tons of other dragons that aren’t on this list, and they all deserve some love and appreciation! Who is your favorite dragon? Keep them in your thoughts today, maybe crack open their book or power up that video game. And if you happen to find any mysterious, giant eggs waiting to be hatched, you know what to do!

Filk – science fiction music?

by Judith Field

A topic I was asked to consider blogging about was science fiction poetry. I confess that this isn’t something I’m familiar with, except for the rather florid output of HP Lovecraft. Science fiction music is a different matter. It occurred to me that there are many songs fitting the theme: David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, and let’s not forget “Hawkwind” with Silver Machine, Quark Strangeness and Charm (one of my ’70s favorites) and more. And that’s just the stuff I used to listen to in the ’70s.

Wondering about the music of today led me to think about filk. It began in the USA in the ’50s and the name comes from a misprint of the word “folk”. It used to be performed at science fiction conventions, but now it has gatherings of its own. Although it’s sometimes described as science fiction folk music, that falls short of the full range of music that’s considered filk.

Filk isn’t that easy to define. It can be thought of as music with a science fiction or fantasy theme, but not always. It can be music in the folk style, but not always. A filk song can be a parody or a pastiche, but it doesn’t have to be funny. There are filk rock bands​, indie band​s​, and even choir​s​​. Although there is plenty of guitar-accompanied ​music, singing can be a capella, or accompanied by piano, strings, brass, percussion, and even ther​e​min.

Filk is more a mindset than a musical genre, but even that doesn’t really help, because not everything written by a filker is filk. To try to get my head around it a bit more, I chatted with Mich Sampson (keyboard) and Marilisa Valtazanou (guitar), who perform as the singer-songwriter folk duo Playing Rapunzel, and include filk songs in their repertoire.

Mich has been involved in filk since about 2000, when she heard about it at science fiction conventions but hadn’t heard any. She went to a music meet: “I discovered there a warm and funny group of people who made inspiring music about books and TV series that I loved.”

For Marilisa, it’s all about the community because ​science fiction​ ​and fantasy are not necessarily her genres of choice. “In 2001 I moved to the UK, and at university I made friends with a second generation filker. He dragged me along to a convention and I never left.”

Fundamental to filk culture is the concept of the filk community: you become part of it by coming to a filk circle. According to Mich, the key to trying to define filk is a performer’s involvement in the community: it’s music created by someone who has identified as filk (which rules out David, Elton, and Hawkwind). “There’s no hard and fast definition,” she says, “and no filk police saying what’s allowed to be called filk and what is not.” For someone who is part of the community, it’s a matter of personal interpretation whether the music they perform is filk or not. Some people sing non-filk songs at a filk circle. The question really is whether the community would appreciate it or find it meaningful.

Filk doesn’t always have a subject, although the majority of filk songs fit that definition. There are also songs about science, computers, cats, ​historical events, ​myths and legends, fairy tales, ​and about other filkers. They’re not always in the folk style, although this is the most prevalent. In its early days, a lot of filk songs were new words set to existing folk tunes but these days, many more songs are created with original music than are parodies.

As illustration, Mich told me about this award winning filk song, with no speculative elements. It appeals to me because it speaks of the importance of libraries. It is a politically left-leaning song than what you might expect to hear at a folk club: “The only ‘filk’ elements are that filkers love books, most of them are left or liberal and that the creators sing it at filk circles.”

Filk has established communities in the USA, Canada, UK, and Germany with an emerging one in Sweden. Mich and Marilisa were delighted when FilkContinental, the main annual German filk convention, invited Playing Rapunzel to be guests of honor this year. As well as performing at the convention and running workshops, being an attentive and supportive participant is key, and accomplished by encouraging others to sing, accompanying others, making friendships, and helping to create the warm atmosphere that they experienced when they first arrived in filk.

Mich and Marilisa recommend filk conventions where there are “lots of concerts of wonderful music, interesting workshops, and (perhaps most importantly) filk circles where anyone and everyone can sing, regardless of ability. Some would say that’s the best thing about filk music – new and shy people writing or sharing beautiful music to a fantastically supportive community.” Playing Rapunzel’s new album ‘Hanging by a Hair’ is available to listen to and buy on Bandcamp.

For readers in the UK, or who are planning to head this way, the next UK filk convention, ‘Enharmonicon‘ and is on 2-4 February 2018. Updates on UK filk music can usually be found here.

Who’s Steering the Ship?

by Linda Codega

This is a blog post in two parts. Mostly, it will focus on the crux of many pieces of fandom and fan generated content, which are the relationships between the characters in any given fandom. In order to really discuss this, a primer must be offered on the terms that will be used in this article and which are used in many fandom spaces.

Many of these terms and ideas are not totally novel, and have been introduced and accepted into mainstream media when speaking about pieces of fictional work that inspire a dedicated following. First, the name of this following is called the fandom. Examples include the Marvel Fandom, the Harry Potter Fandom, and even the One Direction Fandom. These can be further subdivided into fandoms centered around specific characters, places, or even items. There are entire fandoms dedicated to the Silmarils in the Lord of the Rings, or to certain houses of Westeros.

However, the clearest divide of fandom occurs when you ask people whom they ship. Ship, shortened from ‘relationship,’ can be used as a verb or a noun. A ship is a pair (or trio) of characters that a fan has imagined to be in a relationship, through various forms of fan creation, which can include fanart, fanfiction, the creation of ‘meta’, or just participating in fandom discussions about these characters. If you ‘ship’ them, as in, “I ship Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter,” it means that you are a part of a fandom that produces fanwork around this relationship, or you are actively looking for evidence of this relationship in the text. Or, it could simply mean that you enjoy imagining a world in which their canon dynamic can be reinterpreted and rewritten as a romance.

Armed with our established lexicon, we can move on to the real purpose of this blog post.

Why are there so many gay ships?

If you’ve been following along, you might have also read my first blog, The Fanfiction is Female, but you don’t need to have read that in order to understand the real conundrum here.

Out of the most popular ships of 2017 (according to Tumblr’s fandometrics, a very scientific and exceptionally well-established group) seven out of the top ten ships feature pairings consisting of only men, and three feature only women, which means that none of the top ten most popular relationships on the ninth largest social media platform in the world are comprised of heterosexual couples. This is in fact up from last year where there was one (canon!) lesbian relationship, one heterosexual relationship, and eight gay ships.

Fanfiction is comprised of mostly female or non-gender conforming authors (96% of all fanfic authors on Archive of Our Own, in fact). So why do so many of the most popular ships in fandom spaces feature gay male pairings?

The simple answer is that there are more men on screens, and more options if fandom allows gay ships to flourish. Indeed, fandom has deep roots to gay ships, starting with subversive fanzines that featured a lot of Spock/Kirk in the ’60s. And this makes sense of course — they’re the main characters, they have a ‘can’t live with him, can’t live without him’ push and pull, and no matter where Kirk goes or what lady he flirts with, he always ends up back in the captain’s chair with Spock right by his side.

There is another explanation, a little more subversive, and not quite as easy to accept, and that is the fact that the people (mostly men) who write romance plots into books and television shows fail to do so in a realistic and engaging way. They rush it, they get right to the kiss, or they never get to the kiss, or the relationship is fleeting and hurtful, and almost always prioritizes the (usually male) lead over the (usually female) love interest.

If this sounds like I lay a lot of the blame at the feet of men . . .it’s because I do. Again, to repeat the statistics of my last fanfiction blog post, women are still sorely underrepresented both on screen and behind the screens. I’m telling it like it is. There are exceptions, surely, but in general . . .the romance just isn’t right.

And more than just pairing up the two main characters of any given show, fanfiction writers want something more from romance. They want these characters to genuinely care about each other, they want to know that these characters are actually friends, that they actually like each other. Sometimes this is not the case, and to each their own, but by and large, the reason we want to write about Kirk and Spock making out on the USS Enterprise is because they’re best friends! They belong together! It makes sense!

Shipping friends together is easy to do, and frankly, is the logical way that derivations of media can play out. Sure, there are plenty of fics that keep certain characters ‘just friends’ but so many fic writers want to write themselves into the stories they read. The easiest way to explore our own wants and desires is through fantastic retellings of stories and characters where the chemistry on screen or on the page easily translates into a relationship with very little filling-in-the-blanks.

There is another answer, which is that fanfiction and shipping is queer-dominated because its creators and consumers are also queer. Tumblr, which is where a lot of fandom spaces have been created in the post-dreamwidth, post-livejournal exodus of fandom, is just . . .pretty gay. The people writing on Archive of Our Own are, according to this 2013 survey, about 79% not-straight. This goes back to my first point: that women, when we rewrite the narratives surrounding our favorite stories, write ourselves back into the story, by reframing it from our point of view, which is subversively female and unattached from the male gaze.

This is not new. In fact, during my research I came across this article on Slate Why Do Queer People Write Fan Fiction? To See Themselves in Mainstream Culture,” which can make this point for me. Just allow me to say that queer people want to have control over how media represents them, and so often, when we are represented, we are failed. 

The people who write fanfiction are not here for the common straight ships that modern media presents to us. It doesn’t represent us, and it doesn’t show us as strong, as beautiful, as diverse, as caring, or as creative as we, queer, female, and everything else, actually are. We don’t like the canon ships we see on screen, we don’t want it, and when we are growing up in a world that says queer people are not good enough to show on screen, or have families, or be a part of mainstream society, it’s no surprise that we carve out our own genre and write ourselves into the mainstream. We deserve it.

The Cave, Rey, and the Self-Made Heroine*

by Tracy Townsend

(*contains multiple spoilers for The Last Jedi)

For a certain sort of fan, no return to the Star Wars cinematic universe could satisfy expectations. Their perfect text would have to be a recognizable cog in the larger Lucas-founded universe, narratively indebted to its predecessors and moving smoothly within it. And yet, it would also need to be unique in all respects, nothing that’s been seen before. That fan might have been more satisfied if the films had remained Schrodinger’s Star Wars; simultaneously the same saga and a different one, forever suspended between creative states. For such a fan, Rey presents a particular problem.

Rey’s charisma and capability perhaps guaranteed she’d be dismissed as a “Mary Sue.” For some, the only adequate shield against that label is giving her a heritage that “earns” her competence as a hero and aptitude with the Force. “Perhaps,” the logic runs, “if she’s a Solo, a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, we can believed she’d be so capable.”

Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi has plenty of things to say about heritage: the bankrupt assumption that the Skywalker bloodline is a font of both Force-power and Force-wisdom; the strictures and shortcomings of an older generation pressing down on its successors; Kylo Ren as a product of Millennial participation trophy parenting. The hot-take list goes on.

Even the best-written think-pieces about Rey’s origins center Kylo’s words (“They were filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead, in a paupers’ grave in the Jakku desert.”), rather than focusing on a critical reading of her descent into the Black Cave of Ahch-To. Johnson describes the scene only as an exploration of dread: a hall of mirrors that answers Rey’s question of identity (“Show me my parents.”) with the fear that she has no one but herself. The Star Wars-conditioned audience is largely ready to go along with that. Hearing “that’s a place of the Dark Side,” and we forget something important:

The Dark Side isn’t actually evil.

It is intuitive. Reactive. Emotional. Inward-, rather than outward-looking. These aspects of the Force would be, if adopted as the whole of one’s values and thought processes, rash, selfish, and ultimately destructive. But that blinkered devotion would be equally destructive in its Light Side form, privileging dispassionate remove from one’s emotions, rejection of intimacy, and treating the dynamic needs of the future as impulsive distractions. The Force is a moral neutral. Any point of access along its spectrum is potentially instructive. The Black Cave of Ahch-To is no exception. Indeed, it’s the most powerful argument against Rey as a Mary Sue The Last Jedi could have offered.

Consider her origins. From early childhood, Rey was forced to fend for herself as a scavenger on Jakku, a planet so barren, even Tatooine native Luke agrees she really is “from nowhere.” She learns to repair machines, to pilot, to bargain, and to fight. She learns how to survive, buoyed only by the expectation that someday, her family will return. All of this is temporary. Every skill acquired gets her to tomorrow. Every tomorrow — every scratch on the hull of her wrecked AT-AT home — is a step closer to relief.

Leaving Jakku for good means giving up her faith in a barely-remembered family and living for something else. When Rey arrives on Luke’s hidden island, she begs for help: “[finding] [her] place in all of this.”

Because this is a Star Wars movie, it’s made clear straight away that this island sacred to the Jedi also holds a place of the Dark Side. Luke is horrified when Rey is drawn to it, reading this as a sign of Kylo Ren’s history repeating itself.

But the cave draws Rey because it’s a place of intuition and need: her need for answers, and the chance to process them. When she finally answers its call, she’s afraid, yes, but also eager. Rian Johnson describes the cave as full of the fear that “in the search for identity, she has nobody but herself to rely on.” But that explanation forgets something critical: Rey’s demand of the space itself.

“Show me my parents,” she says.

What follows is a pivotal narrative gesture: a middle finger to the accusation that Rey strives and succeeds because Rey is only a Mary Sue.

The mirror blurs, and two shapes step forward, merging into Rey herself.

The subtext of the moment reaches far beyond Johnson’s explanation.The Dark Side shows Rey that she is, ultimately, her own creator. Not in some horrible redux of the cosmic space Jesus metaphor by way of Midi-Chlorians, but in a practical, intimate sense. She is the only parent who matters. She forged herself on Jakku. Whatever came before is unimportant.

The Ahch-To cave is a powerful cinematic moment not just for this affirmation, but because it speaks about the strength of a young woman. Kylo Ren’s story is of legacy and resentment, the classic Little Emperor who blames the world for his own disaffection. It’s a core toxic masculine narrative. Rey’s story argues that a young woman’s strength — her very self — is her own creation, not an inheritance. It’s the least fantastical assertion made in the entire film. A young woman lives in a world that preys on her, takes ownership of her, judges her achievements arbitrarily (“one quarter portion!”), and expects her to keep her head down and put up with it. She has to learn the strength it takes to survive. And yet, because that strength is hard-won, it’s assumed it came from somewhere else, someplace (a man’s place — a Skywalker or Kenobi or Solo-place) not her own.

Rey’s story is the story of every strong young woman.

In the cave, Rey snaps her fingers, and the first of her reflections moves, then the next, and the next, and the next. These aren’t truly mirrors, showing every action of every image as simultaneous and predestined. Rey is her own first mover. The Rey of yesterday’s actions shaped the Rey of today, who moves forward the Rey of tomorrow. It is a visual metaphor of her time on Jakku, all those days counted on the AT-AT’s hull, each moving her to the next, each demanding action.

Rey’s scene in the cave affirms her value, se soli. If it’s terrifying, it’s only because it’s true. And if Rian Johnson is right — if the cave is a scene about confronting a fear — it might be our own world’s fear of young women realizing no one else is powerful enough to be their creator.


Issue 032 author interview: Hannah Sternberg and “Goners”

by Anna O’Brien

Got a hankering for a time-bending tale set on the beach? Author Hannah Sternberg‘s tale “Goners” in Luna Station Quarterly‘s Issue 032 is right up your alley. Go read her story, then come back here for our interview with Hannah.
LSQ: Where did the idea for this story come from? Do you live near the ocean in North Carolina, or have visited?

Hannah: I have an aunt who lives in the Outer Banks and I’ve visited her a few times. My family also goes to the Delaware beaches a couple times a year, and there are a lot of similarities–blustery, old-fashioned Atlantic shore towns with busted-up signs and locals fishing for dogfish right off the beach. We usually go to the beach in early spring or fall, so my mental image of the beach is a sweatshirt day where the sky is gray and the ocean is gray-green, except where it washes up over the sand and looks like faded teal over tan. I do a lot of daydreaming there, so I guess a lot of my stories make their way to the beach, too.

LSQ: In a way, I was relieved that James seems to accept his fate at the end. What are your thoughts on this?

Hannah: I went back and forth on the ending. I wrote the story a few different ways, and it changed a lot in each draft. Earlier versions end with a heroic escape attempt, though I never quite defined whether they made it out or not. But I think James is the kind of guy who drifts on the wind. He has a rebellious streak, but ultimately he goes where the current pushes him–that’s how he wound up there in the first place. I don’t really want to interpret his choice for the reader too much, though. I think different readers can have different pictures of his emotional state in that moment–and I want them to; I want them to experience his moment in the way that they empathize with most. For example, I didn’t necessarily feel relief at the idea of his accepting what has happened–but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong that you (one reader) did. I want you to experience that moment your own way, and think about why it makes you feel like that.

LSQ: What is the most important thing you’d like readers to get from this story?
Hannah: Ten minutes of escape from the news and a good shiver. If it makes you think about friendship and kinship and the loss of childhood and the inexorability of time, that’s cool. But mostly I’d like it to give you a mild case of the willies.
LSQ: Sometimes, stories that incorporate time changes can be hard to write and for the reader to keep straight, although your piece does it well. What was the most challenging part of writing this story? Was it hard to keep the details straight and unravel the time mystery in such a way that you don’t lose the readers?
Hannah: Hopefully I can describe it in a way that doesn’t give away too much of the story! It was pretty challenging to write the shifts in time in this story because I wanted to show them through events, instead of just explaining it through the narration–especially because I wanted the reader to feel in the present moment with James and he, of course, has no idea what the hell is going on. In addition to unique timeline problems created by the supernatural setting, there are the flashbacks to James’ and Jimmy’s childhoods. Those were a lot easier to handle because if you write long enough you’re going to write flashbacks and know how to fold them in and make things clear with transitions and verb tenses. To describe the supernatural time that passes and re-passes in the story, I had to do a lot of rewriting. I didn’t really have to timeline it because the story isn’t that long and the looping events aren’t complex, so it was more a matter of figuring out how to demonstrate, through an action that could occur in a relatively short period of time, the supernatural effect on time this place has.
LSQ: Do you have any advice for new writers?
Hannah: Keep writing. I teach a class in D.C. called Writing Games and one of the biggest points we go over is how, with so many other arts, it seems obvious that practice makes perfect; you wouldn’t pick up a guitar for the first time in your life and expect to be stellar at it. But sometimes people think that if they’re meant to be a great writer, they’ll be great from the start and if they’re not great immediately, it means they weren’t meant for writing, and they give up. Practice writing like you’d practice guitar. When I play music, I pick songs I really, really like–even if they’re hard–and I practice on those because I know they’ll challenge me to learn a new technique and build my skills. But for whatever reason, a lot of writers feel like they have to hold on to their “good ideas” until they’re really good–they don’t want to waste them–so they spend their time practicing on stories and ideas that fall ever so slightly short of what they want to be writing. That’s like only practicing songs you don’t like. You’ll get discouraged and bored and all your hard work still won’t culminate in playing the song that made you want to pick up guitar in the first place. So start with the song you want to know, even if it’s really hard. Start with the story you’re afraid of ruining. Write the story you actually really want to write, and just keep practicing at it. You will get better. Will you become great? I don’t know. Ditch the idea of greatness. Just have fun and see where it goes, and make something you can feel proud of.
LSQ: What are you reading currently? Does what you read influence whatever you are writing at the time? Who are some authors that inspire you?
Hannah: I’m usually reading five or six books at a time, settling on one once it grabs my attention fully enough to pull me to the end, and otherwise just chipping away at them in rotation. A sample of the ones highest on my bedside table stack are Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, and World War Z by Max Brooks (yeah, I know I’m late to the party). Shirley Jackson is a big inspiration due to her way of writing around the ephemeral moments that define her women’s lives. There’s always something seething just under the surface–something futile and sad and maybe a generation later, maybe with some air, powerful. I also love Ursula Le Guin, especially The Left Hand of Darkness. Lately I’ve been into a mid-century suspense/horror author John Wyndham, who wrote surprisingly (and possibly, sometimes, unintentionally) feminist and extremely realistic disaster stories. I love ghost stories and eerie, weird fiction.

LSQ: Do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment and can you tell us a bit about them?

Hannah: I’ve taken a short break from working on books to focus on music for a little while. I’m the bassist and co-songwriter for Daamsel, a gritty, emotional rock group, and we’re hoping to record our first demo early in 2018; we’ve been writing very rapidly and playing as many shows as we can in the D.C. area. In the meantime, I’ve been working my way through a stack of short stories I’ve written over the years and dramatically revising them–that’s how “Goners” landed at Luna Station Quarterly. I’m hoping to have a few more out on submission soon.

A merry band of digital misfits and pixel-based rogues…

by Jennifer Lyn Parsons

Lady Marian Fitzswalter: Why, you speak treason!

Robin Hood: Fluently.

I work, I read, I watch a few things with my dear ones. I do a lot of creative things, I study. My life is full of distractions, many of the best kinds and a few not so great (I’m looking at you, social networks, but we’ll chat later). I don’t really have much spare time as it were. When I’m stressed over all those things I try to get done day to day, I make spare time happen and relax for a bit. Often times, I allow myself to get swept off to Kirkwall, the main location in Dragon Age II, pretending to be someone else for a while. Fellow gamers will know what I’m talking about. My experience is not unique.

Video games can be an altered space. The room fades away and there you are, running around on quests for artifacts and coin, trying to keep your party alive as you face down bandits and darkspawn, and the occasional dragon.

The thing I found interesting the first time I played through the game, is that I chose a few particular customizations to my character, Hawke, that reflected a few things about myself and how I’m feeling and who I might like to be moving forward in my life.

First off, despite the option to choose a female Hawke, I went with the default male. I’m not going to unpack the gender issues here. Many other people have done so before me and I’m not sure I have a handle on it for myself anyway. I’m also a mage. I like playing mages because I tend to be crap at close combat, even on “casual” mode. So far, pretty normal stuff.

It started getting interesting for me as I customized what this guy was going to look like. I knew very little about the game when I started. I just made him look the way I wanted. Before I knew it, I was looking at Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow from the comics, or maybe Fandral from Thor.

I started playing the game. There are three dialogue options for most interactions: one diplomatic, one forthright, and one . . . cheeky. I kept choosing cheeky. The more you choose one option over the others, the more the game solidifies that as your character’s “voice” when talking in general.

After a few quests I took a look around. Pull the lens back a bit on Hawke and I had recreated Robin Hood, minus the give to the poor part because anything that isn’t nailed down is Hawke’s and anything he can pry loose is not nailed down.

Robin Hood has been with me since I was a kid. First the Disney version as a fox (which incidentally, ties him to Reynard the Fox of French folklore), then Errol Flynn (swoon), later Kevin Costner (Morgan Freeman was awesome! Alan Rickman chewed scenery! Fight me!), silent Douglas Fairbanks (surprisingly swoonworthy, too), Robin of Sherwood in the British TV series and, yes, even Cary Elwes in Men in Tights.

Robin Hood and Hawke have a few things in common: a general disregard for authority (especially of the corrupt variety), a sparkling wit, and a general sense that life is good, even when it’s bad or difficult.

This last bit I started keying into as I struggle with various challenges in my life. Hawke and Robin both feel like they come from the Trickster archetype — the Rogue subset, if you will. One of lesser acknowledged aspects of that energy is the way they tackle the really tough shit life throws at them. It’s not that they laugh it off and are without a care. On the contrary, they care more deeply than the others around them.

What they understand is that a great way to get through the hard stuff is to acknowledge it and plunge forward anyway. Kind of an “Alright fuckers, if that’s how it’s going to be, let’s dance!” attitude. Not “party to forget the pain”, but “party because the pain is real and shit is hard, so let’s have fun where we can.”

That’s Hawke in a nutshell. In the game, his family are refugees from the Blight that envelopes their homeland. People he knows and loves die along the way. Part of a once affluent family, he struggles to keep them all together and survive in the aptly named “Lowtown” until he can get enough coin together to reclaim the old, abandoned family estate. There is enough crap going on in his life to crush another person.

And yet, Hawke smiles. A lot. He laughs, makes friends, falls in love, gets excited about adventures that he hopes will bring in some coin, and even some of the ones that leave him even poorer. He grabs his crappy life by the collar and drags it off to see the sights.

It’s a way of moving through the world that I have yet to fully inhabit. But I want to. I see others around me doing it. I know it’s possible.

So each time I play the game I’m watching Hawke remake his life according to his own rules. The participatory nature of this means that I’m actually helping him make the choices that will get him there. Role play as therapy? Yeah, you could say that. I find myself mixing the choices I would make in each situation with the choices the character would more likely make. More often than not, I’m picking the ones I think Hawke would make and then examining my reaction to it. “What if I made that choice myself? Why does it make me uncomfortable? Why don’t I choose the fun option more often?”

I examine those questions as they come up and occasionally, I find answers. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the end of the game having become the upbeat adventure seeker Hawke is, but it’s definitely making me take a hard look at the way I move through the world and where and when I can, if not laugh, at least smirk in the face of adversity.

Maybe next time I play through this game, I should try out being a Rogue.

On The Books: Writing About Real People

by Jacqui Lipton

This month I wanted to talk a little bit about incorporating real people, or a character who is a pastiche of multiple real people, into your work. This is a question often faced by writers of memoir and historical fiction in particular, but many other writers will wonder at some point in some project or another about the extent to which they can write about real people without being potentially liable for defamation.

As always, I should remind readers that nothing written here is intended as formal legal advice and folks who need help with particular issues should consult an agent or attorney (or drop me a line and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction).

The good news for American authors at least is that the defamation laws in this country are balanced against powerful First Amendment rights so it’s more difficult for someone you write about to support a defamation claim than might be the case in some other countries. However, that doesn’t mean the law can’t apply to your writing.

A brief note on terminology: defamation includes “libel” and “slander”. Libel is written defamation and slander is spoken. Writers are typically, of course, more concerned with libel, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to stick with the generic term “defamation”.

You’ve probably heard that truth is a defense to defamation and that’s basically accurate. Additionally, statements of opinion (rather than fact) are typically not actionable as defamation. In other words, if you write something about another person that is either objectively true or is clearly your opinion, rather than a statement of fact, it’s not likely to amount to defamation.

It’s also worth noting that defamation only applies to a statement made about a specific identifiable person. So if you change enough facts about a person when you create your character, you should have a good chance of arguing that your statement isn’t actually about the real person. It’s often a question of degree.

Also be aware that public figures (politicians, celebrities, sports stars, etc.) will have a harder time proving defamation against you than private individuals in most cases. Because of our powerful First Amendment protections, these public people generally have to prove that you acted with what the law calls “actual malice”. This basically means that you knew that your comments were false or you were reckless about whether they were false.

If you’re writing about real people and are concerned about defamation, you might try chatting to a writing buddy about ways in which you can conceal the true identity of the person you’re writing about. If you need to identify the person because, say, you’re writing historical nonfiction or memoir, you may want to consult an expert to ensure you’re steering clear of defamatory comments. You should also be aware that the United States does have some privacy laws that relate to issues like presenting someone in a false light, publicly disclosing private facts about them, or intruding into their private life. I’ll talk about these in a future blog post, but they’re not very often successfully raised as a basis for a legal complaint, again largely due to the balance between privacy interests and the constitutional guarantee of free speech. So you typically don’t have to worry too much about them in practice.